BMW 3 Series Diesel AT Vs Audi A4 Diesel AT

Friday 28 Apr 2017, 4:10 PM

Introduction

Despite the shift in the Indian consumer's demand from diesel cars to petrol, the demand for diesel cars is still high enough for automakers to take notice. Audi wanted to fulfil this demand in their compact luxury segment and so introduced their A4 sedan with diesel power earlier this year. How does this sedan stack up against the BMW's oil-burner 3 Series? Also, with an on-road price of sub ₹ 50 lakh which one should you settle for? Our comparison of these two will help you find out which one should be your pick of the two.

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Exterior

Let's talk about the BMW 3 Series 320d Sport Line first. Even if the looks are sharp, the design is long in the tooth, especially since its competitors have already moved on to curvier looks and exciting designs. However, just take a look at the well-proportioned and beautifully designed exterior. The overall stance, the lines on the car and the five dual-spoke alloys are meant to give this car a sporty character. The traditional kidney-shaped grille, twin-pod DRLs and LED tail lamps still continue to lend a wow factor to the car.

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On the other hand, the exterior of the Audi A4 diesel carries forward a more simple design. For some, this might be a very plain Jane avatar, but take a closer look and you will find that despite its simplistic appearance, this car still boasts of modern equipment. The LED headlamps with DRLs look subtle yet attractive. The five-spoke Tornado design alloys lend an uncluttered look to the car and the LED tail lamps feature dynamic turn indicators that add to the overall charisma.

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Interior

The sporty aura of the 3 Series extends to the interiors too with an all-black cabin that is only contrasted by accents of red and splashes of aluminium. The A4, on the other hand, gets an elegant looking dashboard with wooden touches and beige upholstery. Both cars get top class interiors in terms of fit and finish. The ergonomic cabins won't give you any reasons to complain as the controls are well placed and there are plenty of stowage options too. The electronically adjustable front seats provide a plethora of seat adjustment options to help find that perfect driving position in both cars. The BMW’s front seats are more supportive thanks to the electrically adjustable lateral and thigh support. But then the Audi’s rear seat too has just the perfect recline and under-thigh support. However, the BMW's rear seat has become better than before with more legroom and thigh support. The seat is flatter compared to the Audi’s contoured one. The A4 still feels more spacious and airy due to the beige upholstery unlike the 3 Series' black. Additionally, there’s also Audi's three zone automatic air conditioning pitted against the BMW’s dual zone air-con.

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In terms of equipment, the Audi A4 beats the 3 Series, hands down. The BMW's 8.8-inch screen, paired with an i-Drive controller is good. But this cabin still misses many crucial features that the Audi has thoughtfully provided. Unlike the BMW's traditional twin-pod analog instrument cluster which now looks boring, Audi has a new 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display that looks completely futuristic. Like the centre-mounted screen, this one too gets display modes that support MMI Navigation Plus, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. While the BMW misses out on a rear view camera and front parking sensors, the Audi, on the other hand, packs added wireless charging, a 180 watt 10-speaker sound system and much more. Nonetheless, in terms of safety, both cars are loaded with eight airbags, ABS with EBD and traction control.

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Performance

The rear-wheel drive BMW 3 Series 320d gets a 2.0-litre turbo diesel mill that generates 190bhp and 400Nm of torque. This mill comes mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox which enables the car to sprint from 0-100kmph in 7.14 seconds and achieve a top speed of 230kmph. Under the hood of the Audi A4 is the brand's 2.0-litre TDI engine. This unit puts out 188bhp of power and a torque of 400Nm. It comes mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. It is slightly slower as it does the 0-100kmph sprint in 7.94 seconds. Both these set-ups help in packing a good power delivery and sharp throttle response. The engines are refined too with smooth power delivery. However, the Audi’s seven-speed automatic gearbox gets confused making the power output jerky. Also, the Audi's diesel unit has a bit of a clatter that makes it feel noisy from outside. However, the excellent cabin insulation helps in cutting this noise out and bringing it on par with the BMW.

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We also loved the way the engine responded. The gearshift and the steering's weight and reaction adapts itself to every driving mode in the BMW. Especially the Sport and Sport+ modes, where the engine felt more reactive, the gearshifts were quicker and the steering also stiffened up for better straight line stability at high speeds. What’s more, despite the fact that these modes are good for straight-line stability, we were amazed at the way this car handled corners. The Audi’s steering, despite being light for easy driving in the city, isn’t as involving as the BMW. The 3's EcoPro and Comfort driving modes provide a more relaxed feel for effortless driving. The same is the case with Audi's Comfort and Auto mode, where the overall responses are in a relaxed mode. Then, for instant responses you can shift from D mode to S mode where the gearbox also holds on to a lower gear rather than quickly upshifting. However, this didn't feel as exciting to drive in as the BMW. Sure the Audi's torque delivery feels good but the car feels jerky while delivering this output in the Dynamic mode. The BMW was comparatively linear in all modes. Also, the BMW was faster in the 0-100kmph sprints, but the 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph driveability tests show that the Audi is quicker, offering better driveability. In our fuel efficiency tests, the BMW achieved marginally higher figures over the Audi. However, you will be assured of a greater range in the BMW thanks to its 60 litre fuel tank as opposed to the Audi’s 54 litre one.

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Earlier the BMW was criticised for being too stiffly sprung for Indian road conditions. But now this has changed. The new 3 Series is not only good at soaking up bumps on the road, it still does not lose its great driving dynamics despite it. However, due to the softer suspension set-up, the 3 Series starts to bob a little at high speeds. Unlike the global model, the India-spec A4 misses adaptive dampers and feels more rigid than the 3 Series. The A4’s ride is nice and flat on the highway but the thunk and thud becomes prominent at slow speeds, over sharp obstacles and rough patches. Thankfully, none of the cars feel very bouncy at high speeds or uncomfortable for passengers. However, out of the two, the plushness of the BMW's suspension shows how well-engineered it is to tackle Indian road conditions in a better way. Both the Germans get disc brakes in all four corners. They provide sufficient braking power and confidence to bring the vehicle to a halt from even three-digit speeds in a stable way. The BMW still shines here by stopping with lesser distances even while providing excellent feedback.

Conclusion

The BMW is for the people who love the mix of good driving dynamics and a sportier look. Despite the dull cabin with old design, smaller boot space (spare wheel eats up space), the 3 Series is always going to be the first choice for the youth who want their first proper sporty and luxury sedan. The Audi, on the other hand, feels stiffer at slow speeds and due to its gearbox, it feels a little jerky. Otherwise, it comes across as an all-rounder which balances a mix of good design, mature looks, better driveability, loads of equipment and usable boot space. And all this comes at a cheaper price tag too. While the BMW 3 Series 320d Sport Line is priced at ₹ 42.7 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the Audi A4 35 TDI costs ₹ 40.2 lakh. Even if my heart still goes out for the BMW 3 Series, the mind emphatically points out that the Audi A4 is a clear winner here.

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Author: Ninad Ambre

Pictures: Kapil Angane 
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