BMW 5 Series VS Audi RS6
BMW 5 Series
- Engaging dynamics
- Top-notch interiors
- Clever technology across the range
- Price hikes on almost every model
- Six-cylinder engine reserved for most expensive models
- Apple CarPlay a cost option
- It's a high-performance wagon
- Outstanding fit and finish
- Even more torque
- More angular styling
- Rear legroom could be better
BMW 5 Series
Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new BMW 5 Series 520d, 530i, 530d and 540i sedans with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Victoria.
When we're all living under the cruel rule of our robot overlords, the few remaining human historians will track the genesis of our downfall to the technology explosion that occurred in 2017's new-car market.
Never before have car companies focused so hard on producing cars that can't just be driven, but that can drive themselves, negotiating corners, unexpected obstacles and changing traffic conditions without ever needing to consult the human actually sitting behind the steering wheel.
And BMW's all-new 5 Series sedan takes yet another a step forward, eliminating the need for said human to even be sitting in the car. Owners can instead move their 5 Series in and out of tight parking spaces simply by pressing a button on their key.
The Active Key function is admittedly a $1,600 cost option, but it proves the techno-focus applied to the seventh-generation of BMW's executive express, which will land in Australian dealerships this month. Every car is also fitted with what the German brand calls its personal co-pilot; a series of nifty cameras and radars that allow the car to be driven completely autonomously for spells of 30 seconds.
But the question is, has all this new technology come at the cost of regular, old-school driver enjoyment?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Audi RS 6 Avant is sacred ground for car geeks. See, we might barely agree on much in terms of what the ultimate driver's cars are but there are certain vehicles that are so awe inspiring they’re almost a protected species in our world, and the Audi RS Avant is one of them.
If you’re new to this idea and have only just stumbled onto the RS 6 Avant, then welcome. You’re just in time because the new-generation RS 6 Avant has arrived.
You only need to know three things at this point. The first is, an RS 6 is a high-performance version of the A6. The second is, Avant is Audi speak for wagon. And the third is, no you can’t get it in a sedan. The next best thing though is the RS 7 Sportback which shares the RS 6 Avant's engineering and features.
If this isn’t your first RS 6 Avant rodeo, then you’ll want to know what’s new and if this new one lives up to the legendary reputation.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
BMW 5 Series7.9/10
Sleek and attractive in the city, engaging on a country back road and with plenty of clever technology, the 5 Series sedan ticks all the right boxes as an executive express. If you can stomach the price hike, the six-cylinder 540i is our pick of the bunch.
Would a new 5 Series tempt you away from an E-Class or A6? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
BMW 5 Series8/10
Hardly a revolution, the 5 Series has instead undergone a few nips and tucks. But if it ain't broke and all that. It might not be the most head-turning offering, but the 5 Series sedan remains sleek, powerful and understated, and it is undeniably handsome on the road.
Its 8mm wider, 28mm longer and 2mm taller than the car it replaces, but it's also around 95kg lighter, thanks to its aluminium doors and boot and a clever magnesium frame for the instrument panel that saved another two kilograms. There's some other clever design elements, too. The kidney grille has active air flaps that open when extra cooling is required, closing when it isn't, reducing drag and helping accleration.
Inside, the 5 Series offers a beautifully crafted yet joyously understated cabin, with quality materials joining modern technology in a seamless way.
There’s something beautiful about the design of fast wagons, regardless of the brand. It’s that performance meets practicality combination, but Audi really is the master of it.
Audi doesn’t just take an A6, add big wheels and then shout, “let’s hit the showers!” Well, the wheels are definitely large, but there are only four body panels shared between the A6 Avant and RS 6 Avant – the roof, front doors and the tailgate. The rest of the panels are unique to the RS 6.
Look at those flared wheel guards – they extend out 20mm more than a regular A6’s.
This new-generation RS 6 Avant shares the same face as the RS 7 Sportback with the broad black mesh grille, narrow headlights, gigantic side air intakes and a thin upper air inlet which is a hat tip to early racing Audis.
All those sharp edges match its body which is more angular and ‘shredded’ than the previous generation’s curvy shape. Add the 22-inch alloys, plus the huge oval tailpipes (set into that chunky diffuser framed by the aluminum trim) and this RS 6 Avant is verging on Hot Wheels territory.
While the eight-year old kid in me thinks that’s awesome, the grown up me reckons it’s a bit too much. Historically, part of the appeal of the RS 6 Avant was its restrained styling – the thug in a suit.
While RS 6 Avant’s exterior is different to a regular A6’s their interior designs are almost identical. It’s a stunning cabin dominated by a dash which protrudes back towards the passengers and houses the media screen.
Anther display for climate is set into the big centre console which divides the driver and co-pilot into almost cocooned cells.
