A word of warning.
This article was first published in MOTOR magazine's March 2005 issue.
If you’re looking for definitive, super-fast performance times that either match or beat manufacturer claims or times you’ve seen elsewhere, you may be a little disappointed. Blame the weather. On day one of Performance Car of the Year 2005, mother nature bestowed upon us the exact kind of ambient that made us move PCOTY away from January.
Heat, all 35 degrees Celsius of it, wafted over our acceleration test track while humidity rose and fell. So while the figures are highly comparable, they vary between a few tenths and, in some instances, about 1.2 seconds of their real potential.
However, because the times were all done on the same day at the same venue, they are consistent with each other and representative. Now that’s understood, we should also add that the venue changed for 2005.
Thanks to Jetstar’s operation evicting us from our previous home at Avalon Airport, we were forced to adopt a new home at Albury Airport’s 2.0km landing strip.
Being one kilometre shorter than Avalon, it discounted our ability to run for top speed, so this element has been lost from PCOTY, but the standing kilometre remains and is more than adequate from a performance perspective. Plus we’ve thrown the time, temperature, barometric pressure and humidity in there in case anyone is that nerdy.
Albury’s surface proved very grippy, so in order from slowest to fastest over the standing kilometre, here is the fast field of PCOTY 2005.
LAST: MINI COOPERS S CHILLI
7:42am, 20°, 1014hPa, 65% humidity
0-400metres: 15.85 @ 145.8
0-1000metres: 28.73 @ 184.0
Mini's Cooper S opens the PCOTY account as the slowest of the field. The MINI, with its 205/45, 17-inch tyres, has decent grip and loves, needs, lotsa revs to launch cleanly. It was quicker than the TT to the 400 metre mark, thanks to the gearing of its six-speed. After that it faded (just), earning PCOTY 2005’s standing kay wooden spoon.
20TH: HONDA INTEGRA TYPE S
5:42pm, 34°, 1011hPa, 20% humidity
0-400metres: 15.59 @ 146.9
0-1000metres: 28.53 @ 191.1
The 1.8-litre Integra launches well, but isn’t as sharp to 100km/h because it needs two shifts. It’s almost a dead-heat over the quarter-mile with the Clio, and the difference is down to gearing more than anything else. It launches clean with lots of wheelspin, shifts are super light and easy and it makes the most of what it’s got.
19TH: AUDI TT V6
4:15pm, 34°, 1011hPa, 19% humidity
0-400metres: 15.93 @ 147.6
0-1000metres: 28.42 @ 195.2
The slowest to 100km/h, not surprising given it’s the least-powerful auto in the field. Slowest over the quarter-mile too. Its V6 starts to boogie from there and, though it has the same power-to-weight ratio as the Clio and Integra, it’s quicker up top, with its standing kay effort the only thing saving it from last place.
18TH: MAZDA MX-5 SE
7:59am, 21°, 1014hPa, 64% humidity
0-400metres: 15.33 @ 147.0
0-1000metres: 28.33 @ 171.1 (184.0)
The SE launches well thanks to its rear-wheel drive and modest turbo torque. With 5000rpm dialled up, a slight feed in of gas gets the rear tyres spinning. The gearbox, normally a tight MX-5 highlight, was a little sloppy in this car and the 5th-to-6th change it needed about 20 metres before the standing kilometre was a big lottery.
It was safer to leave it in fifth, momentarily bouncing against the rev limiter (hence the slow trap speed – the more realistic km speed is in brackets).
17TH: RENAULT SPORT CLIO CUP
3:06pm, 35°, 1011hPa, 18% humidity
0-400metres: 15.52 @ 146.3
0-1000metres: 28.27 @ 190.0
The leader of the five-car ‘minis’ bunch, the Renault Clio was the quickest to 100km/h thanks to a good spread of torque and gearing and its just-over-1000kg weight. The shift is a little sloppy but found its slot every time and the rorty engine is a joy – once traction control is disabled. Punchy, fast and easy.
16TH: MG ZT260 V8
1:42pm, 34°, 1012hPa, 21% humidity
0-400metres: 15.37 @ 149.9
0-1000metres: 27.77 @ 193.8
Almost two seconds slower over the click than the next slowest V8. Once the Mustang V8 hooks up (we launched it at 5000rpm) it has good mid-range punch but the last 1000rpm to the six-grand redline is painfully tedious. Upshift early in the MG and it quickly drops out of its powerband bogging down and struggling to puff its way along.
That its speed was slower than the TT at the one kay mark shows how the MG struggles at the top of its rev range.
15TH: RENAULT SPORT MÉGANE 225
8:22am, 22°, 1014hPa, 62% humidity
0-400metres: 15.13 @ 154.4
0-1000metres: 27.30 @ 196
The fastest front-drive in the field, the Mégane’s turbo 2.0-litre has heaps of power and torque and a clutch that’s easy to feed in the right amount of slip. With WRX-equivalent torque, it’s easy to light up the tyres, and it’ll actually launch quicker by doing that.
