Audi RS6 vs BMW M5: brutally quick estates are bargains | Top Gear
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Audi RS6 vs BMW M5: brutally quick estates are bargains

Family-sized, sensible estates that just happen to have world-beating engines. And they’re cheap

  • So, what overpriced and entirely unobtainable slice of exotica do you have for us today?

    Aha! None of that today, mon frère d'une autre mère – we’re taking a step back into the real world, with a pair of ballistically quick and ostensibly practical super-stationwagons that won’t break the bank. 

    Oh, and in case you’re curious, a stationwagon is what the rest of the world calls an estate car. Because the landed gentry was never as much of a thing in the colonies as here. 

    So, for your delectation, we have a £10,000 twin-turbo V8 Audi Quattro estate and a £20,000 naturally aspirated V10 BMW estate. Yes, that’s right – you can get an Audi RS6 for 10 grand and a truly wonderful M5 Touring for about double that, and both are up for sale in the same auction – the Classic Car Auctions September Sale.

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  • Why do I hear about the M5 Touring so infrequently?

    Well, lots of reasons, actually. The biggest is that the only times an official M badge was attached to a production BMW estate was in the E34 and E61 generations of 5 Series. Yep, just two generations of one specific model. And both were absolutely amazing.

  • Sounds like you’ve got a lot of love for an M-powered estate.

    And then some – the E61 M5 Touring is a proper petrolhead’s dream – including a free-revving V10, 500bhp, rear-wheel-drive and some very serious driving (and servicing) requirements – tucked away in a proper family car that you could use every day, for years.

    And let’s reiterate one specific part of that equation – a 500bhp BMW V10, in your everyday car. Yeah, okay, you can get that power figure these days from a turbocharged Alfa V6 or Mercedes V8, but wouldn’t you rather wring a naturally aspirated V10 to 8200rpm to get it?

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  • But didn’t the RS6 Avant have a V10 too?

    One of them did, yes, but this £10,000 one doesn’t. But that doesn’t make it a slouch by any definition of the word. 

    The C5 RS6 had a 4.2-litre V8, fitted five valves per cylinder and two turbochargers. In top-spec ‘RS6 Plus’ form, it could reach 473bhp, but its 444bhp standard fare was likely enough to get you down the road at a decent clip. 

    Yes, it was entirely overshadowed by its overwhelmingly potent successor, with 570bhp from a V10 biturbo, but just try to get one of those for less than £10,000 and see the pile of bolts you’ll end up with.

    That said, as the Americans love to say – full disclosure – it’s entirely possible to pick up a decent V10 Audi RS6 Avant for about £20,000. Why? Well, they’re nowhere near as rare as the M5 Touring. Go fig. 

  • I suppose the big question is this – which one would you have, if I included the V10 RS6 in the mix?

    Phwwww. Herrrrmmm… Weeellll. Look, it might be because we’ve been suckered in to the ‘it’s rare, therefore it’s better’ philosophy that dictates the values of so many luxury items – cars, watches, artworks, furniture and even clothing – that we tend to look on the M5 Touring very favourably.

  • And?

    Well, it’s the M5 Touring. But not because it’s rare – our choice goes beyond simple rarity. The M5 Touring is also a joyous confluence of petrolheaded hedonism and everyday practicality, and that makes our decision easy.

    A naturally aspirated V10 is a truly fantastic thing; an anachronistic indulgence that makes little to no sense in our increasingly fearful, risk-averse and joyless world. And to find it under the bonnet of a car that we could actually entertain the notion of driving on a daily basis is like furnishing a room of your entirely sensible house using nothing but bean bags, bar fridges and gaming equipment. Or, to put it another way, it’s like adding sweet chilli sauce to your Bolognese because you don’t care what’s the done thing; you’re doing things the way you want. And there’s an amazing freedom in small, personal victories like that. 

    It comes back to the notion of making the everyday special – the kind of seemingly prosaic phrase you’d find in any number of self-help books at the airport, but something that’s key to making our very temporary journey through time and space as fulfilling as it can be. It’s also something that’s far too easy to overlook in the face of the drudgery of the everyday and the seemingly bleak outlook of the future.

  • Yeesh. Are you all right, buddy? That’s some very lyrical waxing about a 10-year-old estate car.

    It’s nothing that sending us £20,000 to buy an M5 Touring wouldn’t fix.

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