In the early 2000s, there were two German super sedans – and estates in the case of the Audi – that dominated the roads. They were the E39 BMW M5 and the C5 Audi RS6. These two massive mile munchers were two of the most powerful and fast four-door cars on the market. They were also some of the most desirable cars, thanks to their ability to achieve insane speeds while offering superb levels of comfort, refinement and even fun, while also being able to carry four adults and some luggage.
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But which of the two is best? It’s a somewhat difficult choice, as both cars are quite excellent. However, there were some distinct advantages on the BMW M5’s side. If you had to ask most car enthusiasts, the BMW M5 is the car of the two that they’d choose if they had to because of those advantages. So let’s take a look at why the E39 BMW M5 was better than the C5 Audi RS6.
Naturally Aspirated beats Turbocharging – The E39 BMW M5’s 4.9 liter naturally aspirated V8 is a thing of absolute joy. While significantly underpowered, at 394 hp, compared to the 450 hp monster in the Audi RS6, it was a wonderful engine to rev out and was far more refined than Audi’s. It was smooth, punchy and loved to rev. The Audi RS6’s 4.2 liter twin-turbocharged V8 was more powerful, and the RS6 was indeed a bit quicker than the M5, but it didn’t put its power down with the kind of joy that the M5’s engine did. The BMW M5’s V8 was one of the last naturally-aspirated V8s BMW ever made and it was one of the best.
Reliability – While having two turbochargers adding precious boost, having all four wheels providing grip and having a fancy hydraulically controlled Dynamic Ride Control is great, it also adds a lot of complicated bits to go wrong. Plus Audi’s not a brand known for its rugged reliability, so all of those fancy gizmos in the RS6 are going to lead to problems later on own the line. The BMW M5 is a much simpler vehicle, but it’s so much better for it. There’s very little to go wrong and this makes the M5 a much easier car to live with, especially for the long haul.
Rear-Wheel Drive > All-Wheel Drive – In terms of grip and safety, all-wheel drive will always win out, especially in bad weather. However, these two cars aren’t designed to be safe, they’re designed to be fast and fun and nothing beats rear-wheel drive for having fun. Sure, the RS6 can blitz through twisty bends without a singe tire squealing, but what’s the fun in that? It’s more fun to get the tail out a little bit and roast some rear tires. The M5, with its rear-wheel drive and limited-slip differential can do just that. Its rear-drive setup also allows it to be the sharper handling car with better steering and more nimble and sharp turn-in. This is because the front-wheels are uncorrupted and the handling balance isn’t corrupted with annoying understeer.
The M5 looks better – This isn’t to say that the RS6 wasn’t a good looking car. In fact, it was and still is a very good looking car. but the M5 seems to have aged better and is a bit more interesting. The RS6 has safe, unassuming looks which work great for the sleeper car that the RS6 is. But when it comes down to actually owning a super sedan, you want it to have a bit better looks than simply “unassuming”. The BMW M5 provides just the right amount of visual excitement while still being classy and understated in its looks.
Six-speed manual – The Car Gods smiled upon the BMW M5 during its development and allowed it to only come with a six-speed manual. The C5 Audi RS6 only came with a five-speed Tiptronic automatic. Though, this was due to the fact that Audi didn’t have a manual that could handle the massive torque of the twin-turbo V8 not that Audi didn’t want to offer one. But reasoning aside, the facts are the facts and the RS6 didn’t come with a third pedal and the BMW M5 did. Being able to hear that glorious V8, clutch in, slot the gear lever into the next gear, clutch out and get back on the gas is an experience that the RS6 simply cannot deliver and one that makes the M5 better than the Audi RS6.
[Source: Car Throttle]