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Journal Archive - 2004

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December 30, 2004 -- Dieter's birthday/Christmas present arrived today!  It's the Haldex Performance Part (a.k.a. HPP) that I bought from EIP Tuning.  Developed by Haldex, the company that created the AWD technology used in transverse-engine VWs and Audis, this upgrade proactively applies power to the rear wheels based upon throttle inputs, rather than waiting for the front wheels to slip.  The HPP is a totally plug-n-play upgrade, replacing the stock ECU/valve control module, and integrates seamlessly with the existing safety systems.  It should provide a more neutral feel when powering through corners, with a lean towards oversteer.

I just wish I had some actual SNOW to drive on so I could do a before/after comparison. I can't believe it was in the frickin' mid 60s today!   It's been a very mild and dry winter so far.  Looks like we might get some actual wintery precipitation next week, so maybe I'll wait to install this...

November 16, 2004 -- Once again, playing catch-up with all that has transpired since my last entry.  I've added a few back-dated entries to try and preserve some kind of timeline over the past couple of weeks.

This past weekend was spent in the Ozarks.   Among the activities was this year's TVW Rally.  Only three cars participated in the drive, but each one had a passenger along.  Sean drove Sonja, my ex-Scirocco, and they really carved up the roads.  Watching her dart around the corners at speed like that will be some of my fondest memories of her--she looked real good, like she was in her natural element.  Sweeeet.

Dieter was also quite capable in those conditions, and it was interesting to feel how he's much more stable around corners when on the gas, versus coasting or lifting off the gas.  In fact, I had experienced some throttle-lift oversteer in the past, so I was mindful to avoid doing so by accident.   Things only got a little squirrelly once, on an off-camber corner with a rough surface.  I had entered the corner a little faster than I should have, and couldn't get on the gas any more because traffic ahead was slowing down a lot.  I had to not only get off the gas, but get on the brakes.  The tires squawked a bit (the only time they did during the whole trip), and the ESP/ABS did their thing, and we managed to stay in our lane with just a minor fish-tail.  That could have been pretty ugly in a "lesser" car. 

All in all, everyone had a good time, and I got to toss Dieter around some real corners for a change. 

I think I can kinda feel the extra 30lbs added by the skid plate, but I'm not sure if it's placebo effect or not.  Either way, with the lighter SSR wheels, I'm still ahead on the overall weight curve.  Likewise, I can't necessarily say I feel a difference with the Audi TT lower stress bar, but the chassis isn't exactly loose to begin with.  Definitely can't hurt to have more support there. <shrug>.  Overall, I'm quite pleased with the skid plate. It's quite beefy, and I expect it'll protect my oil pan quite well.  I'm glad I didn't have to actually use it this past weekend, but I sure felt a lot better about navigating rutted rural dirt driveways.  :) 

November 11, 2004 -- The skid plate is FINALLY installed!  I went to Autopia this morning, where Roger graciously allowed me to make use of one of his lifts and tools to drill out the buggered rivnut and replace it with a good one.  With that rivnut replaced with a properly-installed one, all that remained was bolting in the brackets and skid plate. The plate is large and unwieldy, so it's nice to have a friend hold it in place while you thread the bolts in. Someone with better skillz than I could probably do it all by him/herself. Torqued everything down, replaced the splash guards, and I was good to go.  Just in time to pack up and head south for a weekend in the Ozarks.  8^D

Installation pictures available here in the Gallery.

November 7, 2004 -- Dieter's first autocross!  I basically spent the whole day at Arrowhead Stadium, Lot L for the final autocross event of the season.  I didn't pre-register, since I wasn't entirely certain I'd be able to make it.  This means I wound up working/running in later heats.  I worked the third heat and ran in the fourth (out of 5 total heats). 

I hate to burn a whole day at the autocross (especially since I still have yard work that must be done), but I think I really benefitted from having the extra time to study the course enough to gain a familiarity with it before having to drive it.  (Not that you could tell by my performance...)

Todd H. was also there, and also ran the same heat.   It was cool having two silver R32s there--I'm sure there were a lot of double-takes by folks who thought they were lucky enough to see just one.  ;)  There were several folks taking pictures of our cars and asking questions.  Always a nice ego boost, although it almost feels like cheating sometimes.  I haven't done nearly as much to Dieter as I had to Wolfgang, yet I never Wolfy never garnered this much attention.

The course was quite...interesting.  A couple chicanes into a sweeping right-hander, to a quick slalom, into half a round-a-bout, to another slalom, to a decreasing-radius left-hand sweeper--the second half of which has another slalom in it, to a hard left, back into that round-a-bout, to a short left, to a short slalom, to a right-hand sweeper, to a really hard left, to a quick sprint to the finish.  (I'm actually typing this over a week later, so my memory may be a bit faulty.)

My first pass was clean.  My time wasn't exactly ground-breaking (not surprising to me), but easily better than I had hoped for.   Sweet.  On my second run, I got in a hurry and missed one of the pointer cones in the first slalom:  DNF.  On my third run, I tried to push even harder and wound up on the wrong side of a pointer cone of the next slalom:  another DNF.   Dagnabbit!  On my fourth and final run, I decided to just push even harder to see how deep into trouble I could get myself and still have Dieter pull me out.  That was an UGLY run, with howling tires and understeer galore.  Lots o' fun, though!   I think I set my fastest time, but still managed to DNF.  <sigh>   Even a car as outstanding as the R32 can be driven poorly.  You heard it here first folks...  ;P

Todd did quite well, turning in times 5-10 seconds faster than I.  He did manage to eat a couple cones on one of his runs by overcooking a corner, but still represented the R32's prowess quite well and proved that it can do great things with a competent/experienced driver behind the wheel.  Way to go, man!

November 6, 2004 -- Good gravy.   When will it end?  I started installing the skid plate today, but the very last rivnut has done me in.  Gory details below:

I'm not going to go into great detail on all the steps necessary to install the skid plate here.  Dieselgeek's installation instructions are quite good, and include photos to provide clear illustration. No need for me to duplicate their excellent effort, so I'll provide a general overview here with specifics regarding my installation on my R32.

First, you obviously have to remove the existing plastic belly pan.  You'll also have to remove the splash guards and the engine side skirts on each side of the car to gain access to the mounting points. Pretty straightforward.

All necessary holes for the mounting points already exist.   There are seven rivnuts that must be installed in these holes to provide the anchor points for the brackets/bolts.  A rivnut is basically a rivet that has threads on the inside.  You insert the rivnut into the hole and torque it down with the rivnut tool.   As you torque it down, the collar on the other side of the hole will expand and butt up against the backside of the hole as the threads are compressed towards you.   Pretty much like a nutsert, if you've installed strut tower bars--only you have to use a lot more force.

Dieselgeek's rivnut tool is pretty straightforward and robust, and probably much better than what I would have come up with if left to my own devices.   You use a box-end wrench to prevent the tool from rotating while you torque the rivnut with a ratchet. (The longer the handle on the ratchet, the better--you need all the mechanical advantage you can get.)  The general idea is to find a solid place for the box end wrench to butt up against, so you can focus on applying torque with the socket.   Dieselgeek's instructions provide some good tips for this.  For the front frame rail rivnuts, I found I could clamp down a pair of vice-grip pliers in the large hole near the rivnut mounting points to create a stopping point for the wrench.  This is particularly helpful on the driver's side, as my box-end wrench wasn't long enough to stop against anything particularly solid.

