2019 Audi A3 Cabriolet vs. 2020 BMW Z4

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The A3 Cabriolet has standard tall side airbags which act as a forgiving barrier between the driver and front passenger's upper bodies and the window and pillars. Combined with high-strength steel door beams and lower side airbags this system increases head protection in broadside collisions. The Z4 doesn't offer side airbag protection for the head.

The A3 Cabriolet 45 TSFI has all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Z4 doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

Both the A3 Cabriolet and the Z4 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, post-collision automatic braking systems, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

Reliability

The Audi A3 Cabriolet’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the Z4’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Audi vehicles are more reliable than BMW vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Audi 1 place higher in reliability than BMW.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the A3 Cabriolet gets better fuel mileage than the Z4:

MPG

A3

FWD

2.0 Turbo 4 cyl.

26 city/35 hwy

Z4

RWD

M40i 3.0 Turbo 6 cyl.

24 city/31 hwy

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the A3 Cabriolet’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Z4 doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Audi A3 Cabriolet higher (7 out of 10) than the BMW Z4 (3 to 7). This means the A3 Cabriolet produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Z4 every 15,000 miles.

Transmission and Drivetrain

The A3 Cabriolet offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The Z4 doesn’t offer an SMG or a conventional manual transmission.

All wheel drive, available in the A3 Cabriolet, provides the best traction for acceleration in wet, dry, and icy conditions. In corners, all wheel drive allows both outside wheels to provide power, balancing the car. This allows for better handling. The BMW Z4 is not available with all wheel drive.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the A3 Cabriolet’s wheelbase is 5 inches longer than on the Z4 (102.2 inches vs. 97.2 inches).

Passenger Space

The A3 Cabriolet has standard seating for 4 passengers; the Z4 can only carry 2.

The A3 Cabriolet has 27 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Z4 (79 vs. 52).

Cargo Capacity

The A3 Cabriolet’s standard rear seats fold to accommodate long and bulky cargo. The Z4 doesn’t offer folding rear seats, only a ski pass-through.

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than BMW. J.D. Power ranks Audi 8th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 10% lower rating, BMW is ranked 11th.

Ergonomics

The A3 Cabriolet’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Z4’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the A3 Cabriolet to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Z4 doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the A3 Cabriolet has standard extendable sun visors. The Z4 doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Model Availability

The Audi A3 comes in convertible and sedan bodystyles; the BMW Z4 isn’t available as a sedan.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Audi A3 Cabriolet, based on reliability, safety and performance. The BMW Z4 isn't recommended.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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