Audi S4 vs BMW M3

jlmagicarethusjlmagicarethus Member Posts: 2
edited April 2014 in Audi
I'm looking into getting either a S4 or M3 of 2004. I want to know the positives and negatives of each car.


  • patpat Member Posts: 10,421
    jlmagicarethus, it would help if you would ask some specific questions and tell us a little more about what interests you. For starters, what body style? I believe the only one the two share is a convertible. There are logistical issues about where this discussion should take place, so we definitely need to know that.

    Give us some more information and we'll help you out as best we can. But essay questions are kinda tough to answer sometimes. :-)
  • scotth6scotth6 Member Posts: 43
    I own a 2003 M3 Coupe and a 2002 M3 Convertible, both have 6 speed sticks. My 2003 has 12,000 miles with 0 problems, my 2002 has 18,500 with the only problem being I had to replace the navigation system (under warranty). The M3 Coupe is the best car I have ever owned and I will surely buy it when my lease runs out. I get 20 miles to the gallon in the city and got 26 on a 450 mile drive to Florida at 85 miles an hour. I prefer the ride of the Coupe over the Convertible. I have read some complaints about the SMG option. If you live in a climate with snow you may want the 4 wheel drive of the S4. The back seat of the Coupe can easily handle two small adults but don't try it in the Convertible.
    Overall, the quality is high with great power and outstanding handling especially in the coupe. I hope this helps some.
  • jlmagicarethusjlmagicarethus Member Posts: 2
    Well...I don't really have a preference on the body style. I test drove both cars and I like both of them. Power, options, luxury. All I want to know is the positive and negatives of both vehicle like which one is probably more reliable.
    Which one is the most likely to breakdown the least times.
  • patpat Member Posts: 10,421
    Okay, well I going to move this to the Sedans Comparisons board and make it a full-fledged comparo instead of just a question. It doesn't belong on the Sedans board and I don't really know where else to put it if you haven't decided on a body style.

    I would like to suggest that you'd help yourself out a lot if you did some research to help you narrow down your own preferences and thoughts. That would give you a basis for us to try to assist you.

    And don't forget to use the Make/Model search on the left side of the page to find our existing and previous discussions on these vehicles. There is a lot of information here already that will benefit you greatly. The "Search This Discussion" feature on the page bar is very helpful in finding posts containing relevant keywords.

    And if I can help you find any specific resource, don't hesitate to drop me an email.

  • scotth6scotth6 Member Posts: 43
    The M3 now has a 6 year 100,000 warranty on the engine. When they initially came out in 2001 there were a small amount of engines that blew up,
    BMW changed the oil to 5W60 weight to correct the problem. I have not heard of any problems on the 2002 or 2003 models. The 3 series is a very reliable car, I owned a 2001 330cic that I put 32,000 miles on with 0 problems and previously owned a 328ci and 325i. This is a proven highly reliable car and the only issues could be the SMG option. I can not speak for the Audi but any new model usually goes through a small amount of problems. The M3 has a 4 year 50,000 mile warranty, they even replace lights and wind shield wipers and all maintance is free. You can get it certified for about $1,000 which gives you a 6 year 100,000 warranty on most parts. The M3 also has a high resale value.
  • markcincinnatimarkcincinnati Member Posts: 5,343
    For some of us, the S4 doesn't shine in any one area but does very well in all areas.

    Sound perhaps like a "YAWN?" -- yes, until you factor in that the S4 is all wheel drive.

    And that makes a big difference.

    Both cars go, both cars are very quick, fast, nimble, etc.

    When the road is dry.

    The Audi, however, goes when the road is not dry.

    And that makes a huge difference here in the southern part of the north when we have lots of moderate snow days that basically paralyze a 1.5MM population metropolitan area. The Audis go, most BMW's sit and spin.

    An "M3x" from BMW would probably be an Audi beater -- for my money, right now, it is the other way around.

    My next car, based on what I know TODAY, will be an S4 Avant (I currently have an 03 allroad 2.7T 6spd).
  • lovemyclklovemyclk Member Posts: 351
    Given the relative excellence of both, which one can you see yourself in that will give you that "buzz" that can only come from a limited production high-performance car?

    It's early Saturday morning and you enter your garage to take it for a spirited drive... which one makes YOU feel the best?... gives you that certain pride of ownership?... begs you to hand wash it lovingly?... begs you to drive it like you stole it to put that huge grin on your face?

