Power’s great, but it doesn’t paint the entire picture

LISTEN 02:38

You know it’s been a weird year when drag race videos have become the automotive equivalent of cat videos. It doesn’t matter which channel or publication rolls them out; we all love them the same. With so many of us opting to stay at home because of the COVID-19 virus, our thirst for drag race videos has given outlets like CAR Magazine enough reason to continue rolling them out.

The latest one-on-one throwdown pits a German hot hatch taking on a modified American muscle car. It’s not exactly a straightforward “rivals” drag race, but then again, these cross-segment matches have proven to be popular, in part because they’re the ones that come out with the most surprising results. Best believe it, too. This race between a Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR and a Ford Mustang RTR will leave your jaws wide open.

If you’re betting on this drag race through the lens of brochures and catalogs, it’s a no-brainer to pick the Ford Mustang RTR over the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR. This version of the mighty Mustang is powered by a 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine that produces a whopping 625 horsepower and 595 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than double the output of the punchy Golf GTI TCR, which relies on a punchy 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 286 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.

RTR Ford Mustang Spitfire vs. The Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR DSG
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If you left it at these power numbers, this race shouldn’t even be happening. It’s a slaughter waiting to happen, right? Well, not quite.

Without spoiling the result of this drag race, here’s what we’ll say. Power is great, and it goes a long way in helping cars win drag races.

Traditionally, the more powerful car wins the race, but that’s not exactly an outright statement.
RTR Ford Mustang Spitfire vs. The Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR DSG
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See, there’s more to just being more powerful in a drag race. Cars with lower power outputs from their engines have won drag races because it was better at a lot more things other than the size and build of its engine. Take this race between the Mustang RTR and the Golf GTI TCR, for example. The ‘Stang is far and away the more powerful of the two cars, but the Golf does have an ace up its sleeve: its engine is connected to a dual-clutch gearbox that’s regarded as one of the best gearboxes in the market today.

The Volkswagen hot hatch may be punching above its weight class by taking on the Mustang RTR, but this is far from the lopsided race that many of you are expecting it to be.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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