For many years, it seemed BMW had the market for fast saloon cars sewn up – its M3 could be bought in a variety of bodystyles and was praised for being exceptionally entertaining to drive. It now has a string of formidable rivals, including the brand new Audi S4.
The Audi will be available both as both a saloon and an ‘Avant’ estate, and its mix of subtle styling and huge performance will present a strong challenge to the BMW. An even crazier RS4 is due toward the end of 2016 – if you really want to worry your license! Read on to discover how the S4 compares to the M3.
If you can’t wait for the S4, check out powerful versions of the Audi A4 in our car deals page to see how much carwow could help you save.
Audi S4 vs BMW M3 styling
Some reviewers felt the Audi A4 was a little too subtle when it was launched in 2015 and, although the S4 variant ups the aggression factor a little, it could still be mistaken for many other Audi saloons. That’s not to say it isn’t a handsome car and the large alloy wheels, quad exhausts and LED running lights add to its quiet appeal. Those after a ‘sleeper’ – a fast car that doesn’t necessarily look it – might find the S4 offers the perfect balance.
As the flagship of the BMW 3 Series range, the M3 has been subjected to the usual array of visual enhancements. Side-skirts, bulging bonnet lines and more aggressive grilles all shout performance. It’s neither shy nor retiring, especially when specced in brighter paint colours so will suit those who want their performance car to look as fast as it goes.
Audi S4 vs BMW M3 interior and practicality
It’s almost become a little cliché to heap praise on Audi’s interiors but the new S4 truly raises the bar in terms of in-car technology and cabin design. High quality materials cover every surface and you won’t hear a squeak from any misfitting panels. The star of the show is the new MMI infotainment and virtual cockpit system, the latter of which replaces the dials with a giant screen with customisable views. Overall, the S4 will make you feel very special when you climb aboard.
The M3 has a nice interior too, and its iDrive infotainment system is one of the most impressive on the market. However the design is nearly four-years old and, although it isn’t exactly dated, it feels neither as stylish nor as upmarket as the Audi’s. Nevertheless, it’s a nice place to sit and there are plenty of sporty details to remind you that you’re sat in a high performance car.
In terms of practicality both cars are pretty evenly matched. There’s an identical 480 litres of boot space in the S4 and M3, and the rear seats can be folded to make even more room. Passenger space is reasonable with plenty of room for four people, or five if they don’t mind straddling the centre transmission tunnel. Audi will also sell you an S4 Avant, which offers 505 litres of cargo room.
Audi S4 vs BMW M3 driving
The standard Audi A4 is the best driving version ever, with agile handling and a compliant ride offering a great compromise between comfort and control. We haven’t driven the S4 yet, but it’s hard to imagine Audi fiddling around too much with this winning formula. Standard quattro all-wheel drive adds an extra sense of security, which you might need given the tremendous power on offer.
In the past, some have named the M3 among the best cars to drive ever. The current model has arguably lost a little of its hard edge, but arguably offers a better balance between compliance and handling. The rear-wheel-drive chassis and near-perfect weight distribution are major factors here and, despite the electrically assisted power steering offering little if any feedback, the M3 will always put a smile on your face. Keep the traction control on, too, or you might find yourself arriving everywhere sideways.
Audi S4 vs BMW M3 engines
Both the Audi and BMW have switched from using V8 petrol engines, to turbocharged 3.0-litre, six-cylinder ones – a V6 in the Audi and a straight-six in the BMW. Both have heaps of horsepower – the Audi offers 354hp and a blisteringly quick 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds. Combined with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive, it offers massively impressive pace.
BMW has endowed the M3 with two turbochargers, however, and this has resulted in a power figure of 431hp – enough to get from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds, despite only having rear-wheel drive. There’s either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, both of which perform admirably.
Audi S4 vs BMW M3 value for money and running costs
Despite the monstrous performance both cars offer, they are remarkably efficient. The S4 returns an official 38mpg and the BMW M3 manages a similarly respectable 34mpg – fantastic figures considering 20mpg would’ve been impressive just a few years ago. Use the performance too much, however, you can expect those figures to drop substantially.
Neither is offensively expensive to run, but servicing and parts will be noticeably more than the standard versions. When it comes to pricing, however, there’s a surprisingly large gap – BMW prices its M3 at £56,595, whereas Audi is expected to offer the S4 from a much lower £40,000. Of course, when the Audi RS4 arrives, it’ll offer even more performance and is expected to match the M3 for price.
Audi S4 vs BMW M3 verdict
It’s hard to pick a clear winner in this contest, but we think the new Audi S4 just edges ahead of the BMW M3 despite its slightly softer focus and lower powered engine. The S4’s interior feels genuinely premium and, while the BMW M3 is fast, the S4 is nearly as quick for noticeably less money.
The M3 is certainly exciting and, at the limit, it’ll be faster than the S4. It’s a question of whether the extra performance warrants a rough £15,000 increase in price, however. Equally, the M3’s lack of all-wheel drive means it won’t be as surefooted in poor conditions, especially in the snow – a rear-wheel drive BMW driver’s worst menace.
Save money on your next car
Read up on the latest Audi S4 news before our full review is released or check out our review of the BMW M3 to learn more. If you like the S4 but don’t need as much power, feel free to check out our deals on the standard Audi A4 saloon.