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I saved the forward-most frame rail rivnut on the passenger side for last, because a mounting bracket for the auxiliary radiator blocked access to that hole. There are three bolts that hold that bracket in place: one right there where you can see it, and two above that secure it to the chassis--right underneath the washer fluid reservoir. And they have to be removed from the topside.

The washer fluid reservoir is secured by two plastic nuts, which are easily accessed.  The reservoir can then be held aside to gain access to the two bolts. You'll have to move the reservoir one way to get to one bolt, then move it a different direction to get to the other.  Not exactly a pleasure, but it could be worse--at least you don't have to unplug the reservoir and risk spilling fluid all over the place.  A long socket attachment is necessary for these two bolts, and a "wobble attachment" is a big help for the rearward bolt.  Re-installing these two bolts is yet another challenge in itself.  I secured the bolt on the underside first, to hold the bracket in place so I could thread the top bolts in.   It's difficult to squeeze your arm/hand down there to manually place the bolts in their holes.  A magnetic socket would be a huge help here.  I don't know the proper name of it, but I have a long, narrow tool that's flexible and has a sort of "gripper claw" on the end that I can control at the handle.  It's a real lifesaver when you need to fish a part that's fallen down into an area that you simply cannot squeeze your arm/hand into.  I used this tool to thread these bolts into their respective mounting holes.

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With that bracket removed, access to the hole is still partially blocked by the auxiliary radiator, but you can now push it over enough to squeeze your socket past in order to crank down on the rivnut tool.  Unfortunately, I didn't do a good enough job keeping the rivnut tool/socket straight enough when I torqued down on this one, because the threads were off-kilter when I had finished.  I didn't even realize it until after I tried installing the bracket and the bolt caught on the threads and started rotating the rivnut itself.  Not only did I screw up the alignment of the threads, but I apparently didn't torque the rivnut down enough to secure it against the frame properly.  Dieselgeek's instructions provide a recommended torque spec, but I opted to skip the torque wrench for the last rivnut because it was such a pain to get to and I thought I had a good idea when it was tight enough.  So, I burned about an hour trying to squeeze some needlenose vice-grip pliers between the mounting bracket and the frame, so I could clamp onto the rivnut and hold it still long enough to get the bolt loose/removed.  I wasn't very happy at this point, because I was quite hungry and quickly running out of daylight.  (I was working in my garage, but had yard work to do as well.  Adding pressure was the fact that the last autocross of the season is being held tomorrow, and I haven't had a chance to toss Dieter around an autocross course yet.) 

The buggered rivnut has to be drilled out with a 1/2" drill bit.  Which I don't have.  A good friend Todd H. (also owns a Reflex Silver R32) brought is nice collection of drill bits over to my house.  Unfortunately, the shank of his 1/2" drill bit is too large to fit in the chuck of my cordless drill.   Kinda doubt my drill has the grunt necessary to do the work, anyhow.

I wound up aborting the installation for the evening and put the plastic bits back into place.  I'll contact Roger and see if I can borrow a lift and his lovely collection of real tools to finally get this thing installed.

November 1, 2004 -- Got the parts from Dieselgeek today.  Woohoo!  Jim also sent me their copyrighted installation instructions, so I won't be flying blind.  Looked everything over, and discovered that I'm missing a couple brackets and rubber buffers.  Argh.  I guess the dealership didn't quite order everything I needed.  A quick visit to Impex's web site, and the final parts are on their way...  <sigh>

October 27, 2004 -- Jim Royston at Dieselgeek is my hero!  Among other things, Dieselgeek sells skid plate kits (both OEM steel and aluminum).  Included with their kits is their very own rivnut installation tool.  I e-mailed Jim about my plight, and asked if there was any way I could buy the tool.  Jim said he'd never sold the tool for less than the full price of the skid plate kit, but agreed to make an exception for me in exchange for a full review in the R32 Forum on VW Vortex.  I get the tool I need, DieselGeek gets some positive press/free advertising, everybody wins.   Booyah!

I also bought pre-modified engine side skirts and the Audi TT lower stress bar.  The pre-modified skirts will save me some time and allow me to preserve the original pieces.  The stress bar should help reinforce the frame--dunno if I'll feel much difference, but it can't hurt...

October 26, 2004 -- Curses!   Foiled again!  :\

Took Dieter in to Jay Wolfe VW to have them install the OEM steel skid plate, now that all the mounting parts have arrived.  Once they got everything apart and ready to start installing the rivnuts that are used to secure everything to the frame, they discovered that they didn't have the correct adapter for their rivnut tool to install the OEM rivnuts.  Argh.  I'm guessing the service advisor either didn't want to deal with the hassle anymore or didn't want to run the risk of another failed attempt, so they gave me all the parts I paid for and suggested I take them to a body shop for the installation. On the upside, they didn't charge me for labor. They treated me as well as they could (even let me take pictures of the initial disassembly while my R32 was up on the lift), so I harbor no ill will toward them.   Just a little disappointed.  It seems VW isn't exactly prepared to fully support the skid plate as an accessory, since they don't provide enough information/the right tools to their dealerships.

Stopped by Autopia on my way back to work to quiz Roger on his experience with rivnuts.  He didn't have a rivnut tool, but was willing to help out.  Looks like I'm going to do some research and see what I can find out...

October 24, 2004 -- Various updates: 

Hillside Imports sent me a replacement pair of smoked sidemarkers in exchange for the melted ones.  Kudos to them for speedy service!  We'll see how the new ones fare.

Regarding the HID "flicker" noted in my last entry, various sources have told me that this is actually "normal".   The way it's been explained to me is this:  Rather than having a physical filament producing the light, HID/Xenon headlights produce light with an arc of electricity which ignites the gas inside the bulb.  When the vehicle goes over a sharp bump, this arc of light may actually move a bit, and the effects can be magnified by the projector lens.  That all makes sense to me, but I'm still a little irritated by it.  I'll be paying closer attention to other cars' HID lights on bumpy roads to see if I can observe the same effects on their lights.

All the mounting parts for the OEM steel skid plate have finally arrived, and Dieter is scheduled to have this installed on Tuesday, the 26th.   I'll try to take pictures of the installation and post them here.

Yesterday was the second KCH2O Dyno Day, hosted at MC Racing.  Thanks to the help of the VW Vortex R32 forum, I knew I could unplug the Haldex ECU at the back side of the rear differential to disable the 4Motion AWD system, which allowed us to safely perform FWD-only dyno pulls on their DynoJet chassis dyno.  I wanted to get a baseline dyno, since I haven't installed any bolt-on power-adders yet.  The only performance enhancements I've done so far are the lighter wheels and the "Exhaust Valve Switch Mod" (which was set to the open/loud operation during the dyno pulls).  I'm pretty happy with the results:  227.1 HP / 226.8 ft-lbs of torque at the front wheels:

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October 5, 2004 -- Another project finally done.  I finished up installing the "rheostat" switch that allows me to control the built-in levelling motors in the OEM HID headlights.  This will allow me to adjust the vertical aim up/down to compensate for loads that weigh down the rear of the car (and skew the headlights' aim upwards as a result).

