We’ve written about supercar comparisons, such as the Audi R8 vs BMW i8, but haven’t done a comparison between VW and Audi small cars, until now. There is a common question if the Audi S3 is a more expensive Volkswagen Golf R. So, in this article we will be breaking down the many similarities and few differences between the Audi S3 vs Golf R. Topics such as performance, reliability, common problems, and more will be discussed to determine which German small family car is superior.
Audi S3 vs Golf R – The Basics
The Audi S3 was first introduced in 1999 and is still in production today. Since its inception, there have been 4 S3 generations. The 8L was built on the PQ34 platform, the 8P was built on the PQ35 platform, the 8V was built on the MQB platform, and lastly, the 8Y was built on the MQB Evo platform. The S3 is a subcompact executive car that is the sport, or high-performance, variant of the Audi A3. Over its production, it has featured many different body styles: a 3-door hot hatch, 5-door Sportback, and a 4-door sedan.
The Volkswagen Golf R was first introduced in the 2003 model year and is still in production today. Due to its initial unexpected popularity overseas, Volkswagen quickly brought it to the North American and Australian markets. It was the world’s first production car with a dual-clutch gearbox, or commonly referred to as DSG. It had all the bells and whistles back in the day and still does today. The R is Volkswagen’s highest-end performance model and is accompanied by an “R” badge typically on the grille, trunk, and seats.
Audi S3 Generations
- 8L S3 (1999-2003)
- 8P S3 (2006-2013)
- 8V S3 (2013-2020)
- 8Y S3 (2020-Present)
VW Golf R Generations
- MK4 Golf R32 (2002-2005)
- MK5 Golf R32 (2005-2008)
- MK6 Golf R (2010-2013)
- MK7/MK7.5 Golf R (2015-2021)
- MK8 Golf R (2022-Present)
Audi S3 vs Golf R Price
This portion will be going over the brand new 2022 Audi S3 prices, 2022 VW Golf R prices, and used prices for both models.
New Audi S3 and Golf R Prices
In this section, we will be covering the new Audi S3 and new Volkswagen Golf R 2022 model year prices. The S3 offers one engine option on all Audi trims. Therefore, a Premium Audi S3 with the tuned 2.0T TFSI engine starts at $45,800, a Premium Plus Audi S3 starts at $48,600, and lastly, a Prestige Audi S3 with the same engine starts at $52,400. The Golf R also offers one engine and it is a 2.0T TFSI “R” engine. Unlike Audi, Volkswagen only offers one trim with the Golf R since it already has all the bells and whistles. So, a 2022 Volkswagen Golf R starts at $45,085.
Used Audi S3 & Golf R Prices
In this section, we will be covering used Audi S3s and Volkswagen Golf Rs. Since the S3 has been around a little longer than the Golf R, we will use similar model years (2015-2021) for consistencies sake. A used S3’s price ranges from $20,995 – $49,995* with an average price overall of $35,495, depending on model year and mileage. A used Golf R price ranges from $21,250 – $48,960* with an average price overall of $35,105, depending on model year and mileage. The Volkswagen MK4 R32 is an iconic Volkswagen vehicle that is targeted by VW enthusiasts, which is pretty expensive and would cause this data to be skewed. So, based on price is the Prestige S3 worth the extra $7,000? We’ll go more in-depth below.
*At the time of writing this article, we believe we are in a market where used vehicles are inflated, so consider that when seeing the used prices above.
General Audi S3 & Golf R Topics
Audi S3 vs Golf R Size
Although we don’t feel that this is a make or break when it comes to making a decision, it could be important to some readers out there. Therefore, we will briefly cover some basic details about the size and weight differences seen between the 2022 Audi S3 and the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R.
Audi A3 vs Golf R
There aren’t too many dimension specs that stand out to us, given these are both small family cars, except for length and cargo space. Surprisingly, the S3 is approximately 8″ longer than the Golf R. But to make up for it, since the Golf R is a hatch, it has much more cargo space. The Audi S3 gets 13.1ft³, while the Golf R ranges from 19.9ft³ to 34.5ft³, depending on if the back seats are down or not. Therefore, for those consumers that are wanting more cargo space out of a speedy hatch, the Golf R may be the way to go.
