Porformance shootout 2021 Result
10th place RTR Ford Mustang Spitfire
After a strong showing by the Mustang Bullitt in last year’s Shootout, a 500 kW/ 800 N.m supercharged widebody RTR version of America’s favourite muscle car had testers clamouring for the keys. Our technical adviser, Nicol – a man well versed in potent pony cars, having driven a bona fide GT500 in the US last year – immediately took it to Koos Swanepoel Developments to verify those lofty power claims. When a figure of 466 kW/807 N.m popped up on the dyno screen, it looked like we were in for one heck of a week.
Unfortunately, this was as good as it got for the Spitfire … the anticipation proved more enticing than the finished product. By adding such vast reserves of power without upgrading the vehicle’s cooling capacity, it regularly defaulted to limp mode and cut power to protect the engine. In its current configuration, it’s built for turning heads, not hot laps. It sounded great, drew attention wherever it went like the circus was in town and for the portion of the hot lap it managed to complete at Killarney, Deon Joubert said he saw great potential in the vehicle. We’ll have to get it back to complete a full track test when the overheating issuesare rectified.
9th place Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
The next American entrant places second to last, occasionally delighting but mostly frustrating its drivers over the four days. A fierce exhaust note from the supercharged 6,2-litre V8, thundering straight-line performance and a comfy, well-equipped cabin are all in its favour, but that’s not enough for it to place any higher here.
Dynamically it isn’t in the same league as the out-and-out performance cars. The steering was vague and suspension squidgy. Jeep opted to fit all-weather Pirelli Scorpion Verde tyres, which was an interesting choice, underlining perhaps, the inherent contradiction in building a high-performance, go anywhere SUV. It also claimed the unenviable title of thirstiest competitor, consuming 25,2 L/100 km over the four days.
In light of this and with the benefit of hindsight, should we have exercised better judgement and forgone the big Jeep this year? Not a bit of it. Nowadays performance cars come in many shapes and sizes; this one just happens to be 2,5 tonnes and is as delicate to drive as the USS Dwight D Eisenhower. Check out our technical feature to see just how much energy is needed to get this beast around a lap at Killarney Raceway.
8th Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR DSG
As technically adept and well rounded as ever, the swansong to the Golf 7 GTI – seven years since its local introduction, too – was proudly adorned with the number 07 but couldn’t quite attain that position in this year's Shootout.
The additional performance from its fettled engine was a joy out on the open road but made it surprisingly tricky to launch cleanly off the line during our performance tests at Saldanha, proven by the 0,76-second deficit between the 0-100 km/h claimed and tested figure on the day.
The fact that it’s the most affordable competitor here and it outran two supercharged V8s on the racetrack are worthy feathers in the Wolfsburger’s cap, but perhaps this wasn’t the ideal environment to fully appreciate the subtlety and nuance that makes the GTI such a great daily driver. The consensus from the team was the TCR was just a little underwhelming … we were hoping for more Clubsport and a little less GTI.
Deon Joubert took our impressions and validated them with science as his heartrate registered just 112 bpm on the hot lap. We look forward to Golf 8 GTI redressing the balance.
7th Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q
Like a good spaghetti western, and ensuring the Jeep wasn’t the only SUV in our line-up, we opted for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q to complete an FCA double act. And boy, was the team impressed with its performance.
The Alfa started the road trip as something of a dark horse but thanks to its soulful engine, rapid-fire ZF gearbox, well-sorted chassis and admirable degree of agility, many climbed out with huge smiles plastered across their faces. On day one, I quietly sat atop Gydo Pass filming flybys of the team. The confidence the vehicle instilled in the driver, no matter who was at the wheel, was plain to see.
At Saldanha, things kept getting better; it laid down a sub-4,0 second 0-100 km/h sprint time, only two-tenths off claimed, which put it in the same league as the Jaguar F-Type R for raw pace. Then at Killarney, Deon banged in the sixth quickest lap time, besting even the track-honed Mégane; proving once again the dynamic witchcraft of this 1,9-tonne SUV.
On the flip side, most testers noted the interior was a letdown for the price and the styling too understated. Seventh position overall may not seem like a fair reflection of the Alfa’s abilities but it’s one of the highest ranked SUVs ever featured in Shootout.
6th Renault Mégane RS 300 Trophy
As prefaced by the team’s wide variance of scores, it’s clear there are some misgivings over Renault’s four-wheel steering. On a racetrack, when fully committed at the moment of mid-corner inertia, there’s no doubt the 4Control system shaves valuable tenths off a lap time. However, on a sinewy mountain road like Versfeld Pass, the system’s somewhat unnatural movement can take the driver out of the moment. This was my experience at least.
On the airstrip, the vehicle battled with a slipping clutch so our testers couldn’t lay down representative acceleration times. They also reported a high degree of torque-steer on full-throttle pull away. After taking the morning off and nursing the vehicle back to Killarney, Deon was able to set in a lap time of 1:26,60, even as he took extra care with the fading clutch. That’s 2,50 seconds quicker than the DSG-equipped GTI TCR.
There’s no denying, with its forceful 1,8-litre engine, manual gearbox and welltuned chassis, the RS 300 Trophy is one of the last true driver’s hot hatches out there and it offers loads of performance for the money. Unfortunately, things just didn’t fall Renault’s way this year.
