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Lamborghinis for Audi money – if you know how to look

About the author

Deputy editor of BBC Autos, Jonathan was formerly the editor of The New York Times' Wheels blog. His automotive writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Details, Surface, Intersection and Design Observer. He has an affinity for the Citroën DS and Toyota pickup trucks of the early 1990s.

  • All in the family

    David Allen, the American practical-philosophy guru, tells his readers that perspective is their slipperiest and most valuable commodity – a good rule of thumb when surveying the Volkswagen Group’s constellation of brands.

    Lamborghini. Bentley. Audi. Bugatti. Volkswagen. Skoda. SEAT. Porsche. They all live under one corporate umbrella, but they do much more than crowd earnings statements. They share engines. They co-develop chassis components. They jump into the wind tunnel together. Thanks to the imperatives of cost control, a close facsimile of your favourite VW Group product likely exists in another VW Group showroom, at a lower price. To find them you’ll need your resourcefulness, and at times your passport. But above all, you’ll need to be in control of your slipperiest commodity: perspective. (All photos: Volkswagen Group)

  • Bentley Continental GT V8 / Audi RS5

    A bludgeon wrapped in Connolly hides, the Conti GT V8 (above) is already the value proposition in the Bentley range, undercutting the W12-powered coupe flagship by $15,000 in the US. A naturally aspirated V8 engine exists in an exuberant state of tune within the Audi RS5, an all-wheel-drive performance GT that champions comfort over all-out acceleration, not unlike the Bentley. Yes, the RS5 has been called a heavyweight, but next to the Leviathan-like Conti, its perceived deficiencies suddenly become strengths. And at $80,000 nicely optioned, a buyer could put his and hers RS5s in the garage with enough in reserve for a lightly used TT.

  • Bentley Continental GT V8 / Audi RS5

    A bludgeon wrapped in Connolly hides, the Conti GT V8 is already the value proposition in the Bentley range, undercutting the W12-powered coupe flagship by $15,000 in the US. A naturally aspirated V8 engine exists in an exuberant state of tune within the Audi RS5 (above), an all-wheel-drive performance GT that champions comfort over all-out acceleration, not unlike the Bentley. Yes, the RS5 has been called a heavyweight, but next to the Leviathan-like Conti, its perceived deficiencies suddenly become strengths. And at $80,000 nicely optioned, a buyer could put his and hers RS5s in the garage with enough in reserve for a lightly used TT.

  • Volkswagen Tiguan / Skoda Yeti

    Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson memorably – if somewhat hyperbolically – called the Yeti “more comfortable than a Range Rover, more practical than a Maybach, faster than a Ferrari, cheaper than a Vauxhall Astra.” TopGear.com editors simply called it “a fabulous all-rounder”. We call the Czech charmer a bargain-rack alternative to the Volkswagen Tiguan (above). In Germany, a Yeti finished in Adventure trim undercuts a comparably equipped Tiguan by over 5,000 euro. That may be enough cash to recreate Clarkson’s landing a helicopter on the Yeti’s roof.

  • Volkswagen Tiguan / Skoda Yeti

    Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson memorably – if somewhat hyperbolically – called the Yeti (above) “more comfortable than a Range Rover, more practical than a Maybach, faster than a Ferrari, cheaper than a Vauxhall Astra.” TopGear.com editors simply called it “a fabulous all-rounder”. We call the Czech charmer a bargain-rack alternative to the Volkswagen Tiguan. In Germany, a Yeti finished in Adventure trim undercuts a comparably equipped Tiguan by over 5,000 euro. That may be enough cash to recreate Clarkson’s landing a helicopter on the Yeti’s roof.

  • Audi Allroad / SEAT X-Perience

    For an A4 Avant with some body cladding, Audi exacts a steep tariff for the Allroad Quattro (above). In Germany, an Allroad costs up to 9,000 euro more than its less brawny sibling. As reported by TopGear.com, however, Spain-based SEAT has fielded the X-Perience – an Allroad in all but name, costing thousands less than even a standard A4 Avant. Based on the León ST, the X-Perience, with a 182hp turbodiesel engine and standard dual-clutch automatic transmission, is more than a poor man’s Allroad; it is an Allroad.

  • Audi Allroad / SEAT X-Perience

    For an A4 Avant with some body cladding, Audi exacts a steep tariff for the Allroad Quattro. In Germany, an Allroad costs up to 9,000 euro more than its less brawny sibling. As reported by TopGear.com, however, Spain-based SEAT has fielded the X-Perience (above) – an Allroad in all but name, costing thousands less than even a standard A4 Avant. Based on the León ST, the X-Perience, with a 182hp turbodiesel engine and standard dual-clutch automatic transmission, is more than a poor man’s Allroad; it is an Allroad.

