Old vs New: VW Golf GTI vs Toyota GR86 vs Pontiac Trans Am Drag Race, Roll Race & Brake Test!

Only one of these new cars beats the 30-year-old Pontiac

Old vs New: VW Golf GTI vs Toyota GR86 vs Pontiac Trans Am Drag Race, Roll Race & Brake Test!
(Images: TFL Studios)

FWD hot hatch vs. RWD sports car: Which one is best?

“Um, why are you guys featuring a 30-year-old Pontiac in your drag race videos?” A few of you may be asking that question, so I wanted to address the Trans Am making another appearance before diving into today’s outing. It’s no secret your “everyday” sporty cars — your Volkswagen GTI Mk8s and your Toyota GR 86s — are considerably quicker than their direct forebears. You can thank three decades of automaker R&D for that.

However…there’s still a strong conversation around the old ways being the best. Sure, new cars can get their power down to the ground much more effectively than they could in the ’90s, but they also bring a lot more weight and thrill-killing technology to the table. I mean, the 2023 Toyota GR 86 Premium we have packs a 6-speed automatic transmission, for crying out loud. I get why car companies like Toyota and Subaru lean toward automatics for cars like these, but as an enthusiast…ugh, just please go for the manual.

Anyway, here’s the question of today’s drag race, roll race and brake test video: Can the front-wheel drive VW GTI show the Toyota GR 86 what for, or will the smaller and nimbler rear-wheel drive sports car win out. Can either of them best the old-school, V8-powered Firebird Trans Am?

The results are closer than you might think…

At least between the Volkswagen GTI Mk8 and the Toyota GR 86, there are some interesting stats to ponder. Sure, the 241-horsepower, turbocharged GTI just hammers the 228-horsepower, naturally aspirated GR 86 in a drag race at a mile above sea level. Some of you folks are probably screaming before or after watching the video that straight-line speed is not what Toyota and Subaru’s entry-level RWD sports car is about (and you’re right).

Fortunately, the new Toyota GR 86 wins some points back in the braking test. That said, it is remarkably close between the two cars there, while they’re also close in our autocross handling test. Both cars tackle the course in under 26 seconds, but one manages to just edge out the other with Tommy behind the wheel for both runs.

As for the Trans Am, it’s also a close race. Check out the full results below and stay tuned for more drag races coming soon to TFLcar: