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Published February 18, 2022
Audi or Mercedes-Benz?
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If you’re in the market for a luxury auto then Audi and Mercedes-Benz are both makes that may well feature on your list of possibles. But coming down on one side or the other in the Audi or Mercedes debate is no easy task. Our handy guide will help you to make up your mind.
Mercedes-Benz can rightfully trace its origins right back to the invention of the internal combustion engine by Karl Benz, which was first patented in January 1886. The brand itself was first registered in 1902 by Benz’s partner, Emil Jellinek, who added his daughter’s name, Mercedes. From the earliest days of the brand, Mercedes-Benz were sold not just in Germany but in the United States as well where they were regarded as prestige vehicles owned by the very wealthy, like the Rockefeller and Astor families.
The iconic three-pointed star has been the brand’s logo since 1909 and is said to represent the ambition of the company to create vehicles for land, sea and air.
The origins of the Audi brand are a little more complicated than Mercedes-Benz and the name itself was first introduced in 1965. One of the company’s earliest names was August Horch & Cie, which later changed to Auto Union. It was only when four different manufacturers came together in 1932 that the four rings, representing the merger, started to be used as the logo.
Now part of the Volkswagen group, Audi has a long history of innovation with two examples of this being the revolutionary Audi TT and, before that, the Audi 50, which was Germany’s first-ever supermini.
Surprisingly, in the annual J.D. Power survey that looks at the reliability of cars and judges it on the number of faults reported per 100 cars, neither Mercedes nor Audi come in the top ten. In a recent report, Audi was ranked 15th with 136 problems recorded, with Mercedes lagging further behind in 22nd place with 152. In both consumer rankings and the official What Car? survey Audi also come out on top. That said, both are reliable brands, just not quite as reliable as mass-market cars such as Toyota, Kia and Hyundai.
As you’d expect, luxury cars like Audi and Mercedes are very big on safety and both brands have a track record of innovation. For example, Mercedes was the first to introduce forward collision avoidance in their S-Class sedan.
Audi was quick to catch up, however, and now both offer features like lane departure warning, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control as standard. These come under the heading of Pre Sense technologies, while Mercedes have labeled them as Distronic Plus.
It’s almost too close to call whether Audi or Mercedes offer you the best performance. Both have models in their lineup that are capable of incredible acceleration and breathtaking handling.
For Audi, the undoubted star of the show is the R8 supercar, which can deliver up to 602HP, while the Mercedes AMG-GT can accelerate from 0-60 mph in under four seconds. There are even high-performance SUVs from both manufacturers with the Audi Q8 and the Mercedes AMG GLE-63 being prime examples.
Audi has the reputation for creating cars that are more eye-catching than Mercedes, with the R8 and the mold-breaking TT both being great examples of this.
Mercedes have always relied on a more traditional design esthetic, especially for their large sedans. Interiors across both brands are outstanding, with the Mercedes S-Class often being singled out for praise. In terms of infotainment, the Audi system has been found to be a little more clunky to use than the rival MBUX system.
Mercedes and Audi go toe-to-toe when it comes to the variety of cars that they offer. At the lower end of the sedan category, there’s the Mercedes A-Class and the Audi A3, and at the top there’s the S-Class that battles it out with the S8.
When it comes to SUVs, the Audi Q series closely matches the Mercedes GL range with little to differentiate between the two. Where Mercedes does win out is in the trucks category, with Audi not offering any at all.
Here are five head-to-head looks at how specific models compare.
If you’re looking for a small to mid-sized sedan then these are the two obvious candidates to consider. The A3 is one of the most affordable Audis that you’ll find but that doesn’t mean that it lacks refinement. It’s available in three body styles – sedan, sportback and convertible – and all share the same high-quality interior. However, the C-Class is arguably even better and also boasts a superior infotainment system with a 10.25-inch screen as standard. Both cars are pretty practical with more cargo space than you might expect with the sedan A3 winning out in terms of capacity.
These are the entry-level SUVs for the two brands and, if you were judging on looks alone, most people would agree that the Q2 has the edge.
The slightly squarer and more defined lines of the GLA-Class do look good, but perhaps with not such widespread appeal. But beauty is more than skin-deep and it’s in the ultra-up-to-date interior that this car shines, while the Audi looks a little more old-style. While both are supposed to be off-roaders – and are more than capable of handling it – they make for great city cars with smooth suspension, a wide range of powertrains and all the safety features you’d expect.
When the Audi TT was first launched back in 1998 its unique “jello-mold” shape caused quite a stir. Even though there have been several imitations from other makers since it has continued to evolve and have a distinctive look that could only be from the design studios of Audi.
The E-Class is a far more traditional shape – more sedan than sports – and this translates into greater practicality. Looks aside, both cars deliver in terms of performance and handling but, as you’d expect, if comfort is important, then the Mercedes wins this particular contest.
In the battle of the larger sedans, it’s the Audi A4 or Mercedes A-Class. Both are supremely comfortable cars to ride in as well as being very easy to drive. The bigger dimensions of the Audi will make it a little more spacious for passengers, but a little less practical when it comes to finding a parking spot.
The A4 is only available in all-wheel drive while you have the option of just front-wheel drive with the A-Class. When it comes to fuel consumption, they’re pretty much level, pegging at between 25 and 36 mpg depending on journey type.