Audi S3 vs Golf R Performance
For consistencies sake, we will be using the 2022 Audi S3 and 2022 Volkswagen Golf R factory performance specs. The fun part, performance.
Engines, Drivetrain, & Fuel Economy
Audi S3 Performance
A 2022 Audi S3 has a 2.0T TFSI tuned engine that puts out 306hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It boasts an impressive 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 155mph. The 2.0T TFSI comes standard with a 7-speed S Tronic automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro® AWD system. This tuned 2.0T TFSI gets 23mpg in the city and 32mpg on the highway for a combined 27mpg with a 14.5gal fuel tank. Engine aside, S3s have stiffer upgraded suspension and high-performance brakes. The aftermarket support for the S3 is massive and we’ve seen many S3’s get up to 500+ hp.
VW Golf R Performance
The 2022 Golf R has an R-tuned 2.0T TSI engine that puts down a whopping 315hp and 280lb-ft (manual transmission) or 295lb-ft (automatic transmission). It boasts an impressive 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. This R-tuned engine gets 23mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway for a combined 26mpg with a 14.5gal fuel tank. The MK8 Golf R comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission with the option of upgrading to a 7-speed DSG Tiptronic automatic transmission. It is also equipped with VW’s 4motion AWD system and with an upgraded suspension and brakes. Also, the aftermarket support for the Golf R is massive and we’ve also seen many Golf R’s get up to 500+ hp.
Audi S3 vs Golf R Reliability and Common Problems
Is the Audi S3 reliable? The S3s overall reliability is below average. For some reason, there isn’t a lot of data to go on when it comes to the S3’s reliability. Therefore, after scrolling through multiple credible sources, we have seen mixed reviews. What we do know is that the average annual ownership costs of an Audi S3, are $974. This is above the average annual ownership cost for luxury midsize cars of $739.
Common problems that are seen in S3 are as followed: ignition coil or speak plug failure, electrical issues, A/C issues, water pump or thermostat failure, fuel system issues, and power window regulator failure. If properly maintained, an S3 can last up to 150,000 miles or more. However, once it crosses the 100,000-mile mark, preventative maintenance is crucial for longevity.
Is the Volkswagen Golf R reliable? Unfortunately, like the S3, there isn’t a lot of data to go on when it comes to the Golf R’s reliability. However, after scrolling through many forums, the Golf R, if maintained properly, is pretty reliable. The average annual ownership cost for a Golf R is $903, which is below the S3’s cost. A common failure worth pointing out alone is in 2015/2016 Golf R models. The stock IS38 turbos tend to prematurely fail regardless of whether they have been tuned for more power or not.
Common problems that are seen in the Golf Rs are as followed: IS38 turbo failure, DSG transmission issues, VW subframe clunk, carbon buildup, faulty rear main seal, water pump failure, and PCV valve failure. Although this may seem like a long list, if the Golf R is well maintained, it can be not only fun to drive but can also prove to be reliable.
Golf R vs Audi S3 – Which is Better?
Now the main question at hand is, is the Audi S3 better than the Golf R? In our opinion, we would say no and go with the Golf R. After all, an Audi S3 is a more expensive Golf R. Obviously the S3 has a different body type, but for the most part, these two vehicles are very similar. The Golf R is cheaper, regarded as more reliable, has a manual transmission, and has more cabin and cargo room. The only thing we like more with the Audi S3 is the exterior and “S” accents. Both have 5-star safety ratings and very similar safety and tech features.
Although these vehicles may be pretty hard to find at dealerships currently, we highly advise scheduling a test drive with your local Audi and VW dealer. There’s no better research than getting first-hand experience and seeing both models in person. This will further solidify which model better suits your needs.
Audi S3 vs Golf R Conclusion
To conclude this article, we know purchasing a vehicle can be a daunting task. So, we hope the information provided above can assist anyone choosing between the Audi S3 and Golf R. To summarize, the two vehicles have many similarities and few differences. The Audi S3 is more expensive, is less reliable, has the same 2.0T TFSI engine, but looks better. The Golf R is cheaper, more reliable, has the same engine, gets more cargo space, and is more spacious in general. If you are a reader that has owned either vehicle, please let us know your experience in the comments below. This will assist future readers with their purchasing decisions and us with our research.