5th Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4Matic+ 8G-DCT
Maybe expectations from the team were too high when the A45 S arrived (curiously late and just moments to spare to brand the vehicle with Shootout stickers), but the AMG hyper hatch left many on the panel cold. There’s no denying it’s a marvel of modern engineering with a masterpiece of an engine that howls beneath the bonnet and punches harder than any four-cylinder has a right to. Yet, for all its searing straight-line grunt (fourth fastest over the quarter mile) and reserves of all-wheel-drive cornering grip, it simply failed to excite.
Unfortunately, braking issues reared their ugly head on day one which got progressively worse as Shootout progressed and did not help its cause. It turns out it simply needed a new pair of front stoppers after a hard life as an AMG Driving Academy car in Gauteng, which it duly received in time for Deon to post an impressive 1:23,50 lap time around Killarney Raceway.
In all respects, this car’s speed is too impressive to ignore; however, Shootout is not only a strenuous test of a vehicle’s performance, but how it engages the driver in a cross-section of environments… and we expect our top contenders to tick all the boxes.
4th Jaguar F-Type R P575 AWD Coupé
When I climbed into the F-Type R late on day one; in a GT car that some callously argue is threatening to overstay its welcome, I expected to enjoy a fast, comfortable, if slightly uneventful cruise to the overnight halt. Well, I wasn’t pleasantly surprised, I was blown away by the big Jag.
Finished in a dark hue with black wheels and nothing but our branding to add differentiation, it had clandestinely crept under the radar all day. From behind the wheel though, all of a sudden I could feel this vehicle had genuine swagger and substance to go with its sinister aesthetic.
The supercharged V8 is dramatic, the shifts from the ZF gearbox intoxicating and, considering its rather portly 1 800 kg kerb weight and softly sprung suspension, it’s well tethered to the road thanks to all-wheel drive … a far cry from previous rear-wheel-drive F-Type Rs that were absolutely lethal.
It was as impressively quick on the drag strip – setting the fastest quarter mile time – as it was on Killarney, posting a 1:22,40 lap. Certainly, R2,5 million is a lot of money, but for sheer sound, speed and spectacle, the F-Type R thoroughly deserves all the accolades it gets its paws on.
3rd Toyota GR Supra 3,0T Horizon Blue
Securing third place on the rostrum with consistent scores, equalling its position in last year’s competition (kudos to the CAR team for consistency), the updated 2021 GR Supra again proved itself to be a great all-rounder. Small, light, fast, dynamic, easy to drive and with a malleable chassis that absorbed anything Shootout could throw its way, it didn’t put a foot wrong all week.
When it came to straight-line benchmarking, it impressed further still; making the most of its power upgrade to hold onto the coattails of the more fancied M2 CS, even besting the Cayman GT4 over the quarter mile. On the track, there were just two-tenths separating it and the trick AMG A45: once again proving the virtues of a poised frontengined, rear-drive sportscar.
Yet, for all these plus points, the Toyota could not ascend any higher up the rankings, nor could it secure a category win. Why is that exactly? After much debate, some team members put the lack of X factor down to its styling, while others suggested the car suffered from something of an identity crisis. Either way, it’s an excellent sportscar, with the performance figures and glowing reviews to back up its third place.
2nd BMW M2 CS M-DCT
If it’s an extra shot of adrenaline you’re after, look no further than the M2 CS. With the smallest variance in scoring (first to fourth), there was no debating its second place. “Modern-day Gusheshe, embodiment of the original M3” … when you hear these remarks from passersby, you appreciate how much love there is out there for the M2.
The biggest surprise from the CS this year was its vastly improved stability and road manners compared with the M2 Competition from the 2019 Shootout. Many testers commented how the CS’ more mature approach clawed back respectability from its tail-happy forebear. In my experience, I have to concur. I drove the Competition everywhere with armfuls of opposite lock at the ready every time I squeezed the throttle, but on a fast run up Gydo Pass on day one, the CS hunkered down, gripped and got on with it. Its dynamic threshold has undoubtedly increased.
It’s a serious performance car now that is as playful or as pointy as the driver wants it to be. The carbon-ceramic brakes provide the driver with complete confidence underfoot and zero-fade stopping power on the road and the track. Only something truly special could usurp it this year…
1st Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
And that special something is the Cayman GT4. Yes, yes, yes, yes … it’s a fourth consecutive victory for Porsche but you cannot argue with seven out of 10 first-place votes to hand it the top spot; tying for the most conclusive victories in Shootout history. Thanks to its midengine layout, manual transmission and high-revving naturally aspirated engine, the GT4 is packaged to offer the ultimate driver immersion, which it delivers in spades. It sets the pulse racing quicker and harder than the others and does not relent until the ignition is switched off and the driver’s seat vacated.
While there was an element of rationality to scoring the preceding nine cars – balancing personal preference, value for money, performance and capability – the Porsche’s sheer breadth of talent transcends such deliberation.
Posting a lap time on Killarney one full second quicker than the M2 CS was a performance we hope will go some way to validating all the years Porsche has won Performance Shootout in the past without being allowed on the track. Deon’s mighty lap merely crystallised what many of us had discerned throughout the week. The GT4 feels like a labour of love, obsessively honed and alive with feeling, passion and raw speed.
Take a bow, Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, a thoroughly deserving 2021 CAR Performance Shootout winner.