2019 Audi S3 Sedan vs. 2018 BMW M3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The S3 Sedan’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The M3 doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Audi S3 Sedan 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 M3 doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The S3 Sedan has a standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The M3 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.

The S3 Sedan has all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The M3 doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

To help make backing safer, the S3 Sedan’s 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 M3 doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

Both the S3 Sedan and the M3 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 and available lane departure warning systems.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the S3 Sedan the rating of “Top Pick” for 2018, a rating granted to only 85 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The M3 has not been tested, yet.

Reliability

The Audi S3 Sedan’s engine uses a cast iron block for durability, while the M3’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

The M3’s redline is at 7600 RPM, which causes more engine wear, and a greater chance of a catastrophic engine failure. The S3 Sedan has a 6500 RPM redline.

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the S3 Sedan has a standard 320-amp alternator. The M3’s 209-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

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

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi S3 Sedan uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The M3 requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Transmission

The Audi S3 Sedan comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the M3.

Tires and Wheels

The S3 Sedan 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 M3; it requires you to depend on roadside assistance and your vehicle will have to be towed.

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the S3 Sedan’s turning circle is 3.9 feet tighter than the M3’s (36.1 feet vs. 40 feet).

Chassis

The S3 Sedan is 8.7 inches shorter than the M3, making the S3 Sedan easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The design of the Audi S3 Sedan amounts to more than styling. The S3 Sedan has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .31 Cd. That is lower than the M3 (.34) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the S3 Sedan get better fuel mileage.

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

The S3 Sedan’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 M3’s passenger windows don’t open or close automatically.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the S3 Sedan has standard extendable sun visors. The M3 doesn’t offer extendable visors.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the S3 Sedan Prestige has a standard Adaptive Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The M3 doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the S3 Sedan owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the S3 Sedan will cost $1705 to $3240 less than the M3 over a five-year period.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Audi S3 Sedan will be $8562 to $14269 less than for the BMW M3.

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

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