2019 Audi A4 vs. 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Audi A4 have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The BMW 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Audi A4 are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Audi Pre Sense City in the A4 as “Superior.” The 3 Series Sedan scores at most only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

The A4 has standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

To help make backing safer, the A4’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

Both the A4 and the 3 Series Sedan have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and around view monitors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Audi A4 is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

A4

3 Series Sedan

 

Driver

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

164

232

Neck Injury Risk

26%

36%

Neck Stress

232 lbs.

345 lbs.

Neck Compression

55 lbs.

113 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Audi A4 is safer than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

A4

3 Series Sedan

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Restraints

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

171

549

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Femur Force R/L

1.3/.4 kN

3.4/3.4 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/1%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Tibia index R/L

.42/.52

.65/.82

Tibia forces R/L

2.5/1 kN

3.4/4.2 kN

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Audi A4 is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

A4

3 Series Sedan

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

172

258

Chest Movement

1.1 inches

1.1 inches

Abdominal Force

219 G’s

232 G’s

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

277

326

Spine Acceleration

56 G’s

64 G’s

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

17 inches

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Reliability

The Audi A4’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the 3 Series Sedan’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.

Engine

As tested in Motor Trend the A4 45 TFSI is faster than the 330i (automatics tested):

 

A4

3 Series

Zero to 30 MPH

1.7 sec

1.9 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5 sec

5.6 sec

Zero to 80 MPH

8.5 sec

9.5 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

13.6 sec

14.9 sec

Passing 45 to 65 MPH

2.7 sec

3 sec

Quarter Mile

13.7 sec

14.2 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

100.4 MPH

97.8 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the A4 gets better fuel mileage than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

 

A4

3 Series

 

2WD

40 TFSI/Auto

27 city/34 hwy

24 city/35 hwy

320i/Auto

 

 

n/a

24 city/34 hwy

330i/Auto/Auto

AWD

45 TFSI/Auto

23 city/34 hwy

23 city/34 hwy

320i/Auto

 

 

n/a

23 city/33 hwy

330i/Auto

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi A4 uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The 3 Series Sedan requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Transmission

The A4 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 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer an SMG.

The A4 Auto’s launch control uses engine electronics to hold engine RPM’s precisely in order to provide the most stable and rapid acceleration possible, using all of the available traction. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer launch control.

Brakes and Stopping

The A4 stops much shorter than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

A4

3 Series

 

70 to 0 MPH

155 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

105 feet

115 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the A4’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 3 Series Sedan (245/40R18 vs. 225/40R19).

The A4’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 3 Series Sedan’s optional 40 series front tires.

The A4 has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the 3 Series Sedan; it requires you to depend on its run-flat tires, which limits mileage and speed before they are repaired. If a run-flat is damaged beyond repair by a road hazard your vehicle will have to be towed. Some models of the 3 Series Sedan don’t even offer run-flats.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the A4 is 1.6 inches wider in the front than on the 3 Series Sedan.

The A4 Premium Plus Quattro handles at .92 G’s, while the 340i pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The A4 Premium Plus Quattro executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1 seconds quicker than the 330i (25.3 seconds @ .74 average G’s vs. 26.3 seconds @ .7 average G’s).

Chassis

The design of the Audi A4 amounts to more than styling. The A4 has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .27 Cd. That is lower than the 3 Series Sedan (.28 to .29) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the A4 get better fuel mileage.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the A4 Prestige Quattro is quieter than the 340i xDrive:

 

A4

3 Series

Full-Throttle

70 dB

75 dB

70 MPH Cruising

63 dB

70 dB

Passenger Space

The A4 has .8 inches more front shoulder room and .6 inches more rear legroom than the 3 Series Sedan.

Cargo Capacity

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the A4 has a standard power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button, or optionally by just kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a power trunk.

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than BMW. J.D. Power ranks Audi third in service department satisfaction. With a 14% lower rating, BMW is ranked 8th.

Ergonomics

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the A4 has standard extendable sun visors. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the A4 keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the A4 is less expensive to operate than the 3 Series Sedan because typical repairs cost much less on the A4 than the 3 Series Sedan, including $43 less for a water pump, $223 less for a muffler, $25 less for front brake pads, $129 less for fuel injection, $478 less for a timing belt/chain and $319 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Both are recommended, but Consumer Reports® chose the Audi A4 as its “Top Pick,” the highest scoring vehicle in its category, based on reliability, safety and performance.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the A4 first among compact premium cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The 3 Series Sedan isn’t in the top three.

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

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