Date registered: Dec 2005
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RE: Audi or Mercedes?
I owned Audis for 15 years before buying my Benz. Contrary to some of the posts here, I think they make fantastic cars. You can certainly find someone who has had a quirky Benz that broke down after 800 miles.
I think the "glorified VW" comment has some validity, but not much. It's most true when talking about the Audi TT or the new A3 -- both being based on the same platform as the VW Golf/Jetta. But the other models currently have their own platforms and pure Audi drivelines. That said, a lot of the componentry (electronics, etc.) is common w/ the VWs. Audi and VW had major coilpack problems recently, and it hurt them both. But if you drive an A3, you won't feel like you're in a VW. The basic Audi quattro drivetrain is a spin-off of a front-drive layout; but very few get sold as FWD. Much to my surprise, the front-to-rear weight distribution on a modern Audi is not much worse that it is on Benz.
As to dealer quality, it depends on your region, but I moved to Benz in part because of the very poor Audi dealer experience. But the Audi dealer that I didn't like also sold Benz and Porsche, so there's not much going on there.
If you compare Audi to Benz, model-by-model, they are very, very similar. Audi has nicer interiors. Audi is a better harsh weather car. Benz has better resale value, and maybe better drivetrains. Benz has lost its reputation for building bulletproof tanks, so that advantage may be gone.
As to driving machines, the best Benzes (AMGs) are comparable to the Audi "S" series (S4, S6, S8), but not better. I compared an S4 to the C32, and the main reason I went with the C32 was to add some variety to my life (after 14 years of Audi driving).
My next car is as likely to be an Audi as it is to be a Benz.
PS: The Audi owner network is MUCH more active and supportive; probably because it appeals more to youthful driving enthusiasts.