The cabin isn’t without its RS touches though. There’s the sports seats with honeycomb stitching, fully digital instrument cluster with RS specific meters, the RS steering wheel, aluminium inlays, plus Nappa leather on the dashboard and doors. The level of fit and finish is up there with the best that I’ve seen on any production car.
The RS 6 Avant is 4995mm long, 1487mm tall and 1951mm across, for a wide planted stance.
BMW 5 Series8/10
This is a full-size sedan, and every seat feels spacious and airy. The sloping, slightly coupe-style roofline does cut into headroom in the back, but human-sized people will have little trouble, even sitting behind a tall driver.
Each trim offers two cupholders in the front, with another two housed in a pull-down divider that seperates the rear seat. And there's two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
The 5 Series' boot opens to rival a surprisingly sizeable storage space, offering 530 litres with the 40:20:40 rear seats in place.
Sure, the RS 6 has supercar acceleration but it’s also a large station wagon. So, it’s super practical, too, right?
Well not as much as you might think. See it’s not the most spacious of wagons. Up front the stepped dash protrudes into the passenger’s space, the door pockets are thin and the centre console storage under the armrest is small.
Legroom in the back could also be better – at 191cm (6'3") tall I can only just fit behind my driving position, although headroom is good. The door pockets in the rear are larger and there are two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest (another two up front).
The boot’s 565-litre cargo capacity isn’t bad and almost matches the Alpina B5 Touring’s 570 litres.
For phones there’s a wireless charger and two USB ports in the centre console storage box, while back seat passengers have two USB ports and a 12V outlet. There are also directional air vents and dual-zone climate control in the rear, too.
While the RS 6 seats five, the middle passenger in the second row will have to straddle the hump over the drive shaft.
While wagons have lower load lips to their boots making them easier to fill with luggage or shopping bags, SUVs are easier on the back when it comes to loading children into car seats.
Price and features
BMW 5 Series7/10
BMW's venerable 5 Series is now 45 years old, and this all-new model arrives in four distinct flavours, with a fifth - an incoming M5 performance sedan - still some way off.
For now, though, the range kicks off with the 520d, before stepping up what BMW hopes to be the big seller of the range, the 530i (replacing the outgoing 528i). Next up is biggest diesel, the 530d (replacing the the 535d), before the current range tops out with the petrol-powered 540i (replacing the old 535i).
Be warned though, there's been some pretty serious price increases right across the line up, ranging from $9,145 to a whopping $19,245. In fact, only the 530d has seen its price come down, now $3,755 cheaper than the outgoing 535d. BMW justifies the hikes by pointing to an increase in standard inclusions across the range.
The 520d kicks off from $93,900, and arrives predictably well equipped for your money. Expect 18-inch alloys, leather trim, dual-zone climate control and a 12-speaker stereo. You'll also get a technology overhaul, with a bigger and upgraded Head Up display (it can now read street signs and beam that info onto the screen), a 10.25-inch touchscreen and a wireless (insert link to chi charger story) charging pad.
Step up to the 530i ($108,900) or 530d ($119,900) and you'll add 19-inch alloys, adaptive dampers with dynamic mode (that reads both driver input and navigation data and tweak suspension, gear and steering settings automatically) a 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and a crystal-clear 12.3 high-resolution digital display in the driver's binnacle. You'll also find heated front seats, a powered boot and sports seats in the front.
Finally, spring for the 540i ($136,900) and you'll get 20-inch alloys, a sunroof and electric blinds for the rear windows. You'll also find better Nappa leather on the seats, which now also offer a cooling function. Under the skin, you'll get an active anti-roll bar at each axle designed to keep the car from rolling side-to-side on the twisty stuff.
One quirk, however, is the fact that BMW's very cool wireless Apple CarPlay is a cost option on every trim level, and one that will set you back $479.
The Audi RS 6 Avant lists for $216,000. That might sound like a lot of money but to put it in perspective, when the RS 6 Avant was first introduced to Australia in 2003 it was $220K.
Coming standard are the enormous 22-inch alloy wheels, matrix LED headlights with laser lights, metallic paint, a panoramic glass sunroof (which is new to the model), privacy glass, a head-up display, soft-close doors and red brake calipers.
Inside there’s the Bang & Olufsen 16-speaker sound system (that's new, too), sat nav, the 12.3-inch 'virtual instrument cluster', wireless Apple CarPlay (new, as well), wireless charging, full leather upholstery with RS sport front seats that are heated and now come with ventilation as standard, and four-zone climate control.
I’ve left off all the standard RS mechanical equipment, but I’ll cover that in the driving section below.
