When it comes to straight line acceleration, betting on the horse with… well, the most horsepower is usually the way to go. However, the human element also needs to be factored in, and that refers both to the reaction time and (if it’s a manual) gear changing.
Let’s face it, trying to shift faster than a modern-day automatic transmission is a bit like how Go champion Lee Sedol attempted to defeat Google’s AI-powered AlphaGo software. Spoiler alert: it didn’t end well for the people’s champ.
So how does that apply to this drag race between the all-new Polo GTI, Golf GTI, Golf Clubsport S and Up! GTI?
The two most powerful cars here are separated by some 80 horsepower, in favor of the Clubsport S. The Golf GTI is of course second when it comes to power, followed by the latest Polo GTI, whose 2.0-liter TSI unit makes 200 PS and 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque.
The Polo actually put up a surprisingly good fight during the rolling start part of the race, hanging in there alongside the two Golf models for a few seconds before getting left behind. The Up! GTI, with its modest 115 PS and 200 Nm (148 lb-ft) of torque, was of course dead last.
To us, the best part was the standing 1/4 mile race, where the Golf GTI’s launch control and automatic gearbox helped it race shoulder to shoulder with the considerably more powerful Clubsport S version, which was equipped with a 6-speed manual. The human driver clearly struggled to shift quickly enough, especially at high speed. They may be not sit well with purists, but when it comes to speed, dual-clutch transmissions are simply superior.