VW/Audi R32 3.2 VR6 EA390: Everything You Need To Know

The VW R32 is a 3.2-liter VR6 naturally aspirated gasoline engine popularized by the VW Golf R32 mk4 and mk5 model application. In addition, the machine was utilized in various Volkswagen and Audi cars. The R32 engine is from Volkswagen’s EA390 series.

The VW/Audi R32 3.2 VR6 engine is a notable member of the highly recognized VR6 engines. These engines are unique because VR6 engines have a slight angle between the cylinder banks and a single cylinder head covering both cylinders’ banks. 

The Volkswagen Group introduced the first VR6 engine in 1991, and VR6 engines are still in production today. Volkswagen also built a five-cylinder VR5 engine based on the VR6 from 1997 to 2006.

What are VW/Audi R32 VR6 EA390 Engines? 

R32 is a well-known member of the EA390 family. This VR6 3.2L naturally aspirated gasoline engine was used in the Volkswagen Golf R32 mk4/5 and other Volkswagen and Audi vehicles.

The engine shares a lot of its features with the VR6 family of engines. The term VR6 is derived from the German abbreviations for a V engine (German: V-Motor) and a straight (inline) engine (German: Reihenmotor). Hence the VR engine is referred to as a “Vee-Inline engine” (VR-Motor). 

Volkswagen released two versions – 12-valve and 24-valve versions. Early VR6 engines featured two valves per cylinder (for a total of twelve valves) and used a single camshaft for each cylinder bank’s intake and exhaust valves without the aid of rockers.

However, in 1999, a variant with four valves per cylinder was released. The 24-valve variants employ one camshaft for both banks’ intake valves -with rockers to reach the furthest bank and the other camshaft for each bank’s exhaust valve. This working concept is more analogous to a DOHC design, with one camshaft for intake and another for exhaust valves.

Engine Specifications and Design:

  • Production Run: 2003 – Present
  • Cylinder Head Material: Aluminum
  • Cylinder Block Material: Cast-iron
  • Configuration: VR6
  • Bore: 84.0 mm
  • Stroke: 95.9.0 mm
  • Valvetrain: DOHC four valves per cylinder
  • Displacement: 3.02L (3189 cc)
  • Compression Ratio: 10.9 and 11.3
  • Weight: 430 lbs.
  • Maximum HP: 250 HP at 6,200 RPM
  • Maximum Torque: 236 lb-ft at 2,500 – 3,000 RPM

 Engine Design: 

The 2001 Volkswagen New Beetle RSi model is not only a perfect example of how to make an iconic car better but also one any enthusiast would be proud to own. The introduction by 3.2 L EA390 version showed off this little engine’s power in the form of 237 horsepower at 6500 rpm with peak torque available from 1900 – 5800 RPM for when you need it most.

1. Cylinder Block

The 3.2 VR6 has a grey cast iron cylinder block with a tight 15-degree angle between the cylinder banks. The cylinders are 12.5 mm apart from the center of the die-forged steel crankshaft. In this particular engine. The firing interval between each cylinder is 120 degrees. There are seven major bearings on the crankshaft.

2. Cylinder Head

Because of the short V-angle, there was no need to separate cylinder heads for each bank. The R32 is equipped with a single aluminum alloy head and two overhead camshafts (DOHC layout). 

The engine is equipped with a timing chain – a simplex roller chain. The machine has four valves per cylinder, for a total of 24 valves. 

Since each camshaft has 12 cam lobes, the front camshaft operates all intake valves, while the rear camshafts operate all exhaust valves. Low-friction roller finger cam followers with automated hydraulic valve clearance adjustments are used in the valvetrain. 

Further, both camshafts on the VW/Audi 3.2L VR6 engine have variable valve timing (continuous timing adjustment), 52 degrees on the intake at the front and 22 degrees on the rear exhaust camshaft.

3. Twin-Path Intake Manifold and Fuel Management

The 3.2-liter VR6 engine had a twin-path intake manifold, with the ECU controlling manifold length. To modify the size of the intake port, the ECU would operate a solenoid valve that allowed partial pressure into the vacuum box, and the vacuum box would then activate the rotary valve.

In addition to that, the engine uses sequential multi-point fuel injection. The six injectors are positioned on the intake manifold ports and are generally covered beneath the intake manifold’s upper section. 

From the engine’s backside, there are two cast iron exhaust manifolds. The 3.2 VR6 machines is outfitted with an electronic ignition system that has six unique single spark coils for each cylinder. The engine additionally includes an electronic throttle body with a drive-by-wire. The machine is run by the electronic engine control unit (ECU) Bosch Motronic ME 7.1.1.

4. Other Details

Volkswagen has begun to phase out VR engines in favor of smaller turbocharged engines. However, the VR6 is still in production for Volkswagen Passat (NMS) sedan models marketed in China. 

