BMW 4 series VS Audi A7
BMW 4 series
- 'Old' multimedia system is still great
- Superb engine-transmission combo
- Sublime ride and handling balance
- Limited in-cabin storage options
- Substandard warranty
- New-generation model due soon
- Glorious to behold
- Surprising value
- Great safety kit
- Launching with top-spec petrol only
- Still some options to pick
- Some tech quibbles on launch
BMW 4 series
Life comes at you fast, especially in the automotive industry, where model lifecycles are becoming shorter as each new generation comes and goes.
Take the BMW 4 Series for instance. It’s been a segment stalwart since 2013, but the current model’s time in the sun is finally coming to an end a little later this year.
And that got us thinking whether or not the old saying rings true in this context. So, we put the flagship 440i coupe to test to find out if the older you get, the wiser you are.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Audi is known as a design-led brand, and arguably no model in the line-up embodies that ethos more than the Audi A7 Sportback.
This all-new version of Audi's largest swoopy five-door hatchback takes the concept of the original first-generation version and, rather than reinventing the idea, reimagines it with a more modern and even more style-focused look, inside and out.
And it's a very convincing execution, indeed.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
BMW 4 series7.5/10
Is now the right time to buy a 4 Series coupe? With the next-generation model a matter of months away, probably not.
That said, those buyers who decide to park a new ‘old’ 4 Series coupe in their driveway will be very pleased with their purchase.
At the end of the day, the current-generation model is still a cracking sports-luxury coupe, and more so when in 440i form. It’s just that good.
The Audi A7 is a really likeable car, one that is heavily focused on style but also emanates substance. The 55 TFSI model will appeal to many, but my initial impression is that the best buy in the range could well be the entry-level 45 TFSI. I can't wait to sample it sometime in 2019.
Audi A7 or Merc CLS? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
BMW 4 series7/10
The first-generation 4 Series coupe has aged relatively well, despite sharing most of its design cues with the superseded sixth-generation 3 Series sedan.
Compared to current BMW models, the 4 Series coupe’s signature kidney grille is small, flanked by angry-looking adaptive headlights with hexagonal daytime running lights, all of which are of the LED variety.
The 440i’s standard M Sport body kit adds to the aggressive styling with chunky front bumper with three large air intakes, the outer two of which also contain the LED fog lights.
Around the side, a strong shoulder line stretches from the front wheel arches to beyond their rear counterparts, while BMW’s Air Curtains split the difference between it and the sporty skirts.
The rear end is the 440i’s simplest angle, although its bumper is spruced up with a dark-grey insert and dual exhaust tailpipes. Predictably, L-shaped LED tail-lights punctuate the styling at the rear.
Inside, the 4 Series coupe is holding up well, but it's still clearly a generation behind most other new BMW models.
That said, it’s a throwback we quite like, particularly iDrive6, which is still arguably BMW’s best multimedia system to date. Powering a floating 8.8-inch touchscreen in this instance, it’s just so intuitive, partly thanks to its rotary controller.
An 8.8-inch digital instrument cluster is a late-life addition for the 440i, and while it looks great with its drive mode-specific views, it lacks the breadth of functionality of Audi’s set-up.
The 4 Series coupe’s cabin is otherwise pretty basic despite its apparent emphasis on sportiness, although the selection of luxurious materials used throughout is top-notch.
The entire dashboard, chunky M Sport steering wheel and old-school handbrake lever are trimmed in high-quality leather, while lower-quality Dakota leather covers the sports seats, armrests and door inserts.
Soft-touch plastic is used for the door shoulders and bins, even in the second row, while hard plastic is limited to the centre console, and gloss-black trim is used on the centre stack’s audio and dual-zone climate control surrounds.
If you can't find something interesting about the design of the Audi A7, there's a good chance you're visually impaired.
The original A7 Sportback was perhaps ahead of its time in the way it blended the lines of a coupe with the practicality of a big sedan, and the new second-generation version pushes the envelope even further into the future. The vision, according to chief designer Andreas Koglin, was "a clear form with sharp lines and tight shapes", including the distinguishable 'boat tail' at the rear.
This is a technologically advanced looking car - big, long, sleek and stylish. From the LED headlights (or matrix LED and laser lights - yes, frikkin' lasers that have the same 5500 Kelvin as the sun, according to Audi) and daytime running lights, to the long, lean LED tail-light assembly, there's an illuminated, enlightened air to the A7.
