Do you want a car with a badge of respect that makes your friends think you’re moderately successful while still able to diverge anything that happens next to you? Do you want a precision machine designed for no-nonsense? Well, you, my friend, have a choice in front of you. You can go with DTM hero, the BMW icon, M3, or go for all-wheel drive, all motorized Audi S4. Yes, it’s the BMW M3 vs. Audi S4. Let’s decide which German car is better.
They are quite comparable, but choosing a winner is a difficult decision that only you can make. Therefore, we gathered a lot of studies that show every pros and con. Hopefully, at the end of the article, you can decide which one works for you.
Once we’ve done all that, please go into the comments section to see everyone’s favorites. Let’s see their history in motorsport, their performance, the technology that goes into them; they don’t have much reliability and how crazy they can get when you build them. We’ll compare them based on five parameters. Let’s dive into it.
Parameter 1: Motorsport
In this round, we will see the achievements of these two cars in motorsport and the traditions in which they are built first. One thing I know about motorsport is that you can’t spell it without an “m”. Funny? No? Okay, I’ll keep that.
It seems that the BMW M3 was made for racing. It was one of the certified cars of the motorsport group, a DTM racing series in 1986. That means it’s a road car that’s basically the same as the racing BMW uses.
Even if the original BMW M3 operated on a naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, it continued to compete and hit with turbocharged and larger displacement engines.
The M3 won 17 different world championships on level nine before the Audi S4 even reached the exhibition floor. The E30 M3 is an orbital monster. It was undoubtedly one of the most successful cars of that time.
The original S4 was not directly involved in motorsport as E30 but benefited from Audi’s motorsport experience. Since its introduction in 1991, each S4 is equipped with a Quattro all-wheel-drive system, making Audi a two-time World Rally Cross champion.
Do I have some excitement for the Audi S4?
Admittedly, it’s because of the Quattro. The Quattro is also three times winner of the Pike Peak climb, with the Audi 200 dominating the IMSA GTO class. They were essentially asked to leave because other teams threatened to resign.
We don’t have the advantage of spectators with an all-wheel drive. The S4 had a four-wheel-drive system and a version of the same five-cylinder turbocharged engine that was fabulous in these races.
Are these achievements of the Audi S4?
The S4 number was a direct result of these tournament plans, and it was the inclusion of these winning elements of the match that made the S4 announcement so hype. The second generation brought the E36 M3 to win the IMSA GT Championship in 1997.
With no radio, AC, or maximum speed limiter, it’s a racing road car and weighs 200 pounds less than the standard M3 weight. It may not have sold well when it was new, but the hundred or so-called lightweights produced today can sell for $100k.
Audi used the most powerful RS4 for the most part, but a little S4 began to get more support, and B5 S4 won the GT World Challenge US championship or as it was called the 2001 Speed Vision World Challenge.
Once we entered the 21st century, S4 and M3 were more balanced in terms of motorsport. The Audi S4 won the SCCA World Challenge GT in 2001 and won again in 2002, at about the same time the E46 M3 competed in the American Le Mans Series GT. The M3 GTR won in 2001, but there was a significant difference of opinion as to whether it met the recognition criteria.
The M3 also reached the track with the fourth generation. E92 won the GT2 in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in endurance category in 2010, 12 Hours Racing in 2011, marking BMW’s return to DTM races in 2012.
But even though the current M3 is not a particular certification since it has victories in races and championship trophies in almost every generation, the Audi S4 is not that motorsport. Still, it gets some wins and a drip engineering from a more successful racing car.
Now, do you know which one you want?
Well, wait because these aren’t just races. Next round, we have to look at them on the way.
Parameter 2: Road Car Performance
The race victory gave us some big numbers to look at, but the real rivalry between these two cars is on their road performance. In the second round, we will look at the performance and specifications of these two automobiles.
The M3 was first offered in 1986 with BMW’s dominant S14 racing engine, turned to the moon and back, and made 197 horsepower, even if it was a certified special for someone who loved them so much. BMW ended up manufacturing more than 17,000 units.
After five years, the first Audi S4 was launched in the US, and kicked M3 butt with a turbocharged i5 engine, making 227 horsepower and 258 feet pounds torches. After that, the two vehicles will exchange horsepower numbers back and forth. BMW’s approach is consistent and systematic. Each generation, they add more cylinders or more displacement.