    Choosing the best for YOU should engage both halves of your brain ;-) Make mine the M3!!
  • diver110diver110 Member Posts: 67
    FWIW, I have tested 2004s of both and (everything else being equal) would take the S4 over the M3 in a heartbeat. 0-60 the M3 wins, but most people are not driving these cars on tracks. The S4 has significantly more low end torque, something I am fond of, handled great, and I felt had better internal appointments than the M3. You can also drive it in the winter. The once concern I have heard is that the 2004 S4 has had some engine problems, and it does not seem that Audi makes as a good a quality car as BMW.
  • kevin111kevin111 Member Posts: 991
    Does the S4 need special Oil, when giving it an oil change? I believe the M3 does, which you can only (or mainly get) get at a BMW dealer.
  • 97bimmerm397bimmerm3 Member Posts: 1
    I recently purchased a 1997 M3 with 72K miles in what seemed like excellent condition, but after driving it for a month and putting less than 1000 miles on it the "check engine" light came on. I checked the gas cap and it was tight. The car seems to be running great otherwise. What do you think? Also, the car did not come with an owner's manual. Any idea how I can get my hands on a copy? Does this car require special engine oil? Do you recommend service at a BMW dealership or a foreign car service center?
  • kevin111kevin111 Member Posts: 991
    "Does this car require special engine oil? "

    - I think this is the only one I can answer. The Special engine Oil, I believe, is only recommended for the '01 ('02?) models and later (this last model year).

    As long as you are using Synthetic (Mobil 1) you are fine.
  • bmorofskybmorofsky Member Posts: 13
    I have the m-3 convertible and a friend of mine has a s-4 up north. For my money the M-3 has it hands down. Yes, they both go like stink, but only the M-3 puts that smile on your face and the approving nod, even from guys who drive Camaro's , 'vettes, and Mustangs.(And girls ,too)
  • audibmwaudibmw Member Posts: 5
    The Audi s4 is so fast in comparison to the M3 when you don't nail the accelerator to the floor. The M3 is cranky and feels lazy and heavier unless you rev it, then it comes alive. The S4 is quieter and has a much better sounding engine. The M3 says "look at me." The S4 says "got you." Not many people have an S4. Many people have M3's, including me. The S4 is an undercover rocket. The M3 is an arrogant rocket. The s4 is more fun to drive. I should know I have driven them both. I own a 1988 M3, which is a lot more fun than the new M3.
  • emdocemdoc Member Posts: 4
    I just sold my Audi A6 2.7T and am considering a M3 as a replacement. We receive some snow each year and will have to put snow tires/wheels on the M3. How reliable is the M3? Will it hold up in the long run? Appreciate your comments.
  • audibmwaudibmw Member Posts: 5
    Very reliable, once you get its quirks out of the way. It's built tough. Its structural integrity maintains. Snow is not a good place for it, though.
  • bmwloverbmwlover Member Posts: 9
    I personally think the M3 looks better, and the s4 doesnt look as great. But i've test driven both and the s4 drives like a son of a gun. M3 has the looks and accelaration, but the s4's performance is much better. I know most people have an m3, because its a great car, but not many people have tested an s4 and you should get out there today and test drive it! You will fall in love with it instantly. But if you have an M3 you have made a great choice too.
  • dougt4dougt4 Member Posts: 4
    wife just gave me the green light to sell bmw 330i and 84 911 to buy s4. should i do it? commute 50 miles 3 out of 5 days. love the car. back is sore in the crappy beemer seats(didn't get the sports) ouch.
  • kevin111kevin111 Member Posts: 991
    Sounds like you are unsatisfied with your current car.

    If you have researched all vehicles in your specifications/price range/reliability index and feel the S4 is the car that fits what you want/need in a car, then go ahead.
  • dougt4dougt4 Member Posts: 4
    the truth is my dream car is a c4, and i could buy one if (my wife didn't think they were too much of a statement)...anyway i am a car nut and want to do the right thing. i am 34 and a mercedes is not my style, a porsche is too over the top, and i don't want my kids expecting "the good life".
  • dougt4dougt4 Member Posts: 4
    how did you like the a6 2.7t, looking at s4 and s line a6.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 227,388
    The S4 will just be another car once you have it for a couple years. If you sell the 911, you will always be sorry. I sold my '84 Targa in '94 when my son was born. When I bought the car in '90, it was my dream car, and now I realize it still is.


