Automotive

The five fastest front-wheel drive cars to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife

The five fastest front-wheel d...
We've taken a look at the five fastest front-drive cars around the Nurburgring Nordschleife 
We've taken a look at the five fastest front-drive cars around the Nurburgring Nordschleife 
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The Seat Leon Cupra SUB8 package comes in fifth on the list 
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The Seat Leon Cupra SUB8 package comes in fifth on the list 
The Cupra is an anomaly on this list, with its dual-clutch gearbox and road-biased interior 
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The Cupra is an anomaly on this list, with its dual-clutch gearbox and road-biased interior 
The Cupra is based on a Golf, but Seat was briefly faster than the VW big brother 
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The Cupra is based on a Golf, but Seat was briefly faster than the VW big brother 
Behind the wheel of the Seat Leon Cupra SUB8
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Behind the wheel of the Seat Leon Cupra SUB8
Renault kickstarted this Nurburgring contest in 2011, and upped the stakes with the Megane R.S. Trophy-R in 2014 
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Renault kickstarted this Nurburgring contest in 2011, and upped the stakes with the Megane R.S. Trophy-R in 2014 
The Megane R.S. Trophy-R has no rear seats
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The Megane R.S. Trophy-R has no rear seats
Subtlety isn't a strong point on the Trophy-R 
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Subtlety isn't a strong point on the Trophy-R 
The Megane R.S. rides on fancy Ohlins dampers 
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The Megane R.S. rides on fancy Ohlins dampers 
The Megane R.S. 275 Trophy-R is a whopping 100 kg lighter than the standard Megane R.S. 
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The Megane R.S. 275 Trophy-R is a whopping 100 kg lighter than the standard Megane R.S. 
Renault is no longer the king of Nurburgring performance 
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Renault is no longer the king of Nurburgring performance 
The 2014 Civic Type-R made the switch to turbo power, and toppled the Renault's Nordschleife laptime 
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The 2014 Civic Type-R made the switch to turbo power, and toppled the Renault's Nordschleife laptime 
We don't love the way it looks, but the Civic Type-R was undoubtedly effective around the Nürburgring 
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We don't love the way it looks, but the Civic Type-R was undoubtedly effective around the Nürburgring 
Behind the wheel of the 2014 Honda Civic Type-R 
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Behind the wheel of the 2014 Honda Civic Type-R 
The Civic Type-R made real downforce, something you can't say about many hot hatches 
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The Civic Type-R made real downforce, something you can't say about many hot hatches 
The VW Golf GTI Clubsport S is a stripped-back special edition 
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The VW Golf GTI Clubsport S is a stripped-back special edition 
The Clubsport S just snuck past the Honda Civic Type-R 
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The Clubsport S just snuck past the Honda Civic Type-R 
The old Civic Type-R might be more powerful, but the Clubsport S was just quicker around the Nordschleife
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The old Civic Type-R might be more powerful, but the Clubsport S was just quicker around the Nordschleife
Very few GTIs are ever driven like this, but it's nice to know you can 
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Very few GTIs are ever driven like this, but it's nice to know you can 
The Clubsport S was built in limited numbers 
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The Clubsport S was built in limited numbers 
We've taken a look at the five fastest front-drive cars around the Nurburgring Nordschleife 
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We've taken a look at the five fastest front-drive cars around the Nurburgring Nordschleife 
The Civic Type-R lopped more than five seconds off the previous front-drive record 
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The Civic Type-R lopped more than five seconds off the previous front-drive record 
Honda hasn't dialed back the aggression on the new Civic Type-R
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Honda hasn't dialed back the aggression on the new Civic Type-R
The new Civic Type-R remains a boy-racer for the road
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The new Civic Type-R remains a boy-racer for the road
Honda gets the Civic Type-R ready for its lap 
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Honda gets the Civic Type-R ready for its lap 
The new Civic Type-R isn't sold as a two-door 
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The new Civic Type-R isn't sold as a two-door 
The new Civic Type-R is bound for the USA 
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The new Civic Type-R is bound for the USA 
View gallery - 26 images

Since the Renault Megane RS Trophy set its 8:07.97 lap of the Nurburgring North Loop in 2011, hot-hatch manufacturers have been working fiendishly to one-up each other. The latest front-wheel drive warrior to set a new record is the Honda Civic Type-R, but the past few years have been such a record-breaking rollercoaster we thought it was worth taking a look at the hyper-hatches that have lapped before it.

2014 Seat Leon Cupra

The Cupra is based on a Golf, but Seat was briefly faster than the VW big brother 
The Cupra is based on a Golf, but Seat was briefly faster than the VW big brother 

Seat has a small, er, seat at the table in the world of hot hatches, but the Leon Cupra punches well above its weight on the Nurburgring. Thanks in part to its powerful 280-hp (209-kW) engine, the angular Spaniard set a 7:58.4 time around the track back in 2014 to sit at number five on this list.

