Video: Which Did It Best: Audi A4, BMW 330i or Mercedes C300?
By Cars.com EditorsJune 16, 2017
About the video
Among 2017 Luxury Sports Sedan Challenge competitors, the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class stand out as archrivals.
The Audi A4, BMW3 series and Mercedes Benz C-Class are arch rivals among compact luxury sedans. They are extremely competitive in the market and they're competitive in terms of features, things like that.
But if you look at their spec sheets or windows stickers like this, you'll see the same things across the board just 'cause they're there though doesn't mean they're all done well. So what we're gonna do is run you through who does it best and who does it worst in a number of features and attributes. Right off the bat here are a couple from the BMW3 series, who did it worst? Door locks. Wait a minute, where are they? Oh, that's right. It's an older design. The only door lock button is one button, way in the middle of the dashboard. It's time for them to catch up with the times. And then there's the spring back turn signal. Even BMW seems to have recognized that once you hit this thing it's better if it stays down 'cause then it's like a tactical message to you that it's still on and you don't drive with an on all the time. So who does turn signals best? Well, either of the BMW has competitors do it fine as it regards to the turn signal lever. But we're gonna say the Audi A4 does it best 'cause it has that cool progressive taillight turn signal that moves off to the side. Next up, drive train mode selection buttons. Who did it worse? Well, unfortunately it's the Audi A4. This is the drive select feature as they call it. The problem is the buttons are up here and mixed in with other buttons. You can't really operate them by feel. And when you hit them first it comes up on the display and then you have to hit it again to make it work. So first they're not within reach, you can't tell by feeling them and you have to hit them twice. So who did it best? The BMW3 series, the mode selection isn't the form of a rocker switch right here, easy to feel with your hands, you don't even have to look down forward, makes it progressively more sporty, back makes it more comfortable and efficient. Next up is multimedia systems. All three of these cars use the approach with a separate controller system and a screen up high as opposed to a touchscreen. And they're all pretty good. But if we have to pick a favorite, it is the BMW3 series iDrive system which is amazing because when this system first came out, it was the first of its type and it was terrible and everyone hated it. They've worked on it, they've made it better. Now what you get is much simpler menus with a really nice display of kind of a preview of what is underneath each selection there. They made it simple and usable and they kept it that way. Who did it worst? Well, in this case it's the A4's Multimedia Interface or MMI. Now to be clear, it's still a good system but we actually used to like it better before. It's kind of the opposite of what happened with iDrive. iDrive was too complex and got better. MMI was really clear and usable. And now it's gotten a little bit more complex. Now you got things on the left, you've got things on the right in addition to the general rotating knob selections. No question it's a beautiful interface, lots of good graphics better than iDrive but if we have to choose, this one, did it worst. Next up moon roofs, who did it worst? Well, it's the Audi A4. A perfectly respectable moon roof with a real solid sliding shade. Thing is it's just not that big. In fairness, the BMW's moon roof is only a little bit bigger but look at this, who did it right? Mercedes Benz C class, look at the size of this thing. First of all, the front one goes way farther back than the other two and a bonus second moon roof in the back. All of these cars have automatic transmission. So which has the best gear selector. Trick question, they all suck. They're all these springy electronic controls as opposed to actual shifters, but who did it best? Here's a shocker, the column shifter on the Mercedes. I know it sounds crazy but here's what we're thinking. If it's just going to be an electronic switch, why not put it up here and out of the way, if it's gonna be on the console, you want it to be a real mechanical or at least mechanical feeling shifter with park, neutral, reverse, drive, et cetera. So who did it worse? The BMW3 series. Now, honestly we thought about it. Is there that much difference between the springy lever in the BMW3 series and the A4 from Audi? Not too much but for what it's worth, the first place we started seeing these little spring back deals instead of real shifters was in a BMW. So BMW you're guilty and you did it worst. A little redemption for BMW however is in the form of who did the best parking brake? And it is BMW, why? Because it's a hand lever. I know you think it's a small deal but if you like performance driving every now and then you wanna pull in e-brake turn and the other guys both have electronic parking brake switches. Last aspect, trunks, who did it best? Well, they all do it quite well. They got good size trunks and the hinges go off to the side and don't encroach on the trunk space, the cargo space. But here's the difference. Look at the pass through, even though they all have pass-throughs, this one is enormous. It is super wide and super tall. And that is actually pretty rare. So who did it worst? Well, it's the Mercedes. Now you can see it's a little bit narrower than the body itself and there's this cross-member up top that compromises some of the height. Bear in mind if you look at the entire class, the Mercedes is still quite good. Clearly some of these differences aren't that great which really underscores how closely tied these competitors are. And some of these features might not seem that important but once you're an owner, the bloom comes off the rows and little things like this start to annoy you. Check out our luxury sedan comparison for all of the driving results and more.