Skip to main content
HOME   |   ABOUT   |   NEWS   |   TECH ARTICLES   |   AT THE TRACK   |   REVIEWS   |   VIDEOS   |   CONTACT ME

2016 Ford Focus RS vs. 2015 Subaru WRX STI vs 2016 VW Golf R - A Closer Look




This picture is a little misleading. Unfortunately, this isn't a post about a race on a frozen lake or a snow covered rally stage involving the three hottest AWD hot hatches (the WRX STI only a hatch in spirit). This is about the highly anticipated test recently posted by Car & Driver.

First things first, I wish C&D would stop testing 30-50 mph and 50-70 mph in top gear for manual performance cars. They are hugely (almost exclusively) influenced by gearing and are completely irrelevant. I could see them being relevant in a more mainstream class (say, comparing a base Focus manual to a base Cruze manual) because an average buyer may not want to shift. But there is no way the buyer of any of these cars is going to wait over 7 seconds to go from 30-50 or approximately 6 seconds to go from 50-70? Worse yet, why would anyone floor a small 4 cyl turbo in an overdrive gear and lug the engine outside of boost? Now with the rant out of the way, let’s look at numbers.


2016 +Ford Ford Focus RS 2016 +VW Golf R 2016 Subaru WRX STI
0-60 mph 4.6 s 5.1 s 4.7 s
0-100 mph 12.2 s 11.8 s 12.0 s
0-110 mph 14.4 s 15.3 s 16.0 s
1/4 mile 13.4 s @ 105 mph 13.6 s @ 105 mph 13.4 s @ 104 mph
5-60 mph (street start) 5.7 s 6.1 s 6.7 s


The acceleration numbers, at first, might make it seem like the RS is overrated or the other two are underrated. However, a closer look shows all is good in the 350 hp Focus. For one, I think the torque vectoring AWD system of the RS is probably working against it in that regard. If I remember correctly, there are three clutch packs that the other two don't have; one to proportion the power to the rear axle and one for each rear wheel. These probably result in higher drivetrain losses than the other two.

As far as the STI goes, the RS and the STI have almost the exact same weight. The RS gets to 110 mph 1.6 seconds sooner and a 5-60 mph street start is a full second faster. So, despite the two being tied in the ¼ mile, I highly doubt the two make the same amount of hp. The STI appears to have a huge launch advantage that's skewing the numbers. It beats the R to 60 mph, for example, yet the R not only catches up, but beats it to 110 mph and the R is quicker in the 5-60 mph street start.

As far as the R goes, two numbers are curious – the 0-100 mph run and 1/4 mile trap speed. The quicker 0-100 mph time in the Golf and the identical 1/4 mile trap speed are very likely due to gearing in my opinion. The top of 3rd gear in the RS is 93 mph whereas the R is 81 mph so both cars are in 4th gear but most of the 90-100 mph run happens in the RS at the bottom of 4th gear – some 800 rpm short of peak power - where in the R, it happens in the middle, right in the meat of boost and power. The 100-110 mph runs confirm that. The R takes 3.5 seconds to do this 10 mph whereas the RS takes 2.2 seconds, less than two thirds the time. I think the RS loses in 90-100 mph due to shifting but quickly makes up for it and builds an almost 1 second lead by 110 mph.



2016 Ford Focus RS 2016 VW Golf R 2016 Subaru WRX STI
Braking 70-0 mph 158 ft 156 ft 159 ft
200-ft skidpad lat. g 0.98 g 0.95 g 0.90 g
610 ft slalom 43.6 mph 43.5 mph 42.4 mph


As far as handling goes, the STI is clearly behind. It's basically a three-way tie in braking between the three but the STI falls behind in ultimate grip (skidpad) and transitional handling (slalom). Moreover, Car & Driver found it to fall far behind in ride and comfort so it seems to beat up its occupants for no gain on the track. Meanwhile the R and RS are basically tied in slalom/transition but, based on the review and as expected due to the more capable AWD system, the RS takes a clear lead in handling balance (under power) with its ability to rotate and its lead in ultimate grip (skidpad). The reviewers even went as far as saying: “Dynamically, the RS is in a different league than the others, maybe even playing a different sport. It’s far more exciting than the staid Golf and much more polished than the brutish STI.” Car & Driver unfortunately doesn’t have a test to demonstrate the advantage of the better AWD system. Motor Trend’s figure eight does to an extent but a steady state 300 ft skidpad doesn’t.

On the livability front, back seat space and trunk are a little bit bigger in the Golf so R is the most practical. However, I'm very surprised to see the R actually score slightly less than the RS in the engine NVH category. VW has long made one of the smoothest 4 cyl turbo in a compact and the more mature exterior styling would suggest a car much quieter.

Overall, the STI is more and more looking outdated, first by its own little sister - the WRX - and now by the competition. There is no reason to get it, IMO, unless you're a die-hard Subaru fan. I'm surprised, though, that they didn't find the power useful in turns. I know someone at our local track with a new STI and he says he can use the throttle to make it rotate. With that said, it's clearly outclassed by both cars in this test. The last gen STI felt much tauter than the last gen WRX and didn't overheat its brakes but, based on reviews, the current WRX is a huge step forward where the STI is a smaller step forward so it might be less worth it. Add in the fact that both have good AWD systems, albeit less so in the WRX, and the advantage to an STI almost diminishes so it really comes down to RS vs R.

