2020 BMW 3 Series Sedan vs. 2019 Audi S4

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the 3 Series Sedan and the S4 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, around view monitors and rear cross-path warning.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the 3 Series Sedan its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The S4 has not been tested, yet.

Warranty

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the 3 Series Sedan for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Audi only pays for the first scheduled maintenance visit on the S4.

There are over 13 percent more BMW dealers than there are Audi dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the 3 Series Sedan’s warranty.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that BMW vehicles are better in initial quality than Audi vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 20th in initial quality. With 4 more problems per 100 vehicles, Audi is ranked 22nd.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Audi vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 7th in reliability, above the industry average. With 2 more problems per 100 vehicles, Audi is ranked 8th.

Engine

The M340i’s standard 3.0 turbo 6-cyl. produces 33 more horsepower (382 vs. 349) than the S4’s 3.0 turbo V6.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the 3 Series Sedan gets better fuel mileage than the S4:

MPG

3 Series Sedan

RWD

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

M340i 3.0 turbo 6-cyl.

22 city/30 hwy

AWD

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

M340i 3.0 turbo 6-cyl.

22 city/30 hwy

S4

AWD

3.0 turbo V6

21 city/30 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the 3 Series Sedan’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The S4 doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the 3 Series Sedan’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 S4 doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Tires and Wheels

The 3 Series Sedan’s optional 255/30R20 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 30 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the S4’s optional 35 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the 3 Series Sedan offers optional 20-inch wheels. The S4’s largest wheels are only 19-inches.

Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires standard on the 3 Series Sedan can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The S4 doesn’t offer run-flat tires.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the 3 Series Sedan is .7 inches wider in the front and 2 inches wider in the rear than on the S4.

For better maneuverability, the 3 Series Sedan’s turning circle is .7 feet tighter than the S4’s (37.4 feet vs. 38.1 feet).

Chassis

The BMW 3 Series Sedan may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs up to about 250 pounds less than the Audi S4.

The design of the BMW 3 Series Sedan amounts to more than styling. The 3 Series Sedan has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .26 Cd. That is lower than the S4 (.29) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the 3 Series Sedan get better fuel mileage.

The front grille of the 3 Series Sedan uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The S4 doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The 3 Series Sedan has .7 inches more front legroom, .1 inches more front shoulder room, .2 inches more rear headroom and .1 inches more rear shoulder room than the S4.

Cargo Capacity

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the 3 Series Sedan offers an optional 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 S4 doesn’t offer a power trunk, so its trunk has to be closed manually.

Ergonomics

The 3 Series Sedan offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The S4 doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

If the windows are left open on the 3 Series Sedan the driver can close them all at the outside door handle or from a distance using the remote. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the S4 can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

The S4’s cornering lamps activate a lamp on the front corner when the turn signal is activated. The 3 Series Sedan’s optional adaptive cornering lights turn the actual headlight unit up to several degrees, depending on steering wheel angle and vehicle speed. This lights a significant distance into corners at any speed.

When the 3 Series Sedan is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The S4’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The 3 Series Sedan’s optional Parking Assistant Plus can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The S4 doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

The BMW 3 Series comes in sedan, four door hatchback and station wagon bodystyles; the Audi S4 isn’t available as a four door hatchback or station wagon.

The 3 Series Sedan is available in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations. The S4 doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Recommendations

The BMW 3 Series outsold the Audi A4/S4 by 29% during 2018.

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

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