Four decades of progress and development mean a lot in the automotive industry. There’s no better way to illustrate this statement than the video at the top of this page, which shows us two modern sports cars and their original predecessors. How much faster the newer performance models are compared to their vintage ancestors? Let’s find out.

First, let’s see the contenders in this drag race. Representing the modern-day sports car segment are the 2023 Toyota GR86 and the 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI. These two cars are very different – Toyota’s model has two doors and a naturally aspirated engine, while the Golf is a four-door hot hatch with a turbocharged four-pot. The latter is more powerful with 241 bhp (180 kilowatts) versus 228 bhp (173 kW) for the GR86. It is heavier and more expensive, though – 1,421 kilograms (3,133 pounds) and a £39,435 starting price in the UK versus 1,285 kg (2,833 lbs) and a starting price of £32,495.

Coming straight from the first half of the 1980s is the Toyota AE86, which is a lightweight sports coupe that tips the scales at just around 998 kg (2,200 lbs). Unfortunately, power figures are not available for this particular car but we know the first-generation Volkswagen Rabbit GTI – the Golf GTI’s North American cousin in the 1980s – has 90 bhp (66 kW) and 105 pound-feet (142 Newton-metres) of torque. It is also the lightest and cheapest car in this four-way drag race.

So, which car is the fastest here? Well, obviously, the two modern models have a huge advantage and this isn’t surprising at all. The GR86 takes a narrow win over the Golf GTI but the battle for the third place is actually more interesting. It even took the differential of the AE86 as a victim but the Throttle House team had a replacement car to continue the drag race with.