Ignore the R32 badging and roof-mounted spotlights; this is VW’s new range-topping Golf R36 undergoing cold-weather testing ahead of its expected launch at September’s Frankfurt motor show.
VW has been stung by criticism that the current über-Golf offers too few benefits over the GTi to justify its near £4000 premium. The R36 - which may end up being called the Golf RS - aims to correct that, and put clean air between it and its four-pot front-wheel-drive sibling.
As the name suggests, the R36 will use the same 3.6-litre V6 FSI engine as the forthcoming new Passat R36. That means it will pack 300bhp, up from the R32’s 247bhp. Expect the new car’s 0-62mph time to drop from 6.5sec to the low fives as a result, helped by a standard Haldex four-wheel drive system.
While the R36 gets larger front air intakes and bigger tailpipes than the R32, expect it to keep that car’s stealthy, upmarket image. It will most likely borrow the Passat R36's 10-spoke alloys.
Expect the R36 to go on sale in the UK in early 2008 for around £25,000 - not much more than the price of the R32.