Is it good value? Well, its direct rival is the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Estate, but that’s not sold in Australia, the nearest to this is the C 63 S Estate for $170K. And while BMW hasn’t made an M5 Touring since 2010 there is the Alpina B5 Touring which lists for $217,000. I’ve tested the sedan version and it’s astonishingly quick and super comfortable. Alternatively, there’s the Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo for $236,300.
Engine & trans
BMW 5 Series8/10
The hunt for efficiency sees all but the most expensive 5 Series models equipped with four-cylinder engines, including the entry-level 520d, which is fitted with a 2.0-litre diesel unit that will produce 140kW at 4,000rpm and 400Nm from 1,750rpm. That's enough to push the cheapest 5 Series to 100km/h in a not particularly inspiring 7.5 seconds, topping out at 235km/h.
The cheapest petrol, the 530i, arrives with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine good for 185kW at 5,200rpm and 350Nm from 1,450rpm. That will see you clip 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and push on to a limited top speed of 250km/h.
The 530d introduces the first six-cylinder engine, a 3.0-litre unit that will produce 195kW at 4,000rpm and an impressive 620Nm from 2,000rpm. That's enough to knock off the sprint in in 5.7 seconds and offers a top speed limited to 250km/h.
Finally, the top-spec petrol, the 540i, will produce 250kW at 5,500rpm and 450Nm from 1,380rpm from its 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine. Those are healthy numbers, and enough to welcome 100km/h in a sprightly 5.1 seconds before topping out a limited 250km/h.
Every model is paired with an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
Remember this moment in human existence: a time when you can buy a family car with a 441kW/800Nm twin-turbo petrol 4.0-litre V8. Yup, the electric future is coming and it’ll be great from what I’ve experience so far, but it’s clear engines like the V8 in the RS 6 Avant won’t be around forever so you should enjoy it while you can.
And you will enjoy it – this engine with almost 600 horsepower is glorious. There’s the seemingly never-ending acceleration with 0-100km/h coming in 3.6 seconds. That’s a tenth of a second faster than the Audi R8 V10 RWD supercar, and this is a large, family wagon.
Compared to the previous generation model the power is down by 4.0kW but torque is up by a whopping 100Nm. Give me torque over power any day.
Shifting gears is an eight-speed automatic transmission, sending the drive to all four wheels.
BMW 5 Series8/10
BMW quotes a combined 4.3 litres per hundred kilometres from the 520d, which will also spit out 114g per kilometre of C02. The 530d lifts that number to 4.7 litres per hundred kilometres (which seems a small price to pay for all that extra torque), with C02 pegged at 124g per kilometre. Both diesels get a slightly smaller tank, at 66 litres.
The 530i will sip a claimed/combined 5.8 litres per hundred kilometres, with C02 emissions a claimed 132g per kilometre, while the big 540i requires 6.7 litres per hundred kilometres, with C02 pegged at 154g per kilometre. Both petrol models get a 68-litre tank and require 95RON fuel.
This is a large, all-wheel drive car with a 441kW V8, but it also has a mild hybrid system in this new generation which will switch the engine off and let the car coast down hills, or at speeds under 22km/h.
Audi says this can save up to 0.8L/100km in real-life driving. That’s great news, but consumption is still fairly high with Audi claiming that after a combination of open and urban roads the RS 6 Avant will have used 11.7L/100km.
BMW 5 Series8/10
BMW's pre-drive briefing was so technology focused we half expected the black turtle neck and dad jean-wearing ghost of Steve Jobs to emerge from behind a curtain clutching an iPad. Only a minuscule portion was dedicated to the cars' drivetrains, with BMW instead hammering home autonomy functions, technology upgrades and the fact that its car was a preview to "the future".
But once we'd slipped behind the wheel of the all-new 5 Series, it all started to make more sense. Having briefly sampled three models (the 530i, 530d and 540i), we can safely report there's nothing particularly revolutionary about their on-road behaviour. That's not necessarily a bad thing - they do everything you could ask of a car in this bracket. They're mostly smooth and always quiet, the new chassis has done nothing to dampen engagement when you start to ask a little more of it, and it's generally a luxurious experience. But then so was the old car.
But what's new is the technology poured into the 5 Series. Every car gets what BMW is calling its personal co-pilot, for example, which is a set of tricky systems (there's six cameras, five radar sensors and 12 ultrasonic sensors scattered around the car) that work with the active cruise control and allow the car to be driven completely autonomous for 30-second intervals. Now, it's not quite as advanced as some of its competitor's systems - it can't change lanes for example - but if you're out on a country road or on a highway, it will stay within its lane, turn around corners and keep up with the traffic, even if they stop in front of you.
