Home / Auto News / News article: 2013 Sports Sedan Comparison: BMW 335 vs Audi S4 vs Mercedes C350 vs Cadillac ATS vs Volvo S60 - AutoGuide.com News
 |  Jul 11 2013, 1:36 PM

A Battle of Five Luxury Sports Sedans

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The compact luxury sedan market is an interesting place. When designing a new entry, manufacturers are constantly trying to find the perfect balance between sport and luxury. Although most cars end up skewed one way than the other, these vehicles typically offer a plethora of trims and options that allow potential customers to tailor their rides with as much sport or luxury as they want.

Given a choice, we’d select maximum sport. We’d rather evaluate a car’s ability to clip an apex than by how coddled our mothers-in-law feel in the passenger seat. What better way to do this than collect a group of the latest and greatest offerings and see which one is the best? Now, we aren’t talking about the ultimate in sport luxury sedans like a C63, M3 or IS-F as they can get quite pricey. Instead, we have grabbed a more affordable group of contenders playing around the $50,000 mark.

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First we sent an invite out to Cadillac. The all-new ATS seriously impressed us since coming out last year; it was a car of the year finalist after all. Next, we brought along the BMW 3 Series. If we are going to be testing luxury sport sedans, how could we not bring the vehicle that has defined the class for decades? While on the topic of German sedans, we also had to include a Mercedes-Benz and an Audi. Finally, to complete our quintuplet of test vehicles, there’s an oddball, the Volvo S60. Now, before you cry foul that the S60 is not a sports sedan, take a look at what we grabbed; the 325 hp S60 T6 R-Design.

A FEW CONTENDERS ARE AWOL

Sport-Luxury-Comparison-04.JPGThere are a few notable vehicles missing from this comparison test. Lexus didn’t have an all new IS ready for us, nor did Infiniti the all-new Q50 or Lincoln the MKZ. Finally, the Acura TL was left out because, although a great car, it is too large for this class of vehicle (a foot longer than most of the competitors here).

With the cars collected, pencils sharpened and score sheets firmly attached to clipboards, it was time to put these cars through their paces and see which is best.

  • Boston Bob

    This is BS, the ATS is easily the best handling car of the bunch. I like the diff in the S4 too, but the damn thing understeers like… well… an Audi. lol.

  • Random Man

    Oh.. thanks for the insightful input. If you’re such an expery why don’t you go become a car journalist.

  • Sams

    With the sport diff in “sport” mode the car handles and feels much like a rear wheel drive car. It makes a difference.

  • Veritas

    The behavior of the Haldex described in this article has been physically impossible since generation 3. This is supposed to be a professional review?

  • Honest Abe

    You’re just crying because the Volvo sucks.

  • jack

    They most have had2 ats’s because the seat in the photos are cream colored

  • jack

    If you do not like grey seats do not get them, simply as that.

  • Alfie

    LOL. So true. Maybe they’re just trying SO HARD to bitch about an American car’s interior.

  • bmwhabitat

    I’m sorry, but you can’t compare the motorsports version of one brand to the non-motorsports version of the others, ie, S4 vs. the others, maybe with the exception of the Volvo and it’s tweaked engine. Buyers may have a certain amount of jack to spend when they go to the dealership to get the most sport from each manufacturer they can afford, but from a manufacturer’s standpoint, your choice of competitors makes this an unfair comparison. Next time, level the playing field, not the loan amount….. S(Audi=M(BMW)=AMG(M-B)=ATS(Cadillac)=R/S(Volvo), when selecting models.

  • Van

    The BMW interior is hideous. Maybe it just doesn’t photograph well, but it looks as ugly as the Lexus GS interior.

  • me

    you suck more than i do

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Clancy/100001054502726 Jim Clancy

    Where’s the stately high speed heavy ? I’m not driving a six cylinder sport Cadillac that is competing with BMW…. Is this the end of the flagship sedan that represented Cadillac for all these years ?

  • Sal Collaziano

    The S4 is a 335i competitor. The RS4 is an M3 competitor. Cadillac doesn’t have a 335i or S4 competitor right now. The ATS-V will compete with the RS4 and M3. It’s a fair comparison.

  • Leon Zap

    In the pictures the BMW has 3 pedals but they are saying it is an automatic. Please do not remove manual as a choice for the 3 series even though DSG and autos are better supposedly.

  • Leo

    Why would I compare with C350? Why not C63? Why would they put S4/335 with much stronger engines here in same line as C350?

