If you’re in the market for a luxury car, you’ll most likely have to choose between the three German giants: BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. From small hatchbacks to large sedans that ooze opulence, all three brands offer plenty of options to customers with their own distinct character. Here, we’ll go through what makes each of them stand out and give you an idea of which one to choose.
Combined, the three German behemoths produce over 50 models, overtaking all their competitors to become the best-selling luxury car manufacturers in the world. While they are usually known for luxury and comfort, all three manufacturers also produce supercar rivaling models like the BMW M5, Audi RS 7, and Mercedes-AMG S63.
Audi, “Progress by Technology”
Compared to its rivals, Audi entered the luxury game at a later stage. Initially formed in 1932 as Auto Union, a combination of four different manufacturers which give it the signature four-ring logo. Audi was bought by the Volkswagen Group in the early 1960s. Audi soon started producing luxury cars after being acquired by Volkswagen, the first of which was launched in 1972, called the Audi 80. Back in the day, Audi was known for their technology and the 80 reflected that by using a new OHC engine and the advanced self-stabilizing steering mechanism. The car was a huge success and Audi shifted over a million units before it was replaced.
Soon after, Audi conquered the rally scene with the Audi Quattro, one of the first compact vehicles to get an all-wheel-drive system, giving it an advantage off the tarmac. After winning the championship 8 times, Audi began to include the system on almost all of their models. Over the years, Audi has made several innovations in the automotive world including Audi AI, which focuses on fully autonomous driving technology using a 3D Lidar system, cameras, and ultrasonic sensors for reading the roads. Other notable innovations include the space frame design that used an all-aluminum construction in the early 90s, saving weight and improving torsional rigidity.
With the RS 2 model back in 1994, co-developed with Porsche, Audi also kickstarted the high-performance family car segment, which was soon followed by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Modern performance models use the “S” and “RS” prefix and are available with almost all body sizes from the S1 to the RS 7.
As their slogan suggests, Audi focuses on technology and luxury with their models, starting from the compact A3 sedan to the massive Q8 SUV. As of late, Audi is also focusing on electric technology with models like the e-Tron.
Overall, Audi manages to balance performance and luxury compared to its German rivals. With excellent performance, Quattro all-wheel-drive, and innovative technology, all modern Audis offer an excellent package. For those looking for more performance, the Audi R8 Coupe launched back in 2006, is basically a supercar in a business suit. With a mid-engine layout and plenty of luxury, the modern R8 continues to be one of the best supercars in the market with a V10 engine.
As an all-rounder, the Audi A4 sedan is the best choice in the lineup, offering plenty of technology and performance for a reasonable price.
BMW, “Sheer Driving Pleasure”
Unlike its rivals, BMW focuses more on driving dynamics and performance with a lot of luxury thrown in. Founded a lot earlier in 1916, BMW produced a lot of railway motors and brakes during its initial years. Later in 1923, the company started making motorcycles before starting automotive construction in 1928.
Then the war happened, and BMW started making aircraft engines up until 1948 when they launched the legendary BMW R 24 motorcycle. Soon, they started producing cars again and entered the US market back in 1994. Over the years, BMW has bought British companies like Rover, MINI, and Rolls-Royce, including their designs and technology in a lot of their models.
BMW was one of the first companies to launch a sporty SUV with the X5 back in 1999, followed by several other models. Like Audi, BMW follows a simple naming strategy starting with the compact 1 Series hatchback to the large 7 Series sedan. Models with the X prefix are reserved for SUVs.
Like their slogan, BMW focuses on the driving experience with excellent dynamics and a well-sorted chassis. Almost all their models are engaging to drive and come with a driver-focused interior. Unlike Audi and Mercedes, BMWs are available exclusively with rear-wheel-drive, showing their focus on driving focus. However, there are some exceptions like the new 2 Series which uses a front-wheel-drive configuration.
While the signature inline-6 engines have given way to smaller turbocharged units, BMWs are still the best option if you’re focusing on performance and athletic handling.
Recently, BMW has also started developing electric models like the i3 hatchback and the innovative i8 hybrid sports car.
The 3 Series has always been the most popular BMW because of its reasonable pricing and practical nature. It is available in both sedan and wagon body styles.
Overall, if you’re looking for driving pleasure and performance over comfort and luxury, BMWs are the best option.
Mercedes-Benz, “The Best or Nothing”
Compared to its rivals, Mercedes-Benz is by far and away, the oldest car manufacturer in the world. Dating back to 1886, the company invented the first petrol-powered car. Focusing on luxury above all else, Mercedes arguably makes one of the best luxury cars in the market culminating with the S-Class Sedan, one of the most sought-after cars in history.
One of the first cars ever made by the company, the Benz Patent Motor Car, used a three-wheel design and was the world’s first automobile. Fast forward a century and Mercedes still has an undeniable charm that lures in a lot of buyers. Mercedes takes a more unconventional design to name their lineup, starting with the compact A-Class hatchback. Going up the ladder, the C-Class and E-Class models are available with different body styles and are the best sellers of the company.
The Maybach lineup, named after the company’s best designer, Wilhelm Maybach, rivals ultra-luxury saloons like Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Mercedes also produces a lot of SUVs with the prefix “GL” like the GLA-Class and GLE-Class. Expensive models like the G-Class, more commonly known as the G-Wagon still holds a high place for their excellent off-road capability, while track duties are taken care of by high-performance models from their in-house tuning house, AMG.
Unlike its rivals, Mercedes also sells MPVs like the B-Class and V-Class for customers looking for practicality. Their interiors are focused purely on luxury with high-quality materials and some exclusive features. Mercedes has also pioneered several advanced safety systems over the years including rear seatbelt airbags and a night-vision camera system. The S-Class was also the first car to come with anti-lock brakes and airbags.
After absorbing tuning company AMG in the 1990s, the company has developed high-performance models of almost all their regular saloons like the C63, and E63. High-performance coupes like the Mercedes-AMG GT and SLS AMG were also available to rival the Audi R8 and BMW i8.
Speaking of electric models, Mercedes has a whole lineup dubbed the EQ series which currently consists of the EQC compact SUV and EQA. Like its slogan suggests, Mercedes doesn’t compromise on comfort and is the better option for customers looking for luxury above all else.
Which one is better?
In conclusion, there is no definitive answer on which brand is better overall. While all three manufacturers have become similar in many ways over the years, each of them has its own distinct character and unique qualities. Customers looking for luxury can opt for a Mercedes, while those looking for driving pleasure can opt for a BMW. Audi sits in the middle and offers a bit of both with sleek styling and a lot of advanced technology. Now, that you have a low down on the advantages of going with each brand, the choice depends on your preferences.