One issue that remains to be resolved is that the passenger side light "flickers" when I go over sharp bumps.  It's always done that, so I inspected everything while I had the headlight apart to modify it for the rheostat input.  Didn't see any problems with the adjusters, and I made sure I bolted the headlight down very tightly when I reinstalled it.  So, I guess that means either the bulb or ballast may be flakey.  I'll have to swap one/both from each side to the other to see if I can narrow down the culprit to one of them.  Unfortunately, I can't get to that stuff on the driver's side without removing the headlight.  And the headlights can't be removed without first removing the bumper cover.  :\

Oh yeah, and I discovered that the smoked bumper markers melted due to the heat from the light bulbs.  I'll be contacting the vendor I bought them from very soon to see what can be done about that.  In the meantime, I'm back to using the stock amber markers and waiting for the smoked ones I pre-ordered...

September 30, 2004 -- Well, I finally got around to installing the "Exhaust Valve Switch Mod" (details here and here on VW Vortex) and finished it up last night. 

The R32 has an electronically controlled, vacuum-actuated solenoid that diverts the exhaust flow between "quiet" and "loud" operation.  This mechanism is the result of strict noise level laws in Germany (and probably other parts of Europe), that require a car to be no louder than a certain decibel level at/below a given speed.  Above a certain speed and RPM (I forget the exact numbers at the moment), this solenoid activates to open up the exhuast, resulting in better flow and more pronounced exhaust note.

The switch I installed allows me to bypass the normal operation (quiet below x mph and y RPM;  loud above), enabling me to switch it to "loud mode" any time I choose.  Some folks prefer the exhaust to be loud all the time and have simply disabled the solenoid by bypassing the vacuum line at the unit.  I actually like the stealthy nature of the "quiet mode", so the in-cabin switch suits me better.  Others have dynoed their R32s before/after disabling the solenoid and discovered an approximate 10lb-ft of torque and 10HP gain in power.  After all, "quiet mode" is the result of a restriction in exhaust flow.

Rather than using the three-way toggle switch described in the instructions I linked to above, I used a push-on/push-off two-position switch (SPDT) mounted underneath the shift boot (as suggested by someone in one of the two VW Vortex threads linked to above).  Very stealthy, and avoids drilling holes in R32-specific trim pieces.

Next up will be the "rheostat switch", which will allow me to adjust my HID headlights' aim up/down from the driver's seat.   I hope to complete that project next week...

September 21, 2004 -- Added some pictures to the Gallery.  First, I added a page for the pictures I took after work on the 17th.  Those pictures inspired me to take some new wallpaper-quality pics last night (while Dieter is still clean and that location is clear of distractions).   Enjoy!

September 18, 2004 -- Got a couple more small goodies this week. 

First, I finally got some smoked bumper markers to replace the stock amber ones.  I ordered them from Hillside Imports, because the markers shown on their web site appeared to be a bit lighter than the others.  Well, that particular manufacturer has been on backorder for a very long time now (and they're still on back order, in fact), so Hillside sent me pictures of a different manufacturer they picked up in the meantime.  They were darker than the ones I originally ordered, but they were better than nothing and I didn't have any options for a lighter set.  I got them, and they are plenty dark.  Much darker than I'd like, as I want to match them as closely as possible to the smoked OEM turn signal repeaters and stock taillights (which aren't extremely dark).  The price was $15 lower than the set I originally ordered, so that helps.

In the meantime, I've entered on a pre-order for some new smoked bumper markers through a vendor on VW Vortex.  Pictures of the actual markers aren't available yet (again, this is a pre-order), but pictures of their markers for the MkIII Golf/Jetta were shown.  These markers are also darker than the set I was hoping for, but at least they do appear to have some reflective properties (much like the stock markers), which should help "lighten" the overall appearance.  The markers I currently have do not reflect at all.

I also got left and right European aspherical mirrors from Hillside Imports.  They're tinted blue (which I guess reduces glare), but the really cool thing is that the outermost 1/4 of the mirror is angled outward, to provide MUCH better coverage of the lanes next to you.  Since the auto-dimming feature of the rearview is cool enough that I don't want to cover it up with my traditional clip-on panoramic rearview mirror, these aspherical side mirrors are a very welcome addition.

In other news, the 5th annual "Bring Your Wheels To Work Day" was held yesterday.  It's a very informal lunchtime event where folks can show off their wheeled obsessions.  Vehicles on display ranged from motorcycles, to classic American muscle cars, to sporty imports, to an old-skook Jeep and a fully restored 1936 John Deere tractor.  It was a good time.  I hope to have pictures from the event up soon-ish.  It was also a great opportunity to take some fresh pics of Dieter since he was all shined up.  ;)

September 2, 2004 -- As mentioned in my last entry, I drove to the Ozarks last weekend.  It was a great trip, and reminded me that the R32 absolutely loves to carve up twisty/hilly roads.  Wish I could find some good driving roads like that closer to home!  The trip gave me about 600 miles of experience with the new tires on varying road conditions.  Here are my impressions and observations from the trip:

Inflation: 42 front, 44 rear

The PS2s have a much stiffer sidewall than the stock Goodyear F1s, which is exactly what I was looking for. No noticeable tread squirm while cornering and sharper steering response as a result. Of course, this also means they provide a less cushy ride than the F1s--the surface of the road is communicated much more readily to the cabin.

The PS2s also produce quite a bit more road noise. Driving on grooved/textured highways was much noisier than the F1s. This might be alleviated to some degree with lower tire pressures, but I suspect the stiff sidewalls and the tread pattern are the root cause. On smooth blacktop, they're fairly quiet, and cruising around town isn't bad at all (in my opinion). If you traverse many miles on grooved/textured highways, the increased road noise may be bothersome to you after awhile. (I just turned the Monsoon's volume up and was able to cope with it.)

The tread pattern also produces a tendency for these tires to follow grooves in the road, which was never an issue with the F1s. You'll have to pay attention and provide a little more steering input with these tires on roads that have wavy grooves in them.

In terms of overall grip, the PS2s are outstanding. I took several corners at speed in the Ozark Mountains, and the PS2s showed no signs of letting go. Very confidence-inspiring. They're easily as grippy as the F1s, and actually felt as though they were superior in this regard. (Of course, it's entirely possible that the softer sidewall on the F1 is it's downfall here, as well. When the sidewall flexes, the whole weight of the car moves across the tread and upsets the balance, which may simply overwhelm it's ability to grip.)

No squealing or other audible complaints when pushed hard, either. In fact, the only time I could get them to squawk was during a hard launch around a 90 degree turn with the ESP turned off. The F1s would have made much more noise when performing the same maneuver. I recently went to a big empty parking lot to push the tires really hard, and learned that they'll start talking when you reach their limits of adhesion. Not as loudly as the F1s, but at pretty much the same point (just as they're starting to let go--which seems to be fairly gradual and predictable).

Wet weather performance was easily as good as the F1s, much to my pleasant surprise. I drove in conditions that varied from a light sprinkle to a heavy downpour, and the PS2s continued to perform as solidly as they did in the dry. I plowed through several puddles with not even a hint of hydroplaning. A spirited launch in the wet was just as quick as I've done with the F1s, and a friend who was riding with my was duly impressed: "That was a faster launch than most cars I've experienced in the dry!"

