Appreciate the compliments. I really do try to give honest comparisons. What's the use otherwise? Here's a write-up I did on the RS4 vs M3 soon after I got my M3. I was a previous RS4 owner. It was up on a few other forums and a couple of online publications:
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A comparison between the Audi RS4 and BMW M3 is almost as inevitable as the Camaro-Mustang battle, or even death and taxes. These are two small, premium German supercars with practicality and daily drivability, yet both possess very substantial and similar adrenalin pumping characteristics. There is a high likelihood of people cross-shopping these two cars in the used market.
On an episode of Top Gear a few years back, Jeremy Clarkson stated that the engine in the Audi RS4 was "one of the greatest engines ever made". By that statement, then, the e9x M3 engine is also one of the greatest engines ever made. The engines in these two cars are just so very much alike. The rest of the cars couldn't be more different. This is where I will begin my in depth comparison between the RS4 and M3. Let me state at the outset that I will not conclude in this write up which car, overall, I think is superior. I used to own an RS4 and I now own an M3. If I said the M3 was the better ride, people would immediately say, "Oh yeah, sure, now that you own an M3, obviously you are biased". If I picked the RS4, people would say, "See, you shouldn't have sold your RS4. Bad move". So basically, if I declared a winner in this comparison, it is a lose-lose proposition for me in terms of responses. With this preface in mind, let's begin. People can draw their own conclusions.
As I said, the engines are very similar in their power delivery and subjective feel. The RS4 is more responsive early while the M3 just wails in the upper rpm range. This is all good, because the feel of the engine and the way it loved to rev was the single most intoxicating aspect of the RS4 for me. This is duplicated in the M3. In the end, it is a complete toss-up here, which should come as no surprise. The M3 consumes just a tad more fuel, probably because it is not direct injection. I am getting about 12-13mpg on hard-revving break-in style street driving. On a recent 160-mile highway trip at a 75-85 mph clip, I averaged 19mpg. On the flip side, it won't be plagued by carbon build-up.
Next, the transmission. The shifter is better in the RS4. The clutch is better in the M3. The M3's shifter is really the weakest thing about the car's execution. Now, keep in mind, that everything is relative here. It is not bad, by any means. It is very light and easy to use, but it doesn't slide into gear with the same solid mechanical precision that the RS4's shifter did. It has an almost rubbery feel to it. It is also too light in it's feel. It just needs to be better weighted. The design is not as nice or ergonomic as the RS4, although the shift pattern is illuminated at night. The throw length is similar to the RS4, however the "forward" gears (1, 3, 5) are more forward and the "aft" gears are not as far back. I slightly prefer the M3's range position, but this is mainly due to the fact that the center armrest in the RS4 was quite obtrusive when shifting. The M3's clutch is lighter and not as springy as the RS4. I like it better. It is easier to fire off fast smooth shifts as a result.
Next, let us look at traction. Well, there is really no comparison here and we all know that. You can pull maneuvers in the RS4 without blinking that in the M3 would have you, at the very least, see "C-A-U-T-I-O-N-!" flashing in red inside your brain. In rain and snow, it isn't even worth discussing. That said, in the dry, the M3 has some very substantial cornering capabilities and while you can break it loose with the throttle, it is extremely predictable and controlled in its responses. You also always know where you are in the spectrum of grip. It will never suddenly break loose like Z06 Corvette's have been accused of doing. This, of course, is with the stability programs fully off. Comparatively, the RS4's AWD does a great job of masking how close you may be to the limit….. until you happen pop over it !!
Next, steering. No comparison here. The M3 easily trumps the RS4 in terms of steering feel and responsiveness. The M3 steering wheel is the same size and a tad thicker than the Euro RS4 wheel. Overall, I like them equally. The standard US RS4 wheel doesn't compete. It is also the inevitable fact that on the M3, steering is the only task asked of the car's front wheels, and it is a task that the M does exceedingly well. It's almost as if your hands and arms are directly holding the front axle. It is handlebar-like in its connectivity to the driver.
Let's briefly look at the seats. Objectively, both are equal. Nice design, well bolstered. For me, the M3 seats work better. The Audi's recaros cater to a larger person that what I am. M3 seats have adjustable bolsters which the Audi does not, but overall, my personal anatomical traits aside, this is a tie.
