Skip to main content
2022 Audi S4 vs. 2022 Volkswagen Golf R

Edmunds U-Drags: VW Golf R Shames Its Fancy Audi S4 Cousin

Weight matters

  • The 2022 Audi S4 and 2022 VW Golf R tackle Edmunds' unique U-Drags battle course.
  • Both feature turbocharged engines, a V6 for the S4 and a four-cylinder for the Golf R.
  • The S4 had a power advantage and two more cylinders, but its extra 500 pounds were too much to overcome.

The two contenders in our latest U-Drags throwdown are German and all-wheel-drive, but that's where the similarities end. The 2022 Audi S4 is a luxury performance sedan with a V6 under the hood, while the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is a hot hatch with four cylinders and a nice interior that falls short of luxury-grade. There's a power gap, too: The S4 cranks out 349 horsepower to the VW's 315 hp. But you can't be as fancy as the S4 without carrying some extra pounds.

Lined up on Edmunds' unique U-Drags course, the corporate cousins tangled in back-to-back battles, switching lanes and drivers between runs. Even before the dust settled, we had a clear winner.

U-Drags 101

A traditional drag race will tell you which car is faster in a straight line, but true performance is about so much more than that. That's why we invented U-Drags, a short head-to-head race format that tests acceleration, braking and handling. The two cars sprint to the quarter-mile mark, brake hard into a U-turn, then hustle back to the start. After that we switch drivers and lanes and run it again.

See the diagram below to get a picture of how it works and keep scrolling for details on how this U-Drags matchup went down.

U-Drags Track Layout

So who won?

In the first race, the Golf R took the win easily despite the S4's superior start, finishing with a time of 36.4 seconds to the S4's 37.3 seconds. On the second trip around the course, the S4 was able to close the gap slightly but still finished well behind at 37.6 seconds to the Golf R's winning time of 37.1 seconds.

Both of these vehicles have all-wheel drive and ample low-end torque, so they had no trouble getting off the line. What this race came down to was power-to-weight ratio. The S4's two extra cylinders and 34 additional horsepower simply weren't enough to overcome its 500-pound weight disadvantage.

2022 Audi S4 vs. 2022 Volkswagen Golf R

The details

The Golf R got beat off the line in the first race but came roaring back to cover the quarter mile in 12.8 seconds at 108.9 mph, trouncing the S4's 13.3-second run at 104.8 mph. In Race 2, it was the Golf R that got the jump, yet the two cars put up identical 13.3-second times in the quarter mile, likely because the Golf R got on the brakes a little earlier with a trap speed of only 102.7 mph to the S4's 104.8 mph. Nonetheless, the Golf R would go on to win that heat decisively as well.

Notably, the Golf R's win didn't depend on grip. Through the U-turn the cars were nearly equal at 1.0 lateral g for the Golf R and 1.01 lateral g for the S4. The Golf R's sophisticated AWD system allows up to 100% of rear-axle torque to be sent to one rear wheel, which may have provided an advantage as our drivers got back on the throttle exiting the U-turn. In any case, the VW's power-to-weight advantage ultimately won out: In Race 1, the Golf R crossed the finish line at 115.5 mph with the S4 trailing at 112.4 mph, and that result effectively repeated itself in Race 2 (112.5 mph versus 110.6 mph).

2022 Audi S4 vs. 2022 Volkswagen Golf R

Edmunds says

The S4 has a sophistication that the Golf R can't match, but that didn't matter on Edmunds' U-Drags course, where the Golf R's lightness and performance edge gave it a decisive victory. The hot hatch is alive and well.

2022 Audi S4 vs. 2022 Volkswagen Golf R