The compact luxury sedan segment is awash with several excellent models to choose from, yet even in this supposed “entry-level” category you can avail of the very best among the lineups. That means for BMW you can choose to go with the 335i; with Audi you can choose the S4; and with Infiniti, you can go straight for the G37. These models are considered top of the line in the midsize luxury sedans, and frankly they are all excellent.
It’s appropriate that we start this comparison with the BMW 335i, since the BMW 3 series is considered the bread and butter model for BMW. This is the model that has defined an entire category of automobiles, and the 335i is the best of them all, at least among the BMW 3 lineup. But there’s a good case to be made that this is simply among the best cars in the world.
It is available in 3 versions: the Sport Line with its superb power and agility, the Luxury line that transports you from point A to point B in style and luxury, and the M Sport, where the performance can be truly astonishing.
But even choosing the Luxury version gives you great performance that you would always expect from BMW. You can get a rear wheel drive, 300 horse power beast courtesy of the 3.0-liter, inline 6-cylinder engine. Going from dead stop to 60 (or actually 62 to be more precise) takes just 5.5 seconds, yet you can achieve 30 miles to the gallon when driving mostly on highways. That’s not even using the Eco Pro mode. That’s supposed to help you get even more fuel consumption savings, but the performance is so subdued in this mode that you may as well buy a lesser BMW 3 variant.
There are quite a few features available, although some complaints have been voiced that some options should be made standard. Nonetheless, the utter joy of driving this car is a pleasure that’s not to be missed. Whatever complaint you have will be almost irrelevant once you get behind the wheel. It’s really that good.
Audi offers the A4 as the main competitor of the BMW 3 series, but to face off with the 335i you’ll need the S4. This is the faster and tighter incarnation of the A4.
Under the hood, you’ll find a 333-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 that offers a theoretical 325 lb-ft of torque. This engine is impressive because other luxury sports sedans with basically the same engine specs tend to be significantly slower than the Audi S4. Take a look at the Volvo S60 R-Design, which has 325 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. To get to 60 mph, you’ll have to endure 5.3 seconds of driving. That’s not really bad, but the S4 takes only 4.4 seconds. That’s the same number time as the Camaro SS with its 426-hp V-8. The Audi S4 also needs only 13 seconds flat to complete a quarter mile.
The S4 acceleration is very smooth, courtesy of the hi-tech seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. But it’s not a one trick pony that’s only good for straight lines. The grip of the all-wheel drive is impressive, and the electronically controlled rear differential can really help at the turns.
Speaking of multiple tricks, when you’re not pretending to be a race car driver the S4 is excellent as well as a daily commute. The ride is comfortable, and part of that is because of the luxurious leather bucket seats. The inside is quite spacious, and the cargo space has ample room for all your stuff. It’s so easy to drive that you may think that you’re inside a Camry, except that the interior is more classy. The infotainment system is actually very nice as well.
While some purists may think that this quiet efficiency lacks soul and artistry, for practical folks who like to go fast or go comfy (or both), the Audi S4 is truly an excellent option.
The Infiniti G37 has a couple of things going for it. For one, it is extremely fun to drive. It really doesn’t matter if you go with manual or automatic transmissions, or if you choose rear-wheel drive over the all-wheel drive. You get the same 328-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 in engine. You can choose between the RWD Journey, the AWD, or the RWD Sport 6MT.
Part of the fun also comes with the features, which tend to offer a sporty vibe as well. The look and the seats are surely part of the sporty feeling. There’s navigation system among the options, along with an upscale sounds system and even a Zagat rating and review.
The other main attraction is the price. It’s a Japanese-made car, and as expected the price is considerably lower than its German counterparts. This is the fun car that can also work well as a family car.
So those are your main options. Luxury and brand name seekers will probably go with the BMW, while discount-minded family drivers with a wish for some weekend fun will gravitate towards the Infiniti. But for those who want to try and get the best of both worlds, the Audi S4 is the way to go.
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