Plus, with the matrix lights, both ends of the car do a sort of disco sequence as part of the start up and shut down procedure for the car.
There are a few carefully balanced lines across the body of the A7 that help catch the light, which is something you can't really say about its closest direct rival, the Mercedes-Benz CLS. It still retains the 'big-metal-small-glasshouse' look of the existing model, but there are definitely more angles and interesting elements to this new-generation car.
There are two exterior types offered for Australia - the S line that you see here is the version that'll be fitted to the two higher grade models, while the entry-grade model gets a less aggressive look to its front and rear bumpers. To my eyes, the base car actually looks more luxurious, where the S line models - when not fitted with the optional black exterior styling pack that deletes the chrome trims outside - have a slightly uneasy look in the grille area. With a black edge to the single frame grille, it looks a touch more convincing.
The A7 is still large, at 4969mm long (-5mm) and riding on a longer 2926mm wheelbase (+12mm), spans 1908mm wide (2118mm including mirrors), but it's also a little bit taller, at 1422mm (+2mm). According to Audi, the interior space has been increased by 21mm in this generation, making for a more luxurious cabin than before.
Things are a little edgier in terms of design in the cockpit, too. Gone is the appealing wraparound dashboard design, with a more driver-focused treatment evident. It looks sharper, more shapely, and has improvements to the usability inside, too.
BMW 4 series7/10
Measuring 4640mm long, 1825mm wide and 1377mm tall, the 440i coupe is a true mid-sizer, and that means it’s surprisingly practical – for the most part.
Cargo capacity is more than solid, at 445L, but stow the 60/40 split-fold rear bench via a pair of manual latches located in the boot and more storage space is quickly liberated.
To make matters even better, the boot has two bag hooks and four tie-down points, making securing a load a cinch. That said, the high load lip means bulkier items can require a little more effort to accommodate.
Up front, the door bins are large enough for a regular bottle each, while a pair of cupholders separate the gear selector from a seriously shallow storage tray.
The central storage bin is on the shallow side, too, albeit not to the same degree as the dedicated storage tray. That said, much of its space can be taken up by the optional wireless smartphone charger ($200), which was fitted to our test car.
The glovebox tries its best to make up for the lack of genuine in-cabin storage options by being quite large, while storage nets are attached to the backs of the front seats.
Rear occupants can also make use of a large storage tray that resides where a middle seat would otherwise go. They also have access to a fold-down central armrest that incorporates two more cupholders.
Speaking of armrests, the rear side ones are incredibly narrow, leaving tired elbows in a bit of a pickle.
It’s not all bad news in the second row, though, as legroom and toe-room behind our 184cm driving position are very generous, with the former offering several inches of wriggle room.
We’d go as far as to say the rear quarters are comfortable, but that would require ignoring the fact that headroom is seriously compromised with the optional power-operated sunroof ($3000) fitted, with our head pressed firmly against the 440i coupe’s Anthracite roofliner.
Either way, child seats can be fitted in the second row, with ISOFIX anchorage points available for the outer seats. Speaking of which, it’s worth noting ingress and egress to the rear bench isn’t too bad, with the front seats folding forward via manual latches.
Connectivity-wise, two USB-A ports are found in the first row, split between the centre stack and the central storage bin, while three 12V power outlets are spread across the front and rear of the centre console, and the boot.
According to Audi, the A7's interior is said to offer a "futuristic lounge type ambience". And if your vision of a lounge in the future includes beautiful textile finishes, quality trims, and your choice of three crisp screens to look at and interact with, it certainly lives up to that.
Unlike the existing model, which seemed to draw a bit more inspiration from the world of watercraft, the new model isn't as luxe looking, with a more tech-focused approach inside. The wraparound finish on the dash is gone, and everything is more driver-centric in its orientation - the screens are tilted just enough towards the pilot and the design of the dashboard helps anchor the person in the driver's seat as the most important in the car.
As a driver, I still struggle to come to terms with climate controls that require you to use a screen, and I think it's distracting, too. At least with the Audi screen there's the possibility to slide up or down on the temperature display to make quick changes, rather than having to tap the screen repeatedly.
