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Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

Who builds the best 2.0-litre diesel executive saloon – Audi or BMW?

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Audi A4 dashboard

What are they like inside?

Historically, Audi is the master of the well-appointed interior, but rather than rest on its laurels it’s really pushed the boat out here. The finish is exquisite and the switches feels almost aviation-grade in quality; the rotary heater controls, for example, have a particularly satisfying precision. Mind you, after BMW’s recent upgrades there’s little wrong with the 3 Series interior, beyond Audi setting the bar even higher.

Both cars have decent driving positions, although the pedals are offset slightly to the right. Otherwise, the ergonomics are sound and forward visibility is good. The view behind in both cars is more limited because of thick rear pillars, but they both come with rear parking sensors.

The front seats in the 3 Series have larger side bolsters that grip you tighter in corners, while the A4’s standard lumbar adjustment offers better lower back support. There’s plenty of head and leg room in both, but the A4’s interior is slightly wider and feels more airy.

Audi and BMW make the best infotainment systems on the market today. Both have crystal-clear screens with excellent graphics, navigated via a simple rotary controller by the gear levers. Ultimately, though, the 3 Series system just edges it thanks to snappier responses and slightly more intuitive menus.

Despite Audi emphasising the extra room offered by its latest A4, the saloon still can’t quite match the rear leg room in the 3 Series – although it’s still fine by class standards. Both have reasonable rear head room, but if you’re much more than six feet tall you’ll find your head brushing the ceiling.

You wouldn’t want to be three abreast for long in the back of either, though; there’s a distinct dearth of shoulder room, and the middle passenger has to straddle a high central tunnel and sit on a firmer, raised seat.

Both boots have 480-litre capacities; that’s good enough to fit a large suitcase with room to spare. However, the A4’s load bay is squarer with a very usable one-metre width throughout, while the one in the 3 Series narrows towards the rear seats. You also have to pay extra for split-folding rear seats in the BMW; Audi gives you these as standard.

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