We here at QuattroDaily are big fans of the Audi S3. It’s one of Audi’s more entertaining vehicles, especially in the Sportback body style that we don’t get in the US, and is also the most affordable Audi performance car. But the S3 has one small hatchback-shaped problem and its called the Volkswagen Golf R.
The Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R share the same platform, the same engine, the same gearbox options and even similar suspension. There’s not much differentiating the two cars, other than badges and the interior. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as both cars are absolutely excellent so copying each other isn’t a big deal. But it does make you wonder if it’s worth buying the Audi S3 over the Golf R.
In the US, the VW Golf R starts life at $35,650 and comes with the same 292 hp 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and either a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG gearbox. That will get the Golf R from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds (with the DSG, 5.2 seconds with the manual). So there’s no doubt that the S3’s little brother has some serious performance cred and is equally as fast as it. The Golf R is also a fantastic handler, with its as-standard Haldex all-wheel drive setup. The Golf R is one of the more exciting cars to come out this decade, so it’s no slouch. Don’t let is pedestrian badge fool you.
The Audi S3 has a nearly identical powertrain setup, using the same 2.0 liter engine developing 292 hp. However, the Audi is just a touch quicker, nailing 60 mph in 4.4 seconds using the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It also handles fantastically, and probably a bit better than the Golf R, thanks to its incredible Quattro all-wheel drive system. The only issue with the S3 is its $42,500 starting price which, for you math majors, is $6,850 more than the Golf R.
Obviously, the Audi S3 is a bit more premium than the Golf R and has more sophisticated handling. But is it that much better than the Golf R, almost $7,000 better? That extra seven grand could be used to add some serious options to the Golf R to make it almost as premium feeling as the S3. And you have to remember that the Golf R is a damn nice vehicle on the inside and only snobs would feel otherwise.
It’s a tough comparison for the S3, because the Golf R has been said to be more fun, actually, and costs quite a bit less. Plus, the United States market lacks a hatchback option for the S3, so the hatchback Golf R starts to look even more attractive to many US enthusiasts.
I think the decision has to come down to the individual buyer being willing to spend the extra money on the little bit extra luxury and refinement from the Audi S3. If you can settle, if you want to call it that, with the Golf R and save the extra money, no one would blame you.