Two of the most popular competitors in the compact executive class are the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. This German pair have both had total redesigns in the past few years with even more of a focus on luxury and refinement. We take a closer look at both cars to help you pick which would suit you best…
If you’re sold on them, put either the Mercedes C-Class or the Audi A4 in our car configurator to see the deals carwow could help you get. For more options, check out our list of the best large family cars on sale.
Mercedes C-Class vs Audi A4 – styling
Mercedes has based the C-Class’ styling on its flagship S-Class helping it look upmarket. Its bold front grille and LED headlights are distinctive and the flowing lines give the car a certain visual grace shared with its big brother. The AMG Line package brings larger alloy wheels and more aggressive detailing but, in any guise, the C-Class is undoubtedly a handsome car.
Audi only launched the current A4 in 2015, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just a heavily facelifted version of the old car – it shares a lot of visual DNA with the German brand’s other models, making it more subtle than its rival. There are some highlights, however, not least the distinctive LED headlights and bold Audi grille. Equally, being less extrovert will probably suit some buyers better.
Mercedes C-Class vs Audi A4 – interior
When the C-Class was launched, it received near-universal praise for its stunning dashboard – with a stylish design and luxurious materials, it stands apart from the button-heavy interiors of certain rivals. The latest version of Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system isn’t quite as good as Audi’s unit but is much improved compared to older Mercedes models. That said, the tablet-style screen might not suit everyone.
Interior quality and sophisticated design is a hallmark of modern Audi cabins, and the A4 is no exception. There’s a much cleaner layout than older models, with lots of soft-touch materials and real metal trim to give an upmarket impression – at least as posh as the C-Class. Other highlights include the excellent MMI infotainment system and excellent optional Virtual Cockpit – at £450 on top of the £2,000 Technology pack it’s pricey but worth it.
In terms of practicality, both cars are well matched – four people will have ample space, with six-footers being comfortable in the rear as well as the front. Unfortunately, large transmission tunnels in both cars mean the centre middle seat is only suitable for children on short journeys at best. Boot space is an identical 480 litres in both cars, but practicality is limited by the saloon layout – though estate variants are available.
Mercedes C-Class vs Audi A4 – driving
Neither of these cars focus on providing race car thrills, instead opting to offer excellent refinement and a cosseting ride. The Audi offers adaptive sports suspension for £600, and the Mercedes can be optioned with air suspension for £890 but, unless you especially desire either option, the standard springs do just fine in both cars.
The C-Class is predominantly rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive has just been announced as an option on C 220 d models with the nine-speed automatic. Entry-level A4s are front-wheel drive but stepping up to more powerful engines means Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system becomes standard – otherwise it’s optional with 2.0-litre engines.
Mercedes C-Class vs Audi A4 – engines
In terms of engines, the choices for both cars are very comprehensive. The Mercedes has a somewhat diesel biased lineup, with a choice of four units, along with three petrol engines. The entry-level C 200 d has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine producing 136hp and is capable of 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds – thanks to its low emissions, this version will probably be popular with company car drivers.
Most buyers will prefer to step up to the C 220 d or C 250 d, both of which use a 2.1-litre diesel motor with either 170 or 204hp and capable of reaching 0-62mph in 7.4 and 6.6 seconds respectively. For more efficiency, the C 300 h adds a 27hp hybrid motor and shaves 0.2 seconds off the acceleration time yet returns 79mpg. The C 200 petrol has a turbocharged 184hp 2.0-litre engine, and the C 350 e adds an electric motor for a total output of 279hp – 0-62mph taking 7.3 and 5.9 seconds respectively and the latter returning a claimed 135mpg.
The A4 has a similarly extensive range of engines, with the entry-level choice being a 2.0-litre diesel producing 148hp and capable of 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds. There’s also a more powerful version producing 188hp which can do the same sprint in 7.7 seconds. Performance fans can chose one of two 3.0-litre diesel variants, producing either 215hp or 268hp that reach 62mph from rest in 6.6 and 5.3 seconds respectively.
Petrol choices are two versions of a 2.0-litre unit, with either 188hp or 248hp, they are capable of completing the 0-62mph sprint in 7.2 or 5.8 seconds. There’s also a 1.4-litre engine with 148hp and a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds. A more potent S4 version is coming soon but, for now, performance buyers will need to look toward the Mercedes – the C63 AMG has a 4.0-litre V8 engine with either 476hp or 510hp, a 0-62mph time of 4.1 or 4.0 seconds and sounds like Thor having a fight with a sabre-toothed tiger.
Mercedes C-Class vs Audi A4 – value for money
Basic petrol models with manual gearboxes will cost you £25,900 for the Audi and £27,665 for the Mercedes – a difference of £1,765. Neither model is particularly badly equipped, but they miss out on satellite navigation and leather heated seats. Stepping up to Sport trim costs roughly £1,000 in the Audi and £2,000 in the Mercedes, with a similar amount again getting you into top-spec S-Line and AMG-Line models.
A lengthy options list, diesel engine and an automatic gearbox will all add to bottom line prices, and the scope for personalisation is pretty much endless. A C 220 d AMG Line 4Matic is priced from £36,625, whereas a A4 S-Line 2.0 TDI quattro S-Tronic will set you back £34,775. Adding metallic paint costs around £650, and the most desirable technology comes in the form of the £2,995 Premium Plus package on the C-Class, and the £1,450 Technology pack on the A4.
In terms of running costs, the cars are, again, similarly well matched. The C-Class should return between 53.3-78.5mpg for non AMG models, with all diesel engines returning more than 65mpg combined. The A4 can achieve between 47.9-74.3mpg with all diesels bettering 61mpg. The 66-litre fuel tank in non-hybrid C-Class models should mean a maximum range of 1,051 miles, compared to just 881 miles in the A4, which only has a 54-litre tank in its largest iteration.
Mercedes C-Class vs Audi A4 – verdict
Mercedes has, in the C-Class, basically built a mini-S-Class. Choose the right specification and it has ample power and refinement to waft around in near perfect comfort. Its fantastic interior and marginally more efficient engines make it an excellent companion on long motorway journeys.
The Audi A4 represents Audi’s traditional strengths of superb quality and advanced technology. It has a sportier aura than the Mercedes, but still has enough refinement to feel relaxed on the motorway. It’s somewhat more understated than the C-Class so might be the better choice for those looking to fly under the radar.
Save money on your new compact executive
If you’re sold on either model, check out our Mercedes C-Class deals page or Audi A4 deals page to see how much carwow could save you on your new car. Or, if you reckon you’d prefer another model, use our handy car chooser to find your ideal new car or our deals page to see our latest discounts.