Car buyer's guide – is now the best time to buy a medium premium car?

By Jez Spinks, 21 Aug 2016 Car Advice

Audi A4

In a new WhichCar series, we reveal upcoming updates or major changes for Australia’s most popular vehicles.

Luxury car makers would prefer not to think of any of their vehicles as “volume cars”, yet the mid-sized premium segment is immensely popular.

Famous nameplates here include the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which frequently outsell cheaper mainstream models of equivalent size.

The 3 Series was once untouchable in the sales race, though the C-Class is now the dominant player. A slightly smaller Mercedes four-door, called the CLA, is also performing well in showrooms.

Here, WhichCar provides a guide to any changes planned or expected for these models during the next 18 months – to help you pick the perfect timing for buying one.

AUDI A4

The latest all-new A4 was released only in 2015 so don’t expect any significant activity in terms of updates for the regular model over the next 18 months. However, faster variants are coming.

Audi A4

An S4 sedan and wagon are due in October – powered by a new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 that puts 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque to the road via all four wheels. The slightly-quicker sedan can reach 100km/h from standstill in 4.7 seconds. Pricing is expected to start in the vicinity of $110,000.

For 2017, the flagship RS4 is also expected to materialise. No official details are available yet, though speculation on the engine suggests a twin-turbo V6. There’s also potential for the RS version of the A4 to adopt an electric compressor, as used in the Audi SQ7, to help eliminate turbo lag.

BMW 3 SERIES

The Munich brand’s signature model received a major update in 2015 that brought significantly revised suspension, new steering, a new modular engine family, and equipment/pricing tweaks.

BMW 3 Series

A minor update or further specification adjustments for the current (F30) generation can’t be ruled out for 2017, though BMW is busy developing its all-new (G20) generation for 2018.

The next 3 Series will be aiming to close some gaps to the A4 and C-Class in terms of interior experience and technology, while BMW will no doubt want its sedan to retake its place as the benchmark for dynamics after the crown it had held for decades was lost to the new Jaguar XE.

BMW consistently leads the way on performance and efficiency, so don’t be surprised to see further improvement to fuel consumption figures from its range of three-, four- and six-cylinder engines.

At least two plug-in hybrid 3 Series models are also strongly rumoured, in addition to the 330e plug-in that’s already on the market.

MERCEDES-BENZ C-CLASS

Benz’s mid-sizer has been a phenomenal sales success in Australia in recent years, and the latest iteration impressed on its debut in 2014. A spin-off Coupe joined this year and a Cabriolet arrives in November.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The sedan will receive its first major upgrade in 2017.

While no official information has been provided yet, as would be expected, a number of updates can be anticipated.

The styling will be tweaked, with revised bumpers, headlights and tail-lights all set to be part of the visual changes. C-Class’s already-excellent cabin is sure to receive some form of upgrade as well.

Also likely are some hand-me-downs from the bigger, brand new E-Class. The new 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel from the E220d is all but guaranteed; possible is the E-Class’s standard twin-screen dash – though as an option if it were to become available.

MERCEDES-BENZ CLA

Technically a sedan version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback, though officially classed by industry sales records (VFACTS) as a mid-size car.

Mercedes-Benz CLA

In August, the CLA will gain a facelift that follows in line with updates made to the A-Class earlier in 2016.

Apart from some minor design alterations, there will be optional LED headlights, revised trim, and a new, slimmer version of the 8.0-inch iPad-style tablet display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration will also be standard.

Under the bonnet, the CLA45 will benefit from the same upgraded (now 280kW) 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder that has already made the A45 hatch even madder than before.

Newer is a CLA220d variant that positions itself as a performance diesel with 130kW of power and 380Nm of torque, with optional 4Matic all-wheel drive.