But the bloody traction control system defaults back on at 50km/h slowing progress. And the rev-limiter that cuts in at 7000rpm in first and second, then 6500rpm in third and fourth is oddball and made it hard to get the most out of it.
14TH: VW GOLF R32
5:58pm, 33°, 1011hPa, 22% humidity
0-400metres: 14.97 @ 152.5
0-1000metres: 27.14 @ 198
A right bastard to get off the line, the Golf has masses of all-wheel drive traction, meaning the clutch needs to be slipped a touch for a fast getaway. It winds out with a great sound and easy, quick and unfussed changes through the light and clicky shifter.
Featuring the same mechanical layout as the TT, although the Golf makes less power (177kW @ 6250rpm as opposed to 184kW @ 6300rpm for the TT) the advantage of a manual gearbox made it one second faster through all the time markers.
13TH: FPV F6 TYPHOON
8:47am, 24°, 1014hPa, 58% humidity
0-400metres: 14.64 @ 159.9
0-1000metres: 26.24 @ 206.4
Given its speed over the standing kay the Typhoon should have gone faster. Sharpish off the line with a 6.4 from a 4000rpm launch, it likes just a touch of wheelspin to keep it all clean and tidy. What’s interesting is to compare the Typhoon to the XR6T’s figures from 2003: the XR6 is actually 0.2seconds faster to 100km/h and 0.3seconds faster over the quarter-mile and the kilometre. It also suffered from heat, with an earlier ‘cooler’ run netting a slower ET but 161km/h (400m) and 207.5km/h (1000m) trap speeds.
12TH: LOTUS EXIGE
2:45pm, 35°, 1012hPa, 21% humidity
0-400metres: 14.18 @ 158.4
0-1000metres: 26.08 @ 200.0
Step one: fit earplugs. Because when the Exige dials up 8500rpm, there’s an explosion imminent. Pop the clutch and the Toyota-powered Lotus explodes off the line with the sixth-fastest time to 100km/h.
Sixth fastest to the quarter-mile too, its trap speed shows it starting to falter and as it grabs fifth gear it struggles to maintain the pace. Sixth-best in the power-to-weight ranking, the Exige probably belongs a few places higher – one-tenth would have gained two spots.
11TH: MERCEDES-BENZ SLK350
3:51pm, 35°, 1011hPa, 19% humidity
0-400metres: 14.45 @ 159.0
0-1000metres: 26.07 @ 210.0
With lots of grip, the SLK350 wasn’t as fast as it could have been because of an ECU that wouldn’t allow more than 5000rpm while stationary. It still put the power down well with a little bog, but the worst part was the second-to-third shift – slightly diagonal, vague and sloppy it leaves you wondering if it’s even in. But it’s hard to argue against such sharp figures for a 3.5-litre V6.
10TH: HOLDEN MONARO CV8
1:18pm, 34°, 1013hPa, 24% humidity
0-400metres: 14.55 @ 160.6
0-1000metres: 25.98 @ 212.8
Run at the hottest part of the day, the Monaro ran times of 7.4, 15.2 and 27.1. Slow. So we had lunch, let the engine cool in the shade and tried again. It ran substantially quicker. The Monaro needs 4000rpm to launch, but is dead easy to get off the line consistently and its top-end keeps it ahead of the SLK350. Its times even beat the more powerful Typhoon and gets close to Falcon GT-P.
9TH: HSV GTO COUPE
6:18pm, 32°, 1011hPa, 22% humidity
0-400metres: 14.29 @ 166.5
0-1000metres: 25.95 @ 218.1
One of just four autos and easily the dumbest, just chuck it in D for drag and stamp on it. No paddles, no buttons, just a thump of 6.0-litre LS2. But for 297kW, the GTO was a little disappointing. Not least for the fact it seemed to suffer most from the heat: the same car had run 4.99 and a 13.0 @ 179km/h only weeks earlier in cooler conditions. In the heat, it just didn’t jump off the line and the auto dulled the sensation.
8TH: HOLDEN COMMODORE SS
11:27am, 31°, 1014hPa, 37% humidity
0-400metres: 14.43 @ 161.3
0-1000metres: 25.80 @ 211.3
A right bullet off the line, the SS has fantastic power down and a great spread of torque that allows launch revs to be precise and wheelspin perfectly balanced. Faster than the Falcon GT-P to 100km/h, it was consistent too: 6.28 was its second best 100km/h time. It drops behind the FPV by just 0.03 at the quarter and 0.08 at the 1000m.
7TH: FPV FALCON GT-P
11:15am, 30°, 1014hPa, 37% humidity
0-400metres: 14.40 @ 163.1
0-1000metres: 25.72 @ 212.3
A mongrel to get off the line, the GT-P needs a massive 4750rpm for its 6.3 second 0-100km/h compared to the R8’s 3900rpm. The gearing is tight and if you can get the revs right (which is trickier than in the Holdens), it belts out with a great sound but a harsh rev limit at 5900rpm.