Exhaust: The winner is the RS4 without question. The M3 sounds good when you really get on it, but the snarly RS4 growl is just so gutteral, even in stock form, and is there all the time. There are a huge amount of M3 exhaust options in the aftermarket that will make the M3 sound nicer than a stock RS4, but that is not what are talking about here. Plus, put something like an MTM or Capristo on the RS4, and there is no M3 that can match it. I prefer the M3's beefy chrome, staggered quad tips, however, to the RS4's big ovals.
Next, let's examine the exterior design and appearance. This can be a hugely important determinant in whether or not one buys a given car. The RS4 has a very powerful presence. It looks beefy and has a little more sinister face. The M3 looks fast and sexy as hell, almost panther-like. As a sedan, the RS4 takes the prize just ever so slightly. However, overall, the M3 coupe is just plain hot, hot, hot. The M3 competition wheels have the same tapered in spoke design that the RS4 wheels do, but the effect is even more pronounced, especially in the rear with the 10-inchers. End result…..M3 coupe is just more of a looker.
Braking. Well the RS4's front certainly looks the part much more than the painted but otherwise plain-Jane M3 units. The front discs are pretty much the same size. The rears are bigger on the M3 but the M3's weight distribution is also 7% more rearward than the RS4. By the numbers, the M3 has a better single stop distance, and have proven themselves at the track despite their less sophisticated design. There is definitely less brake dive with the M3, but this isn’t anything to do with the brakes per se, but rather the overall weight distribution of the car. So how do you judge…..Well, I had no urge whatsoever to put an aftermarket BBK on the RS4, and I'm thinking about it on the M3. By that virtue alone, I think this category has to go to the RS4, but by the tiniest of margins.
When examining the interior, one must recognize that historically, this is Audi's home court. They are renowned as the best in the business. Contrary to traditional thinking, the quality of the BMW's interior is in no way less than the Audi, at least in this application. If you opt for extended leather the look is decidedly more upscale. I like RS4's gauge graphics better. I love the M3's idrive system. I love how everything is controlled through this centralized system. It works well with my brain's sense of order and organization. The larger and wider multimedia screen on the M3 is also nicer than even the latest Audi offerings in this sized vehicle. There is no comparison with the sound systems', either. The M3's enhanced premium sound is 825 watts of real goodness, and is far superior to the RS4's Bose system. It is a curious phenomenon with Bose systems. The one in a Porsche Cayenne is stellar, for instance. The one in a Nissan 350Z that I used to own was just horrendous. The door speakers in the M3 do look like aftermarket afterthoughts, but even so, the M3 cabin has an overall sportier, "swept back" look to it. Surprisingly, I give the slight edge to the M3's interior….depending on how you option it.
Handling/dynamics is where the M3 simply dominates over the RS4. Just as the RS4 just destroys the M3 when it comes to traction, the M3 is simply in a different league here. The entire car is so responsive, and feels so tight in terms of the input/output equation. Look under the M3. You will see a very solid X-brace reinforcing the entire chassis. Look in the rear of the engine bay. You will see two substantial aluminum strut tower braces. The engine sits mostly behind the front axle. Weight distribution is 51/49. It is all an equation for supreme dynamics. And yet, there is just a hint of muting to everything; just enough to remove the harshness of the street environment without otherwise interfering with the car-driver-road interface. It has just the perfect amount of "filtering". M3 is also about 250 lbs lighter and the ride-handling balance is perfection. The stock M3 competition spec suspension is a nothing short of spectacular. No Stasis or KW kit required here. Even with those substantial mods, the handling and responsiveness of the RS4 is not what a stock M3 competition can deliver.
So there you have it. The RS4 makes a spectacular "only car". By that token, the M3 does not. In the more practical 4-door guise, some of the coupe's sexiness and sweptback quality is lost. It doesn't look quite as good as the RS4. In snow and even on wet pavement, the performance capabilities of the M3 are seriously hindered. The RS4 sounds better too. In the dry, however, and as a toy with a splash of practicality thrown in, the M3 rules. The dynamics are significantly better, and the fun factor is there in leaps and bounds. You can let the back end out at a turn or drift on a track with incredible poise when doing so. Once you learn how to drive an M3, there is just so much fun to be had with it. But, you must learn its limits first. You can't just get into it and slam it full-tilt like you can in an RS4 and expect the car to save you. It won't.
In the end, which is the better car? I do have my have my overall opinion, but I'm not telling