2022 Volkswagen Golf R is Cooler than the Audi S3 Sportback

One of the cars us American Audi enthusiasts are incredibly jealous of our European friends for is the Audi S3 Sportback. The S3 Sportback is one of the more popular premium hot-hatches on the European market and for good reason; it offers an excellent blend of performance, comfort and practicality. So it not being offered in the U.S. bums us out. However, we will be getting the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R and it looks like it could be even better.


Typically, the Golf R and Audi S3 are mechanically identical. They usually have the same engine, gearbox, all-wheel drive system, power and performance. And while that’s mostly still the case with this Golf R, it seems like it might actually be the more interesting, exciting car of the two.


Let’s start with power and performance. The Volkswagen Golf R will use the same 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder as the Audi S3, except it will actually make a bit more power. The Golf R’s EA888 engine will pump our 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, versus the S3’s 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. Mated to that engine will either be the same seven-speed dual-clutch auto as the S3 or, and this is huge, a six-speed manual.


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For the U.S. and Canadian markets, the Volkswagen Golf R will be available with a six-speed manual, something the S3 doesn’t get in any market. So if you’re a proper enthusiast, the Golf R is the go-to car for you. Especially when it’s paired with the same Haldex-based all-wheel drive system as the S3, so the Audi doesn’t have a drivetrain advantage.


Increasing the Golf R’s promise is its XDS electronic limited-slip front differential, which is being mated to a 4Motion all-wheel drive system for the first time. That clever front diff has worked wonders in the Mk7 GTI, so we’re extremely interested to see what it can do, when paired with all-wheel drive, in this new Golf R.


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According to Volkswagen, the Golf R can hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, which is a few tenths slower than the Audi S3 Sportback but we’d like to see how both cars perform on the road before claiming any victor there. The VW is not only more powerful, it’s also lighter. So it should be quicker.


It also looks the business, this new Volkswagen Golf R. When we first saw the Mk8 Golf, we weren’t sold on its looks, entirely. It’s growing on us, though, and this new Golf R looks great. With stylish little blade-like shapes in the front bumper, slick side skirts, quad exhausts and 19-inch wheels, the Golf R looks both aggressive and sophisticated, as a Golf R should.


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Inside, the Golf R also looks great. Its interior design is mostly the same as the S3’s but it features cool new seats and really sharp looking paddle shifters (for seven-speed DSG models).


There’s no pricing announced just yet but it’s likely going to come in cheaper than the Audi S3. Also, in the U.S., the Audi S3 is only a sedan, so the Golf R offers more practicality and a lower price point as well. For U.S. customers, the Golf R not only offers a better performance/value/practicality proposition but it also is available with a manual, which is actually quite a nice consolation prize for the lack of S3 Sportback. If we were buying in that market, it’d be the Golf R we chose.


The VW Golf R goes on sale in 2021 as a 2022 model year for North American customers.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.