- It’s a constant question: “Is the ultra-expensive car really worth it compared to a much cheaper set of wheels?”
- I set out to answer that question by comparing five VWGroup vehicles: the LamborghiniAventador SVJ and Lamborghini Urus; the Audi RS5 Sportback; and the VW Golf R and VW Beetle Final Edition.
- The upshot is that one can get great performance and premium quality at under $US50,000. But if you want a howling Lamborghini V12 engine, it’s still gonna cost ya!
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Is a $US610,000 car really an entire mortgage better than a $US27,000 car?
That’s the question I set out to answer, after testing five vehicles a across a wide spectrum of prices. The quintet had something in common: they were all made by the VW Group which owns the VW, Audi, and Lamborghini brands.
I thought about comparing just sedans or SUVs, but the truth is that sometimes a luxury SUV might be based on a mass-market vehicle, so distinctions are harder to draw. In that case, you’re dealing with premium appointments, luxurious extras, and upmarket styling. Mechanically and performance-wise, however, the vehicles could be quite similar.
So I took a different approach, along the lines of “What are you getting for your money?” I also enjoyed all six of these vehicles, so I had a positive baseline to begin with.
Let’s see how it all went down!
We’ll start with the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, a track-oriented version of the “Big Lambo,” already a near-hypercar that at $US610,000 is the second most expensive vehicle we’ve tested at BI, after the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
The Aventador arrived in 2011 and, like all Lambo sports cars, is named for a fighting bull. The car is a beast, and in a “Rosso Mimir” matte-red paint job, it looked ultra-aggressive. The base Aventador is about $US517,000
What you’re paying for in a car like this boils down to three things. First and foremost, you’re getting a 6.5-litre V12 engine, making 770 horsepower and 720 pound-feet of torque, with a redline at 8,700 rpm.
Next, you’re shelling out for space-age aerodynamics, crafted from carbon fibre. This supercar is a wind-cheating wedge. The 0-60 mph passes in 2.8 seconds, on the way to a top speed of over 217 mph. The huge rear wing is part of the “ALA 2.0” or Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva, package. This includes a front splitter and rear diffuser.
Finally, you’re paying a sort of Lamborghini insanity premium. With its land-shark styling and upswing doors, the Aventador SVJ is the pinnacle of flamboyant Lambo-ness.
You aren’t paying for trunk space — because there isn’t one! The Aventador SVJ is a mid-engine supercar that has a front trunk, or “frunk.” And it barely has room for a hat. Actually, scratch that — even a hat won’t fit.
Because the Aventador SVJ is in the VW Group family, it does enjoy the benefits of the corporation’s shared technology features. The infotainment system makes do with a small screen in a jet-fighter-cockpit cabin, but it’s fairly good as supercars go.
On to the Aventador’s newest stablemate, the much-anticipated Lamborghini Urus SUV.
The Urus arrived at our New York headquarters on a snowy day. The very Lambo colour was “Giallo Auge” — that’s Italian and Spanish for “Yellow Boom.” Price: $US250,000.
A major piece of the hefty price tag is that the Urus — named for an extinct wild ox — has to evoke that same Lambo-ness that the Aventador does, but in the form of an SUV. Against the odds, the Urus pulls it off.
The 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8, making 641 horsepower with 627 pound-feet of torque will also cost you some dough. And not just for its performance: 3.5 seconds for the 0-60 mph dash, with a the top speed of 190 mph. The MPGs are 12 mpg city/17 highway/14 combined. So expect to part with some dollars at the pump.
What’s this? A back seat in a Lambo?!?! Actually, it’s a pretty nice back seat, so with the Urus you’re getting staggering performance plus enough seating to carry three passengers.
Cargo capacity is a respectable 22 cubic feet with the rear seats up (the rears on our tester couldn’t be lowered). That’s pretty good, but of course you can get as much or more in an SUV that costs literally hundreds of thousands less.
The Urus, more so than the Aventador, benefits from having Audi as a corporate cousin. The entire infotainment setup is derived from Audi’s, and that’s good news because it’s among the best in the industry.
Speaking of Audi, how about we take a closer look at the Audi RS5 Sportback, in a show-stopping “Sonoma Green Metallic” paint job. Before many thousands of dollars in options, the car costs $US74,200. As tested, it was $US97,815.
The RS5 Sportback is a four-door version of Audi’s A5, with some added goodies. For example, the car was equipped with a $US5,500 black carbon-fibre package.
The dashing fastback roofline means that there’s a hatch rather than a trunk.
