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For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Audi S4 have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The BMW M3 doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.
For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Audi S4 are height adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW M3 doesn’t offer height adjustable seat belts.
The S4 has standard whiplash protection, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the whiplash protection system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The M3 doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.
The S4 has all wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The M3 doesn’t offer all wheel drive.
Both the S4 and the M3 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, head airbags, four wheel antilock brakes, traction control and electronic stability systems to prevent skidding.
The M3’s redline is at 8400 RPM, which causes more engine wear, and a greater chance of a catastrophic engine failure. The S4 has a 7000 RPM redline.
To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the S4 has a standard 190 amp alternator. The M3’s 180 amp alternator isn’t as powerful.
The S4’s 4.2 DOHC V8 produces 7 lbs.-ft. more torque (302 vs. 295) than the M3’s 4.0 DOHC V8.
For more instantaneous acceleration and better engine flexibility in any gear, the S4’s engine produces its peak horsepower at lower RPM’s than the M3 (7000 vs. 8300).
To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi S4 uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The M3 requires premium, which can cost 25 to 50 cents more per gallon.
The S4 has a standard full size spare tire so your trip isn’t interrupted by a flat. A full size spare isn’t available on the M3, it requires you to depend on roadside assistance and your vehicle will have to be towed.
For better maneuverability, the S4’s turning circle is .7 feet tighter than the M3’s (37.7 feet vs. 38.4 feet).
The S4 Sedan has standard seating for 5 passengers; the M3 can only carry 4.
The S4 Avant has 2.3 cubic feet more passenger volume than the M3 (90.8 vs. 88.5).
The S4’s standard rear seats fold to accommodate long and bulky cargo. The M3 doesn’t offer folding rear seats, only a ski pass-through.