The haptic feedback on the screens is something that does take a bit of getting used to, because the response time isn't as instant as some regular touchscreen systems, but the menus are all pretty logically laid out.
And of course, all the storage considerations are dealt with, including good cupholders between the seats, decent door pockets, some loose item caddies and so on. In the back there's a flip-down armrest with cupholders, bottle holders in the doors and map pockets on the seat backs. One really neat addition is illuminated seat belt buckles - clever!
Space back there is mostly good, but it's better if you're short. There's enough legroom and shoulder-room for three adults, but anyone taller than me (I'm 182cm) will likely lack some headroom due to the curvaceous roofline.
The boot is good at 535 litres - enough to deal with two golf bags, the brand claims. The shape of the boot means tall items mightn't fit, but the length and width is good, and you get tie-downs with a mesh net to keep things in order. And there's a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor.
Price and features
BMW 4 series7/10
The 440i coupe is priced from $103,200 plus on-road costs, positioning it as a more affordable alternative to its main rivals, the Audi S5 coupe ($105,400) and Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe ($116,500), although it’s not as fully featured.
Standard equipment not already mentioned in the 440i coupe includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels, a mixed set of run-flat tyres (front: 225/40, rear: 255/35) and power-folding side mirrors with heating.
Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, digital radio, a 600W Harman/Kardon sound system with 16 speakers, a windshield-projected head-up display, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and ambient lighting feature.
There are three models in the range, and considering the most natural competitors to the Audi A7 - the Mercedes-Benz CLS (from $136,900) and the BMW 6 series GT (from $123,500) - there's an argument that this car is something of a bargain. Ahem. 'Bargain' is relative, clearly.
The entry-level model is the 45 TFSI, which lists at $113,900 plus on-road costs. That's pretty close to the existing starting point for the A7, but now there's a bit more gear included as standard. It doesn't arrive until around the middle of 2019, though.
This model is comprehensively kitted out, with standard inclusions consisting of 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension, Audi's 'progressive steering' system, LED headlights with high-beam assist, an electronic tailgate with smart opening, keyless entry and push-button start, 'Valcona' leather trim and sports front seats, electric front seat adjustment and front seat heating and three-zone climate control air conditioning.
Other goodies include an LED interior ambient lighting package, head-up display, Audi's 12.3-inch 'Virtual Cockpit' digital driver information display, a 10.1-inch media screen and 8.6-inch control touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring, and wireless smartphone charging.
Next up the model range is the 55 TFSI, which has a list price of $131,900 before on-road costs - which is the exact same price, and carries the exact same level of standard specification, as the diesel-powered 50 TDI model (also due mid-2019). This splits the difference between the existing models, but still undercuts the rivals by a good margin.
Over the entry-grade model, the 50 TDI and 55 TFSI models bring matrix LED headlights (with light animation), a different 20-inch wheel design, the S line exterior styling pack - essentially a body kit with new front and rear bumpers incorporating mesh-look diffusers and new side sills, plus S line badging.
These two models also get different interior styling, too, with S line embossed leather seats, illuminated door sill trims, a flat-bottom leather wheel with paddle shifters, dark brushed aluminium inlays, stainless steel faced pedals, black headlining, piped floor mats, electric steering column adjustment and a Bang & Olufsen 3D 705-watt sound system with 16 speakers and subwoofer.
There's a lot of safety kit included at each price point, too - see the section below for a breakdown.
Audi has tried to simplify things in terms of optional gear - apparently its customers said there was too much complexity when it came to electing bits and bobs, so the company's local arm has just one optional package... and a few other items it says are very much "buyer specific".
The 'Premium Plus' package costs $6500 for the 45 TFSI and $8000 for the other two models (and you get air suspension included in those grades). Across all grades the pack adds 21-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear glass, a panoramic glass roof, an extended upholstery package, four-zone climate control with rear touch control panel, plus a colour interior lighting package with up to 30 colours.
Other options include metallic paint (up to $2200), a four-wheel steering system ($4200) and laser headlights ($2500).
Engine & trans
BMW 4 series9/10
The 440i coupe is motivated by a silky smooth 3.0-litre turbo-petrol in-line six-cylinder engine that punches out 240kW of power at 5500rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1380-5000rpm.
An equally silky smooth eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission exclusively sends drive to the rear wheels – a characteristic that has become a rarity in this segment.
