2020 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe vs. 2019 Audi S3 Sedan

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe offers an optional Side and Top View Cameras to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The S3 Sedan 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.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has standard BMW Assist, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the 4 Series Gran Coupe and the S3 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, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras, rear cross-path warning and available all wheel drive.

Warranty

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the 4 Series Gran Coupe 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 S3 Sedan.

There are over 13 percent more BMW dealers than there are Audi dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s warranty.

Reliability

The battery on the 4 Series Gran Coupe is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The S3 Sedan’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the 4 Series Gran Coupe first among compact premium cars in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The S3 Sedan isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 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 11th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 18 more problems per 100 vehicles, Audi is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

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 440i Gran Coupe’s standard 3.0 turbo 6 cyl. produces 32 more horsepower (320 vs. 288) and 50 lbs.-ft. more torque (330 vs. 280) than the S3 Sedan’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the 4 Series Gran Coupe gets better fuel mileage than the S3 Sedan:

MPG

4 Series Gran Coupe

RWD

430i 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

23 city/34 hwy

440i 3.0 turbo 6 cyl.

22 city/30 hwy

AWD

430i 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

21 city/31 hwy

440i 3.0 turbo 6 cyl.

22 city/30 hwy

S3 Sedan

AWD

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

22 city/29 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the 4 Series Gran Coupe’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 S3 Sedan doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has 1.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the S3 Sedan (15.8 vs. 14.5 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a seven-speed automatic is available for the S3 Sedan.

Tires and Wheels

Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires standard on the 4 Series Gran Coupe can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer run-flat tires.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s wheelbase is 7 inches longer than on the S3 Sedan (110.6 inches vs. 103.6 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the 4 Series Gran Coupe is 2.7 inches wider in the rear than the track on the S3 Sedan.

Chassis

The design of the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe amounts to more than styling. The 4 Series Gran Coupe has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .29 Cd. That is lower than the S3 Sedan (.31) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the 4 Series Gran Coupe get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the 4 Series Gran Coupe a Compact car, while the S3 Sedan is rated a Subcompact.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has 6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the S3 Sedan (92 vs. 86).

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has 3.4 inches more front headroom, 1 inch more front legroom, .8 inches more rear headroom and 1.3 inches more rear shoulder room than the S3 Sedan.

Cargo Capacity

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has a larger trunk with its rear seat up than the S3 Sedan (17 vs. 10 cubic feet).

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s power liftgate can be opened or closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening trunk.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the 4 Series Gran Coupe is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the S3 Sedan. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The S3 Sedan doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

Ergonomics

When two different drivers share the 4 Series Gran Coupe, the memory system makes it convenient for both. Each keyless remote activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a memory system.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

Comfort Access standard on the 4 Series Gran Coupe allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Audi S3 Sedan’s Audi Advanced Key doesn’t unlock the trunk.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The 4 Series Gran Coupe offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the 4 Series Gran Coupe offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer cornering lights.

A power rear sunshade is optional in the 4 Series Gran Coupe to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

When the 4 Series Gran Coupe 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 S3 Sedan’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

Both the 4 Series Gran Coupe and the S3 Sedan offer available heated front seats. The 4 Series Gran Coupe also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the S3 Sedan.

On extremely cold winter days, the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

Model Availability

The BMW 4 Series comes in coupe, convertible and four-door hatchback bodystyles; the Audi S3 isn’t available as a coupe or convertible.

The 4 Series Gran Coupe is available in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations. The S3 Sedan doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the 4 Series Gran Coupe owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the 4 Series Gran Coupe will cost $2395 less than the S3 Sedan over a five-year period.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe will be $2433 to $5377 less than for the Audi S3 Sedan.

Recommendations

The 4 Series was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” in 2014. The S3 Sedan has never been a Car and Driver “Top Ten” pick.

The 4 Series was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2014. The S3 Sedan has never been an “All Star.”

The BMW 4 Series outsold the Audi A3/S3 by 71% during 2018.

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

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