That’s not a lot of powerband to play with, but the six-speed ratios do help the GT-P. Despite the heat, it’s faster at every increment than the five-speed GT we tested at PCOTY 2003.
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7:01am, 18°, 1014hPa, 73% humidity
0-400metres: 13.82 @ 160.1
0-1000metres: 25.65 @ 201.0 BANG.
The loudest thump we’ve ever heard from any Subaru WRX or STi. With copious amounts of turbo lag, the STi needs 7600rpm to get off the line smartly, but this incredible cringe-making explosion happens as the rear diff bangs against its mounts.
Somehow, it stayed in one piece and laid down a quick time. Note the time of day. Even using the intercooler water spray, heat quickly slowed the STi – its second and third quarter-mile runs were 14.0 and 14.1, and 5km/h slower.
Against the EVO, it’s super close: with identical power, identical weight, just a 12Nm difference, the Subaru’s six-speed isn’t enough to compensate for its top-end falling away – it was actually faster short-shifting at 6500rpm.
7:22am, 19°, 1014hPa, 71% humidity
0-400metres: 13.84 @ 161.2
0-1000metres: 25.50 @ 202.7
Like the STi, the EVO VIII uses all-wheel drive to catapult it off the line and jump the queue ahead of where it really should rank. With an ECU-limited 5000rpm neutral limiter, it’s another bastard to launch because five grand just isn’t enough. So it’s a fine balance of slip that gets its quick times.
Not the best way to bed-in a clutch that had only been replaced the night before. But it sure is consistent: a 5.49 seconds 0-100km/h, 13.88 seconds to 400m and 25.65 seconds to 1000m were its next fastest times, with the intercooler spray working overtime.
4TH: MERCEDES-BENZ C55 AMG
6:43pm, 31°, 1011hPa, 24% humidity
0-400metres: 14.25 @ 168.4
0-1000metres: 25.29 @ 220.1
Proving a little tricky to get off the line with the auto and instant response of the V8, there just wasn’t the grip you’d expect a car like this to have. But once it hooked up, whoa boy it rocketed towards the horizon like it was attached to a giant rubber band.
It still hadn’t overcome its slow start, nor beaten the EVO VIII or STi by the 400m mark, but it was really hauling with almost 170km/h, before monstering the 1000m. The C55 is super fast for ‘just’ 270kW.
3RD: HSV CLUBSPORT R8
10:45am, 29°, 1014hPa, 38% humidity
0-400metres: 14.01 @ 169.1
0-1000metres: 24.88 @ 223.2
Sitting in the bronze medal position is Australia’s own Big Friendly Giant the HSV ClubSport R8. Packing the new Gen IV motor and 297kW of mumbo it mixes intoxicating power, torque, gearing and fantastic throttle control to be the third-quickest weapon at PCOTY.
And it was so easy to launch, just hold its revs at an ideal 3900rpm before popping the clutch then modulating the throttle. It strung together two 5.83 seconds for the 0-100km/h and a 14.08, 14.06 and a 14.01 for the 400m, but just couldn’t break into the 13s. With an impressive top end rush, and it’s faster than last year’s ClubSport at every marker.
5:30pm, 33°, 1011hPa, 21% humidity
0-400metres: 13.01 @ 177.9
0-1000metres: 23.42 @ 234.1
A 261kW flat-six with 400Nm sitting right over the fat rear tyres makes for a bullet out of the gates. It’s amazing how the Stuttgart stormer cranks out big horsepower with a virtually flat torque curve despite the lack of forced induction and big cubes.
With 5000rpm dialled in and a side-stepped clutch it fires out of the hole harder than anything else here, but there’s massive amounts of axle tramp. Perfectly geared for the 1000m, with the sweetest shift, it just hits the limiter in fifth as it crosses the line for the runner-up spot.
1ST: MERCEDES-BENZ CL65 AMG
4:30pm, 34°, 1011hPa, 19% humidity
0-400metres: 12.59 @ 190.0
0-1000metres: 22.35 @ 248.1
How 2130kg gets off the line is no great mystery with 1000Nm, but it is a fine balancing act. With traction control disabled, the CL65 wants to torch its rear tyres and it’s a mission to keep the thing from blazing up.
It did a 4.9 and a 5.0 for the 0-100km/h.Then with the traction control switched back on and by carefully feeding in the throttle while trying to keep the T/C from intervening we managed to record a 4.6.
That’s 0.3 seconds faster than the leading Audi RS 6 last year, but in all-time ETs, it’s behind the Viper (4.34), 911 Turbo (4.30) and 911 GT2 (4.1). But then it tops out with 248.1km/h, the highest 1000m speed EVER recorded on PCOTY. A fitting drag star.