If you’re looking to buy a prestige coupe these days, the 4 Series and the A5 are sure to be close to the top of your list. But how do they compare against each other? To give you a head start, here we put these two highly desirable Germans up against each other to see which one’s the best.
BMW likes to point out the differences between the 4 Series and the latest 3 Series, but it doesn’t say too much about the difference between the 4 Series and the 3 Series Coupe, because it doesn’t look wildly different.
The 4 Series is still a good looking car, with a big, wide front grille. It’s a more aggressive and sporty shape than the 3 Series, but that coupe-like roof will have implications for rear-seat headroom, which we’ll cover in a bit.
The A5’s styling has been loved by the motoring press and buyers alike since the first version came out in 2007. The A5 is still every inch an Audi whichever way you look at it, but it’s hard to overstate how much the sloping roof differentiates it from the A4 upon which it’s based. It’s worth noting that the A5 is quite an old car now, and we expect Audi to announce a new A5 in 2016.
The interior of the 4 Series is once again hard to separate from that of the 3 Series, which means although it’s perfectly acceptable, it isn’t exactly the car’s strong point. It’s functional enough and looks well made, but the centre console is quite cluttered with buttons.
Without going to the extremes of the luxury market, Audi interiors like the one in the A5 are pretty much the benchmark for excellence in the industry right now. In fact, even by Audi standards, the A5’s interior really is very nice indeed. Quality materials, exceptional build quality and indulgent design details abound in the A5. Everything’s right where it should be and it really is hard to find fault.
Thanks to their sloping rooflines, neither car is exactly accommodating for taller passengers sitting in the back seats, but that’s the price you pay for coupe styling.
You’re certainly not short of choices when it comes to the engine in your 4 Series, with four and six-cylinder diesels and petrols. Both petrol and diesel entry level engines represent the best choices in terms of value and efficiency, while the top of the range engines are inevitably the best performers.
If you’re just looking to enjoy your 4 Series as much as you can, the 302-horsepower six-cylinder petrol engine in the 435i is the most fun, unless you go for the truly rapid M4. Add into the equation the fact that all 4 Series models are rear-wheel drive and have the option of BMW’s excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox, and what’s not to like?
If the natural reaction with the BMW is to go for a petrol engine, it’s probably the opposite with the Audi. The most powerful diesel engine for the A5 is the 3.0-litre V6, which delivers a pleasing combination of power and fuel efficiency. Once again though, choice isn’t an issue with an almost bewildering array of engine options available in the A5. The most powerful petrol engine is a 333hp supercharged V6 in the S5.
If you’re firmly committed to a diesel the A5 offers the best solutions, but if you want a petrol the BMW is the obvious choice here.
BMW has always prided itself on producing the “ultimate driving machine” so you’d expect a coupe to be particularly good to drive. If you have any worries that the German giant might be softening in this area, you can forget them.
There may be the odd issue with things like the optional Variable Sport Steering – which makes the steering lighter at low speeds but offers less feedback than a normal setup – but the 4 Series is undeniably a real driver’s car in every way. The ride is firm enough to make it handle well, but without making the car overly uncomfortable. The overall feeling is one of balance and engagement.
When you drive the A5 you can tell how much time Audi and its designers and engineers spend on their interiors and fuel efficiency. The A5 may handle reasonably well and have plenty of grip, but it lacks the excitement you get when driving the BMW quickly. The ride is also rather firm, especially in S-Line models.
On the plus side though, the Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system does add loads of confidence to the driving experience in inclement weather conditions.
If practicality is at the top of your list of buying priorities, it’s unlikely you will be looking at a coupe like the 4 Series in the first place. The back seats in the BMW are best used for children, or taller adults only on very short journeys.
The BMW 4 Series does offer surprisingly good visibility for a coupe though, and there’s lots of room for adjustment in the driver’s seat to get a comfortable position. The boot is adequate at 445 litres, but it’s a long way from being a class-leader.
The A5 is pretty practical for a coupe, although rear headroom is obviously compromised by the sloping roof. There are lots of storage spaces and cubby holes though, which give you the feeling that the designers really thought about practicality here. The A5 does score points for being available in five-door ‘Sportback’ form, meaning you get the same svelte coupe look, but with easier access to the rear seats.
Although the boot is 10 litres bigger in the A5 than the 4 Series, there isn’t as much headroom or legroom in the Audi as there is in the BMW.
It really does come down to what you want from your coupe when deciding between these two. While both are in the same segment of the industry, they’re actually very different from each other.
If you want good looks, impressive diesel economy, a fantastic cabin and reasonable levels of practicality, you have to go for the Audi A5.
However, if you want a coupe that handles as well and always puts a huge smile on your face, then the BMW 4 Series is the easy winner.
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