The tread pattern follows the "function over form" rule, and therefore isn't very flashy when compared to other hi-perf tires (in case you care about that kinda thing).

Overall, I'm very pleased with the performance of these tires--but that great performance comes at the cost of some reduced comfort. Whether or not that trade-off is worth it is a decision you'll have to make if you're considering these tires. To me, it's worth it. (For now, anyway--I'll have to see how they perform as they age.)

August 27, 2004 -- Buncha new goodies!  Woohoo!

First off, I got the OEM "smoked" side markers.  I also bought some chromed amber bulbs--when they're off, they appear to be silver, but they glow amber when they're on.  Much to my chagrine, I discovered that the smoked side markers have an amber lens built into them.  That's kinda silly, since the stock side markers do not have an amber lens--they use an amber light bulb.   Trying to remove the amber lens seemed a rather risky proposition, so I left them as-is.  After reviewing the smoked turn signals in the stock taillights, I can see the amber bulb inside.  So, I guess it actually "matches" after a fashion, which is what I was aiming for.

I had also ordered some smoked bumper markers, but they're on backorder.  <sigh>

I also got the steel OEM skidplate.  It was supposed to be installed today, but we discovered that there were a number of additional parts needed to install it.  So, we ordered those parts and I'll have to wait until they arrive.  <sigh>

I did get the R-Line Monster Mats (rubber floor mats that are more durable and easier to clean than the original cloth ones) and the European rear rubber mats (since VW chose not to make rear R-Line Monster Mats).   Nice!

The really big news is Dieter got his new summer wheels & tires:  17"x8" SSR GT2s with 225/45 YR17 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires.  The stock wheels tipped my bathroom scale at 50lbs each, while this set weighs a mere 36lbs each--that's a weight savings of 14lbs per corner!  That means faster accleration/deceleration, better turning response, and an overall lighter car.   Gotta love that!  Pictures here.

Finally, I just did the "5-brakelight mod".  This basically uses the vacant rear fog lights as additional brake lights.  Never hurts to improve one's visibility.

In a short period of time, I'll be heading to the Ozarks for the weekend.  I'm looking forward to testing those new tires!  ;)

August 15, 2004 -- As of yesterday, both Wolfgang and Sonja are sold and I now have a new "beater" car.  Very soon I should finally be able to focus on modifying Dieter.  There are a handful of little things I've been wanting to do, but have delayed so I could take care of all my wheeling and dealing with the other cars.  I know this is a bit of a teaser, but stay tuned and I'll post more in a week or two...

June 6, 2004 -- I showed Dieter in G.R.O.O.V.E.'s annual VW car show in Springfield yesterday.  I got there a little after 9:30am.  Registration closed at 10:00am, and apparently judging started promptly at 10:00, too.  I had just finished cleaning the bugs off Dieter's front and was still wiping the most obvious brake dust off his wheels when the judges walked up--

Judges:  "Are you ready?" 

Me:  <still obviously cleaning>   "Uhh, not quite yet..."

Judges:  "Not quite yet.  Hm..."

I finished wiping the last wheel, quickly picked up the most obvious stuff from the floor mats with the masking tape (great cleaning tip if you don't have a vacuum handy) and told the judges to have at it.  Didn't get a chance to dress his tires (although they still looked somewhat decent) or go back over the little details.  I knew I was going to get rained on during the drive home, so I chose not to get too upset about it.

I can understand why they wanted to get an early start on the judging.  As each entrant entered the show area, a digital picture was taken of his/her vehicle.  Each award had that picture printed on it--and that takes time.  Even so, I hold the opinion that there should be at least a 30 minute period between the end of registration and the start of judging.  Otherwise, last-minute entries are still pulling into the show areas while judges are already out looking for 'em...

In the end, Dieter nabbed 2nd place in the "Water-Cooled Stock" class.  First place went to a blue R32 that was visibly cleaner, so I had no problem with that.  Had a good chat with the owner of that R32--cool guy.  He was there last year with a tricked-out Jetta.  I had a good time overall, and managed not to get a sunburn.  :)

After eating dinner with my mother and step-father at Lambert's Cafe (Soooooo FULL!  Too much food!), I drove home in and out of rain.  Most of the rain was light-to-moderate, with one patch of very heavy rain.  Dieter cut through it all with no drama. 

Y'know, even with the AWD and nice horsepower/torque, all the technology gadgets still make me giggle like a little boy.   The rain/speed sensitive wipers, automatic volume adjustment on the stereo to compensate for road noise (not to mention the Phatbox playing all my MP3s), the auto-dimming rearview--all this technology really completes the package with plenty of gadgets to keep me entertained.

Oh, and I definitely need to set aside a weekend to go back to the Ozarks for some spirited driving.  Took a circular exit ramp in Springfield, and halfway down I saw how fast I was going--and realized that I could've actually taken it a bit faster--yikes!

May 31, 2004 -- I haven't been doing a great job keeping this site up-to-date, but I just got done adding several back-dated entries (through May 21) to document all the recent developments.  Here's hoping I do a better job in the future.  :)

May 29, 2004 -- First off, I believe I've determined a name for my R32:  "Dieter".

Secondly, Dieter and I participated in Mo-Kan VW Club's annual car show today.  Dieter won 3rd place in his class (MkIV Chassis H20, Stock/Modified) as well as winning the award for "Best Interior".  I'm quite pleased with the 3rd place, because there was plenty of stiff competition in that class.  I'm a bit confused by the "Best Interior" award, as several of the cars at the show had far more work done to their interiors.  This specialty award was judged by an area busines (Das Autohaus), so perhaps all the cool R32 goodies (stock as they are) were just the right combination to capture the judges' fancy.  <shrug>

Of course, it was rather dusty there, so I'll have to clean everything out again before the Springfield show next weekend...   <sigh>

May 28, 2004 -- Well, the hole around the metal loop was not the issue. Called Peter at MSD to let him know. He said that he checked with the manufacturer, and they claim that they made that metal loop shorter on purpose, otherwise, "the hood might sit too high". They expect the latch mechanism should be adjusted upward enough to compensate--which it clearly did not for me.

He then said that the hood had to be slammed down really hard from about halfway up in order to get the latch to lock. I told him that we pressed down on the hood hard enough to compress the suspension (which I figure is a LOT more force than just slamming a really light hood), but he responded that just pushing down on it wasn't good enough. "It has to be slammed really hard because the hood is so light."  High school physics tells me that I can press down on the hood hard enough to generate as much--if not more--force than slamming it.

He also suggested simply removing the latch mechanism from the car or cutting the metal loop off and just using hood pins. "That's what several of our customers have done."

Whatever happened to the claim that they've never had this issue with any of their hoods???  Why else would other customers remove the latch??? 

I have no problem keeping the hood in place with hood pins, but I'd like to back that up with the security of the stock latch, so Joe Public can't open up the hood by simply undoing the hood pins and having his way with my engine bay.

I don't want to slam the crap outta my hood every single time I want to shut it, and I do want it to be "secure". So, I guess my options at this point are to re-work that metal loop so it reaches deeper, or not use the hood at all.

