We’ve crunched the numbers for the two classes, but when it all comes down to it, there can be only one overall winner...
IT’S A bronze medal for Mercedes-AMG’s heavyhitting hot hatch, but what the A45’s third place outright proves is that, even at $80K, it’s got the bang to back up its not-inconsiderable-buck.
As we touched upon when chronicling the A45’s crushing of the $50K-$100K class, it’s achieved all these things despite being penalised for having standard equipment that is otherwise optional overseas. A standard sunroof? If stuff like this was optional – gear that contributes nothing to the A45’s performance – and we were working with a lower starting price, we can only imagine just how the Bang 2016 result might have looked.
It’s also interesting to note that while launched in 2013, for mostly unfortunate circumstances the A45 was not able to participate in Bang 2014 and 2015. Again, we can only imagine how the result might’ve looked if the planets did align, given the double champ Fiesta ST has finished sixth outright this year - quite a bit behind AMG’s hyper hatch.
But for now though, we will celebrate an outstanding performance car which is dishing up great value from Merc’s mad scientists at AMG. We love its dummy-proof launch control. We love how it feels like a fish in water on track. And we love how the new adaptive dampers, on road, turn the A45 into a weekend-only proposition into something you could drive daily.
Yeah, it’s one car where you definitely take the good with the bad. It’s still quite a hard-edged device, the dual-clutch isn’t the best around and it’s a broadly serious thing. Your mates in Renault Sport Meganes or Ford Focus RSs could be having more fun on track, even if you are very likely lapping them.
But, given its debut performance at Bang, we can no longer confidently include price on that list of criticisms. It might be the third step of the podium outright today, but the Mercedes-AMG A45 is absolutely built of the stuff that makes a Bang For Your Bucks winner.
HANG ON a second, how does the Holden SS-V Redline finish second outright ahead of the car on the opposite page, when it was thumped in the confines of the $50K-$100K class?
Simple, really. When you mix in all 19 cars, the cheaper stuff starts to interact with the more pricey gadgets and vice-versa, such that as the data is spread out, some cars benefit and others take a hit - the SS-V gaining more than the Merc this instance.
So a silver medal it is. And, given 80 per cent of Bang For Your Bucks is data based, this is objective confirmation of a pretty solid hunch that 304kW for $55K was fantastic value – further confirmed last month with the base SS Ute cleaning up the $0-$50K class.
Some might wonder how a 304kW SS-V Redline ends up third overall while cars like the 400kW XR8 are languishing much further down the order.
It’s because while the SS-V is pipped for power by some, it shades them for poise and is a much handier cornering contraption.
Besides, even for grunt it makes better use of what it’s got - all of which is properly captured and distilled by our algorithm.
Subjectively the SS-V Redline is an outstanding car. It’s easily the best performance Commodore Holden has ever made. Sure, it can never quite get away from the fact it weighs 1793kg and is XXLsized, but the way it feels and what it can do for its size is nothing short of impressive. The SS also excels as a manual, its combination of shorter final drive for VFII and extra grunt making it fast enough for many. Plus it sounds spot-on and looks tough to our eyes.
It’s very likely this will be the last Commodore to take on Bang For Your Bucks. If it wasn’t for a seemingly innocuous change to standard equipment for one other car, as you’ll shortly read, you’d be looking at the 2016 Bang For Your Bucks outright winner.
Back in January 2000, you needed to cough up $95K for a 300kW Commodore (the C4B HSV GTS), about $140K in today’s money. But now you can have one for $55K and a vastly superior car at that - just don’t hang about.
1st BFYB 2016
2016 Outright Winner
OWER is nothing without control.
When the updated VW Polo GTI rocked up at last year’s Bang For Your Bucks having gained 9kW/70Nm and lost $500 courtesy of its new sixspeed manual gearbox, it was a shortodds favourite to recapture the title it so dominantly won in 2011 and 2012.
It didn’t quite work out that way, as while the new 141kW/320Nm 1.8- litre turbo engine made it a rocket in a straight line, it struggled around Winton, trailing the less powerful hot hatch opposition it had soundly thumped on the drag strip. In the end, its combination of pace and price still landed it the second step on the outright podium, but it was soundly beaten by its main rival, Ford’s Fiesta ST.
So why is it back this year? Well, its 2016 appearance is thanks to a little backflip on Volkswagen Australia’s part. Despite the facelifted Polo being offered with ACC adaptive dampers overseas, the system was absent from the local spec list, with supposedly no plans to introduce it either.
Imagine our surprise when less than 12 months later not only do adaptive dampers make it on to the Polo GTI’s standard equipment list, but they do so for no extra cost! Some tricky new struts might not seem like that big a deal, but it satisfies the ‘significant mechanical upgrade’ criteria for BFYB eligibility and, judging by the data, played a crucial role in the Polo’s victory.
Dampers and ESP locked in Sport, the Polo scorched around Winton in 1:43.3, a massive 2.2sec faster than its 2015 effort. While the revamped Winton is a little quicker, when you consider the other repeat contenders, the BMW M135i and Ford Fiesta, improved by 0.6sec and 0.1sec respectively it’s clear this revised GTI is a much sharper tool.