This combination helps the 440i coupe sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a scant five seconds flat with launch control engaged, according to BMW. Its top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.
All three drivetrains offered in the A7 have some form of mild hybridisation. The entry-level 45 TFSI engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo producing 180kW of power (at 5000-6000rpm) and 370Nm of torque (1600-4500rpm). It has a 0-100km/h claim of 6.8 seconds, and employs a seven-speed dual-clutch auto with quattro all-wheel drive. It employs a 12-volt mild-hybrid system to assist with stop-start traffic and uses brake regeneration, too.
The high-spec petrol is the 55 TFSI, a 3.0-litre V6 producing 250kW (at 5000-6400rpm) and 500Nm (1370-4500rpm). The 0-100 claim is 5.3sec, and it also uses a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. It has a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that uses a larger capacity battery and a belt-driven starter generator that recuperates energy in stop start traffic and, according to Audi, can also allow the car to coast for up to 40 seconds at speeds of 55-160km/h.
The same 48-volt tech is used for the only diesel model in the range, the 50 TDI. This powertrain uses a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine producing 210kW (3500-4000rpm) and 620Nm (2250-3000rpm), and unlike the petrols, it has an eight-speed automatic (not a dual-clutch). The claim for acceleration is 5.7sec from 0-100km/h.
BMW 4 series8/10
The 440i coupe will drink a claimed 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, while its carbon dioxide emissions are 159 grams per kilometre.
Our week of testing skewed towards city driving over highway stints, and we averaged 8.6L/100km, which is impressive given the six-cylinder performance on offer. And yes, we did put it to use...
The 440i coupe's 60L fuel tank takes 95RON petrol at minimum.
The mild hybrid tech in each of the A7 models help it offer miserly fuel consumption.
The 45 TFSI model claims 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres; the 55 TFSI model just a touch more, at 7.3L/100km. And as you might expect, the 50 TDI diesel model is the most efficient, using a claimed 6.0L/100km.
We only drove the 55 TFSI on test, and the dashboard indicated display of 9.1L/100km seemed pretty respectable.
BMW 4 series8/10
The 440i coupe toe the line between sports car and luxury vehicle very, very well.
The straight-line performance is definitely there thanks to its in-line six-cylinder unit, which is one of our favourite engines in any vehicle – period.
From top to bottom, the 3.0-litre unit is absolutely delicious. Maximum torque kicks in just above idle and remains on tap deep into the top end, at which point a fleeting moment of peak power is just 500rpm away. Needless to say, acceleration is strong.
Remarkably, the engine’s twin-scroll turbo exhibits next to no lag, making for a unit that you truly want to wring out. That said, don’t expect aural pleasure when you do so, as the sound it generates is lacklustre. Yep, no enticing crackles or pops are heard here.
The automatic transmission ties everything together beautifully, providing timely, quick and smooth gear changes on the regular, even without its Sport mode engaged. And, of course, there are paddle-shifters on hand if you want to take matters into your own hands – literally.
Given the 440i coupe’s apparent performance bent, you’d be forgiven for thinking it rides like an unforgiving sports car. Well, the good news is it doesn’t.
While potholes and coarse-chip roads would usually be met with hesitation, the 440i coupe silences the doubters with its composed ride. Can you feel them? Yes, but they’re relatively muted, especially in a car with sporty aspirations, like this one.
Simply put, the 440i coupe loves a twisty stretch of road, where its M Sport brakes (front: four-piston fixed callipers, rear: two-pot floating stoppers) and traditional rear-wheel-drive dynamics come out to play.
This experience is enhanced by its superb electric power steering, which is speed-sensitive, meaning it’s quick at low speed, for improved manoeuvrability, and ‘slow’ at high speed, for improved stability.
We absolutely adore this particular system, mainly because of its perfect weighting and surprising amount of feel. And in a surprise to no-one, it also turns in really well, too.
Of course, if you want to take the 440i coupe’s handling to the next level, you can engage its Sport drive mode, which stiffens up the adaptive dampers for even flatter cornering and adds more heft to the electric power steering. But we’d say both are unnecessary.
A lot of the time when we go on new car launches the test drive route is planned to highlight handling dynamism, with less focus on the day-to-day drudgery most of us will actually encounter.