At this point, the hassle and downgrade in day-to-day ease of use have me leaning towards keeping all the stock stuff and investing my money in "go fast" parts instead.  Another irritation is that the strut that holds up the stock hood is not intended to be used with this carbon fiber hood.  That strut is calibrated for much heavier hoods, and the plastic it would mate to on the carbon fiber hood "isn't strong enough for it".  Peter advised me to find some kind of prop rod "at Pep Boys or someplace like that".  Bleh.

To his credit, Peter seems like he wants to help resolve my problem (offered to send me a free set of hood pins, and possibly a replacement hood if all else fails).  But at the same time, it also seems like he'd rather me fix the problem by any means that prevents him from sending me a new hood.  One of the reasons I bought this hood was MSD's claim that I could retain the use of the factory hood latch mechanism.  I've seen pictures of other people who bought this hood and were able to use the stock hood latch.  I know it can be done.  I just don't think that my hood can do it as-is...

May 27, 2004 -- I just called MSD, and they recommended making the cutout around the latch loop a bit larger, as that can sometimes cause interference. If I recall correctly, that wasn't the problem yesterday, but I'll confer with those who looked at it more closely to get their opinion.

I spoke to Peter, and he claims that they've never had this issue with any of their hoods, and that the metal loop should be the same height as the stock one.  The last two pictures added to the gallery page show that this is not the case.  I sent Peter links to those pictures for illustrative purposes.  I'll call him back tomorrow.

May 26, 2004 -- Attempted installation of the previously-mentioned "undisclosed item".  The mystery piece is a carbon fiber hood.  The hood uses the "böser blick" style leading edge, which extends down over the front grille to provide the appearance of a scowl.  "Böser blick" is German for "bad boy".  The extension of the leading edge of the hood required the replacement of the stock grille with the badgeless one, as the VW emblem would interfere with the new hood.

I had the top side of the hood painted Reflex Silver to match the body color.  I'm opposed to having carbon fiber just for the sake of having carbon fiber, as far too many boy racers have applied "carbon fiber look" parts all over their cars for the sake of appearance only.  I bought this hood because it provides a decent weight savings (about 28lbs lighter than the stock hood) and it was an initial offering of a new product through a group buy--which meant a decent savings in cost, as well.

The hood is manufactured by Vorsteiner, and I bought it through MotorSportDesigns, who also had it painted before shipping it to me.  The hood appears to be of decent quality.   (Paint could use a little buffing, though.)

I went to Autopia for the installation, as the owner Roger Moser has done much work to my other two cars.  We unbolted the stock hood and bolted on the new carbon fiber piece without incident.   The new hood appeared to line up quite well with the fenders, and did not interfere with the headlights or grille when we lowered it slowly. 

We then tried to latch it.  The latch would not lock the hood down.   Tried pressing down on the hood--still no go.  Roger looked up at the latching mechanism while I pressed down on the hood.  The metal loop on the hood was not getting down far enough for the secondary latch to lock into place.  We raised the hood and attempted to move the latch mechanism up on the car.  It would only move up about 2mm.  Tried latching the hood again, and it still wouldn't go.  We pressed hard enough on the hood to compress the front suspension (pushed down the entire front end of the car), and it still wouldn't lock.  Roger looked again while I pressed down on the hood--he informed me that the hood is down as far as it could go (resting on the frame of the car), but the metal loop on the hood just wasn't deep enough to engage the secondary latch.

I told Roger that I brought along some hood pins.  He was not comfortable drilling into the hood (not his area of expertise).  He knew the owners of a nearby bodyshop:  Pirrello Collision Repair.  He called them and asked if I could bring my car by for them to install the hood pins.  They said they were quite busy, but I could come by and they'd take a look at it.  We zip-tied the hood down and I took side streets slowly to Pirrellos' shop.

The Pirrello brothers looked at my hood, inspected the fitment, and investigated the latch.  They came to the exact same conclusion:  The metal loop on the hood wasn't deep enough for the latch to work.  They tried to adjust the height of the latch mechanism on the car, too--but to no avail.  They said they didn't have enough time to actually install the hood pins today--they had hoped they could at least get the latch to work.  The soonest they could squeeze me in is next Tuesday.  :\ 

So, they zip-tied the hood down again, and I returned to Autopia, where we swapped the stock hood back on.  Before we put the stock hood back on, I took some pictures of everything.  <sigh>

Once I got home, I replaced the Hofele grille with the stock one.

May 25, 2004 -- I installed the Hofele "Edition Four" wire mesh grille today, in preparation for the "undisclosed item" I keep going on about.  Pictures available in the gallery.

The grille comes in 4 pieces:
1) Bottom plastic lip that covers up the bumper cover notch for the VW emblem. This piece must be painted to match body color. Held down with a supplied pair of bolts, washers, and nuts (which can be tricky to install). I had to trim a bit off each end to prevent interference with the portion of the bumper cover that wraps up around the inner parts of the headlights, and I had to tack down each end with a bit of double-sided foam tape. I rate fitment of this part 7.5 out of 10 as a result.

I don't care for the way this piece doesn't sit quite flush against the bumper cover--but this seems to be the norm for aftermarket MkIV Golf/GTI grilles.

I think the intrusion of the VW emblem into the hood and bumper cover was VW's attempt to stave off/irritate aftermarket body part manufacturers. I could have the bottom piece "molded" to the bumper cover, but I prefer to be able to revert everything back to stock without obvious cosmetic side-effects.

2)  Plastic "notch filler" for the hood.   This piece is intended to be painted to match the body color and epoxied to the hood in order to fill the notch left vacant by the now-abset VW emblem.  (I did not install this piece, as the "undisclosed item" eliminates the need for it.)

3) Metal mesh grille. This piece simply bolts on with the existing torx screws. It's a solid (and rather heavy!) piece, and bolted up and lined up just like it should. I rate fitment 10/10 for that.

4) Metal bracket for the hood latch release handle.  This piece allows you to retain the stock hood latch release handle, which I thought was pretty spiffy. I had to supply my own bolts/nuts/washers, though. Scores 9/10 for that minor inconvenience, but fitment was perfect.

In the event that you break the plastic hood latch release handle when you remove it, (it MUST be removed to disengage the stock grille), the Hofele kit includes a simple, bent-metal replacement handle. A bit cheesy, but it should do the trick in a pinch, and definitely a great item to have included.

May 21, 2004 -- Met up with some friends at KCIR tonight (local drag strip).   I wanted to get a baseline feel for how my R32 performs in straight-line acceleration.  Before I post the results, here are the disclaimers:

  1. I am not skilled in the ways of drag racing.   This was my second outing to a drag strip--the first time was about a year ago in Wolfgang.

  2. In all of my runs, something always prevented me from avoiding the liquid they spray on the staging area which is used to aid cars in doing burn-outs to warm up their tires.  This may have hampered my traction a bit.

  3. I ran the car in the same configuration that I drive it everyday--I didn't tweak the tire pressures and didn't remove anything to reduce weight.

  4. Performance-wise, my car is bone stock.  No chip, no cold air intake, no lighter wheels, not even the "exhaust flapper mod".  All I did was turn off the ESP.

Car had just shy of 2000 miles on it.  Air temperature was around 80°F.  My 3rd run was my best:

R/T: 0.404 (my best R/T of the night was 0.065)
60': 2.063
330: 6.175
1/8: 9.516
MPH: 74.64
1000: 12.388
1/4: 14.792
MPH: 94.29

The rest were very low 15s and a 14.9.  Road & Track managed to get 14.1 @ 99.2mph when they tested the R32.  I'm highly confident that their drivers have greater skill and experience than I do.  :)

May 9, 2004 -- New pictures available in the Gallery now, showing the new tint and OEM HIDs at dusk. 