To make sure it could stand up to the Green Hell, as the fearsome German track is known, the team at Seat also gave the Cupra a set of 30 mm (1.2 in) bigger brakes, and special 19-inch wheels finished in an eye-searing shade of orange. The record-setting car also made use of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

2014 Renault Megane R.S. 275 Trophy-R

Renault is no longer the king of Nurburgring performance 
Renault is no longer the king of Nurburgring performance 

Although it started the Great Hot Hatch Pissing Contest back in 2011, Renault has been slowly sliding down the ladder to fourth place since the Trophy-R set its 7:54.36 time in 2014.

Compared to some of the other cars on this list, the Megane is a bit of a one-trick pony. Unlike the stock Civic, the Trophy-R has been relieved of its rear seats and air-con unit, both of which contribute to a massive 100 kg (220 lb) weight saving over the standard car. Renault has also gone to the trouble of fitting a roll cage, finished in red to match the wheels, front splitter and stickers.

2014 Honda Civic Type-R

The 2014 Civic Type-R made the switch to turbo power, and toppled the Renault's Nordschleife laptime 
The 2014 Civic Type-R made the switch to turbo power, and toppled the Renault's Nordschleife laptime 

The turbocharged 2014 Civic Type-R signaled a huge departure from the formula that had always underpinned hot Hondas, so the company decided to compensate by making it the fastest, wildest, most over-the-top hot hatch the world had ever seen.

With its four-cylinder engine producing 306 hp (226 kW), and a chassis set up to prioritize flat-out driving above all else, it should come as no surprise the Type-R set a storming 7:50.63 time around the Nurburgring. Along with its prodigious power, the Type-R benefits from a sophisticated aerodynamics package that, according to Honda, actually creates downforce at high speed.

A clever dual-axis front suspension helped put the power to the road without torque steer, and drivers could tweak power delivery and steering weight using the +R button on the dash. We can only assume the car was in maximum attack mode when it set the record...

2016 VW Golf GTI Clubsport S

Very few GTIs are ever driven like this, but it's nice to know you can 
Very few GTIs are ever driven like this, but it's nice to know you can 

Volkswagen is widely credited with creating the hot hatch, but the Golf GTI has never really been about outright track performance. Instead, it chases the middle ground, aiming to balance weekend fun with comfort and convenience for the daily commute. As you can probably imagine, comfort and convenience don't make for fast Nurburgring lap times, so the team at VW created the stripped-out Clubsport S to take on the Civic's time.

Like the Megane Trophy-R in fourth-place on our list, the Clubsport S was put on a crash diet for its record tilt. The rear seats were removed, and VW replaced the standard wheels with lightweight units wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. The turbo four-cylinder under the hood was boosted from 203 to 228 kW (272 to 306 hp), and the seat belts are now finished with a red stripe down the middle – which as everyone knows, is good for a couple of extra mph.

The result is a 7:49.21 lap time, narrowly faster than the Honda Civic Type-R.

2017 Honda Civic Type-R

The new Civic Type-R is bound for the USA 
The new Civic Type-R is bound for the USA 

Finally, we've arrived at the new king of Nordschleife performance. The team at Honda has upped the ante for its new Type-R, which stormed home in 7:43.80. That's 5.4 seconds faster than the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S, from a car with four doors and rear seats. Pretty impressive, right?

What the Civic Type-R has going for it is weight, or a lack thereof. Even though it has the same 306 hp (226 kW) as the outgoing Type-R, Honda has managed to shed 35 kg (77 lb) from its curb weight for 2017. The new car also ditches the torsion beam rear suspension in favour of a more sophisticated multi-link setup.

As always, there is likely to be some conjecture about the validity of the Type-R lap time, but Honda is adamant there was no funny business going on. The company says the development car used for the record attempt was on stock tires, and the (necessary) floating roll cage was set up so it didn't contribute any extra stiffness.

The video below shows the full lap from go to whoa as captured by the in-car camera.

Honda 2017 Type R – VBox Nürburgring lap record footage

View gallery - 26 images
1 comment
david90
Too bad your article didn't go back a tad further to a REAL Fwd production record setter at the NBR, the Cobalt Turbocharged SuperSport. The American made gem was amazingly fast and agile and blew away the previous record, setting the stage for the line-up your article made mention of.
The Cobalt SS TC came with a factory subdued 280 hp engine that was (and is) easily recalibrated to over 300 hp at the wheels with a simple computer tune, making it capable of competing with even today's hottest cars. And it wasn't even given a weight reduction like the Megane that "bested" it later.
Imagine what could be done with this car. Well, until someone does it, we'll just have to I guess....