The launch of the Audi A7 was primarily of that design, too, but (thankfully?) there was some disgusting traffic to deal with on our in and out of Brisbane, where it was clear the A7 is superbly comfortable.
Well, that is, if you get the air suspension system. The ride was impressively cushioned, untroubled by sharp edges and road joins, and the suspension eliminated pothole effects, too. All the cars I drove on the launch were the 55 TFSI model, and all had the air suspension - the cynic in me thinks there's probably a reason for that, and I'd love to sample one without it.
This stint of stop-start driving saw the engine cut out at speeds up to 22km/h when you're decelerating, allowing us to coast to a stop without the engine burning fuel.
Once we exited the city limits and found ourselves on the roads of Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious, the chance presented itself to push the A7 in some bendy bits. With the dynamic drive mode selected, the transmission in sport mode, and about a hundred corners to contend with, the big German luxury hatch showed its skills.
The air suspension kept the circa-1815kg model relatively flat in the bends, but the front seats lacked adequate side bolster support despite being called 'sports' seats. Obviously physics were at play here.
The steering was more eager in the four-wheel steer version we sampled, and that's definitely an option for the enthusiastic owner to consider. Otherwise, the steering was accurate, if devoid of meaningful feel.
And while the engine was strong in its response and the transmission clever in its shift speed and intelligence, it became clear that this was a car that seemed more adept at open road cruising than bruising a series of hairpins. It didn't disappoint in terms of dynamics - it just felt its size.
Eventually when we reached an open road, the effortlessness of the A7 came to the fore. Comfort mode engaged, it paced along beautifully, the adaptive cruise taking its surroundings in nicely. There is a touch of wind noise and the suspension can be loud when you encounter pockmarked sections, but it doesn't feel flustered at speed.
One of the nice elements of the A7's smarts is that it will pulse the accelerator pedal to warn you that you could be saving fuel - say you're approaching an 80km/h zone, and you're driving at 100km/h, the throttle will throb to let you know you could ease off. Neat.
At the end of our day of driving, I was left with the impression that the Audi A7 is more than capable as a luxury saloon, one that was relaxing to drive - even when we encountered a five km traffic jam on the way back into Brisbane. It feels well engineered, without excessive gimmickry and with enough genuine quality to leave you feeling pampered.
BMW 4 series7/10
Advanced driver-assist systems in the 440i coupe extend to low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, a manual speed limiter, speed-sign recognition, high-beam assist, park assist, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, hill-start assist and tyre pressure monitoring.
Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and brake assist, among others.
That said, high-speed AEB, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert are among the notable exclusions.
Neither ANCAP nor its European sibling, Euro NCAP, have awarded the 4 Series a safety rating yet.
The Audi A7 doesn't have a five-star safety rating from either ANCAP or Euro NCAP. It's hard to see it not getting that rating, if it were to be tested, because every trim grade has an array of high-tech safety equipment.
The A7 is fitted with a surround-view camera system (360 degree camera) and there are front, side and rear parking sensors, as well as Audi's version of auto emergency braking (AEB) which it calls 'pre sense' - and it operates up to 250km/h.
There's also a reverse AEB system, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert (front and rear), and there's adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist (allowing semi-autonomous driving up to 60km/h), a system that'll stop the car if it doesn't think you can make a gap in the traffic (Intersection Assist) and a system that prevents you from opening your door into the path of cyclists, pedestrians or oncoming traffic.
There are dual ISOFIX child seat restraints in the back, as well as three top-tether attachments. The A7 has dual front airbags, side airbags front and rear, and curtain airbags (Audi claims a total of 10, but by most other makers' counts, that'd be eight).
BMW 4 series7/10
As with all BMW models, the 4 Series comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with three years of roadside assistance, both of which are two years short of the premium standard now set by Mercedes-Benz.
The 440i coupe’s service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Owners can opt for a $1650 five-year/80,000km capped-price servicing plan, which is well-priced.
As with all Audi models, there's a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty offered. Mainstream brands seem to be pushing to five years' warranty, while the premium makers lag behind.
The company also offers a three-year pre-purchase capped price service plan called the 'Audi Genuine Care Service Plan', which you can bundle into your finance package. Exact pricing isn't known yet, but you can expect it to average out at about $650 for every 12 month/15,000km service (based on the previous generation model).