Under the hood is a punchy, 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6, making 444 horsepower with 443-pound-feet of torque. It blasts the Sportback to 60 mph in under four seconds. Fuel economy is respectable if not remarkable: 17 city/26 highway/20 combined, running on premium fuel.
Under the hatch, 12 cubic feet of useful cargo space is revealed. That’s plenty for a weekend getaway, or for grocery-store runs.
The interior is sport, luxurious, and yet never blingy, in typical Audi fashion. The Audi MMI/Virtual Cockpit combo of instrument cluster and infotainment screen is fantastic.
Now we move down to the VW Group’s core brand and the “Lapiz Blue Metallic” Golf R, a high-performance version of the good-old Golf hatch. It was just south of $US42,000 on the sticker price.
The Golf R is being dropped from the VW range in 2020, but the vehicle is slated to return with a new name a bit later.
With cars such as the Sportback and the Lambos, you assume superlative build quality. With outstanding cheaper cars such as the Golf R, you’re surprised by it. But that’s a definite selling point!
The Golf R’s interior isn’t fancy, but the minimalism should appeal to a lot of buyers who don’t want or need wood grain and plush leather. The four-door/hatchback design also makes for serious versatility.
The gutsy 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 288 horsepower with 285 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 mph run is achieved in about six seconds, and fuel economy is fine: 22 mpg city/29 highway/25 combined.
The Golf R has about 23 cubic feet without the rear seats dropped. With the rears down, that capacity more than doubles. Such is life with a hatchback! You have ample space for stuff.
The instruments and infotainment setup are a bit of a trade-off, relative to what you get on the Audi. But everything in the Golf R works as advertised.
Finally, we’ll check out the VW Beetle “Final Edition” SEL, in a handsome “Platinum Grey Metallic” paint job. It’s just under $US27,000 in price — and sadly, the last in a long line of Beetles. VW has ended production.
The VW Beetle, however, is an excellent example of a low-cost, high-quality, fun-to-drive set of wheels.
It’s also stylish. For the same price, of course, you can buy plenty of compact four-doors and subcompact crossovers from competing brands.
The two-tone interior was smashing, and while the back seat is as hard to access as it is in any two-door, its fairly roomy.
The hatch covers a 15-cubic-foot cargo area, which is on par with what you usually see in the segment.
The VW Beetle Final Edition is powered by a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that makes 174 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration isn’t slow, just not blisteringly fast: the 0-60 mph dash happens in less than eight seconds. Fuel economy is fixed-income friendly: 29 mpg city/33 highway/26 combined.
The 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system is sort of antiquated, but navigation, media, and Bluetooth pairing all performed flawlessly in my testing, as did the voice-recognition program.
So what’s our verdict? Is the $US610,000 supercar worth a nice house more than the plucky hatchback?
The answer is: It depends.
Objectively, the Aventador and to a lesser extent, the Urus, are flashy playthings for the 1%. But supercars always have been. And now super-SUVs have joined that party.
But you can get fantastic driving performance for much, much less than the Aventador. The new Corvette Stingray, for example, is a mid-engine supercar design, and it’s priced at less than $US60,000.
And what the Urus does can also be handled by far less expensive BMW and Audi SUVs.
A better question is, “Is the Audi RS5 Sportback worth its almost $US100,000 cost? And the answer there is absolutely yes. In fact, its performance-to-versatility ratio makes it look like a bargain. And it’s completely crammed with tech, luxury, and go-fast goodies.
The truly staggering performance value, however, is the VW Golf R. This is the kind of car that puts a smile on your face every time you drive it, but the monthly payments are within reach for a large number of consumers. It proves that there are still some no-compromise cars out there that can do it all.
The Beetle, meanwhile, it simply proof that a cool, enjoyable car with excellent pep and eye-catching design does exist at a sub-$US30,000 price point. (And once the Beetle is gone, there will still be MINI and its groovy little two-doors.)
What this comparison tells us is that unlike a few decades back, when buying a small hatchback meant accepting low-grade build quality and wimpy performance, consumers can now obtain plenty of car for a reasonable amount of money: less than $US50,000.
Moving up the price ladder, then, is more about differences of degree. While the Golf R is undeniably a blast, the Aventador SVJ is utterly mind-blowing. If you’re into having your mind blown, then spending $US610,000 might be the best way to do it.
So which of these rides would I buy? Most likely the Golf R, but if I were feeling loose, probably the Audi RS5 Sportback. And to be honest, I don’t think anybody needs to spend $US610,000 on a supercar when the Lambo Aventador SVJ’s charms can be relished for a lot less.
Then again, a Lamborghini is a Lamborghini, and if that’s what you want, you’re gonna need to pay up.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.