The S4 starts with a five-cylinder turbo. But its turbocharged engine was so well designed that when the first generation came out, it accelerated the lighter E30 M3 to 60. Did I mention that the E30 M3 was a certified car hit by a sedan that was over a thousand pounds heavier?
Subsequently, Audi took a more inconsistent approach. The S4 turns into the v6 twin-turbo, then into the naturally aspirated v8, then into the supercharged v6, and finally the current turbo v6. Audi always tries different things, and although that’s great, the amount of energy does not grow continuously.
In 2003, B6 S4 was the first compact executive car in the United States to have a v8. The small operational vehicle sounds like a category that the Germans make up, but anyway, the B6 is a 4.2-liter 40-valve double overhead v8 made with 339 horsepower. That’s somehow more than the E46 M3 manufactured at the time with its 3.2-liter i6.
How much more power Audi S4 offers than BMW M3?
Actually, S4 had just one horsepower more than BMW M3. Since 2003, S4 has only gained about ten horsepower, but M3 has gained almost a hundred. M3 is also lighter than similar S4s, especially since S4 has never provided a chicken coop, but S4s are like trained acapella singers.
Moreover, Audi left a little on the table, especially with B5, B8, and B9. With a simple flash setting, you can draw 80 horsepower out of the air. BMW’s naturally aspirated V8 is excellent but does not respond to settings as well as the supercharged Audi V6. When the last M3, F80 M3 is added to the conversation, all this window appears.
With its dual three-liter i6, turbo M3 has more power than the S4 in stage one and is like 300 pounds lighter. It is a deviation from the standard and liberal approach. This is the first time the engine becomes smaller, and this is the first time the factory M3 is lifted. A B8 S4 was much higher than the basic tuning.
You change a pulley in the overcharge, and you could be tickling at the bottom of 500 horsepower, but performance isn’t all about horsepower, is it? Even if moving from v8 to supercharged v6 is the ten horsepower S4 loses, it actually has a faster zero to 60 for half a second.
The M3 has a stiffer, performance-oriented suspension for better grip, but the S4’s four-wheel-drive system can pull it off from the corner as long as you put it first. The S4 gives the M3 a good challenge, but it has always been a bit throughout the year he has played to catch up with the M3 and make them both better cars.
So now you have a little better understanding of how these cars work, both on and off track, but that’s not where the comparison and competition ends. There’s more in the third round.
Parameter 3: Technology
As cars evolve, there are more and more intelligent technologies that come to make them fast. In Round 3, let’s see the technology that moves these cars forward.
At first, the M3 was a very analog car, hydraulic steering, rear-wheel drive, natural aspiration. All this is great to make a great driver of the car, but in the end, BMW made the switch to turbo and electric steering for fuel-saving and weight saving. One of the most prominent M3 flu is that each generation becomes softer, but faster.
This is driven by BMW’s technical solutions for costs and restrictions. The iDrive system in M3 is designed to adjust the suspension damping, differential response, and current steering response of the car electronically. As a result, many purists say that the car does not feel so sensitive but apparently responds when necessary because each generation of M3 is faster than it used to be and in a straight line.
This is more than the average all-wheel-drive system that uses wheel speed sensors. The Quattro system employs a Torsen center difference, which can detect when the torque is lost and adjust the output power. Let the wheel slide.
In 2008, they added the quad vector system. If you have motion differentials, the S4 can predict not only the torque you need front and rear, but also each rear wheel. For tech, most cars look comparatively unicycle, but if that’s true, then maybe the best unicycle you’ve ever seen is M3.
In 1992, the E36 M3 was sold in the United States with sequential manual transmission. It’s a straight-line racing car. In 2006, the M3 obtained a third version of the BMW SMG system, which was the fastest gearbox in the world at that time.
With all those fast transmissions and intelligent automatic tuning, the M3 is still a car slower 60 than S4, except for everything right now. One might think that a naturally aspirated BMW would have the advantage that turbo cars like the B4 and B5 would suffer from turbo lag, but Audi designed these engines for low-end torque.
