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Which is best BMW or Audi?

When it comes to German luxury cars, BMW and Audi are two of the most recognized and coveted brands. Both automakers have a long and storied history, and they continue to push the boundaries of engineering and design. For many car enthusiasts, choosing between a BMW or an Audi is one of the toughest decisions they’ll make. But which brand truly comes out on top? Let’s compare BMW and Audi across several key categories to see how they stack up.


BMW’s roots stretch back to 1916 when it started out as an aircraft engine manufacturer. After World War I, BMW transitioned to building motorcycles and then eventually automobiles. The first BMW car, the Dixi, was licensed from the Austin Motor Company in 1927. By the 1930s, BMW was producing its own cars like the 328 sports car and the 335 luxury saloon. Post-World War II, BMW focused on smaller economy cars to get the struggling company back on its feet. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that BMW started producing the sporty and luxury vehicles it’s now famous for, like the 2002 sports sedan and the 3-series.

Audi’s origins go back even further to 1899 when August Horch established Horch & Cie Motorwagen Werke. After leaving his namesake company, Horch started a new automaker called Audi in 1910, which is Latin for “listen” (a clever twist on his last name, which means “hear” in German). Like BMW, Audi started out producing luxury vehicles in the pre-war era, including the Audi Front UW220 prototype, which was the first car to have an aerodynamically designed unitary body. After World War II, Audi merged with three other German automakers to form Auto Union, which revived the Audi name. Volkswagen acquired Auto Union in the 1960s, and the modern Audi brand was launched in 1965.

So while BMW has a longer continuous history as an independent automaker, Audi’s roots stretch back even further when you include its Auto Union lineage. Both companies have a strong pedigree in luxury and sporting vehicles stretching back decades. But Audi as we know it today is actually slightly younger than post-war BMW.

Design and Styling

When it comes to design language, both BMW and Audi have distinctive styles that make their vehicles instantly recognizable on the road.

BMW’s design philosophy has historically emphasized sportiness and dynamic proportions. Typical BMW styling cues include a kidney-shaped grille, Hofmeister kink (the backward sweep of the rear side windows), and athletic, powerful stances. A BMW will often have long hoods and set-back passenger compartments that hint at rear-wheel drive performance. Modern BMWs have sleek, flowing lines that convey both elegance and aggression. Interior design is focused on driver-centric cockpits with everything angled towards the person behind the wheel.

Audi, meanwhile, pursues a more elegant, refined aesthetic for its exteriors. Audi grilles are large and prominent, conveying prestige and status. They often feature sharp creases and bold lines that convey precision. The signature Audi headlights form a fierce glare. Audi interiors also lean towards minimalism and austerity, with uncluttered dashboards and a focus on technology and build quality. There is significant metal trim and often Audi will use piano black surfaces on the dashboard which add to the high-tech ambiance.

Both BMW and Audi produce fantastic looking vehicles, but Audi’s styling is a little more restrained and consistent across its lineup compared to BMW’s more expressive and performance-focused aesthetic. It’s a matter of taste which approach you prefer.

Winner: Tie

Driving Experience

When sitting behind the wheel is where you really experience the differences between BMW and Audi.

As a luxury performance brand, BMW obsesses about driving dynamics and the sensation of being fully connected to the road. This starts with BMW’s renowned chassis tuning – the way its suspension absorbs bumps and holds the road is legendary. BMWs tend to have communicative steering with tightly controlled body roll that makes you feel part of the action. Even in an SUV like the X5, BMW engineers its vehicles first and foremost to be driveable, often sacrificing some comfort to provide razor sharp responses. BMW’s focus on driving feel goes right down to details like its near-perfect driving position, excellent sight lines, and sport seats that keep you firmly planted during cornering. Driving a BMW typically delivers an injection of adrenaline, even at normal speeds.

Audi also prides itself on sporty driving dynamics, but offers a bit more balance between performance and comfort. Audi interiors are designed to isolate passengers from unwanted noise and vibrations better than BMWs, while still offering responsive handling. Audis often have a more subdued steering feel, which some drivers will prefer over BMW’s sportier edge. The Quattro all-wheel drive system provides enormous grip and security in all conditions. Audi’s seats are ergonomic and supportive during hard driving, but not overly aggressive. In summary, an Audi driving experience falls somewhere between the comfort-oriented ambiance of Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s sharper reflexes.

Ultimately, BMW takes the trophy when it comes to pure driving elation and feedback from the road. But Audi offers a more well-rounded experience for those who want excellent driving dynamics along with superb refinement.

Winner: BMW

Performance and Handling

BMW and Audi take slightly different approaches to engineering their vehicles that impact how they perform and handle.

As rear-wheel drive platforms, most BMW models are designed first and foremost to be driven. Even BMW’s all-wheel drive system still channels power towards the rear wheels the majority of the time, since sending power to the rear is optimal for performance driving. At the limit, BMWs tend to exhibit mild understeer, which helps instill confidence in the driver. BMW performance models are balanced through a near 50/50 weight distribution. BMW’s engineers meticulously tune the suspension on their cars to offer exceptional agility and lightness on their feet – especially in corners.

Audi models are built on front-wheel drive platforms (except for some performance models like the R8) which distribute weight more evenly front to rear. Their famous Quattro all-wheel drive system vectors torque side to side for greater traction and stability. At the handling limit, Audis tend to understeer which also inspires driver confidence. In curves, Audis feel firmly planted to the pavement. While not as agile as rear-wheel drive BMWs, Audi’s all-wheel drive system allows powering through corners with minimal drama.

For pure performance and excitement behind the wheel, BMW still wins thanks to its rear-biased design. But Quattro gives Audi models stellar traction and grip for real world driving in all conditions.

