Those of you who saw my post yesterday will know I have access to this sweet 4 Series for a few days while I'm on stay-cation in the UK. And, as my username implies, I (used to) have an A5. So, I was keen to see how the two compare.
This isn't a shoot out between an RS5 and M4 held over multiple laps of the Nürburgring with Chris Harris behind the wheel (if only I had the financial wherewithal, or indeed the requisite driving skill). What it is instead, is a massively subjective and personal comparison of the significantly less exciting, but much more commonplace 'cooking' models of each car. I know, exciting huh?
So, this BMW is the 420i with the M Sport pack; pretty much the perfect comparator for my old A5, which was the 2.0TFSi Black Edition. Both cars have two litre turbo-charged 4-cylinder petrol engines; both have sexy body kits which make them look faster than they really are; both are 2 wheel-drive - the BMW driving the rear; the Audi driving the front (this is probably the most significant difference between the two - more on that later); both are ridiculously expensive here in the UK, but also generate a lot of attention, which to be honest is absolutely what you were looking for if you bought a coupe in the first place, because you sure didn't buy it for practicality. Apart from the two cars having the aforementioned different drivetrain philosophies the only other major difference is my old A5 had a 6-speed manual, whereas this 420i has the 8-speed Steptronic auto. Wouldn't be my choice, but it is Avis's...
Let's get on with the comparison (of the car I don't have anymore, and which was launched eons ago - against the car I'm renting for a few days and is brand new). Yeah.
Man, this is a tough one. I loved the look of my A5. It's a design classic and the pre-facelift model had, in my opinion, the best LEDs ever, just look at them glittering below... sweet.
Plus, the rims on the Black Edition were pretty gorgeous too (though the P-Zeros they were clad in needed replacing ridiculously often and cost a FORTUNE). But, I have to admit, the A5 can look a little bit chubby along the flanks. And, it's been around for quite a while now, so it simply doesn't turn heads as easily as it could in its youth.
Whereas the 4 Series looks lean, mean and a little more stanced (in a good way) IMHO. It's been growing on me all day and I've already had three people call out to say how much they like it (two of whom were driving previous gen 3 Series coupes). Normally, when strangers call out to you in London, it's ABSOLUTELY NOT to complement you on your car, so that has been a pleasant surprise.
Plus, I think the 4 Series brushed up pretty well for an impromptu sunset photoshoot on Beachy Head, after a spritely dash to the south coast this evening. What do you think?
Seriously, I wasn't totally sure about the nose when I first picked it up, but hoo, do I like it now.
And that stance, it just seems a little lower and more purposeful than the Audi. Those rims aren't as nice though - and holy moly, have they been scuffed in the short time this car has been on the road. It's almost like people don't treat rentals with respect..?
Well, I feel like I'm being awful to an ex who I separated from amicably by saying this, but the BMW wins on looks.
The A5 wasn't a slouch, but this BMW feels faster. Put it in Sport mode and it holds the gears and really zips off the line. The Steptronic gearbox is a slick piece of kit and overtaking is pretty straightforward too. Somehow the BMW feels lighter and more agile than the A5 - who knows, maybe it is? I'm sure there's a website that has these sort of facts available. Somewhere. Anyway, it's another win for the boy from Bayern.
They both stop when you press hard on the brake pedal. The BMW's hazard lights seem a little unnecessarily eager about coming on under heavy braking, which is a little embarrassing when you can't remember where the button is to turn them off again. So this one I'm giving to the Audi (it never let me down over three years, for which I'm grateful.)
The Audi had fucking terrible fuel economy. Seriously woeful. I've only done 170 miles in the BeeEmm so far, but with the 8-speed box I'd be stunned if it were worse. Probably another win.
The BMW's Steptronic is very impressive. Comfort mode for town is smooth, quiet and effortless. Sport mode for everywhere else actually isn't being silly, it really makes sense. It's much easier to modulate your speed when the box holds the gears a little longer. Plus the little four-banger sounds pretty good when you wring it. Sport in town is a bit too lumpy to be honest. I haven't used Sport+ yet, because BMW have it the wrong way round - I'm POSITIVE you should pull the lever back to shift DOWN, NOT UP.
But the Audi had a six-speed manual, so OF COURSE IT WINS. Seriously, there were times with the Audi, normally in heavy traffic, when I would say to myself that my next car would be an auto. Not any more - I seriously rate this BMW and it's a joy to drive, but it would be even more engaging with a real gearbox. End of.
OMG, the BMW HANDLES LIKE A DREAM. Jeebus, on the run down to the south coast and back today it felt taut, light, planted. It goes where I want it to go and it does so with minimum fuss and maximum eagerness. The back end is just fricking fantastic. This is the difference between the two cars. The RWD BMW is in a different league to the FWD Audi. I used to enjoy driving the A5, but it wasn't a massively engaging car and it understeered. A lot. The 4 Series is just a revelation in comparison. The next car I buy will be RWD, simple as that. Now, tomorrow it will rain and I will end up wrapping myself around a lamppost...
The BMW looks and feels pretty nice inside (apologies, I've not taken any interior pics...) and it looks like it has more rear legroom than the A5 did. But, the steering wheel is a little funny looking (you'll have to trust me on this what with there not being any pics... soz). Plus, I really love the way Audi do interiors and I always felt totally at home in the A5, even on long, tiring journeys. A rare win for Audi, woo hoo!
I understand that both cars have a top speed in excess of the national speed limit.
But, look how pretty the BMW looks when it's standing still. Hmmmm.
The BMW has built-in SatNav and front and rear parking sensors. The Audi only had the rear parking sensors, but hey I had eyes to look in front when I was parking it and an iPhone with SatNav. Plus, the USB connector doesn't appear to be working on the BMW, which is a pain in the arse. Both cars have bluetooth. Both have their respective manufacturers' bog-standard stereo systems, which sound perfectly respectable.
However, if I recall correctly, the Audi's was a bit bass-ier, which was good for the dreadful dance music I like, and would regularly inflict on passengers and passers-by. Oh, and the BMW has cruise control, which is utterly useless in the UK, because our motorways are so clogged you NEVER get to 'cruise'. A win for Audi (I'm feeling all nostalgic...).
Sooo, totting up the scores we can see it's a clear win for the BMW (there are no scores). Honestly, I really loved the old A5 and it is a great car, but it's gone now and we should all move on. Hello little 4 Series, don't you look like something from a JJ Abrams movie, lens flare... hell yeah!