2013 Audi S4 vs 2013 BMW 335i vs 2013 Cadillac ATS vs 2013 Mercedes-Benz C 350 vs 2013 Volvo S60

First published May 4, 2013

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney, Michael Bettencourt, and Jeff Wilson

Comparison Test: Sport Sedans volvo mercedes benz luxury cars car comparisons cadillac bmw audi
2013 Luxury Sport Sedan Comparison. Click image to enlarge

Introduction, Peter Bleakney

Looking at this assemblage of high-test metal during the photo shoot for our 2013 Luxury Sport Sedans group test, I couldn’t help but think “What a great time for an auto enthusiast to be a parent.”

That’s assuming said procreating car nut has the inclination (and the 60-large plus) needed to get into any of these overachieving four-door, five-place sedans whose performance in most cases matches or even eclipses that of what might have been called a super-sedan only a decade ago.

All this accompanied by sybaritic appointments and calm on-road composure.

Yep, these are halcyon days indeed.

We are here to determine where best to place your hard-earned pesos when it comes to six-cylinder all-wheel-drive sport sedans, in a segment formerly known as compact. Over a day of flinging the collective 1581 hp over some interesting B-roads and a bit of highway, we assessed each on the combined merits of performance and day-to-day comfort and usability.

The usual German suspects are present and accounted for.

The BMW 3 Series was redone last year, becoming bigger and more luxurious while gently backing away from its benchmark cutting-edge dynamics. Here it shows up in 335i xDrive guise, propelled by the fabulous 300-hp 3.0L N55 turbo straight-six mated to an equally impressive eight-speed ZF gearbox.

Mercedes-Benz provided a C 350 4Matic with 3.5L naturally aspirated direct-injection V6 making 302 hp. Power gets to all four wheels through a seven-speed auto.

Bristling with technology, the Audi S4 Quattro Premium boasts 333 hp from its 3.0L supercharged V6. Its seven-speed R tronic tranny is the only twin-clutch here, and this specimen also sported the optional active Quattro sport rear differential. Hmmm…

Comparison Test: Sport Sedans volvo mercedes benz luxury cars car comparisons cadillac bmw audi Comparison Test: Sport Sedans volvo mercedes benz luxury cars car comparisons cadillac bmw audi
2013 Luxury Sport Sedan Comparison. Click image to enlarge

You can’t have a comparo like this without including the upstart Cadillac ATS, an all-American take on the classic Euro sport sedan (read BMW 3 Series) with a chassis that proves the Swabians do not have a lock on this sort of thing. The GM suspension/chassis engineers who developed this one deserve to be knighted. Our ATS Premium is the top model with six-speed auto, AWD and GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L naturally aspirated V6 here pushing 321 ponies out of the corral.

And then from the north comes a hot wind. This Swedish Clark Kent dons blue spandex and becomes, ta da, the Volvo S60 R-Design. A beautiful car to look at, and with 325 hp from its turbocharged transversely mounted turbo-straight-six (trust the Swedes to be different), a dedicated sports suspension and performance rubber (the rest were on snows), it has the potential to make meatballs out of the competition.

No Infiniti G37 (soon to be Q50) or Lexus IS350? Both these Japanese contenders are about to be replaced with all-new versions, and we couldn’t yet get them for our comparison. You can be sure that as soon as they are available we will be revisiting this segment.

Of particular interest to us was a certain German entrant whose as-tested price of $68,740 put it about $7,000 north of the next priciest car. Blind arrogance? Stupidity?

Sometimes you get what you pay for. Read on.