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  • bigdaddy69bigdaddy69 Member Posts: 2
    Well I have had a '02 M3 for almost two years now. I never drove an S4, but they were not the car they are now, back then.

    I can tell you that I take my girls to school in the M3 every day and go to the track every chance I can get. This car LOVES the track. I also live in the South where there is no snow, so all-wheel drive, while neat, is not necessary.
  • titantitan Member Posts: 16
    Can anyone provide an indepth experience of the SMG transmission on the M3. I ask b/c I heave heard varrying opinions on this F1-like feature. Does it shift smooth between paddle upshifts/downshifts? Is it immediately responsive to the paddle shift? Without question, the SMG is a damn cool option that hopefully will provide me with the closest I be getting to an F1 cockpit and driving experience, but it is refined enough for everyday driving?

  • bigdaddy69bigdaddy69 Member Posts: 2
    I have a couple friends with the SMG and they like it. The one comment they both have about smoothness, is that you sort of have to still treat it like a manual transmission in that letting up on the throttle a little bit when you shift it makes it easier. This is mostly for spirited driving and at the track though. Not sure about the automatic modes. I don't think they use them much
  • paul224paul224 Member Posts: 1
    Hello everyone, I am new to this, but saw the member "rherzig" ask about importing an M3 from germany with a VIN that came up invalid. I am posting this to say someone please contact him and tell him that THIS IS A SCAM...DO NOT FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THIS. I KNOW ABOUT THIS ALL TOO WELL. sorry to all of you that this does not concern, and sorry for re-posting it in a couple of spots...
    Also, if you get this rherzig, you can e-mail me at [email protected] for more details.
    Thanks everyone
  • hgphgp Member Posts: 11
    I have recently tested both cars. M3 SMG and the S4 manual. Here are my thoughts:

    Both cars are incredible. It seems like I can throw around the M3 a little more, although the engine makes more of a higher pitch "whine" than the S4. I think if you want to get an M3, the E46 would be a better alternative than the E90 M3 that is coming out in a couple of years as I'm not impressed with the new generation BMW interior quality.

    I have always found that Audi design is very nice, both exterior and interior. The S4 really exceeded my expectations and "feels" like a more substantial car than the M3. I also feel that in terms of materials quality, it is better than the M3. My only concern with the S4 is reliability and resale value. I think that the M3 is still the more reliable car of the two.

    But based solely on every-day drivability and substance. My vote would go to the S4 by a small margin.
  • jpvwaudijpvwaudi Member Posts: 139
    Hell, either one you're not gonna go wrong. Its like choosing Seaver or Pedro to start Game 7. Yes, I sell Audis but I love BMW too. I've driven both at length; the M3 is faster and handles a bit better, but its not as comfy, and the interiors are no match. For an everyday driver I would pick the S4 Avant. Its fast, its comfy, its roomy and you can smoke 99% of traffic off the line at a light....100% in the rain. It all comes down to personal preference. You're not gonna feel 0.3 seconds to 60, and you'll never take the car on a skid pad. Drive them again and look around you when your inside. Which looks nicer? Which has the functions that I'm looking for? Which car rides smoother? Which car has the safety features that my family needs? You can answer this for yourself.

    Edmunds says its the cheapest to own. Reliability is going to be similar. We've sold over 30 new S4's and haven't had any gremlins. Judge for yourself.
  • stealth4stealth4 Member Posts: 1
    I have researched and drove both the M-3 and S4. For anyone truly passonate about a spirited vehicle nothing can compare to the S-4. I have a 2000 S4 which I purchased new and installed a performace GIAC chip as well as a chip for the auto shifter. My stealth black Audi with triptonic has yet to be taken by any vehicle on the road. It is with amusment that I pull up to any BMW including the M3 and blow their pants off. I get much use out of the hazard lights " a blink that the kids use when they pass another car in a race". I even had the oppurtunity to pass a BMW 760Li at over 140 mph.The BMW still has no idea what type of Audi passed him. The GIAC chip removes the MPH limiter and increases horspower beyond belief. After 5 years of fun I have not had one problem and the S4 still performs as it did in 2000. True BMW has a name and people like to say they have a "Beamer". As for me I'll take the Audi in black that just slowly pulls up next to you in your M3 and from that moment on the only thing you see is my rear plates. STEALTH4
  • monkstermannmonkstermann Member Posts: 27
    Anybody out there have data on reliability on the 5spd auto trannies for above??
    Am considering M3 convert with 107,000 on it, one owner, though carfax states it went through dealer auction recently. Is that something to be concerned about, the auction part?? Any feedback would be appreciated comparing hardtops vs convertibles too.
  • monkstermannmonkstermann Member Posts: 27
    Stealth4: what kind of mileage are you getting in "normal" driving. i.e. when your foot's not on the floor? Also, when did you do the chips and did you see any change in MPG after doing so?
  • parrishparrish Member Posts: 10
    stealth4: I believe that you are saying that you have the automatic transmission, but to confirm, is that corrrect?? I would really prefer automatic to anything else, as this would be a family car as well as my baby. If you do have the automatic, it is very nice to hear that it performs so well for you.

