Input from someone who has recently been car shopping.....with an open mind.
I drove new leftover '11 E90 335i....fell in love with it.
They wouldn't lease the '11, so I drove 2012 F30 328. Meh. It was good "for a 4 banger"...but it needed that qualifying statement.
Dealer finally gets F30 335....back in love. Rocket ship. Tight handling. Quiet when it needs to be....beautiful music when you want it.
Read accolade after accolade about the ATS...wait and wait. Dealer finally gets one in. Much much better looking in person than in pics....but I am sorry - it still has too much "old man" aura about it....tied in with a pinch of "plastic-ey feel" that gives American cars such a bad reputation. The handling was quite good - but far from great.
I enjoyed getting back in my IS350 to leave the dealer....much more fun to drive than the ATS. Conversely....when I left the 335 test drive....I was yearning for a new car.
Drove A4....enjoyed the hell out of it....but their leases are similar to a 335....with 100 less HP. The leases on an S4 were not in the same realm as the BMW....by a long shot. (the Audis depreciate much faster....hence the larger payments)
MB wasn't in the picture - for me - I still think of old people when I think of Mercedes (just like Cadillac). I appreciate both brands....but I think both are fighting to change that image . Neither has won that battle yet. I am their demographic - 44 year old male.
Drove my IS350 (very under rated car) home and placed an order for a 335 Xdrive which is on the Rigel Leader as we speak.
Sold my Lexus and took my time in my research (2 months or so).
If you are a 'leaser' BMW is by far the best bang for the buck - IMHO. They depreciate the least of ALL the competition.....which makes for a more competitive lease. If I was buying the car....the S4 would have entered into the picture much more heavily.