Home' Motoring Plus : June 1st 2016 Contents THE NELSON MAIL Wednesday, June 1, 2016 — 5
All the grunt in the front
You’d be mad to put a
whole lot of power
through a car’s front
wheels. Luckily, some
makers are. Here are
our top 10 FWD
Holden Astra VXR is
an oldie but a good
way to give yourself
a fright: the most
powerful FWD car
you can buy.
RS 275: the number
on the end of the
name keeps getting
Toyota Aurion sedan
puts a lot of power
through the front
wheels. Not well, but
a lot of power.
Peugeot 308 GTi
maker’s return to
Ford Focus ST is
perhaps the ultimate
old-school hot hatch.
Not exactly hot, but
the refined Volvo
V40 T5 still packs a
So pretty, so fast, so annoying sometimes: Alfa’s
What would John Cooper think of this giant? But
Mini JCW certainly benefits from BMW engineering.
The Volkswagen Golf GTi is an icon.
But is it outdone by a Skoda for
surprise-sex-appeal? Right: Skoda
Octavi RS wagon: cooler than a Golf
Surprisingly, this 169kW Audi coupe isn’t quattro.
Surprisingly, it’s not all show either.
ig power is traditionally
delivered through the
rear (or sometimes all
four) wheels in high-
performance cars, to ensure
decent traction and pure steering/
chassis balance. That’s just the
way of the world.
But that doesn’t mean you
can’t squeeze significant output
through the front wheels. The
most powerful FWD production
car of all time is the 1966
Oldsmobile Toronado, which had
a massive 7.0 -litre V8 making
287kW; but modern technology
has seen manufacturers creeping
ever closer towards that kW mark
with much smaller engines.
Like living on the edge? Here
are the 10 most powerful FWD
cars available in New Zealand
Holden Astra VXR (206kW/
While it’s actually one of the
oldest cars on this list (this model
Astra first appeared in 2009 as an
Opel, with the hot version landing
in 2012), it is also the most
The Astra’s 2.0-litre petrol
turbo engine is only available
hooked up to a six-speed
transmission and is brilliantly
flexible. A new Astra was
launched in Europe last year and
is NZ-bound in the coming
months, so a new version of this
isn’t too far off.
Renault Megane RS 275
The hot-hatch power war, as
manufacturers try to nick the
FWD record at the legendary
Nurburgring circuit off each
other, has seen the number after
the Renault Megane RS’s name
creep up over the years. It started
at 225 in 2001 and has now crept
up to 275. Horsepower, that is.
Which translates into a handy
201kW through the front wheels.
Fortunately, like a lot of the
cars on this list, the Megane also
features a trick front differential
that does a remarkable job of
controlling all that fury through
the front wheels alone.
Toyota Aurion (200kW/
Bet you didn’t expect this one!
The Aurion is (soon to be ‘‘was’’
when Aussie manufacturing
finishes) Toyota’s answer to the
big RWD Aussie sedans, so it
needed plenty of power.
Unfortunately, the Camry
platform it’s based on doesn’t
enjoy it all that much.
The biggest and easily most
comfortable cruiser on this list,
the Aurion is left far behind in
driving dynamics by, well,
everything else on this list.
Driving the Aurion briskly in the
dry is okay (although not exactly
fun in the traditional sense), but
in the wet it turns pear-shaped
Peugeot 308 GTi (200kW/
Peugeot quietly dropped the
legendary GTi name from its
performance hatches a while
back, because they were really
only warm at best. But not this
little bad boy. The 308 GTi takes
on the Renault Megane RS 275 at
its own game by being powerful,
French and channelling that
power through a trick-diff to try
and rein things in to a sane level.
It works. The 308 GTi is a
wonderfully rewarding car to
drive quickly, both on the track
and a winding backroad.
Ford Focus ST (184kW/
The wild and unruly Focus ST
may not have the most power on
this list, but it’s easily one of the
most fun cars to drive.
An obvious example of what
happens when you try to put too
much power through the front
wheels alone, the ST is a handful
to drive quickly and smoothly.
But when you nail it, the Ford is
sublime. When you don’t nail it,
it’s still hilarious!
Volvo V40 T5 (180kW/
One of the sleepers here, the V40
isn’t a traditional hot hatch as
such (although it is a hatch and it
is very hot), as it has none of the
brash look and shouty spoilers of
the others in this list.
What it does have, however, is
a beautifully resolved ride and
that fantastic Swedish minimalist
approach to its interior that is so
classy. Not as much fun as most of
the others here, but the V40 T5 is
arguably the best compromise
between power and comfort.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV
Italian flair sets the pretty little
Giulietta QV (Quadrifoglio Verde,
or green cloverleaf) apart in the
small hatch market, and jamming
the angry turbo four-cylinder
engine out of the 4C sports car
under the bonnet sets it apart in
the hot-hatch world.
Sure, it has all the
eccentricities and ergonomic
oddities that afflict so many
Italian cars, but its power and
enthusiasm are beyond reproach.
Plus it really does look great.
Mini John Cooper Works
German engineering meets
British . . . umm, naming? It isn’t
really all that British any more,
but the Mini John Cooper Works
is an absolutely brilliant little car
to drive. Take the composure of a
RWD BMW, add a touch of the
scrabbling ferocity of the Focus
ST, mix in a whole bunch of
slightly strained retro styling
cues and you get the JCW.
While it might go a bit over-
the-top on the retro thing, it has
nailed the whole ‘‘chucking lots of
power through the front wheels’’
Audi TT (169kW/370Nm)
Yep, that’s right, while some may
regard the Audi TT as the
automotive equivalent of a posing
pouch, it still packs enough power
not only to make the top 10, but
also out-muscle the revered VW
The latest incarnation of the
TT has seen Audi sharpen up not
only the looks, but also the TT’s
aggression levels and dynamic
abilities. In making it more of a
proper sports car than a fashion
statement, Audi has made the
basic FWD TT a thing of
VW Golf GTi/Skoda Octavia
It is no real surprise that the VW
Golf GTi and Skoda Octavia RS
come in tied on this list: after all,
they share the same engine (as
does the Audi TT, just with a few
With the tweaked GTi
Performance no longer appearing
on VW’s local price lists, they’re
evenly matched on output. The
GTi is an absolutely legendary
name and the current model more
than lives up to it (unlike some in
the past – looking at you Golf IV)
by offering heaps of fun blended
with surprising civility around
town. But if you aren’t hung up on
the name, then the Skoda Octavia
RS is the one to go for because it is
both cheaper and cooler than the
VW. Particularly the brilliant
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