    Thanks, John
  • fstshtngbrkfstshtngbrk Member Posts: 1
    Glad to hear of your experience with the S4. I have a 2004 S4 Avant and love it. Had a BMW 540 before; nice car...but a real bummer in snow or slick conditions. The S4 performs as well or better in dry...and just no comparison on slick.

    I'm interested in the chip change-out you made. Where did you get the chip...who installed...what was cost...and what effect on mileage and "day to day" performance.


  • some_buddysome_buddy Member Posts: 3
    TDI -

    I'm interersted and surprised about your comparison with the 540. I agree about the snow part...

    But the rest of the car? I have 2001 540-6spd, and I drove an '02 S4 before I leased the 540, NO COMPARISON, 540 was quieter, more comfotable, fast (perhaps not from a stop), better handling...

    I think the S4 changed substantially since '02 is that the difference or do we just value different qualities in the car?
  • bogueavantbogueavant Member Posts: 2
    Received S4Avant in 12/03 after 8 month wait lots of time to reconsider, drove Allroad/drove S4sedan..late model M3(02)In my humble opinion the S4Avant is as much an exercise in high performance as in style&function .My Avant solved the 3rd child issue with room to spare(previous car a TT(00))and blows the doors off unsuspecting M3's while camo'd as a wagon.Test drive them both but drive the S4 last you won't go Audi service is a plus
  • scotth6scotth6 Member Posts: 43
    The latest Automobile tested the S4 verses the M3 verses the Cadilac CTS-V and the M3 was their choice. The M3 will smoke the S4 except in a snow storm.
  • kevin111kevin111 Member Posts: 991
    The difference in 0-60 between the cars was 0.1 secs, or virtually, none.

    The M3 was the better handler, the S4 had a better ride and better for all seasons. Both were rated about the same.
  • scotth6scotth6 Member Posts: 43
    When the 6 speed manual M3 is tested instead of the SMG version there is at least .4 difference between the vehicles and according to some tests more than that. Every test I have read and I get Motor Trend, Road & Track, AutoWeek, Automobile and Car & Driver have the M3 6 sped manual at 4.7 to 4.8 and the S4 at 5.1 to 5.4. Just the weight difference alone makes the M3 a much more nimble car but I do like the looks of the S4 and I understand it has a nice interior and the 4 wheel drive which are all good reasons to consider one. It really comes down to personal preference, also you get 4 years free maintenance with the Bimmer.
  • scotth6scotth6 Member Posts: 43
    Article on friday compared the new Mercedes, S4, M3, Volvo R5 and they picked the M3 as their choice.
  • bmorofskybmorofsky Member Posts: 13
    I have a M-3 Covert.w/SMG a 2003 . Asside from the fact that I lve it , you do have to get used to it. If you have it in its most aggresive mode either 5 or 6 in sequential, its not such a smooth shift, however its not supposeed to be. It feels like a kick in the pants,but man, does it go. Even more with "sport " mode on.The shift repsnse time is immediate , no way you could manually match the quickness. Plus you do not have to raise up on the throttle.I work in sales and I am in my M-3 every day. I think I used the Auto mode once or twice.This is the car to have if you want it all.
  • banxbanx Member Posts: 6
    While both cars have 50K warranties with free maintenance, note that the Audi gets oil changed at 5K, 10K, then every 10K after that. I believe the BMW still gets the oil changed whenever the service light comes up. In a long term test by a road mag, that was every 18.2K miles for the BMW. So if one is in the market for a used M3 that has 40K-50K miles on it, it may have had the oil changed only twice so far.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 227,388
    I believe gets its first service at 1200 miles..

