Is Audi’s Luxury Car Panache Worth an Upgrade From Volkswagen?

  • Audi is Volkswagen’s luxury car arm
  • Audi performance models often pack far more punch than their VW counterparts
  • Volkswagen builds cheaper, more attainable cars

Audi and Volkswagen are but a stone’s throw from one another. The Four Rings lies in Ingolstadt, Germany and VW sits just a few miles away in Wolfsburg. VW also owns that company based in Ingolstadt. Owned by the massive conglomeration of brands that is VAG (Volkswagen Auto Group), Audi is the brand’s luxury arm. So is it worth the upgrade from a standard VW? Time to find out.

Audi's four rings logo on the hood of one of its cars
Audi’s logo Xisco Navarro via Getty Images

Should you buy an Audi?

Frankly, copious parts sharing is what binds the two brands together. I owned a MK6 VW GTI and routinely found parts on the inside stamped with both VW’s logo and that of the folks in Ingolstadt. Mechanically, a great many things keep these two tied together. The best example is the turbocharged four-cylinder engine found in cars like the GTI, Volkswagen Jetta, Audi A4, and others. VAG calls it the “EA888.” It’s the workhorse of the two brands, and how it feels to drive is down to who you buy it from.

But from there, things change quite a bit. Audi, as is fitting of a luxury car brand, offers far nicer interiors than Volkswagen. To be frank, they simply do it better. The infotainment in the new MK8 VW GTI and VW ID.4 are infuriating, something Audi skips. Of course, the materials found across the Four Rings range are also much nicer. Ingolstadt’s performance vehicles, like the Audi S4, also offer far more performance and power compared to even the fastest VW products.

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Is buying a Volkswagen worth it?

Volkswagen's logo on display at the brand's headquarters
Volkswagen’s logo | Ronny Hartmann via Getty Images

But. VW is a brand for the people. In German, “Volkswagen” loosely translates to “People’s Car.” The brand was built on the back of the legendary VW Beetle, arguably still one of the most iconic mass-produced cars ever. This is a car anyone can work to afford. Even today, the brand’s models offer a good mix of modern amenities and luxury touches. But don’t go mistaking models like the Volkswagen Jetta for luxury cars.

As a general rule, assume a pretty hefty 5-20% discount for going VW over the brand in Ingolstadt. Really, whether the money matters to you is, well, up to you. VW makes fantastic cars. I’ve owned two of them, each running well over 120,000 miles. Some of that German reliability can get a little expensive, but you’re paying for a product that’s supposed to feel more premium than its Japanese competition.

The winner of the VW vs. Audi debate depends on the car

A grey Audi A3 luxury car shot from the front 3/4 on a beach
Audi’s A3 sedan | Audi

At the end of the day, this debate comes down to a car vs. car experience. I’d take a Volkswagen GTI over a similarly priced Audi A4 every day because I like a fast car more than a nicer car all day long. However, not all buyers will feel this way. How will you use the car? Will it be used to go fast? Or are you just trying to get to work without tearing your hair out? No matter what, know you’re buying a product supported by one of the largest and most competitive companies in history. I’d take a great deal of comfort in that.

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