Sedans might be losing out to crossovers overall but this does not mean that carmakers are not still fighting to the death for volume in the 4-door segments. This is especially true in the entry-level luxury categories where cars like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C Class are involved.
Where these manufacturers are concerned, these three sedans remain in their respective top-3, perhaps top-2, best selling nameplates. If you live in any medium to large urban area, these cars are very common sights.
For the purpose of this comparison, we’ve pitted the Audi A4 and Mercedes C Class against each other. The BMW 3 Series, the G20, is all new, and we’ve not driven it yet.
Which is more enjoyable to drive?
As similar as these cars are, they have different ways of going about their business. Both begin with the “luxury meets comfort” imperative and move in slightly different directions from there.
Taking the C 300 4MATIC and A4 as the comparative set, and not the C 43 and S4, the Mercedes is more about pampering. The A4 has a sportier if slightly sharper demeanour that we personally find more endearing.
The turbocharged 2.0-litre engines in both cars are impressively torquey, and always at the ready. There are no real discernable differences between the two as they produce near identical power figures and generate equal acceleration times.
On the other hand, the transmissions are very unalike units. The Audi’s 7-speed s tronic is equal parts smooth operator and hammer, as in it will pound away at the gears should the driver be in a real rush. The 9-speed autobox in the Mercedes can also play hardball but is tuned primarily and once more, to cosset.
The primary divergence is the driving experience itself. The Audi A4 is more dynamically inclined, as in, it revels at the thought of carving back roads. It also feels right at home enduring the daily grind.
The Mercedes is best suited for the commute and although it’ll play along quite nicely through a series of switchbacks, its main focus is getting you from point A to point B in luxury.
Answer: 2019 Audi A4
Which is more fuel-efficient?
With virtually identical (about 10kg apart) curb weights and similar engine configurations, both the Mercedes and Audi should consume between 8.5 and 9L/100 km.
At the time of writing these lines, Mercedes Canada had not yet revealed official numbers. The sole changing factor is the 9-speed transmission, with its extra overdrive gears. However, the 9-speed is likely heavier than the 7-speed unit and thus would negate any real advantage.
Answer: it’s a tie
Which is more spacious?
Both vehicles offer generous amounts of room for compact luxury sedans. The Mercedes’ boot volume is rated as larger than the Audi’s but the amount of useable space is similar.
Rear passengers are well treated as are the front occupants. The Audi’s dash is far busier but physically less intrusive. The Mercedes’ dashboard seems to occupy more space but its sparse layout is visually lighter.
The end result is that both German carmakers know how to take care of its precious customers.
Answer: it’s a tie
Which has the better value?
Mercedes has a long-standing relationship with luxury car buyers. Of all brands, the three-pointed star may have some of the most loyal customers in all the well-established segments in which it has a product. This applies to the entry-level luxury sedan, unlike the entry-level luxury crossover, for example.
For many, the simple mention of “Mercedes” is guaranteed value. In the other corner, Audi has suffered from a less envious love/hate relationship with its customers. Although a Mercedes is by no means more reliable than an Audi, Mercedes owners are more forgiving on the whole. Audi owners are fickler, and likely to move on to another brand once the lease is up.
Equipment-wise, both cars tick all the important technology and safety boxes. Starting prices are just about on par with each other and can fluctuate depending on the time of year and incentives. This is another tough call.
Answer: 2019 Mercedes C Class
Which would we recommend?
Based on this comparison test, the we would go with the Audi A4, if mostly for the driving experience. Had we not done this little exercise, we’d have gone for the A4 anyhow. The principal reason for this outcome is our physical age, not the mental one…
If we average our combined age, we’re 37. As a 37-year-old, we find that Audi is hipper, more youthful-looking brand. We like the vibe, the designs and how we feel behind the wheel. Don’t get us wrong! We love Mercedes and what they’re currently up to. In fact, if we’d compared the Mercedes A Class to the Audi A3, the gang from Stuttgart would take the honors, all of them!
In this scenario, despite the C Class being fresh from an update, it still looks too grown-up and aimed at an older clientele. The A4, also on the receiving end of a refresh, jives better with what would be our desire to project a young well-to-do image.
Having said all that, once our collective age reaches 55+, we’ll likely change our minds. And so finally, if you’re under 60, go for Audi. Over 60? Mercedes all the way.