In other news, that "undisclosed item" mentioned back on March 25th has finally arrived.  Well, technically I need to arrange a delivery time with the shipping company--but it's finally in town.  ;)   Hope to get everything installed in the next 2-3 weeks...

May 4, 2004 -- Life is still busy, and I'm delinquent about updating the web site yet again.  Yesterday was a very productive day.  I got 35% Llumar tint installed, then installed my OEM HID headlights that evening.  Guess I need to make a page listing mods, now that I actually have a couple done.  :)

Actually, I almost installed the HIDs the weekend before last, but discovered that I actually had TWO passenger side lights!   When I first got the lights, I inspected them individually--took one out of the bubble wrap, checked it over, wrapped it back up, unwrapped the second one, checked it over, wrapped it back up, and didn't look at 'em again until I tried to install them.   In fact, I didn't even notice the duplicate until after I had one of 'em installed.   D'OH!  I contacted the seller (Mike Zimmer - a.k.a. mhzmhz on VW Vortex), and he sent me the correct light immediately upon receipt of the extra.  In fact, I e-mailed him as soon as I discovered the error, and he responded before I had everything reassembled.   Great service!

Pictures of the first install attempt are now available in the gallery.   Didn't take any pictures of the second round, as they'd pretty much look the same.   I hope to get some good pictures with the new tint fairly soon.  Stay tuned...

March 25, 2004 -- Life has been busy, so I've been lax in updating the web site.  Here's a quick run-down of what's developed since my last report (in reverse-chronological order):

I got the tracking number for the Euro-spec HID headlights tonight.  They're scheduled to arrive early next week!

I got an X-Pel clear bra kit installed yesterday.  This is a clear, adhesive, protective covering that is applied to the leading edge of the hood, front bumper cover, and mirrors.  It's supposed to protect against rock chips while being virtually invisible.  Good stuff!

I lucked into a great deal on undisclosed item a couple days ago.  I'm going to keep the details a secret for the time being, but it'll save about 20lbs of weight and may arrive by the end of next week.  ;)

No name as yet.  I think I've spent enough time with the R32 now to get a feel for his personality, so I'll start searching for a good name in earnest now.  I had originally planned on a name starting with the letter 'R', but none of the German 'R' names really seem to fit...  <shrug>

March 7, 2004 -- Look!  At the top of the page!  I made an index page for my pictures!  I still need to make a page listing modifications, but I'll probably wait until I have something more substantial to report in that area...

I went to a local VW get-together last night.  I think most folks were impressed by the R32.   I gave some rides later in the evening--during which, we had a light sprinkle.   This gave me an opportunity to 1) test the rain-sensing wipers and 2) make a couple hard launches on a wet street.  I was quite happy with the results of both.   With the ESP turned off (which also disables the ASR, I believe), the R32 simply hooked up and launched without drama.  The Haldex AWD system did it's job quite well.   Sweet.

February 28, 2004 -- Spent some quality time tinkering around on the R32 today.  Now that I've actually done some "work" on it, I guess it's officially mine.  :)

First off, I finally got around to installing the Phatbox.  This is a pretty spiffy MP3 player that interfaces with the OEM Monsoon stereo--it basically replaces a traditional CD changer with a unit that with a hard drive you can plug in.  Unplug the hard drive and plug it into a USB cradle that interfaces with your PC to transfer MP3s and other music/audio using various compression methods.  Follow the link in my first sentence to learn more.  The catch to installing the Phatbox is that it requires a deeper space than the standard CD changer mounts in.  The installation instructions that came with the Phatbox recommend mounting it vertically against the driver's side wall in the hatch area.  My R32 has a little cubby hole area there with a net over it for storing stuff--unlike the sample car in the instructions.  Other options include bolting it to the floor or the back side of the rear seat.  I wasn't too keen on either of those options. 

While researching the Phatbox, I found this website which showed a nice alternative.  I followed Blaine's example and cut a Phatbox-shaped hole in the audio access panel so the Phatbox could stick through it when mounted in the stock CD changer bracket.  The hardest part was working up the courage to cut into a brand new car with a Dremel tool.  At any rate, it wasn't too difficult and I'm quite pleased with the results.  Pictures of the end result can be found here.  I may add the trim later, like Blaine did, to give it a nice professional-looking finish.  It'll do just fine as-is for now. 

Note that Blaine's web site does not mention that you'll need 2 pieces of VW part # 1J0035234A.  These are the brackets that allow the Phatbox to be mounted to the CD changer bracket.  If you order the brackets for mounting the Phatbox in a Golf/GTI, you'll get the brackets intended to bolt the Phatbox to a flat surface (such as the floor or one of the hatch walls).

The second task was removing the winter wheels and replacing them with the stock wheels.  I had ordered a set of "jack pads" as shown in this VW Vortex thread.  If you read that thread, you'll discover that there's some debate as to whether or not these jack pads should be used with a single floor jack.  Some folks have reported some buckling/caving of the frame at that point, while others have reported no such problems after several uses.  So, I set about installing the jack pads, being cautious and wary for buckling at those points.   The passenger side went without a problem--everything seemed to hold up just fine.   Sweet!  Swapped over the wheels.  Went to the driver's side to repeat.   Midway through jacking up the front half of the driver's side, I checked the jacking point, and it was starting to cave in.  Crap.  :(  Lowered it back down, and resorted to using the stock jack.  <involuntary shudder>  The rear pad worked fine, however, as that area appears to be well-reinforced.  Looks like these pads are intended for use with a four-point lift (as someone on VW Vortex claimed), as each point is only supporting a portion of the car's weight in that scenario.   I will invest in one of those adapters that will allow me to mate my floor jack with the pinch weld just behind the sideskirts, so I can just jack it up at the recommended jacking points without having to rely on the questionable stock jack.

Oh yeah, I weighed one of my 17" winter wheel/tires and one of my stock 18" wheel/tires.  The winter combo weighed in at 44lbs--the stock was a hefty 50lbs.  I didn't get a chance to really push the car today, but I suspect that I'll feel a slight difference with the heavier stock wheels--not only due to the additional weight, but also for the wider contact patch and stickier rubber compound with larger tread blocks.

Also--kudos to Dennis, the tech at Jay Wolfe VW who swapped my winter wheels with the stock ones during PDI.  The lug bolts were properly torqued (rather than pounded on however tight the impact wrench would go), the stock wheels were marked to let me know where they were originally mounted, and the stock tires had the exact correct air pressure in each one.  Wow!

Now that my R32 looks just like all the other silver R32s, I went out and took several pictures of it.   :)  Should've taken more pics with the Mille Miglia HT3 winter wheels on...

Final task was replacing the headlight switch with the European switch.  With a piece of electrical tape over the "TFL" pin on the Euro switch, the DRLs are now disabled.  The Euro switch gives me the ability to switch on only the parking lights (which includes the "city lights" in the high beam reflectors).  Simple plug-n-play swap.

