Wrench Blog


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Tue Mar 11, 2014

With my growing interest (obsession?) with machining and watchmaking, my automotive adventures have really tapered off. Nearly everything I have done since my last post has been boring repair and maintenance, as necessary.

I am happy to report, however, that a recent change in our vehicle line-up has rekindled some of my passion for cars. I have passed my beloved Mk2 Golf along to a new owner, and have taken ownership of an R32. Seeing my old Blue drive away for the last time was pretty sad... but her replacement certainly takes a lot of the sting out of it. She is a Mk5 R32, #2469, in United Gray:

Mk5 R32 #2469

Mk5 R32 #2469

For those not familiar with the R32, it's a really interesting animal. They made 5000 of them for the U.S. market in 2004 (on the Mk4 Golf platform), then in 2008 they made another 5000 of them for the U.S. market, on the then-current Mk5 Golf platform. Each one is numbered on a steering wheel plaque, which makes them feel that little bit more special. In 2004 all U.S. models were equipped with a conventional 6 speed manual, while in Europe they were the first car offered with the electronic 6 speed sequential manual DSG. The 2008 models for the U.S. market were available only with the DSG. The 2008s came with every goodie VW had to offer, with the exception of satellite navigation, which was the only option available from the dealer. The dual zone climate control works great, the heated leather seats are excellent, the brakes are bigger than dinner plates, the rain sensing wipers are pretty brain-dead but still better than regular intermittent wipers, the active exhaust is an adorable attempt to appease the government man holding the noise-o-meter, and the Haldex all wheel drive system combined with the stability program is just fantastic in the bad weather. Even the DSG is deeply impressive, and this is coming from someone not typically impressed with any electronically controlled or automatic transmission.

I've wanted an R32 for a very long time. It's really the sound that got me. The VR6 engine sounds good to begin with, but taken out to 3.2, with a higher compression ratio, asymmetric cams, and a free flowing exhaust, it sounds like Chewbacca being bludgeoned with the trumpets of heaven. I came across #2469 while half-heartedly shopping around for something a bit newer that was still interesting and fun. That prompted me to start looking for other R32s for sale within a couple hundred miles, and I actually found a few others. I really wanted a Mk4 (I think they look and sound better, plus I absolutely prefer a stick shift) but good, honest unmolested examples consistently sell way over book value and there is no way I'd be able to convince my bank to pony up more than book value on an auto loan. The best deal I ended up finding was this Mk5 that I had initially noticed, sitting on an Acura dealer's lot. Asking price was less than the cheapest Mk4 I could find that I considered acceptably clean and unmodified. The potential problem was worry over whether I could live with the DSG. After taking it for a drive, though, I completely fell in love with it. The DSG takes some getting used to but the shifts are just lightning quick. I signed on the dotted line and drove it home that same night.

She has about 94,000 miles, and a bit of an "interesting" history. From what I can tell, a previous owner (up in Maine) had a pretty awful time with this car back in 2012. I don't know the details, but it seems to have been a combination of problems with the car that VW refused to cover under the extended drivetrain warranty, and problems with the dealership itself. I have verified that all recall work has been done, and that some service work was done under the extended drivetrain warranty that VW issued to certain specific vehicles known to have used parts from a bad batch of Mechatronic units. So far everything has operated without fault, with the exception of an obnoxious low speed squeal from the brakes. This past weekend I tore into the front brakes and cleaned/greased all the appropriate surfaces... no more noises. This being a VR6 with the mileage it has, I'm planning on some other work when the weather turns nice. First, I need to do the timing chain guides. Second, I need to replace the motor mounts. After all the issues I've heard about with the DMF (dual mass flywheel) used in these, I'm tentatively planning on having to do that at some point too. I really should pull the transmission while doing the motor mounts, to inspect the flywheel. At around $700 for just the part, I'll not be replacing it "just because".

It's more grown-up than my Mk2, has more creature comforts (versus my Mk2 having none at all), has more room in the back seat for the kids (plus the back is easer to get in and out of), and has more room in the hatch, plus the versatility of folding rear seats. I'm on cloud nine!

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intake air preheater hose
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