They’re both luxury German brands offering a premium driving experience to roughly the same demographics. That said, there are differences. While BMW is renowned for its sleek driving experience, Audi is known for striking the balance between sport and comfort. To help you decide between the two manufacturing powerhouses, we put a range of factors such as design, performance and reliability to the test.
Founded on the vision of one man, August Horch, the modern era of Audi began in the 1960s when it became a member of the Volkswagen Group. Audi is seen as the sportiest supplier in the luxury sector, due to the brand’s remarkable achievements in motorcar racing.
The history of BMW stretches back a bit further, to 1916. The company originally manufactured airplanes – still reflected in their propeller-inspired logo – before moving onto motorbikes and eventually cars. Today, the BMW group includes Mini and Rolls-Royce plus BMW Motorrad bikes, as well as their original BMW cars.
After years of criticism for their persistence with rear-wheel drive, BMW has finally moved to all-wheel drive – branded as X-drive – on its various models. On the other hand, Audi has been an advocate of four-wheel drive since the 1980s, beginning with the Audi Quattro. Now a registered trademark of Audi, Quattro has become a sub-brand for all Audi vehicles using all-wheel drive. Regardless of the history, that means you can get all-wheel drive with both brands for better traction.
While Audi are known for their sleek and understated styling, BMW models have a sportier edge with a distinctive grille on the front. Audi has a reputation for spacious interiors, epitomised by the A7 with its ambitious use of space, while BMW prioritises practicality with a large boot space on the 2 Series.
Both brands focus on an intuitive and driver-focused dashboard. While Audi is known for its high-tech ‘virtual cockpit’ digital dials, BMW’s centre consoles are clearly designed with the driver in mind.
Whether you prefer an Audi or a BMW will depend on your practical needs as a motorist. While the range of M Series cars focuses on ‘track-inspired driving experiences’, BMW has also become well-known for its range of SUVs which combine practicality with a sleek driving experience.
On the other hand, Audi offers both compact models like the A1 and large saloon cars valuing space and practicality, like the A4. For families, the A6 model has an accessible five-door design. That said, BMW’s 3 Series is a popular model balancing a sporty feel with the practicality of a saloon.
Thanks to advances in car manufacturing, firms no longer have to sacrifice reliability to make premium cars with impressive performance. If it’s dependability you’re looking for, the BMW M4 Coupe is recognised as one of the most reliable models from the German manufacturer.
However, it has to be said Audi outperforms BMW in this respect. After collecting feedback from 640,000 car owners, Consumer Reports’ annual brand reliability ranked Audi as the best European car brand.
Despite being famed for a commitment to high performing cars, BMW has always been at the forefront of electric vehicles. The firm designed its first electric vehicle almost 50 years ago, making them well positioned to move to hybrids like the i8 and all-electric cars like the i3 more recently.
Like many car manufacturers, BMW is also turning to turbocharging in a bid to meet fuel-economy targets. Audi is also moving towards sustainability with the notable launch of its E-tron SUV in 2018 and E-tron Sportback in 2020. They have introduced sustainability ratings for suppliers and only place orders with positively rated suppliers.
Both BMW and Audi value comfort, despite being focused on practicality. BMW offer a popular Comfort Pack with core features including electric front seats, anti-dazzle mirrors and comfort access, allowing you to access the car electronically. However, Audi also offers a rival Comfort Pack with the option of heated seats and acoustic glass.
The BMW 7 Series is especially known for its comfort with the option of reclining seats and a luxurious interior. For its long-distance sedan A6, Audi have designed seat cushions and backrests for an impressive level of lateral support.
Both manufacturers have a large range of cars available to meet your needs. For small, compact cars, Audi have an A1 supermini, perfect for city life, while BMW have a variety of popular Minis.
The accessible design and competitive price on the Audi A3 make it a perfect option for families while the BMW 1 Series hatchback is designed with families in mind. If it’s a stylish SUV you have in mind, BMW have its luxurious 7 series and Audi’s Q8 has an eye-catching sleek design.