    325 and 330 get it according to service light.. Most people report that comes pretty close to 15K (15.3K on ours).

    I'm not sure if the M3 goes according to the service light after that initial service, but it is easy to check on a used one. Every BMW dealer can pull up the service history on the car.. Many owners pay for extra oil changes inbetween the "free" service intervals.

    Most people consider it a good thing, if something mechanical needs less maintenance, rather than more...

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  • kdshapirokdshapiro Member Posts: 5,751
    Ever smoke a blown M3? 0-60 faster than your S4 can get out of it's own way. :)

    I'm not sure why you are touting passing a 760. They are very heavy cars with a 130 mph limit. Load up an additional 700 lbs of cement in your car and then blow by the 760.
  • jeskalijeskali Member Posts: 1
    I just got my new 2005 Audi S4 tiptronic. Absolutely the best car I have ever owned. Came out of a 540i. Beautiful interior-gray leather (black ext), great looking, fast as hell, awd, great stereo, room for 4. What more could you ask for? Handles like its on rails. I always wanted a 911. Now I know I will never get one. This thing rocks!
  • bmwcccbmwccc Member Posts: 234

    I seem to be in the same boat as yourself. I am also in Sales and drive 20k per year. I am in the process of buying a 2005 330Ci with sport premium etc etc etc. The last decision I can't make is SMG over Manual transmission. I understand you had a 330Ci 6-speed and traded to a M3 SMG.

    Could you give me your thoughts on the differences, I am hearing a lot of negative info on the SMG even if it will be the SMGII version.

  • parrishparrish Member Posts: 10
    How do you like the tiptronic trans with the S4? I am thinking along these lines, as I don't want a manual for what will be a family car in addition to a sports sedan.

    Thanks, JP
  • shaqdaddyshaqdaddy Member Posts: 1
    Time for a new sled!
    I am smitten by the year road abilities of the S4 cabriolet.
    Live in a limited snow region but some ice.
    I would like to know if the lack of an Audi dealer within 150 miles would make present 2003-2005 S4 owners hesitate
    MB E320 4 matic for the next few months
  • boomn29boomn29 Member Posts: 189
    I'd like more info on this as well.

    Found this:
    GIAC performance software for the 2005 B6 S4 4.2L smoothly delivers a 15-23 hp and 15-28 ft-lbs gain. For optimum power gains the software must be coupled with a cold air intake.

    That doesn't seem like a huge gain on top of a 342hp engine!
  • bahnstormerbahnstormer Member Posts: 1
    Magazine reviews mean little in real life. The two cars are very close and any 'contest' will come down to the driver. On the street, the S4 is much more livable and drivable in everyday conditions. On the track it really comes down to the driver. Heck, tires can play a larger role than engine and suspension.


    Drive both and buy the car you like. I'd bet most people would choose the S4 if they could spend a week in each car. The M3 is a blast but as an everyday driver it leaves a little to be desired.
  • ccapccap Member Posts: 40
    Hi Jeskali,


    I just got out of a 2002 540i 6 speed. I loved it but before the the lease was up, I sold it and got into an Infiniti FX45 becasue of the all wheel drive. I thought I was making the right choice. BOY!! Was I wrong! The ride was terrible, gas mileage was super poor around 15 mpg. Ans the AWD is terrible. I was sliding all over the place.


    Well I could go on and on. Anyway I was able to get out of this vehicle and now I am coming back to either a BMW or an Audi. I starting looking into an M3 or an S4. I hope to dive them this week. I really love the Quattro in the S4. I think the M3 is going to slip all over the place.


    Can you give me your latest impressions of teh S4 today now that you have owned it for a few months. Have you had it out in the snow? How does it handle? Did you ever look inot the M3 or another BMW? Just wanted to get some feed back for other owners. Thanks
  • nyccarguynyccarguy Member Posts: 16,168
    that will depend on tires. If you buy a set of winter wheels & tires for either and S4 or an M3, you will be amazed what a set of winter shoes can do. Both cars come with "Summer Only" Z-Rated performance tires that will render either car useless (regardless of AWD or RWD) in any sort of winter weather.

    2001 Prelude Type SH, 2022 Highlander XLE AWD, 2022 Wrangler Sahara 4Xe, 2023 Toyota Tacoma SR 4WD

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