$50-100K: 1st - VW Golf R

No matter which angle you chose to look at it, the Golf R’s performance at BFYB 2014 was extraordinary.

Against its VW kin? Against other VAG competitors sharing MQB underpinnings? As a hot hatch, a small car or an all-paw turbo hero? In the context of the entire 21-strong field? Take your pick. From whichever viewpoint you choose, it kicked major bottom.

Before I dissect the R’s stunning $50K-100K in-class dominance, let’s talk fast Golfs.

Debate has and continues to rage among petrolheads – and BFYB judges alike – as to whether the R or the GTI, here in battle-sharpened Performance Pack trim, is the smarter ownership choice.

One camp argues for the R’s more lavish all-round, all-paw spec, the other camp counters that, on value, the GTI – specifically the base version – is 90 percent the car for what has traditionally been roughly 75 percent the R’s outlay.      

At BFYB 2014, though, the case for Golf R got stronger. Just $3500 separates an R manual from GTI PP, and the yet the pace advantage the all-paw Golf displayed over its front-driven kin was formidable to say the least.

The R’s 4.92sec was 1.9sec quicker to 100km/h, its 13.21sec some 1.7sec swifter to 400m, its 3.16sec 80-120km/h quicker by 0.7sec. And the R (at 35.92m) braked 2.6 metres shorter than the GTI.

It goes on. Around Winton, the R’s 1:01.9 lap was three seconds quicker, its 57.71km/h corner speed was a couple of kliks swifter, its 173.62km/h V-maxes on track and strip faster by some measure.

It seems as if Volkswagen is now plugging a larger wedge between its flagship all-paw hatch and its more affordable, front-driven GTI sibling.

However, with the GTI fighting in the sub-$50K group, none of this demonstrates the eye-opening tenacity the R brought to the $50-$100K fight which it went on to emphatically win.

Of its eight direct competitors, only the ($52,490) SS-V Redline is more affordable to buy, and by a scant $2500 margin. Bear in mind, too, that the category average pricepoint is a far pricier $69,803.

Oh, and together with its mechanical twin the Audi S3, the 206kW/380Nm Golf R was the equally the least-powerful car in class…

…And yet, it was the quickest device to 100m, and only the M235i was swifter to 400m, by just eleven-hundredths, where the R’s terminal speed was fourth fastest of the eight competitors.

Despite the patent horsepower disadvantage, the Golf was also third-quickest in class to lunge from 80km/h to 120km/h, which is nothing short of miraculous effort.

In a nutshell, it was a display of engineering efficiency at its finest – the Golf R was channeling its energy into forward motion more effectively than any of its rival could.

Then came the braking test. And the Golf R pulled up from 100km/h in a shorter distance than any its rivals in a distance than could be measured in old-school feet.

Next up were the hot laps. And right here the Golf R broke the BFYB barn doors open and did its bolt.

Only the SS-V Redline could muster up grippier pace in Turn Seven and only the M235i and Chrysler could top its 173.62km/h V-max.

But the real surprise was once the all-paw VeeDub flashed past the finish line because it was the only $50-$100K competitor to clock a One-Oh-One lap time, eight-tenths up on the BMW and pretty much increasing daylight to the rest of the $50K-$100K class.

As a pace-setting pointy-ender for the entire 2014 BYFB field, and with little hope of any front-driven prospect matching its accelerative prowess, one conclusion is easily drawn: the Golf R is, on balance, the quickest and most ferocious hot hatch on planet Earth.

And yet it’s not merely a case of heroic pace alone. It’s simply brilliant to drive. The engine is incredibly punchy and flexible, its dynamic reflexes are razor sharp and, as the timesheet proves, it works with the driver to extract its maximum potential.

Such a joy, in fact, that the judges gave it first place in class for enjoyment and X-factor.   

Wunderbar, Volkswagen!

$50-100K placing – 1st
Overall placing – 3rd
Judges’ ranking – 2nd

0-100km/h – 4.92sec (1st)
0-400m – 13.21sec @ 168.97km/h (2nd)
Lap Time – 1:41.90sec (2nd)
Pricing – $54,990 (15th)

Engine 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power 206kW @ 6200rpm
Torque 380Nm @ 1750rpm
Weight 1435kg
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Suspension struts, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes 340mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
Wheels 19 x 8.0-inch (f/r)
Tyres 235/35 R19 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A (f/r)

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