As you’d expect, most of that time was made up in the corners and the Polo showing significant improvement in our two measured corners
compared to last year. Its speed increased from 105.69km/h to 109.85km/h through the fast turn five sweeper and from 53.00km/h to 57.17km/h through the tight turn nine.
However, while the new suspension has improved the outright ability of VW’s pocket rocket, it hasn’t greatly altered the experience behind the wheel.
The Polo GTI still leans heavily on its front end with little enthusiasm for involving the rear, which is undoubtedly safe but not particularly entertaining.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this stability is a big plus to our tame racer, Luffy ranking the Polo seventh outright and praising its sure-footedness on the limit. The other judges were less enamoured, placing it between 11th (Morley) and 17th (Cordony) in the overall order.
VW’s refusal to allow ESP to be completely deactivated in its GTI models (which are supposedly drivers’ cars?) certainly doesn’t help, though for some reason it’s much less intrusive in the Polo than in the Golf.
To be fair, both the Polo’s insistence on understeer and electronic interference are much less of an issue on the road, where lateral loads are lower and the chassis stability allows you to drive the car hard with confidence, fully exploiting the enormous punch of the 1.8-litre turbo four.
Okay, ‘enormous’ is a relative term, but there’s no doubt the Polo GTI brings an unprecedented level of straight-line performance to the baby hot hatch class. VW claims 0-100km/h in 6.7sec but we smashed that, recording 0-100km/h in 6.26sec and a 14.50sec quarter mile at 159.80km/h, times that would be more than competitive in the class above.
It’s a breeze to performance test: release the clutch at just over 2000rpm, manage the wheelspin slightly in first and then simply ram each successive gear home as quickly as possible, which thanks to the light, easy shift is very quickly indeed. There’s masses of low and mid-range muscle, yet it’s still happy to rev well beyond the 6000rpm redline. A
5 things we love: Fantastic features on our fiscal favourite
Torque aplenty yet keen to rev, this boosted 1.8 makes the Polo GTI the muscle car of the mini hot hatch brigade.
Reintroducing the manual gearbox was a master stroke on VW’s behalf. It’s a light, easy shift and an extra 70Nm certainly doesn’t hurt.
Adaptive dampers offer the best of both worlds, a more compliant ride yet sharper cornering when the going gets twisty.
Call us sentimental, but there’s a lot to like about tartan cloth seats. You can keep your leather and your burned thighs, thanks.
five FIDDY CENT
For VW to include adaptive dampers as standard for no extra cost is an uncharacteristic sign of generosity from a major car company.
more inspiring soundtrack wouldn’t go astray, but you can’t have everything. Not for $27,490, anyway.
As its performance at this year’s Bang For Your Bucks proves, there’s little wrong with the current Polo GTI’s combination of price and performance, but there’s still room for improvement in terms of driver appeal. If VW can sharpen its responses and engineer some more adjustability into the chassis – even if that’s in the form of a more focused model (Polo R, anyone?) – then the Polo GTI would be a winner on the score sheet as well as the spreadsheet.
For now, though, let’s celebrate the fact that you can buy a small, practical hatch with the performance of a 1990s V8 sedan with plenty of change from $30K.
Congratulations to the VW Polo GTI, the best value performance car on sale in Australia in 2016. – SN
THEY say you can’t stand in the way of progress and if you look at the Winton lap times from BFYB this year, you just can’t argue with that statement.
Especially when you compare them with the lap times from the same track, with the same driver from a decade ago. I managed to dig up some of Luffy’s 2006 Winton lap-times from – I think – PCOTY of that year. And they make for most interesting analysis.
Just for starters, a 2016 Holden SS Ute is now faster around Winton than a Subaru WRX STi of 10 years ago. More than two seconds faster, in fact. And that same hay-hauler is also quicker than the vaunted Evo IX of 2006. Okay, by less than a second, but you get the picture.
True, some of that gain will be in the track surface and some in tyre tech, but it’s still a hell of a result given the status of those two WRC tearaways.
The other big Aussies? Hmmm, it’s all a bit embarrassing. Back in 2006, the HSV GTS managed a 1.43 dead, the FPV Typhoon a 1.43:32 and the XR6 Turbo a 1.43:62. All smashed to smithereens by this year’s SS-V Redline which cruised around Winton in 1.37:60. Unstoppable, this progress stuff.
1 VW Polo GTI 201.9 2 Holden SS V Redline 195.2 3 Mercedes-AMG A45 189.1 4 Holden SS Ute 187.8 5 BMW M2 Pure 187.0 6 Ford Fiesta ST 185.0 7 Audi RS3 176.8 8 Ford Falcon XR6 Sprint 171.1 9 VW Golf GTI 169.2 10 Mustang GT 167.5
11 Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint 167.1 =12 Audi TT S 166.7 =12 Peugeot 308 GTi 250 14 Chrysler 300 Core 164.8 15 BMW M135i 162.9 16 Mazda MX-5 2.0 160.3 17 Renault Sport Clio Trophy 157.4 18 Ford Mustang E’boost 151.1 19 Mini Cooper JCW 135.2