These two VW Group siblings have been going at it since their respective debuts. The Audi S3 Sportback and the Volkswagen Golf R, despite sharing the same parental DNA, are actually surprisingly different and each have their merits. But they certainly have their supporters and opponents, as there’s a large group of enthusiasts who cry that the Golf R is by far the better buy and those who shout of the S3’s superior performance. But which is actually better? Carwow finds out in this new video review.
Let’s start off with the specs. Both cars are four-door hatchbacks built on the VW Group’s MQB, front-wheel drive-based architecture. Both have 2.0 liter turbocharged engines and both have Haldex-based all-wheel drive systems, even though Audi badges the S3’s as Quattro. Where they differ is in power and performance. So the Audi S3 Sportback makes 310 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. While the VW Golf R makes 292 hp and 280 lb-ft. Ironically, US-spec Audi S3’s have the very same power figures as the Golf R while Euro-models get the extra bump in power.
Another difference between the two cars is the gearbox. The Audi S3 Sportback uses a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as its only option, while the VW Golf R can be had with either a six-speed manual (seen here) or a six-speed dual-clutch unit of its own. While the Golf R’s DCT gives it the same advantage as the Audi S3, the latter car’s quick-shifting ‘box pays off dividends in this video against the Golf R’s three-pedal ‘box.
In a quick drag race, in the wet, the Audi S3 demolishes the Golf R in this video and a lot of the reason why has to do with that faster-shifting dual-clutch gearbox. The slight bump in power doesn’t hurt either.
However, the performance advantage swings the other way in twisty corners. When you start to chuck both cars around, you’ll soon realize that it’s the VW that is more entertaining. It has nicer steering, a more playful chassis and a bit of lift-off oversteer. While the Audi S3 is more buttoned down, more serious and more focused on speed and grip. Its steering is more numb and its chassis is less playful. So if you want a pure-bred hot-hatch, it’s probably the Golf R that you’re going to want.
That more serious nature does make the Audi S3 the car to want in traffic or everyday driving, though. It’s more comfortable, has a much better interior and better tech. So if you want a daily driver that can also double as a fun sports car with killer performance, the Audi S3 Sportback is probably the better bet, even if it is a bit more money.