The Volkswagen Golf R has been around for more than two decades now. It is the most powerful and most hardcore version of the popular hatchback, which also happens to be the fastest VW R model around the Nurburgring. The Golf R is one of our all-time favourite hot hatches but which of its three generations is best? There’s no better way to find out than a direct drag race.

These are no ordinary Golfs, though. Each one of these performance hatches has been heavily modified with hardware and software upgrades. Starting with the oldest of the trio, the Golf R MK6 comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with Stage 3 modifications, giving it a peak output of 450 bhp (335 kilowatts). The improvements over the factory four-cylinder mill include new turbochargers, injectors, intercooler, exhaust system, high-pressure fuel pump, and many more. The result is a vehicle that looks somewhat subtle but hides a lot of power under the bonnet.

Gallery: Volkswagen Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition

Next is the seventh-generation Golf in R form with a Stage 2 tuning kit for a maximum power of 420 bhp (313 kW). This vehicle is from the facelifted version of the hatch and has a new intercooler and new ECU and TCU software. It may be a little down on power compared to the older Golf R in this race but it is the lightest of the trio, giving it a decent power-to-weight ratio of 287 bhp per tonne.

Last but not least, there’s also the latest generation Golf R, also powered by a 2.0-litre inline-four-cylinder turbo engine. This is the least powerful contender in this competition as it only features Stage 1 modifications to the mill, which include a new carbon fibre intake and new ECU software. Being the newest of the bunch, it is also the heaviest with a power-to-weight ratio of 253 bhp per tonne. All three cars have all-whee-drive systems and dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

So, which Golf R takes the win? This is a pretty tricky question. These three cars are very close in performance and the differences at the finish line are minimal. We won’t spoil the video and tell you the results but we’ll just say that the most powerful car is not always the fastest.