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2018 Audi A5 Sportback vs. 2018 BMW 430i xDrive Gran Coupe, 2018 Kia Stinger 2.0T AWD

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 2/1/2018 JOHN PEARLEY HUFFMAN
2018 Audi A5 Sportback vs. 2018 BMW 430i xDrive Gran Coupe, 2018 Kia Stinger AWD© JOHN PEARLEY HUFFMAN 2018 Audi A5 Sportback vs. 2018 BMW 430i xDrive Gran Coupe, 2018 Kia Stinger AWD

From the February 2018 issue

Research

In this cuckoo-crazy, mixed-up world, nothing is certain and the set order is up for renegotiation. For decades, the four-door sedan was the sensible choice, the vehicle that sober, serious grown-up types bought to show just how sober and serious they really were. But crossovers have toppled the establishment, and now four-doors are struggling to retain relevance. So squash the roofs, pack in the tech, add a practical hatch for the camping equipment, and voilà—the sedan is king again. Only now they’re four-door coupes. Got it?

The quasi-coupes under examination today are Audi’s A5 Sportback and BMW’s 430i xDrive Gran Coupe, with the Kia Stinger here to do its own renegotiating of the set order. The Audi and BMW lead with, and are enabled by, their heritage. They’re tweaked expressions of long-established brand identities. Kia is relatively new to the premium realm and has yet to produce a hit there. The Stinger could be it.

So here are three more or less medium-size hatchbacks, all equipped with longitudinally mounted turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, each making about 250 horsepower, that feed automatic transmissions with at least seven forward gears. They all have all-wheel drive: The BMW and the Kia are otherwise laid out as conventional rear-drivers, and the Audi, as is its wont, has its engine hung out ahead of the front wheels.

There are no high-performance pretensions here. The turbo four-pots are base engines in these models. Above them, the S5 Sportback, 440i Gran Coupe, and Stinger GT all feature turbocharged sixes making over 300 horsepower. But the fun stops at that level. There is currently no RS5 Sportback, M4 Gran Coupe, or V-8–powered Stinger. Pity.

There’s leather on the seats and wrapping the steering wheels. We’ve got some room on our credit cards and Southern California is in flames. So let’s slalom around the infernos and rack up some Marriott Rewards points in sensational Bakersfield and luxurious Lancaster.

Kia’s Stinger is the brawler of the group. With its thick shoulders, blunt nose, and muscular stance, it’s all pugnacious attitude. But in this octagon of ultimate fighting, it plays Conor McGregor against old Floyd Mayweather and another, younger Floyd Mayweather. Like McGregor, it competes better than expected and fights for less money.

Research the Kia Stinger on MSN Autos | Find a Kia Stinger near you

The Stinger is the largest car here. Its 114.4-inch wheelbase outstretches the Audi’s by 3.2 inches and the BMW’s by 3.8. It’s also longer overall and wider, with wider wheel tracks. Surprisingly, it weighs in seven pounds lighter than the BMW, even if it’s up 127 on the Audi.

The BMW 430i Gran Coupe's steering is frustratingly inconsistent but, as is usually the case with BMW, its engine is truly excellent. The upright BMW does the least convincing impression of a coupe.

With its numb on-center feel, twitchy reactions to initial input, and overly light delivery, the 430i’s steering isn’t so much bad as it is frustrating. There are moments when it feels great, as when pushing the car hard, but those moments never last. Why can’t all BMWs steer like the M2?

Despite riding on the shortest wheelbase and being 3.6 inches shorter overall than the A5 Sportback, the 430i wallows at a porky 3852 pounds over its 225/45R-18 Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Run Flat tires. That a four-cylinder derivative of the 3-series wound up weighing this close to two tons is astonishing.

Fortunately, the BMW turbo four does a credible imitation of a BMW inline-six. Rated at 248 horsepower, which is four ponies behind the Audi and seven back from the Kia, the BMW engine has a generous torque curve with consistent production of 258 pound-feet between 1450 and 4800 rpm. That broad torque spread results in a forgiving playfulness so that, even if the driver picks the wrong gear for a corner, there’s enough grunt to pull through it. And there are a lot of gears from which to choose.

The first six of the eight forward cogs in the automatic transmission are tightly spaced and can be rapidly called upon using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Sixth itself is a direct-drive 1.00:1 ratio with seventh and eighth as overdrives. Left to shift on its own, the transmission operates almost invisibly and doesn’t seem obsessed with reducing engine speed.

Given that expanse of torque and the smart transmission, the 430i overachieves in acceleration despite its weight. The trip from zero to 60 mph takes 5.7 seconds and the quarter-mile steams by in 14.3 seconds at 98 mph. This is a drivetrain in search of a lighter car.

BMW keeps calling this car a coupe, but of the three vehicles, it looks the most like a sedan. The nose is relatively long and droops at its leading edge to meet E.U. regulations that protect jaywalkers. It’s the tallest of the three, with the most generous greenhouse and the best outward visibility. The roofline drops back to a shortened decklid that barely keeps the car from being a true fastback.

In the final analysis, there’s nothing about the BMW 430i xDrive Gran Coupe that wouldn’t be better if it weighed less.

Research the BMW 4-Series on MSN Autos | Find a BMW 430i Gran Coupe xDrive near you

Comparison Tests:  Final Scoring, Performance Data, and Complete Specs

Comparison Tests: Final Scoring, Performance Data, and Complete Specs
© Car and Driver

* These objective scores are calculated from the vehicle's dimensions, capacities, rebates and extras, and/or test results.

Re-Tired, ReTested

Sinister conspiracy mongering is fun, but all we know for sure is that the Audi A5 Sportback used for this comparison showed up on Pirelli Cinturato P7 summer tires while the BMW and Kia competition wore the requested all-season compromise rubber. So 10 days after initial testing, C/D retested the same A5 Sportback on Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season tires in the same 245/40R-18 size at the same venue but with a different driver. Senior editor Tony Quiroga stepped in for assistant technical editor David Beard.

Scoring for this comparison is based on the original testing with the Audi on summer tires, but we wanted to confirm that a tire with less grip wouldn’t change the finishing order. We repeated our braking and skidpad tests on the all-seasons but skipped the slalom, which is the most driver-variable and least repeatable.

Despite the similarity in names, there are significant differences in performance between the all-season and summer Cinturato P7 tires. In our follow-up test, skidpad grip dropped from 0.93 to 0.89 g, and braking grew from 164 to 189 feet. If those new numbers were used in the scoring, the Audi would lose a point and the BMW and Kia would gain three. So the margin of victory for the A5 drops from a dominating 23 points to a merely overwhelming 19. —JPH

Funny thing about physics: It usually wins. In this test, the Audi A5 Sportback carries the least weight, its engine delivers the most torque, its brakes are the largest, and it wears the widest tires. So it’s no surprise that it’s the quickest, handles the best, grips the skidpad at 0.93 g, brakes in the shortest distance, and gets the best observed fuel economy. This one wasn’t even close, folks.

But there are tire issues. The A5 was the only car that showed up on summer-spec tires despite C/D’s request for all-season rubber. It’s an advantage, but not one so great that it wholly explains the Audi’s dominating performance. Take a look, again, at the sidebar to see how the car performed on all-season rubber.

Research the Audi A5 Sportback on MSN Autos | Find an Audi A5 near you

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