February 23, 2004 -- Trip report!   I took a road trip to the Ozarks this weekend, to show the R32 to family and friends....and to break it in properly on some of my favorite twisty roads.  :)

The odometer just rolled over 500 miles as I rolled into Springfield.  Sweet--just in time to start opening things up!  Pulled into my "usual" gas station to fill up with some yummy 93 octane gas.  Hm--the 93 side of all the pumps were closed off.  :(  Didn't want to use 91, so I went to the next station--it also had all the 93 octane options disabled.  Not looking good.  Four out of four stations that were supposed to have 93 octane were all out of the good stuff.  All the other stations didn't have any higher than 91.  :\   I eventually did find a station with 93 further down the road.  Good thing the R32 has a bigger gas tank!  None of the other towns appeared to have such a shortage, so I don't know what was up with that...

Okay, enough of the boring details that nobody wants to read about.  On with the performance review!

Note:  All the driving was done on Pirelli Winter 240 SnowSport tires.  They are snow tires, so ultimate dry grip is not as good as dedicated summer tires and affected the R32's performance accordingly.  However, I learned that their dry handling is much better than the Blizzaks I've run before.

I pushed the R32 hard on several corners. In fact, I pushed it much harder than I had pushed any of my prior cars (easily 10mph faster), and I was rewarded by the kind of fun that is also a bit scary. I probably could've gone a bit faster, but the soft nature of the Pirelli 240 SnowSports gave a bit of tread squirm, which made me a bit uneasy at the limit. I suspect my confidence will be quite higher with the summer tires.

I'm still marvelling at how lively and active the rear of the car is when cornering hard. I took one corner in particular a little hotter than I had anticipated, and started to ease off the gas. As I did so, the rear started to step out. Got on the gas, and it pulled right back in line. Off the gas--step out; back on the gas--back in. Do the hokey-pokey, etc. Couldn't have done that with my FWD MkIII--I generally have to let off the gas fairly dramatically to induce throttle-lift oversteer, and going that fast would've likely caused it to understeer, anyway.  Also, while on a short romp the night before, the rear kicked out rather unexpectedly on me while negotiating a quick 'S' corner--but the ESP pulled it right back in before I could get into trouble.  Nice!  Again, I wonder how much difference sticky summer tires would make in those conditions.  Guess I'll have to find out on my next trip...   ;)

Did a couple hard launches around corners with the ESP turned off to see if I could upset the car and/or make the Haldex kick in. And I did. I believe I broke all 4 tires loose on at least one occasion, and giggled like a school girl as a result.

The huge bolsters on the seats did their job quite well, and I never slid around in the seat or found myself doing awkward things to try and stay put while negotiating tight corners at speed.  Nearly everyone who sat in the seats immediately let out "Oh my!" as the seat gave them a friendly and inviting hug.

All were duly impressed with the R32, both as a package and as the details that went into it.  The exhaust note elicited smiles and giggles, the snappy acceleration and braking prompted exclamations and expletives.   The handling inspired wide-eyed, white-knuckled silence, followed by varying vocal outbursts of how cool/fun/scary that was.  Good times.

I let a friend drive for a bit, and he was amazed at how effortless the R32 did everything.  Step on the gas, and it goes without hesitation.  Step on the brakes, and you're glad you've got the seatbelt on to hold you in place.  Toss it around some corners, and the R32 seems to say "Is that all ya got?"  What a great driving machine this is!

The trip back home was basically uneventful, which I'm quite happy with.  According to the trip computer, fuel economy is actually improving a bit (until a couple sprints to 80 or so--only for passing, of course--dropped the average back down a couple ticks).

With 860 miles now on the clock, I can feel that the engine is loosening up a bit, and power has become even smoother as a result. The brakes are still quite effective, and the exhaust note is just as intoxicating as ever.  The more I drive it, the more I love it.

Tonight, I swapped Wolfgang for the R32 for daily driver duties for the week.  Now that I've had two weeks to get myself fully acclimated to the R32, this will be a good time for me to compare and contrast the two.   At first blush (the drive home from storage), I'm loathe to admit that I'm a little disappointed.  Wolfgang feels heavy and slow, his steering wheel is so skinny, the pedals feel mushy...ack!  Has the R32 spoiled me?  Wolfgang's an awesome car--a pleasure to drive.  Maybe I just need to get re-acquainted with him for a bit.   I'll reserve my opinions until I've had a couple more days to drive him.....

February 15, 2004 -- I've meant to update this page long before now, but the week has been too busy and I've been spending my time actually driving the R32, rather than posting here about it.  :)

I've got several meaningful hours behind the wheel and feel quite comfortable with it now.  Other than the occasional crickety-squeek from the radio trim, I have absolutely no complaints and I'm still very happy with the car as a whole package. 

Here are some pictures from February 10, the first time I drove it to work.  (Yes, I plan to make a gallery index page for easier access to all the pictures.  Please be patient...)

Below are more observations and opinions (taken from a post to VW Vortex and an e-mail to a friend).  Warning:  I get a bit foamy at the mouth blathering on and on about how much I enjoy this car.  :)


The seats feel as good as they look.  The bolsters hug you and hold you firmly in place.  The steering wheel is thick, and has the cool ergonomic lumps found on MOMO and other aftermarket wheels.  The shifter has slightly shortened throws and feels very positive--I've yet to miss a shift.  <knock wood>

Then there are all the electronic goodies:  auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, Monsoon stereo that automatically adjusts volume for road noise, one-touch up & down power windows, etc...  This car has enough gadgets to keep geeks like me happy, too.

And then there's the exhaust note.  You MUST hear it.  It's the kind of burbly growl that one would never associate with a Volkswagen, let alone a hatchback.  Men of all ages grin like schoolboys when they hear it.   The exhaust has a vacuum-actuated flapper that diverts air to a longer path at low speeds/light loads.  (It was a European requirement to satisfy certain decibel levels under certain conditions.)  When you get on the gas and that flap switches over, it goes wrrrrrrrWAAAAAAAHHHHH and then you grin like an idiot because it's so friggin' cool.   Likewise, when you first start it up, it takes a couple seconds to generate enough vacuum to close the flap, so it sounds like RAWR-BURBLE-BUrble-burble-burble to let you know that you've awakened the beast--yet it's well-mannered enough to live with on a daily basis.  Some folks pinch the vacuum line that powers the exhaust flap so it's loud all the time.  I think I'll leave it in place for now, because I like how it can be stealthy or attention-getting, depending on how you're driving.

And, boy howdy does the R32 enjoy to accelerate.  Between the eager drive-by-wire programming, the close-ratio gearbox, and getting peak torque way down at 2800RPM, it'll just jump off the line (with assistance from 4Motion to get you going with maximum tractive power applied to the ground).  It took me a bit of practice driving to learn how to take off slowly from a stop.  Take all that motive force and throw in the music from the exhaust, and you've got yourself a challenge to abide by the break-in schedule (and local speed limits).  Number junkies and bench racers who scoff at the R32's 0-60 times have missed the point.  (VW lists
it at a conservative 6.4 seconds, but I recall a European magazine getting down to 6.1.)   The close-ratio gearbox requires a shift to third in order to reach 60mph, whereas most manufacturers gear their cars to reach 60 in second gear (most likely to sell more cars to the number junkies).  This is not a slow car.  It feels noticeably quicker than Wolfgang.  In fact, it doesn't really feel any heavier than Wolfgang, which is a testament to how well VW has set up this car--because it most certainly IS heavier than Wolfgang.

