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2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class vs. 2015 Audi A4: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2015

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4 are two of the most popular luxury sedans on the market today. And it seems they're getting even more popular: The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class recently earned high acclaim for a redesign, while the Audi A4 is attracting more buyers interested in an upscale sedan that offers many high-end features. But which car is better? We've created a detailed comparison of both models to find out. But first, let's see what's new with each sedan for the 2015 model year.

2015 Mercedes C-Class

The C-Class sedan is fully redesigned for the 2015 model year. Changes include a new look inside and out, new engines, new features, more interior room and more cargo space. Two-door coupe versions of the C-Class are unchanged, though we suspect they'll be up for a similar redesign soon.

2015 Audi A4

The A4 is unchanged for the latest model year.

Reliability

Although the 2015 C-Class is too new for reliability rankings from experts at J.D. Power, last year's model earned a four circles in the firm's Power Circle Ratings, signifying better-than-average reliability. The A4 also earned a better-than-average 4-circle rating.

As for warranty length, the C-Class and A4 offer the same terms: a 4-year or 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper plan. Given how similar the two sedans are when it comes to reliability, we can't award this category to either car. But we're eager to see if upcoming J.D. Power ratings for the new C-Class change our opinion.

Fuel Economy

The A4 offers one engine: a 220-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, available in either front- or all-wheel-drive guise. Fuel economy tops out at 24 miles per gallon in the city or 32 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive, or 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive. Drivers who want more power can upgrade to the 333-hp S4, which boasts standard all-wheel drive and fuel economy figures as high as 18 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

The C-Class sedan comes with two available engines. Standard in C300 models is a 241-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which offers up to 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with standard rear-wheel drive, or 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive. Upgrade to the C400 and you'll get an S4-fighting 329-hp turbocharged V6, which returns a frugal 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy despite standard all-wheel drive.

The C-Class is the clear winner here. Not only does it offer more power than its Audi rival, but it also boasts better fuel economy in just about every configuration.

Safety

Although the new C-Class has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the outgoing model earned a perfect 5-star rating for crash safety. The Audi A4 did, too. Unfortunately, however, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the A4 a Poor score in the small-overlap front test, a troubling score for a luxury car. The C-Class has not yet been rated by the IIHS.

As you might expect, both the A4 and the C-Class offer all the standard safety features you'll need, such as side airbags, curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes. But if you compare optional safety gadgets, the C-Class begins to pull ahead of the A4. Available C-Class items include adaptive cruise control, partial autonomous steering, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert and more, only some of which are offered in the A4.

Our pick for safety is easily the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Not only does it offer more features, but we expect its IIHS test scores to surpass the A4's figures, too, based on previous C-Class performance and ratings given to other Mercedes models.

Technology

As was the case in the safety section, the C-Class seems to have an advantage over the A4 in terms of technology. This is partly because the C-Class boasts a brand-new design, while the A4 is several years old; that means the Mercedes offers a wide array of new features, while the Audi is left playing catch-up.

The C-Class comes standard with a Wi-Fi hot spot, for example, which isn't even an option in the A4. The C-Class's standard screen is larger, and it comes standard with memory seats. It also offers a few options that aren't available in the A4, including air suspension, an even larger 8.4-inch screen, a panoramic sunroof, partial autonomous steering, and a power closing trunk. All these items together mean that the C-Class offers a major tech advantage over the A4.

Value

If you've followed along so far, you'll probably notice that the C-Class has topped the A4 in nearly all of our categories. It offers better safety equipment, more technology, better gas mileage and more engine power. But here's where the A4 gets its revenge: pricing.

The A4 offers many of the same standard features as the C-Class, despite a starting MSRP that's roughly $3,000 lower. Add all-wheel drive to both models, and the difference stays about the same. It's only when you add more power and compare the C400 to the S4 that prices finally even out.

Does this mean the A4 is a better value? That depends on your perspective. After all, the C-Class does offer more goodies, more power and better gas mileage, but whether it's worth the extra $3,000 (or more, as we suspect discounts are much higher on the A4 than on the new C-Class) is up to you.

AutoTrader's Advice

Spend a little time in the new C-Class and the new A4, and it's easy to see why these are two of the most popular luxury models on the market. Both offer smooth, comfortable rides, impressive engine power, lots of features and surprisingly good fuel economy. But which one should you pick?

We'd go with the C-Class. Although we know the Audi is cheaper, the Mercedes justifies its higher price by offering more stuff, more power, better gas mileage and improved safety features. We also like its new styling, and we love the turbocharged C400 model. Simply put, the C-Class is the better car, and we think that it's worth the price premium over the A4.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class vs. 2015 Audi A4: Which Is Better? - Autotrader