The BMW M3 has quite a few competitors: the Mercedes-AMG C63, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, Tesla Model 3 Performance, Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, and the Audi RS4 Avant. However, the all-new M3 Touring really only has one main one—the Audi RS4 Avant.
Admittedly, the RS4 Avant isn’t the only performance wagon in its class but it’s the performance wagon in its class. Ever since the first-gen RS4 Avant, it’s been the go-to performance wagon for most enthusiasts with families and for good reason. The RS4 has always been an excellent combination of speed, practicality, all-weather grip, and everyday usability. Throw in its usual good looks and smart interiors and the RS4 has always been tough to beat. Until now, BMW never really tried.
So now that the BMW M3 Touring is finally here, and BMW actually has a true competitor for the RS4, let’s take a look at their designs to see how they compare. Of course, we haven’t driven the M3 Touring yet, nor have we driven the RS4 Avant, as the former hasn’t yet been made available for media drives and the latter isn’t available in North America. Which means we can only compare styling, not driving merit.
Front View Comparison
Up front, I must unfortunately kick a dead horse. The Audi RS4 Avant demolishes the M3 Touring’s front end design. Many enthusiasts have gotten used to the M3’s grilles but a great many haven’t and I, the person writing this, fall into the latter camp. I adore the M3’s driving dynamics but that face is one that even a mother would struggle to love. Let’s put it this way: the M3 is someone you date because of their personality. The RS4 Avant is no stunner but it’s clearly more handsome, with its cohesive front end design, sharp creases, and handsome lines.
Side View Comparison
In profile, the cars are quite different. The Audi RS4 Avant is a very simple but good looking car. Its flared wheel arches are surprisingly large but they’re done in a more elegant way than the Bimmer’s. Its roofline is a bit more traditional, its wheels are big but simple, and it has a single shoulder line that perfectly runs from the headlight to the taillight, with its door handles tucked neatly underneath. It’s all very tidy, all very handsome, and so very typically German. The BMW M3 Touring, on the other hand, is more aggressive, with its sharper roofline, busier wheels, and big fake fender vent. This one I’m gonna call a draw because I can see it really coming down to taste. If you want your wagon angry, go BMW. If you want it understated, go Audi.
Rear View Comparison
Out back, the same dichotomy remains. The BMW M3 looks sportier, while the Audi RS4 is more understated. Unlike its front end, the M3 Touring’s rump is far more cohesively designed and looks quite nice. Its taillights are a bit bland but its quad exhausts and aggressive (if a bit fake) rear diffuser make it seem sportier than the Audi. Although, the Audi’s taillights are a bit nicer looking, with their cool OLED pattern and welcome light dance. I think I’m gonna have to give the Audi the win out back, simply because its taillights are nicer looking and the M3’s taillight still look like they come from a Lexus IS.
Inside, I’m gonna give a rare win to the BMW. Typically, BMW interiors are no match for Audi’s, in terms of design. But, while the RS4’s cabin is very nice, it’s also very boring. The M3 Touring’s interior yells at you that it’s special. From the wild carbon fiber seats, to the carbon fiber paddle shifters, to the new curved iDrive 8 screen. It’s far more interesting inside the M3 than the RS4, so it gets the win.
That leaves two and a half wins for the Audi RS4 Avant and one and a half for the BMW M3 Touring. Don’t get me wrong, I love that the M3 Touring exists and I can’t wait to drive it. But it just isn’t as good looking as the RS4 Avant and it’s because the M3 sedan on which it’s based is rough looking. The frustrating part is that, if the BMW M3 Touring had a front-end similar to the 3 Series—especially the new LCI version—it would probably win this comparison. I hate beating a dead horse but that grille brings the M3 Touring’s design down several notches.
[Photos: Audi Media Center]