As car enthusiasts, I believe we approach automotive crossroads rather frequently and (for those who are like me) it almost becomes second nature to self-induce these crossroads daily because of our fascination with the automobile. I’m not talking about physical crossroads…I’m trying to be metaphorical and deep so bear with me here. I don’t think our inner ‘car demon’ ever changes through life; rather our experiences and maturity affect our perception and how we make our decisions. My latest major automotive crossroad happened on September 12, 2013, but before I describe that day it’s important to understand the background.
The Early Years
I did not have a privileged upbringing, but I was never deprived of anything and was even lucky enough to have been exposed to some luxuries others are not afforded. That being said, I was always a lover of all things automotive. A question was asked around here recently about “The first time you realized you loved cars” and I honestly don’t remember…true story. This is because at 3 years old I could be asked the make and model of every car on the road and I would answer, and usually these answers were correct. It was my exposure to certain cars though, certain enthusiast cars, that cultivated this passion into what it is today. Not to get into a name dropping game, but some vehicles that went through my family as a kid were: ’72 Datsun 240z, 1985 Corolla (SR5 Unfortunately), 1988 e30 325is, 1989 Saab 900, ’93 Corrado VR6. The Corrado in particular was important because it was supposed to be mine when I came of driving age, but life is such that what you think is meant to be usually isn’t. Instead I got a hand me down ’86 Z31 300ZX non-turbo…admittedly the T-Tops were cool in High School. I gained a lot of mechanical experience from that car and believe me, those ZX cars taught you how to drive and in the scariest of ways! (Lift-off oversteer at every corner anyone?)
So then we get into my life with cars. I don’t race professionally, bar some Autocrossing in my old S2000 and my usual Quarter Mile antics at what used to be Moroso. (Us Miami folk still call it Moroso) I have some moderate mechanical abilities (A gift bestowed by my late Grandfather who was one of the best). I guess in summation I’m just a car nerd…it’s my hobby and my passion. For the most part, the cars I’ve owned have always spoken much about my persona and where I was in life during that time. I’ve owned too many cars to list here but I guess some of the more important ones were: ’86 300ZX, ’89 MX-6 Turbo, MK4 Jetta VR6, ’03 RSX Type-S, S2000, MK5 GTI, and most recently a 2009 MK5 GLI. I searched long and hard to find a GLI with a 6 Speed Manual, TSI Engine (standard on MK5’s as of 2008.5), Leather, and Sunroof. I said this was the car I wanted while I began my family and established my new career…and I loved it even in stock form. After two years though, the car was still stock and I realized it would cost thousands to get it to a point where it could make me somewhat happy. Meanwhile the rest of my life started turning gray just because I was MISERABLE with my car…my automotive reflection.
The Summer of ’13 (Doesn’t sound as good as ’69…sorry Bryan)
This brings us to the summer of 2013. I’m sure my misery was not helped by the ‘contact high’ effect in my office due to coworkers driving the likes of an R8, C7 S6, and a Lingenfelter CTS-V coupe. It is a dangerous effect that leads to questions like: Why can’t I have my dream car? Why can’t I have that smug assurance about what’s in my parking spot? Well, there are answers to those questions, conversely: You can’t afford it now, you just bought a house, and you have a family now. Well then, this should be an open shut case right? Wrong. I kept torturing myself, and kept searching for what would make me happy. I reached the conclusion that a Golf R would be ideal and, with the available options, is what I was looking for. Unfortunately, I only found a couple on sale that were optioned the way I wanted and those deals fell through. I was so miserable with my car that I ventured outside of my VAG comfort zone and found that there wasn’t much that would make me happy in my price range. FR-S? Fun car but made my GLI feel like a muscle car. Mustang GT? I’ve been spoiled by years of German build quality…Coyote and all I just can’t stomach it. Focus ST? 30k Ford hot hatch? No thank you, I’ll take a GTI instead. I test drove an Abarth and loved it, however I knew it was not practical and the numbers did not make sense. I finally landed in Fiesta ST territory and thought to myself “They are giving this car away, I can do a 2 year lease and drive the piss out of this little guy until the MK7 Golf R comes out!!!” Well, it’s off to Carmax to see what those thieves… I mean nice folks want to give me for the old GLI.
I have a very distorted perception of Carmax that I’ll leave unspoken, but one aspect I do enjoy is walking the parking lot and seeing what they have in stock. So as I’m walking along on this fateful day, I see an e90 M3…pretty cool. Then a C63…nice! I then wonder to myself what they have in the VW flavor. Maybe a cheap MK6 GTI could satisfy my craving until the Next R? As I approach a Candy White VW I notice LED runners and an R bumper…could it be? It’s a special kind of feeling that came over me; one which is very hard to describe. I do not feel it when I see a brand new McLaren or Ferrari and I don’t even get it when I see my current dream car the 991 Porsche GT3. It’s the feeling you get when you see a car and instantly imagine your hands around the wheel, foot planted, wind in your hair…well you get the idea. I was still very skeptical since I knew every single Golf R for sale in a 500-mile radius of my zip code and this was not one of them….WHAT’S THE CATCH?? I did a quick visual inspection of the vehicle and found it to be almost perfect. I ran to the computer terminal in the lobby to search for the car and the dingbats, I mean the extremely competent staff, at Carmax, listed the car as a base Golf! Could this be fate? The exact car, the exact color, and the exact options I wanted? Here? Now? Just waiting for me? The test drive was perfect…well, nearly perfect since the sales guy wouldn’t stop yapping about how it’s impossible that a Golf would be more expensive and faster than a GTI….Sigh…
I’m very lucky to have married not only the love of my life, but a woman who also understands me and what makes me tick. Soon after discussing the purchase, she agreed this would be a good fit for the family and I was signing the paperwork and buying the car. It had to be fate and this had to be the car for me. Forget the reviews on the Internet about the Golf R, forget the opinions of every douchebag from here to New Zealand, and forget the bench race peanut gallery. When you are in the seat of a car you love, there’s not a worry in the world that could jade the perception of your car. It was a feeling I had not felt since the day I bought my S2000. I can only describe it as an invigorating breath of life.
Life With the R
I don’t know how long I am going to keep this car. I may do some work to it in order to up the power to what it should have been from the factory. I might even autocross it every now and then. I can definitively tell you that I will enjoy it every time I drive it. Whether it’s feeling the boost come on in second (which never gets old), powering out of a corner and feeling the Haldex AWD system keep the car planted, or listening to my music through the great sound system…I enjoy every second of it and I still feel giddy every time I drive it. (I know I know, Honeymoon phase)
I guess you could say my take away from this Automotive Crossroad is: Go after what makes you happy and also fits your current financial situation. Yeah the guy in the M3 over on the next lane could probably smoke me…but is he as happy in his car as I am in mine? If hope he is, because it’s a feeling we all deserve as automotive enthusiasts.
And for you those of you who will inevitably mention the Stability Control defeat, I'll just leave this here. Anybody with half a brain and a VAG-COM can insert the Canadian coding and enable the defeat...and yes I did get it sideways already.