  • Joe Hochreiter

    On the Cadillac….’the one thing that can’t be omitted is CUE’. Really? That may be true in the 3.6 Premium trim package, but my father just got the 2.0T RWD and he had no trouble finding a car with CUE deleted. It makes for a nice, cleaner user interface that an enthusiast would better appreciate than CUE. Step down in packages and get a more sporting and enjoyable car….without CUE.

  • commonsense

    Allowing for the usual anti-American bias, and reading between the lines, it’s obvious the Cadillac is the best car. But if Jesus rode up in one, American car magazines would still dismiss it.

  • Jon Loveless

    Excellent write-up. I differ on a few issues but respect your much better position to evaluate than a lowly reader. I was bothered, however, by a few grammar mistakes that really is inexcusable for a class article like this. Proof read?

  • bojan

    This article is very, very, very strange. I have to say that I had to stop reading when it was stated that MB does not offer alternative suspension, than what is “sport plus package”. or it doesn’t offer paddle shifters, but it comes as standard equipment…..

    What do you research, really ?

  • Mike Schlee

    Hi bojan,

    The article stated that our car was lacking paddle shifters as it is an option on the C 350 sedan and not standard (the wrong picture was used; our apologies). Also, it didn’t state the Mercedes doesn’t have an upgradable suspension, but rather an adjustable, multi-mode suspension on the vehicle we tested.

    Hope this helps clear thinks up.

    -Mike

  • Mike Schlee

    Agreed, but we were focusing on the top engine, top trim models. If it were my money, I’d opt for the version you are referring too, as long as the manual transmission issues are addressed.

  • Mike Schlee

    The C 350 makes 302 hp which is right on par with the 300 hp BMW and slightly under the Cadillac, Audi and Volvo. The C 63 needs to be compared against the RS 4 and the M3…hmmm..I smell another comparison test.

  • Mike Schlee

    Sal’s right. In this class, Audi moved the S4 down market and no longer puts it against the M3 or C 63. The models line-up more like this on price and power

    - BMW 328i, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS 2.0T, Mercedes C 300, Volvo S60 T5
    - BMW 335i, Audi S4, Cadillac ATS 3.6, Mercedes C 350, Volvo S60 T6
    - BMW M3, Audi RS 4 (RS 5), Mercedes C 63

  • David

    Cadillac does not have the longevity of any of the other there. They simply wear out, something that disturbs me about GM

  • David

    …either of the other three…

  • Hershey

    I agree. BMW is a great ride, but sour on they eyes. The 80s font in red is retro.

  • Leo

    are you sure twin turbo 335 is in par to no turbo c350? you might need to read about torque.

  • bojan

    Mike,

    you don’t know what are you talking about !!!

    Car that you are showing in the picture is C-350 Sport Sedan with Sport Package.

    (among other things package includes ” Flat bottom performance steering wheel with Silver paddle shifters”)

    You can clearly see Silver paddle shifters.

    Now. Paddle shifters come standard on C-350.

    Anyway,
    comparison of the cars is “strange” and you put Benz last stating it is cheap ……………………Mercedes-Benz ….cheap…….that doesn’t even sound believable.

  • Alfie

    I don’t know. I’ve always thought most Benz interiors are pretty shitty. OK… not shitty.. but WAY below their price point. Benz sells its car off the badge. Save $10 and get a Lexus.

  • GMan

    How can you honestly compare a base C350 to a $59,770 S4? What’s the point? Apples and oranges. A C350 is just an ordinary low cost Benz family small sedan. My wife drives C320. At least it has a tight sport suspention, but still it is a family sedan. My son Drives a C55. That is a lot closer to the kind of Mercedes you claim to be testing.

  • johnshrl

    In your Leave it section of the ATS: Cramped rear seat (Its a sport sedan?) , Samall trunk ( again Its a sport sedan?) Chrome wheel ( don’t order them), Gray seats ( Come-on?)
    Was this a road test or what??

  • bojan

    I understand you prefer Lexus over MB. MB is definitely not for everybody…it never was, and I too will say that Lexus makes good product. The only thing that is “off” is “save $10k and buy…”
    The purpose of the article was to find “The Best” not to discuss who has how much money, and what is overpriced. If I say that I like Picasso over the my neighbor painting, I say that because I prefer the art of Picasso, not the monetary value of it.

  • Alfie

    I’m with you there. $10k is a lot of coin.

