By The Lenspeed Team
Most of us associate road trips with breathtaking sceneries and frequent pit stops to indulge in local delicacies. But there’ll be a select few who place equal emphasis on the mode of transport. This, we feel, defines a proper road trip experience. Most cars can ferry passengers to destination Z fast, but only a handful can keep the driver absorbed in the experience to keep petrolheads satisfied. Lenspeed takes a look at three cars (tried and tested, of course!) for varying budgets that can perform well on the freeways, without diluting the element of fun when navigating through challenging B Roads.
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI (Mk7)
It might be the least powerful car of the trio here, but there is plenty of usable torque at the lower regions of the rev range to extract maximum potential out of the 122bhp motor. Although steering inputs could be sharper, there is sufficient feedback through the rack to keep a keen driver engaged. It handles well too – dealing with gradual switchbacks in composed fashion.
Dial it up a notch through sweeping corners and it settles into a predictable understeer – throttle off and it steps back neatly in line. Its tidiness through the bends came as a surprise for us, since there is also plenty of travel in the suspension, allowing it to glide through potholes efficiently. We have to stress that the magic lies with the 16” rubbers that might not look aesthetically pleasing, but works wonders with the suspension to supply excellent damping even under duress for extended journeys. (FYI: The Golf Sport comes with 140bhp and 17” rubbers, but felt less well sorted and resolved than the 122bhp variant). Best of both worlds in a “back to basics” Golf. This car punches far higher than paper specifications. A brilliant choice for a family of four.
Renault Megane R.S. 265
This French pocket rocket receives a slight tweak over the 250 Cup. Aesthetic differences of the R.S. 265 over the predecessor include 18-inch matte black alloys and glossy black lacquer finish on the door handles, extended LED housings and darkened eyelids. And those keen in this segment of the market would be more interested in the technical enhancements – it receives a 15bhp and 20Nm hike over the 250 Cup, accompanied by a “freer-flowing” exhaust for more vocal presence.
We took it out for a spin and the enthusiasm attained right from the get-go is primarily attributed to the inertia-free unit that revs freely to redline. Its initial climb is characterised by feint turbo whiffs up to 4000rpm, replaced by more beefy resonance once it reaches boiling point. And it gets more dramatic when you engage “ESC Sport”, which is when you get to fully utilise the extra performance over the 250 Cup. (We’d pick the sound of high-revving NA cars in a jiffy, but we’d be more than happy to settle for this).
Despite this power hike, the Cup Chassis remains unruffled and eager to impress. 1379kg of heft isn’t entirely featherweight to begin with, but you can still plough it into a bend and let the chassis work its magic. It deals with irregularities cleanly, and the suspension manages to find a fluid rhythm on surfaces where others tend to jiggle and lose pace as a result. And because it is mated to a proper self-serviced 6-speeder, it entitles the driver a full expression of mechanical involvement, which makes it an accomplished and satisfying “B Road” weapon for those craving for optimal driving involvement. We assure you that the R.S. 265 will be perfect for stretches leading up to the plantations in Kota Tinggi.
Porsche 997.1 GT3
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the GT3 is too hardcore for the road. Yes, its low stance may pose a problem for car parks, and yes, it may drink a fair bit of fuel. But you’d be surprised to learn that the GT3 is a beautifully damped machine, giving a firm but wholly appropriate ride that seeks to get as much tyre on the road as possible, whatever the tarmac condition.
It is also a relatively long-geared car. So if you’re intending to cruise at somewhere above 150km/h, the car won’t discourage you. In fact, because the basic GT3 model has so long gears, it has received some criticism for its slightly lazy driving experience behind the wheel, with a laid-back countenance that’s not quite GT3. But you’d hardly complain on a long highway.
The result is a car that is genuinely comfortable enough to be on a highway jaunt, yet equally game for a B-road blast. While ultimately less focused than the RS model, this GT3 could be the best balance struck for real world situations.