The B5 produces maximum torque 1800 RPM at diesel. There’s no torsion on this thing. Combine this with the traction you get from a four-wheel-drive system, which is as close as you can feel the offline grunting of an electric car while still burning dinosaurs.
Both cars have active cushioning. Both cars have some variable-timing versions of valves and a lot of other smart things from different models of years, but when you distilled it down, both cars are really the same.
It’s hard to choose one if you haven’t chosen to like it yet. Don’t worry, we’ve got two more rounds left.
Parameter 4: Reliability
We know these cars are great when they work, but since they’re German sedans, they might sometimes let down. In this round, let’s see what could go wrong with these cars, how much pain they are, and how likely you are.
I mentioned earlier about the SMG transmission. Although it was revolutionary in technology, it was notorious for breaking, and it was an expensive accessory. It is not uncommon for v8s on the valve seal E90 M3 since all the tips are there, it is an engine job in which you get more than 30 hours of work, but the Audi S4 is not exactly a sign of reliability.
The E46 M3 is known for its distribution chain problems, which can be a big problem, but B5 and B6 S4 have a very similar problem. The E30 and E36 M3s and C4 S4 are usually more straightforward and more powerful cars. Although in recent years of the model, none of these cars had exceptional reliability, and most importantly, they were performance models, so they became unmanageable, and most importantly, repairs were not cheap.
Not so long ago, I just replaced the pumps on a Toyota. The difference is the cost and labor costs of OEM components, which we call our local car dealerships from Audi and BMW, getting offers for water pump replacement on the 2018 model, and the cost was high.
During production, the S4 had nine callbacks. Much of this is electrical problems and airbag related things, which is not uncommon, but there was a small memory in 2011, and the 2012 model had something to do with the little problem of engine fires. That sucks, but the M3 has had 21 callbacks, including brake problems, a faulty drive shaft, and my personal favorite rear subframe bolt that just wanted to loosen up.
If you count the next 2021 M3, these cars have had six generations in 35 years. For the Mustang, it took 50 years to reach the sixth generation. I know these cars have their problems, and I hope our studio offers a glimmer of hope for one person, but it doesn’t. Due to their relative simplicity and roots in racing, the first-generation M3 and the first generation S4 are more reliable than all the others.
But if you don’t care about reliability because you’re a mechanic, and you’re going to build something crazy, the last round is for you.
Parameter 5: Buildability
These are ready-made cars right out of the box. Some might even say the ultimate car, but it hasn’t stopped people from modifying it. People do all sorts of things, but the most common elements for M3 are drift construction and track construction and engine exchange, sometimes all three are in a single-car.
The M3 is a capable car due to its suspension and balance dynamics and is a good starting point for a project. You will see many crazy engine changes, especially LSs and 2JZ, but some of that comes from the need.
The BMW engine itself is relatively expensive to maintain and has so much technical interference that most people find it easier to remove it. Also, if you’re going to do a significant modification, you’re going to take everything out, remove the chassis and put on a new engine, you’ll probably need to base your construction on a series of three cheaper with the same chassis instead of the actual M3.
Due to its all-wheel drive, it is not as popular as the swap chassis except for a VW VR6. The engine offered by Audi means that there may already be the one you want. And with a B5, you can have turbo BOV coil noise.
The S4s are not vagrants or wagons. They are usually built for one thing. Great power! Street S4s can be built in the range of 500, 600 horsepower while still, it’s a regular drive car.
The fastest time we can find an M3 is this E30, which ran 8.76 a quarter-mile, and even then, that’s the 2JZ front-end. If you want some digital cars, not swap, then the C4 S4 still runs with a five-cylinder turbo that reaches 260 miles per hour in Bonneville. Things make more than a thousand horsepower on the turbo i5 crank.
I’m sure most of you have your final opinion now, but I still have a point of comparison actually to use two cars for comparison.
They have set two top speed records on the ice at the annual Swedish speed week. That’s the most fantastic thing I’ve ever heard. They set the record once, with a nervous B5, 202 miles an hour. Then they broke the record with E30 M3 at 212 miles an hour. The 4.2-liter V8 engine has come from the factory, built and turbocharged within an inch of his life, but still, it’s a factory engine.
As long as it works, it will bring a smile to your face, but which car makes your face smile? Are you a fan of Audi S4 or a BMW M3 man? Let us know in the comments.