New BMW 3 Series & Mercedes-Benz C-Class vs Audi A4
BMW has reinvented its 3 Series with new underpinnings, fresh styling and a revised interior in a bid to reclaim leadership of the executive car class against the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Clas...
Behind the wheel
Driving position, visibility, build quality
Our three test cars all came with electric front seats, but as standard you get manual adjustment, which includes seat height and, in the A4 and C-Class, lumbar support. This is an option in the 3 Series, although the £265 it requires also gets you fully electric front seats.
As a bonus, the C-Class’s sports seats have supremely comfortable cushions that mould to you like a memory foam mattress, while the others’ seats hold you a little more snugly through faster corners. Each car has a central armrest, but you have to put up with offset pedals in all three and a bulging centre console that brushes your left leg in both the A4 and C-Class.
All three also offer a digital dial display that can show a wide range of information at any one time. The 3 Series’ is the least configurable, but it’s standard, whereas the others require you to pay extra. The rest of these cars’ dashboard controls are, in the main, easy to master, although the touchpads on the C-Class’s steering wheel, which operate multiple menus, are a bit fiddly.
The C-Class also has the thickest windscreen pillars, which can cause you problems at angled junctions. However, like its rivals, it has front and rear parking sensors, plus it and the 3 Series also come with a rear-view camera. All three cars illuminate the gloom with standard LED headlights.
Interior quality is a huge part of what you’re paying for in an executive saloon, and none of our trio disappoints. The revised C-Class feels notably more robust than earlier examples and, despite being the oldest, still has arguably the most showroom appeal. The 3 Series also feels robust and expensive, aside from its iDrive controller and gear selector, which are a tad lightweight. There’s nothing lightweight about the A4, though; everything from its materials to the way its switches operate feels like the work of someone with OCD and a very accurate micrometer.
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