  • oknahs

    Best bang for the buck not only in price but warranty, comfort, performance, style, options and economy. What is it? The new Kia Optima SX Turbo Limited. Cooled seats wow, large trunk, room in the back for seating adults, heating steering wheel and front windshield, electronic parking brake, 16 speaker stereo and list goes on. My wifes 2011 Optima SX Turbo with paddle shifters is a blast to drive in the city on the highway and at the track. YES track. With a 2.0 liter direct injected dual scroll turbocharger @ a 18 lb boost hp and torque from a mere 1750 rpms thru 4500 rpms with 269 lbs torque and 274 hp its 0-60 in 6.1 returning a respectable 34 mpg highway. Why accolades for a Kia? Drive one and you will be blown away walking out the showroom with a poor mans luxury sports sedan MRSP $35000. The dual sunroom, leather, nav and backup camera are second to none at this price and fit and finish is excellent. My wifes snow white metallic with tinted window and the stock chrome wheels and exposed red calipers is a hit a our local car cruises. I show a vette my daughter a SRT 392 challenger and my wifes car gets a lot of attention and its the young guys coming over to look at it. Check one out.

  • donner

    Thank god they didn’t include the Nissan Altima like G37. I can’t wait until they start putting the Q50 in these comparo’s.

  • Dus10

    I owned a BMW 335 XI, and it didn’t take me many miles to figure out that the Bimmer was a well performing and okay handling vehicle, BUT, it was plagued with glitches. The ride quality was weird too. It was great at high speed freeway driving but sucked around town in slower areas with bumps. Hit a small bump or small undulation at below 50mph and it threw the car off track and it sounded like you were bouncing off bump stops. In 60K miles I replaced HPF, spark plugs, and coils, valve gaskets, oil filter housing gaskets, water pump, and then it developed a head gasket oil leak and I was done. Did some searching of Bimmer forums and found most models to be plagued with issues, even the newer ones and came to realize the only way to own a BMW is new w/ warranty. But I guess that’s how BMW makes money, by selling new cars, not used, so what do they care if they don’t last past the warranty. A quick search of True Delta and you quickly learn that newer BMW’s have more problems than just about any other brand. So I left the brand. My neighbor has a Cadi ATS, and although it has some cool features and is a nice car, it just didn’t have the quality feel or refinement, and the interior wasn’t as nice as the ’13 Audi S4 that I did purchase. The Audi is very impressive. The engine is awesome, the sound is awesome, the interior is best in class, the dual-clutch trans is phenom, and the sports diff is physics defying. In my Porsche, car starts to understeer and I lift slightly and it tucks in. In the S4 if it starts to understeer you floor it and the diff works magic and it tucks in perfectly to the proper line. Puts a smile on my face every time I drive it. It’s miles ahead of the 335 in my opinion.

  • Redpilleater

    I have Cue 2.0 in My Black on Black ATS 3.6. It’s flawless.. The interface has been improved but it wasn’t that bad to begin with. The biggest improvement for CUE 2.0 is they replace the hardware at the dealership a with much faster CPU. Now that I’ve lived with it for a few months I love it, and it makes the knob based interfaces in the Audis And BMWs seem very old fashion.

  • Michael

    Cannot understand you are comparing the S4 with the 335! Hope the 335 had the “sport package option” otherwise the comparison is futile… With the sport pack you would have found on the 335 better front seats, better steering, etc… than the normal version but the price would have been higher too.
    Also, the cars tested were not all AWD if I am not mistaken. Certainly the 335 without the X-Drive option has a better sport behavior. I guess the 335 without X-Drive and with the sport pack option (lower price, better gas consumption, better handling, better performance than the 335 tested) would have won this comparison test.
    My 2 cents…

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnls39 John L Smith Jr.

    Oknahs, glad your wife got a new Kia and enjoying it. They are nice cars but the Kia Optima is a mid-size bread and butter car, not a luxury compact sport sedans we are talking about here. Again congrats to your new purchase.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnls39 John L Smith Jr.

    I think the Audi should of been deleted since the car is more of a tweener between the premium sport sedan with a sport package and in-house tuner models like the AMG, M & V-series. The Audi is a beautiful car and for the price it should had won but at the same time due to its expensive price tag with its in-house tuner package, it was not a fair comparison test. The ATS should had won with the Beamer 2nd, Volvo 3rd and Mercedes last place.

    The comparison on price should of been between around the same from base to as-tested price, just too many price gaps from $46,000-$59,000 is a big difference.

  • car nut

    They should have used an S4 not an A4.