Winner: BMW

Safety and Technology

Both brands produce exceptionally safe and high-tech vehicles loaded with the latest driver assistance and collision avoidance features.

BMW and Audi earn consistently high safety scores across independent testing by organizations like the NHTSA and IIHS. Both brands offer effective active safety systems like automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Their cabins are engineered to withstand severe impacts while minimizing injury.

In terms of unique safety tech, BMW introduced a number of innovations like extended Traffic Jam Assistant for semi-autonomous driving and Junction Warning which alerts you when traffic is crossing your path when turning left. Audi countered with the world’s first Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication allowing cars to talk with traffic signals and warn of impending changes.

For infotainment and advanced driver assistance tech, both BMW and Audi push the cutting edge without being overbearing. BMW’s iDrive system still sets the standard for logically arranged controls that don’t distract the driver. Audi’s dual center touchscreens provide haptic and visual feedback for ease of use. When it comes to luxury features and options, BMW and Audi are closely matched. You can find everything from intuitive parking assistants, sophisticated head-up displays, mobile integrations and high-end sound systems on both brands.

BMW and Audi are on par when it comes to safety and technology. The specifics of each model and trim determine if one pulls ahead of the other.

Winner: Tie

Quality and Reliability

Premium vehicles come with high expectations for mechanical and build quality. Both BMW and Audi have reputations for being exceptionally well-engineered and constructed.

In the JD Power 2020 Vehicle Dependability Study, BMW and Audi both ranked above average with BMW at 77 problems per 100 vehicles and Audi at 89 problems per 100 vehicles. For overall Initial Quality Scores, J.D. Power placed BMW well above average and called it the best overall premium brand. Audi scored slightly under the premium brand average.

In Consumer Reports reliability surveys, Audi consistently outscores BMW, although both are in the bottom third overall for reliability according to CR metrics.

When looking at longevity and mileage, well-maintained BMW and Audi vehicles can easily crest 150,000+ miles when properly serviced. You’ll find many examples of both brands reaching 200,000+ miles and beyond. But high-mileage Audis do seem more prevalent which points to their durability.

Overall, reliability and build quality is quite close between BMW and Audi. Audi finishes slightly ahead for longevity, while BMW excels more in initial quality and owner satisfaction.

Winner: Audi

Maintenance and Repair Costs

Premium brands unfortunately come with premium maintenance bills. But between Audi and BMW, which one cost less to own over the long run?

Analysis by Your Mechanic found the average annual repair cost for BMW models to be $968 per year. Audi was right behind at $927 per year on average.

Consumer Reports’ True Cost to Own calculator provides a 5-year cost-of-ownership comparison across brands. A BMW 330i comes in at 70 cents per mile or $8,500 total. An Audi A4 costs 65 cents per mile or $7,800 total for 5 years.

When it comes to scheduled maintenance, Audi’s recently introduced Carefree Maintenance program provides the first 3 years or 36,000 miles of recommended service free of charge. BMW doesn’t currently offer free maintenance, with the exception of some certified pre-owned BMW models. Out of warranty repairs will cost you significantly at either brand unless you invest in an extended repair plan.

While maintenance and repairs are costly for both makes, Audi just barely bests BMW for slightly lower service costs.

Winner: Audi

Resale Value

Depreciation is every luxury car buyer’s enemy. Does BMW or Audi tend to hold its value better decade after decade?

On average, BMW vehicles have greater residual values and lower depreciation compared to Audi models according to Edmunds, IntelliChoice and ALG data. The BMW 3-Series typically retains around 47% of its value after 5 years of ownership. The Audi A4 is only at 38% after 5 years.

Kelley Blue Book’s 5-Year Cost to Own analysis also shows lower depreciation for BMW vehicles over half a decade of ownership. This means BMWs will suffer slightly less of a financial hit.

However, Audi resale values are still very strong overall compared to non-luxury brands. Audi simply can’t compete with the near-legendary residual value of BMW’s 3-series and other mainstay models.

Winner: BMW

Pricing and Value

BMW and Audi compete head-to-head across similar model segments and price points. Which gives buyers more bang for their buck?

In base trim levels without options, BMW and Audi are extremely close on pricing with only a $100-$1000 difference on comparable models. The BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 have base prices separated by just $100 for example. Further upmarket, there is only a $650 base price difference between BMW’s 5-Series and the Audi A6.

When looking at fully loaded models with options, Audi often comes in $1,000 – $3,000 less expensive than a comparable BMW with similar equipment. This holds true for SUVs too, like the X3 vs Q5 as well as the X5 vs Q7 flagships. Thus, Audi holds a slight value edge at the higher end once luxury features and performance packages are added.

If you’re price conscious, Audi wins by a nose for its value when loaded with options. But at base prices, BMW and Audi are aligned.

Winner: Audi


BMW and Audi are about as evenly matched as two rival brands can be. The strengths of one are the weaknesses of the other and vice versa.

For its telepathic handling, unmatched driving feel, performance credentials, and gorgeous design, BMW takes the prize as best-in-class for the driving experience. You simply can’t replicate the sensation of piloting a precision BMW coupe or sedan.

Yet for its combination of style, comfort, quality, and daily livability at a competitive value, Audi gets the win for well-roundedness. With Quattro all-wheel drive and a luxuriously appointed interior, Audi competes head-to-head with BMW across segments.

At the end of the day, both BMW and Audi produce phenomenal cars that delight auto enthusiasts. The choice ultimately comes down to individual priorities and preferences. For the driving purists out there, it’s hard to top BMW’s dynamic brilliance. But most everyday luxury buyers would be extremely satisfied owning either of these esteemed German brands. When maintained properly, a BMW or Audi will deliver years of motoring enjoyment.