The R's biggest problem, like the STI, is the excellent GTI. The last gen R felt extremely close (on road) to a last gen GTI and I suspect the new ones are equally improved relative to each other. You could never justify to me the extra cost of an R based on a test drive where the car isn't driven too hard. I would love to drive the two back-to-back on a track to see if you have to wait appreciably longer in the GTI vs the R to get back on power mid corner. With that said, if you live in the great white north and especially in a hilly region, AWD can be the difference between being stuck at the bottom (RWD) or top (FWD) of a hill in a bad storm. Ask me how I know..

I think there are only two reasons to get the R over the RS - styling and interior quality. If you look at the RS and think you'd be too embarrassed to be seen in it, get the R. If you sit in it and can't stand the thought of paying that much money for the interior, get the R. Otherwise, the RS very nearly matches the R in livability and offers the most capability and fun. It's a clear winner to me.


Comments







Does An Aftermarket Grille Really Increase Airflow?
I put a Saleen S281 grille to the test to answer that question.

Stock Suspension S197 Mustang With Square 305/30/19's
What you need to fit a proper size square tire setup.

How Limited Slip Diffs Make You Faster on Track
What you need to know about how they put power down and pros and cons.

Can Telemetry Explain Schumacher's Talent?
A comparison between Schumacher's and then team mate Herbert's data.






Cayman GT4 Track Review
The first Cayman with proper (911-challenging) power.

Is an EcoBoost Mustang any good on Track?
Two days at the track in a Mustang short 4 cylinders.

2016 BMW M4 DCT Track Review
It's quick (properly quick). But is it fun?

Can a stock Golf Diesel handle a Track Day?
Not your every day track beater.




🔥 Most Visited This Week

Falken Azenis RT615k+ Street and Track Review

Last year, I picked up a 2009 Lancer Ralliart to do a long term test with it as a dual duty track/daily. One of the first things I knew I was going to do was put a decent set of tires on it. The car came without OEM wheels which was actually good because I didn't have to hesitate about getting a good set of aftermarket wheels to support going wider. Thankfully, my friends at YST Auto Halifax  set me up with a great set of Superspeed RF03RR wheels. The Wheels I had never even heard of Superspeed but I trusted the good folk at YST Auto who mentioned some customer cars running on track with them. These wheels are rotary forged which is basically a prerequisite to be taken seriously in this market populated by companies like TSW and Fast Wheels. The wheels looked like a high quality, well finished wheel and each had a "QC" check sticker on. Just for appearances? Maybe, but I found no defects. The wheels seemed easy to balance (didn't need many weights) and at 18.1 lb. f

Michelin Pilot Super Sports vs Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 - Street Review

I've been a huge fan of Michelin PSS tires and exclusively bought them for the Mustang over the last four years. So how did I end up here? This year, I was hugely interested in trying an "R-comp" tire. I had my eyes set on Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R's for two simple reasons: price and reputation. Although not a true "R-comp" tire on paper, it performs like one by the account of every single test and review I've read (down to wear rates...). They seem like they're easily the most affordable (from a big brand) R-comp tire and combine that with a reputation for having tons of grip, it was an easy top contender. I had my concerns, though. For one, I'm told and have read that they are an autox tire, not really designed for high speed, pressure, and temps associated with open track. For another, the Mustang is a heavy car (as far as track cars are concerned) being roughly 3,800 lb. (including driver), which will amplify the unwanted open track load

Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2's vs Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R's

I never thought I'd ever run Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2's on my 2012 Boss 302. The cost is astronomical and they are supposed to last the least of anything comparable. So how did I end up with (nearly) fresh Sport Cup 2's? A complete fluke. I came across a lightly used set with only a few hundred miles and no track time; 305/30/19 takeoffs from a GT Performance Pack Level 2 (GT PPL2). I knew my 71R's were getting very worn before the season started and likely wouldn't last the whole season, even this short one. The price was far better than a new set of RE-71R's, a little more than half, and local Time Attack rules (Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs) recently made 180 and 200 TW tires equivalent, meaning no PAX or PIP point penalty for going with 180 TW tire like the Pilot Sport Cup 2's. I have been very curious about how PSC2's compare to RE 71R's but I stayed away due to their being painfully expensive and, up to last year, their 180 TW rating would

GTR vs Evo X vs STI: which has the best AWD system?

A few weeks ago, I made a post explaining  mainstream AWD system types and how they compare , pros and cons, etc. including some simple diagrams to show where the power goes and how much. As promised, this post will focus on specific cars and what AWD systems they use, especially ones that that have more or less been defined by their AWD systems, and the best place to start may be with a bombshell; the Nissan GT-R. Nissan GT-R (R35) The GT-R has built a reputation around having monster traction and very approachable performance, thanks to its AWD system - Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain (ATTESA) - and what it can do for you. But the GT-R doesn't actually use the most mechanically sophisticated type of AWD systems discussed in the previous article, namely a "true" AWD with a centre differential. Instead, it uses a clutch pack to transfer power. RWD-based clutch-type AWD schematic - Rams Eye The Track Guy © The R32, R33, and R34 Sky