  • Volkswagen GTI / SEAT León

    SEAT wields an X-factor in smaller segments as well. Its León has long been considered a budget alternative to Volkswagen’s GTI (above), but only among shoppers who viewed the GTI’s polish and style as expendable. The latest iteration of the León, though, wears the sharp creases and minimal panel gaps of its upmarket German relation. Opt for a León Cupra, and nearly 280hp is at your right foot’s command.

  • Volkswagen GTI / SEAT León

    SEAT wields an X-factor in smaller segments as well. Its León (above) has long been considered a budget alternative to Volkswagen’s GTI, but only among shoppers who viewed the GTI’s polish and style as expendable. The latest iteration of the León, though, wears the sharp creases and minimal panel gaps of its upmarket German relation. Opt for a León Cupra, and nearly 280hp is at your right foot’s command.

  • Lamborghini Huracán / 2016 Audi R8 V10

    The replacement for the decade-old Gallardo is new in every way, from its stability-enhancing gyroscopes down to its carbon-fibre-and-aluminium skeleton. The 602 horsepower generated by its V10 engine has also become more accessible, coursing through a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch transmission developed in part by Audi. Know what else is developed by Audi? The R8, and the next generation of Ingolstadt’s mid-engine bullet will use the Huracán as its tool box. If history serves, the V10-powered variant will also undercut its corporate fratello by at least $50,000.

  • Lamborghini Huracán / 2016 Audi R8 V10

    The replacement for the decade-old Gallardo is new in every way, from its stability-enhancing gyroscopes down to its carbon-fibre-and-aluminium skeleton. The 602 horsepower generated by its V10 engine has also become more accessible, coursing through a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch transmission developed in part by Audi. Know what else is developed by Audi? The R8 (above), and the next generation of Ingolstadt’s mid-engine bullet will use the Huracán as its tool box. If history serves, the V10-powered variant will also undercut its corporate fratello by at least $50,000.

  • Audi S3 / Volkswagen Golf R

    The VW Group’s biggest engineering lift presently involves a modular platform strategy, which allows group brands to pick from a communal shelf of structural pieces, thereby tamping down development costs. The strategy is most apparent among compact cars, where the Audi S3 (above) sits supreme – at least in pricing terms; the 300hp sparkplug tops $42,000 in the US. Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Golf R – with virtually identical architecture and power numbers to the S3, plus a tenacious Haldex all-wheel-drive system – runs $6,000 less. Does a VW badge command the same cachet as four interlocking silver rings? No, but again, perspective.

  • Audi S3 / Volkswagen Golf R

    The VW Group’s biggest engineering lift presently involves a modular platform strategy, which allows group brands to pick from a communal shelf of structural pieces, thereby tamping down development costs. The strategy is most apparent among compact cars, where the Audi S3 sits supreme – at least in pricing terms; the 300hp sparkplug tops $42,000 in the US. Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Golf R (above) – with virtually identical architecture and power numbers to the S3, plus a tenacious Haldex all-wheel-drive system – runs $6,000 less. Does a VW badge command the same cachet as four interlocking silver rings? No, but again, perspective.

  • Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse World Record / Ducati 1199 Panigale R

    How much is too much? The question resonated through the summer of 2013, when Bugatti – the boutique French builder of impossibly advanced, improbably pretty sports cars – introduced the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse World Record (above), its raciest dress package for the world’s quickest topless production car. Recent group acquisition Ducati is the only brand within the VW firmament that builds anything that approximates the open-air hysterics and profligate, petrol-vaporising potency of the Veyron. The 1199 Panigale R is, quite simply, the quickest version* of perhaps the quickest bike currently manufactured, a machine that would leave even a mighty Veyron for dead in the curves. Plutocrats needn’t liquidate their Swiss bank holdings for the privilege of owning one, either. Builds start at $31,000 in the US.

    *(Ducati offered the 1199 Superleggera, a $65,000 whim that could out-accelerate a Panigale R, to 500 customers in 2013-14. It sold out.)

  • Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse World Record / Ducati 1199 Panigale R

    How much is too much? The question resonated through the summer of 2013, when Bugatti – the boutique French builder of impossibly advanced, improbably pretty sports cars – introduced the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse World Record, its raciest dress package for the world’s quickest topless production car. Recent group acquisition Ducati is the only brand within the VW firmament that builds anything that approximates the open-air hysterics and profligate, petrol-vaporising potency of the Veyron. The 1199 Panigale R (above) is, quite simply, the quickest version* of perhaps the quickest bike currently manufactured, a machine that would leave even a mighty Veyron for dead in the curves. Plutocrats needn’t liquidate their Swiss bank holdings for the privilege of owning one, either. Builds start at $31,000 in the US.

    *(Ducati offered the 1199 Superleggera, a $65,000 whim that could out-accelerate a Panigale R, to 500 customers in 2013-14. It sold out.)

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