There’s quite a bit of hubbub about the new BMW M3 Touring, what with it being the first M3 Touring of all time and all. However, it’s absolutely not the first ever wagon the M Division has made. In fact, it’s made a couple and one of which is a bit of a fan favorite — the E61 BMW M5 Touring. For BMW fans, the E61 M5 Touring is a holy car, one that cannot be criticized. However, was it actually as good as we remember?
In this new video from Top Gear, we take a look at the E61 BMW M5 Touring up against its rivals from the era — the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG and the Audi RS6 Avant. Is the M5 Touring the better performing wagon of the three or have we been looking at it with rose-tinted specs?
This race is interesting because all three cars were, at the time, uber-fast wagons that pushed the boundaries of what do-it-all performance wagons could be. However, all three did so in very different ways. The E61 BMW M5 Touring was all noise and fury, thanks to its naturally-aspirated 5.0 liter V10 with 507 horsepower and an 8,250 rpm redline. While the Audi RS6 Avant was all about efficient, effective performance, thanks to its twin-turbocharged 5.0 liter V10 and 579 horsepower. The Mercedes was a bit different, packing a 5.4 liter supercharged V8 with only 476 horsepower.
All three cars used automatic gearboxes; a seven-speed sequential manual for the BMW M5, a six-speed auto for the RS6, and a five-speed auto for the AMG. Both the BMW M5 and AMG were rear-wheel drive, while the Audi was obviously Quattro all-wheel drive-powered.
In a standing drag race, though, there’s really no competition between these cars. The Audi RS6 Avant flat-out demolished the other two. These cars all debuted more than a decade ago and it’s clear that Audi showed both BMW and Mercedes why twin-turbocharging and all-wheel drive are necessary in such cars because neither the E61 BMW M5 Touring nor the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG stood a chance against the twin-turbo, all-wheel drive RS6.
Now, arguments will be made that the M5’s high-revving engine and rear-drive chassis balance are superior to its rivals’. As an actual driver’s cars, those are valid arguments for the M5’s superiority. However, in terms of outright speed, the RS6 was and still is the quicker machine.