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Drivers in the market for a compact, luxury sport sedan have a pair of great choices within the Audi lineup. With both the Audi S3 and RS 3, you get a high level of performance and luxury. But is the added $15k price tag of the RS 3 worth it for the added performance? Check out this comparison to see how these two sport luxury sedans stack up.

A red Audi S3
Audi S3 | Audi
Blue Audi RS 3
Audi RS 3 | Audi

Starting with the good stuff

Comparing the performance of the Audi S3 and Audi RS 3 in simple terms is easy. The RS 3 is clearly the more sport-oriented model of the two. That said, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the S3 is no slouch. It gives you 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, with peak torque at just 3,000 rpm.

Meanwhile, the Audi RS 3 uses a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder powerplant to crank out 401 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The differences are clear right away, and the sound of that unique five-cylinder engine may be all it takes for some enthusiasts to pull the trigger.

Audi S3 vs RS 3 handling test

Yellow Audi RS 3
Audi RS 3 | Audi

Half the fun of driving a sport-luxury sedan like these two Audi outfits is hucking them through corners on your way home from work. Both the Audi S3 and Audi RS 3 approach 1G of lateral grip, so they’ll both be plenty of fun to hoon. According to Car and Driver, the RS 3 carries a 0.06 g advantage over the 0.90 g offered by its more sedate sibling. In real terms, that difference is scarcely noticeable. Put the right tires on the S3 and you’ll have no trouble matching the hopped-up hooligan through the curves.

Where the Audi S3 beats the Audi RS 3

If performance is all that matters, the Audi RS 3 is clearly a step ahead. But for drivers who want a more comfortable and usable daily driver, the Audi S3 starts to show its worth.

For starters, the 18-inch wheels you get with the Audi S3 make for a more comfortable ride and better grip. The added sidewall means the tire is more flexible, softening bumps and providing a bigger cushion before it breaks traction.

The RS 3 makes up for the grip with a wider contact patch, but it offers a harsh ride. The added harshness may make it a tough sell for someone looking to drive this car to the office every day.

Red Audi S3
Audi S3 | Audi
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Choosing between the two Audi sport compacts

Making the decision between the Audi S3 and Audi RS 3 comes down to your budget above all else. If you have the extra $15,000 lying around, the RS 3 is a good choice. It’s comfortable enough for daily use, and any discomfort is forgiven as soon as the five-cylinder bellow strikes the ear drum.

That said, the 2.0-liter turbo of the S3 is less expensive to maintain, sharing parts with several VA-Group models. In addition, replacement tires for the 18-inch square setup will save you hundreds. It still offers plenty of fun when pushed, and is more capable of a serene ride when cruising. If answering to an accountant at the end of each year, the S3 will always be the more responsible choice.