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The A5 has standard head airbag curtains for front and rear seats which act as a forgiving barrier between the driver and outboard 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 A5 has all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Z4 doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.
The A5 Prestige has a standard Top and Corner View Cameras to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Z4 only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.
Both the A5 and the Z4 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, 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 and rear cross-path warning.
For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and its standard front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the A5 the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 157 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Z4 has not been tested, yet.
The Audi A5’s engine uses 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.
In heavy traffic or at stoplights the A5’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.
To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi A5 uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The Z4 requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.
The A5 has 1.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the Z4 (15.3 vs. 13.7 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.
The A5 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 A5, 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.
For better stopping power the A5’s standard brake rotors are larger than those on the Z4:
For better traction, the A5 has larger standard tires than the Z4 (245/40R18 vs. 225/45R18).
The A5’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Z4’s standard 45 series front tires.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the A5 Cabriolet’s wheelbase is 11.7 inches longer than on the Z4 (108.9 inches vs. 97.2 inches).
The A5 has standard seating for 4 passengers; the Z4 can only carry 2.
The A5 Cabriolet has 29 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Z4 (81 vs. 52).
The A5’s standard rear seats fold to accommodate long and bulky cargo. The Z4 doesn’t offer folding rear seats, only a ski pass-through.
To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just kicking your foot under the back bumper can open the A5’s available trunk, leaving your hands completely free. The Z4 doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.
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.
The A5’s standard power windows have a locking feature to keep children in the rear seat from operating them, but the driver can still raise and lower all of them with the lock engaged. BMW does not offer a locking feature on the Z4’s standard power windows.
The A5’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 A5 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 A5 Coupe has standard extendable sun visors. The Z4 doesn’t offer extendable visors.
Optional air-conditioned seats in the A5 Premium Plus/Prestige keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Z4 doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.
The Audi A5 comes in coupe, convertible and four-door hatchback bodystyles; the BMW Z4 isn’t available as a coupe or four-door.
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