However, VR6 engines made an unexpected resurgence in 2017, with variants of the 24-valve VR6 engines manufactured for the Volkswagen Atlas. Volkswagen also produced a fresh new VR6 (still EA399) for the Chinese market alone; it is a 2.5 Liter Turbocharged 24v VR6 with 295 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque for the Volkswagen Teramont SUV and the new Volkswagen Talagon MPV.

Applications of VW/Audi R32 3.2 VR6 EA390: 

  • 1991 – 1995 Volkswagen Corrado
  • 1991 – 2015 Volkswagen Passat
  • 1992 – 1998 Volkswagen Golf Mk3
  • 1992 – 1999 Volkswagen Vento/Jetta Mk3
  • 1995 – 2000 Volkswagen Sharan
  • 2017 – Present Volkswagen Atlas
  • 2021 – Present Volkswagen Talagon
  • 2017 – Present Volkswagen Teramont 
  • 2008 – 2015 Audi Q7
  • 2008 – 2010 ┼ákoda Superb 3T
  • 2008 – 2017 Volkswagen CC
  • 2006 – 2011 Volkswagen Eos
  • 2005 – 2008 Volkswagen Golf Mk5 R32
  • 2003 – 2010 Audi TT
  • 1995 – 2000 Ford Galaxy Mk I
  • 1996 – 2003 Mercedes-Benz Vito 
  • 1997 – 2005 Winnebago Riatta/Itasca/Vista
  • 2009 – 2012 Artega GT
  • 2003 – 2009 Volkswagen Transporter

Problems Surrounding VW/Audi R32 3.2 EA390 Engine: 

Though the VW/Audi VR6 is no longer one of today’s cutting-edge engine designs, it can still provide reliable performance. However, there are some downsides to this otherwise durable power plant. Some of these issues are not that serious but still pose some higher risks. 

These issues include: 

1. Timing Chain Issues

Only if you hear noise is this a problem. There haven’t been many complaints of faulty guides on 24-valve systems. In higher usage engines, the chain tensioner or guide rails may fail. It doesn’t happen nearly as frequently as it did with the 12-valve VR6s since they improved the guide rail designs quite a bit. 

As a result, the valves are twisted, the heads are damaged, and the engine is a massive paperweight. It’s best to replace it as soon as it starts making unusual noises; noise from the driver’s side of the machine is an indicator, little chain noise is entirely acceptable, remembering there are 24 valves in there. Requires the removal of the transmission and engine from the vehicle.

Another issue under the timing chain is the stretched timing chain. Eurovans and Forced Induction engines are examples of this. High temperatures and loads can cause the timing chain to strain, resulting in an out-of-tune engine. The most common cause of stretched chains is the use of conventional oil or the abuse of oil change intervals.

2. Serpentine Belt Tensioner Pulley Squeal

The Serpentine Belt Tensioner Pulley Bearing may generate noise. You have a chance to preserve it if you act quickly, though. The bearing can be saved and extended in life by repacking it with grease. 

Otherwise, you’ll have to buy a new pulley. The 12-valve type uses a 7-rib belt, while the 24-valve variation employs a 6-rib belt which is 24-valve specific. When ordering belts and pulleys, be cautious. 

3. Intake Shifter Rod Issues

The bushings on the variable stage intake manifold wear down, producing idling problems and noise. It may sound like there are loose pebbles in the intake. To avoid this from happening again, a manufacturer creates beefier aftermarket bushing.

4. Water Pump Failure

Because the impellers are composed of plastic, they can fail, but the seal and bearings are more likely to be more susceptible. These components can disintegrate and block cooling systems, resulting in cooling system inefficiency problems. 

If it begins to make a noise, make a change right away. Metal impeller models are available; however, they might be difficult to locate. Depending on who you talk to, the recommended interval for changing is 80-100,000 miles. However, many fail sooner, and some may fall as early as 20,000. Change is seen as preventative maintenance.

5. Auxiliary Or Secondary After-Run Coolant Pump Issues 

After the ignition is switched off, the secondary water pump continues for 10 minutes. Usually only occurs on high-mileage vehicles. A quiet “whir” will be heard from the front end. However, there is no loud noise, just a feeble noise. Pulsating are symptoms of a failed or failing pump. 

The reason is that because of the electric motor’s sealed construction. All of the dust from the brushes remains in the motor, clogging it up. It may be fixed by disassembling the engine and cleaning it or by purchasing a new pump.

 It may not appear to accomplish much, but VW is infamous for saving corners, so why would they add a second water pump unless it performed something significant? Yes, to avoid warpage and it keeps the aluminum head and block cooling at the same pace.


The VW/Audi 3.2 VR6 engine is a trouble-free power unit, and it’s very reliable, with longevity of over 150 thousand miles. It operates smoothly without any issues or noise complaints from its owners as well as secondhand users. 

There are mishaps and issues regarding its build, such as the tensioners and other issues, but still, it is a solid-rated engine that is fair to contend with its competitors. 

Leave a Comment