While the cheapest diesel model has historically been the best seller, BMW is hoping the new 530i will prove the most popular this time around. And while you couldn't describe it as fast, the power from its four-cylinder engine is ample for all that will likely be asked of it, and it feels sorted and composed on more challenging roads. It's a smooth and comfortable ride, too, even with the optional 20-inch alloys fitted, though that's undoubtedly thanks to the adaptive dampers and ever-changing dynamic ride function, both of which are fitted as standard. In fact, we're yet to drive a car without those options fitted, so we're forced to reserve judgement on the as-standard ride quality of the cheaper models.
Be warned though, none in the 5 Series range offer the disconnected and perfectly smooth conveyance you might find in some true luxury offerings, and you'll still know when you're diving into deep pockmarks in the road. But the trade off is a an engaging ride and steering set up that always feels planted, with enough feedback to ensure you feel connected to what's happening beneath the tyres. And that's a trade we're more than willing to make.
Step up to the 540i and things take a much sportier turn. The turbocharged six-cylinder feels right at home in a car this size, with acceleration effortless and freeway overtaking manoeuvres an absolute breeze. And while we didn't find roads quite brutal enough to really test the active anti-roll bars housed at each axle, there's a wonderful and stable flatness to the way the biggest petrol handles corners.
It's not cheap, but thanks to the bigger engine and sorted dynamics, the 540i feels most like a 5 Series probably should.
I’ve never driven the bullet train before, but it probably feels (almost) as good as this.
Eight hundred newton metres lay curled up under that accelerator pedal ready to push the planet backwards. And waiting to catch you at the other end are enormous anchors in the form of 420mm discs at the front with 10 piston calipers and 370mm discs at the rear.
The optional carbon ceramic brakes are the largest ever to be fitted to a production vehicle at 440mm at the front and 370mm at the rear, saving 34kg in mass over the steel brakes.
Now standard for the first time is Audi’s 'Dynamic Package' which adds dynamic steering (variable ratio) paired with all-wheel steering, a sport differential, and a 280km/h top speed.
Coming standard is adaptive air suspension and for $2850 you can option the 'Dynamic Ride Control' suspension which is a hydraulically activated adaptive damper system.
Explore the virtual Audi RS6
At the Australian launch Audi supplied two RS 6 Avants – one with the air suspension and the other with the dynamic ride control system. I’m probably supposed to say that the optional hydraulic dampers are the pick, but the air suspension suits this luxury freight train so much better.
I’d already driven the car with the dynamic ride control, and while it felt sharper and firmer, it’s ride was a tad uncomposed, almost as though the car was oversprung.
The RS 6 Avant with the standard air suspension on the other hand was not only far more comfortable and settled, but was still superbly dynamically, for a five-metre long car.
Unless you were planning on attending regular track days, in which case the Dynamic Ride Control is the way to go, I’d stick with the standard air suspension which is far more comfortable over Australia’s less-than perfect roads.
Another thing I can say is that this RS 6 Avant is quieter than the previous generation. Even with the windows down and with Dynamic drive mode selected its exhaust note, while still glorious and deep, isn’t raucous and loud. Sound aside, this superwagon is as much a hi-po monster as ever.
BMW 5 Series9/10
Expect plenty of clever safety gear, with every 5 Series sedan arriving with six airbags (dual front and full-length side airbags, along with head protection bags for front passengers). You'll also find a surround-view reversing camera and parking sensors.
But the high-tech stuff arrives courtesy of active cruise control, cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and cross-road alerts.
ANCAP tested the A6 in 2019 and gave it the maximum five-star score, however, this rating does not apply to the RS 6 Avant high performance model.
That said, the RS 6 Avant comes fortified with nearly every piece of advanced safety tech there is in Audi’s cupboard. There's AEB which can detect and brake for cyclists and pedestrians at speeds between five-85km/h and vehicles up to 250km/h.
Not a fan of parking, the RS 6 can do it by itself or there’s a 360-degree camera that’ll help you do it yourself. There’s an exit warning system which will warn you if a vehicle is approaching as you go to get out, too.
And if the RS 6 Avant detects that it will be hit from behind it will prepare the cabin by tensioning the seatbelts and closing the windows, as well as the sunroof.
Along with all that there are Audi’s new Matrix LED headlights with laser lights, rain-sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
There’s no spare wheel – instead, there’s a tyre repair kit.
BMW 5 Series7/10
The BMW 5 Series is covered by a three year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and requires condition-based servicing (rather than a pre-defined service interval).
You can also prepay your maintenance costs for five years/80,000kms, with prices ranging from $1,640 for the basic package, and climbing to $4,600 for the all-inclusive option.
The RS 6 Avant is covered by Audi’s three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty which not only falls behind in duration compared to mainstream brands but also its direct rival Mercedes-Benz which now has five-year, unlimited kilometre coverage.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km with a three-year plan costing $2380 and a five-year plan for $3910.