While Audi had a bumpy start in the early 1900s, it had a modern-day relaunch in 1969 after Volkswagen bought Auto Union from Daimler-Benz. In the 1990s, after having triumphing the World Rally Championship, Audi adjusted their target market. They decided to make cars for an upscale driver, inadvertently competing with BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the luxury car market.
BMW’s trajectory was a bit more straightforward. They began making aircraft engines in 1916, before moving onto cars in 1928. After a period of making aircraft engines, automobiles and motor cycles in World War II, the company re-focused on cars in 1952, at a production facility in Bavaria. You can see the Bavarian influence today in the company’s blue and white logo, which shares its colours with the Bavarian flag. These days, their primary brand is focussed on the upper tiers of the car market, with Mini and Rolls-Royce also part of the BWM Group.
So what about Mercedes? Though Mercedes-Benz was only founded in 1923, they have been in the car making business in some way since 1886. While Mercedes also makes buses, coaches and trucks, they primarily focus on luxury automobiles. They are officially classified as the biggest selling premium car manufacturer in the world.
The biggest difference in the design, is that of personal preference. While Audi has dropped their edgier and more rugged appearance over the years, they still have that signature in their design that reminds the driver of its rally pedigree. This is evident in their smaller compact models.
BMW has stayed true to their sporty businessman profile for most of their luxury sedans or coupes. As far as design goes, Mercedes might not always be as subtle as the other two brands, but it comfortably dominates as the premium business class car.
Since the rivalry among all three brands have been going for many years, they have competed across most car segments. Especially when there was a big shift toward medium-sized cars, all three manufacturers introduced models into the subcompact executive range.
Audi has the A3 Sportback, BMW has the 1 Series, and Mercedes has the A Class range. Audi also offers the more compact A1, a premium 5-door hatchback that offers a 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit capable of 57.6mpg.
Quattro, Audi’s unique and trademarked four-wheel-drive system is often a factor that makes it the more practical choice at the most affordable price (though note that not all models have Quattro as standard, it’s an optional extra that you can add). As an all-wheel drive option, it ticks more boxes. BMW and Mercedes usually have rear-wheel drive with their equivalent of Quattro - BMW X Drive and Mercedes 4MATIC available as an option.
Looking to the future of the automotive industry, the three rivals all have alternative options, which shows that they are staying ahead of the technological trend. Audi, probably the last one into the electric segment, has the E-tron Quattro, which is powered by a separate electric motor per axle and a claimed range of 249 miles.
The Mercedes EQC is an all-electric SUV that is truly indicative of Mercedes’ slogan of “the best or nothing.” This torque-vectoring four-wheel drive SUV has twin electric motors and offers an official range of 259 miles.
Finally, BMW has been working hard in this space to get the best design into the market. They made the i3, which had a short range without petrol engine assistance. Their i8 hybrid supercar, with shocking acceleration and a dramatic design, proves that opting for an electric car does not mean compromising your driving experience.
2020 will see the release of BMW’s iX3 and 2021 will bring us their much-anticipated BMW i4. With a company claim that they aim to double their electric vehicle sales by 2021, they are hard at work to offer options in this sphere.