Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

The R32 gets a 3.2-litre V6 that produces 250bhp, making it the flagship of the Golf range. It's an engine that's found in many other Volkswagen Group cars including the Passat and Audi TT, A3 and A4. Although its performance figures are strong and acceleration is effortless - 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 155mph - it's only half a second quicker than the cheaper 200bhp 2.0T GTI.

Where it does show its strength is its effortless acceleration from 50mph upwards, which makes overtaking - even in otherwise tight situations - a breeze. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or a DSG semi-automatic gearbox. The DSG provides lightning quick gearchanges. It uses two clutches - one is in gear, the other has the next gear pre-selected.

It takes 0.03 of a second to change gear - that's faster than the blink of an eye.

It's a very capable driving machine with little bodyroll, precise steering and rapid throttle response. Suspension has been lowered by 20mm compared to the standard Golf and there are stiffer springs and dampers plus thicker anti-roll bars for better cornering. This has only a negligible effect on the ride, which remains smooth over most surfaces. 4MOTION four-wheel-drive and chunky 18-inch alloy wheels means that there's plenty of grip and assured handling in all weather conditions.

To cope with the extra power, the brakes have been uprated and offer extra bite, with bigger discs. But the R32 isn't a brute to live with. In the town and city, the steering lightens up, making parking and nipping in-and-out of traffic easy.