And the brakes are quite effective, too.  It stops as fast as it goes.

And this is easily the best-handling stock VW I've driven to date.  There's a notable amount of dive and squat when braking and accelerating, but it corners with little body roll and I was actually able to induce some throttle-lift oversteer last night (took a big honkin' rear sway bar to get Wolfgang to do that).

And I haven't even really exercised the AWD capabilities yet!



Disclaimer--I'm rolling 205/50/17 Pirelli 240 SnowSport tires on 8" wide rims. This is bound to have an effect on handling/feel.

In general, I feel a little body roll when cornering, but not nearly enough to motivate me to change/upgrade anything on the suspension immediately. The dive/squat on acceleration/braking is much more noticeable than any body roll. Sharp turns (of the "turning through the intersection while the light is still yellow" variety) don't appear to be upsetting to the car. It feels about as flat as it looks on the Top Gear video. A little body roll, but nothing to get upset about. Perhaps the great seat bolsters help hide any feeling of body roll, since the seats hold you in place so well.

I didn't have an opportunity to push hard during any steady-state cornering. I could find an onramp somewhere, but don't want to sandblast my R32 on the salt/sand/grime-covered interstates.

I did manage a wee bit of throttle-lift oversteer, though, which is quite novel to me in a stock VW. It took the beefy Shine rear bar to get my '95 VR6 to behave like that. The method of going hot into a corner, letting off the gas to rotate the car where you want it to go, then mashing on the gas to power out appears to apply to our US-spec R32s, as well. 

Either my R32 is a little stronger than some other people or my perceptions are way skewed, but mine doesn't feel very heavy or slow to me. It's got noticeably more power than my MkIII 12V (as it should), but it doesn't really feel that much heavier--if at all.

After driving my MkIII for awhile, it doesn't feel heavy--until I drive my Scirocco. Likewise, after driving my Scirocco for awhile it feels fairly quick--until I drive my MkIII. But then I also notice the MkIII has more weight to move around, too.

I expected a similar feeling stepping into the R32 after driving my '95 VR6. I thought it would feel quicker (it does) and heavier (it doesn't). VW did something right there, in my opinion.

February 9, 2004 -- The lack of fanciness of this web page continues.  However, I made the purchase and drove my R32 home tonight!  Woohoo!  The purchase process took quite a bit longer than anticipated, but I have no regrets.  My wife was intrigued by how many guys walked up to my R32 on the showroom floor and comment on what a cool car it was.  "How can they tell it's so 'cool' just by looking at it?", she asked.  It's a guy thing, honey.  <shrug>

Pictures can be found here.  As you'll see, I had the dealership swap on some winter wheels and snow tires I purchased from TireRack.   The wheels are 17"x8" Mille Miglia HT3 in bright silver finish, shod with 205/50VR17 Pirelli Winter 240 SnowSport tires.  Reportedly, these tires are actually respectable in the dry--unlike the squishy Blizzaks I usually sport.  TireRack mounted and balanced the tires and drop-shipped 'em directly to the dealership.  No muss, no fuss.  Good stuff.

The drive home was pretty educational.  Namely, I need to learn how to drive this car.  More specifically, I need to familiarize myself with where the clutch engages and the overall sensitivity of the throttle.   Yes, the throttle is programmed for going fast.  :)  I really want to try and keep the RPMs within the recommended range for the break-in period, but I'm used to pressing a little harder on the pedal to reach a certain speed.

General impressions:  The ride is firm, but not harsh.  Granted, it'll probably loosen up after a few miles and I haven't even remotely pushed the car to its handling limits yet, but I think VW has done a pretty good job striking a balance between performance and comfort.  It's certainly not as mushy as my '95 GTI VR6 was when I bought it with 20k on the clock.  Gearshift throws actually are longer than my DieselGeek short-shifter equipped GTI.  Action seemed to be pretty positive and firm, though, and I didn't miss a shift.  No limp noodle here (as my '95 was before the short-shifter).  I need to train myself that this car has a 6-speed, though...  Seats--yummy.  Firm, supportive, love the bolsters.   Steering wheel--sweet.  Meaty, great shape, awesome.  MkIV blue and red dash lights--wow.  More attractive than the lime green of my older VWs.   Auto-dimming rearview mirror--that's pretty nifty.  That feature will probably prevent me from fitting my traditional panoramic rearview (I really like to be able to see my surroundings behind me in traffic).  Along those lines, the center rear head rest will be removed post-haste.  It's too obstructive to my rearward view, and I don't really plan to have any passengers riding in the center of the rear seat, anywhow.  The exhaust note--turns all men of any age into grinning schoolboys.   If this car could enunciate, the exhaust would bellow "MORE!" when you step on the gas.

I'll have more impressions once I've had a chance to drive the car more.  I also hope to take some much better pictures in the daylight.   Right now, I'm tired and need to go to bed. 

February 8, 2004 -- Okay, so this page isn't very fancy, yet.  One might think that I'd have this page all whipped up and ready to go the instant my R32 arrived--especially since I've been foaming at the mouth for this car since it was first released in Europe nearly two years ago--but I've been trying to keep myself preoccupied during the wait.  Gotta pace myself, ya know.   At any rate, the page is now up and you can expect it to grow, evolve, and be refined as time marches on.

February 7, 2004 -- The arrival!   So, I was browsing the R32 Forums on VW Vortex this morning when the phone rings.   It was Jeff Rose at Jay Wolfe VW informing me that the transport truck had just rolled up, and my R32 was on it!  WOOHOO!!!  He and Matt Brickell wanted me to know it was there, and invited me to come watch it get unloaded.  Sadly, I was not exactly presentable, and it would only take the driver about 15 minutes to get it off the truck.  I had to pass on the opportunity.  Fortunately, Jeff was gracious enough to take several pictures of the event for me. 

I immediately got dressed and shoveled out my wife's side of the driveway like a madman.  We had received about 8" of snow this past week, and only my side was mostly cleared since I generally do all the driving when the weather/road conditions are crummy.  My back is still a bit sore.  By the time I finished shoveling, I got another call from Jeff.  Since it was Saturday, they only had 2 techs working, and they were all booked up with repairs/maintenance already.   So, they would not be able to complete the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) until Monday.  Besides, they wanted a particular tech (I need to get his name again) to perform the PDI, because he's known to be gentle and meticulous.  I can appreciate that.  Besides, I've been waiting for at least 16 months for this car.  What's two more days?  I'm scheduled to pick it up Monday after work.

After a quick shower and a bite to eat for lunch, I made my way to the dealership to get a sneak preview.  :)  Sweeeeeeeeeeeet....   Even with all the protective shipping stuff on it, it still looks fantastic.   The seats are divine--they wrap around you and hold you in their grip.  The steering wheel feels tailored to your grip, it's so thick and has all the right curves in all the right places.  The shifter has delightfully short and smooth throws.  I didn't drive it, but I did get to fire it up briefly.  The exhaust note!  Sheer bliss!  <droool>  Matt and Jeff each want one of their own now.  I would, too!  8^D  I took a couple pictures, but nothing too stunning.  I'll save the real photography for after the PDI and delivery.  At any rate, you can find all the pictures here.