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New BMW 5 Series vs used Audi A8

Our favourite new luxury car is the brilliant BMW 5 Series, but would you be better off buying a used Audi A8 limousine for less money?...

New BMW 530e vs used Audi A8 TDI

The contenders

New BMW 530e M Sport auto

List Price: £52,325 Target price: £46,211 Official fuel economy: 201.8mpg (WLTP) Emissions: 32g/km CO2 Power: 292bhp 0-62mph: 5.9sec Top speed: 146mph 

Used Audi A8 L 50 TDI S line auto

Price new: £82,255 Price today: £40,533* Official fuel economy: 38.2mpg (WLTP) Emissions: 193g/km CO2 Power: 286bhp 0-62mph: 5.9sec Top speed: 155mph 

*Price today is based on a 2020 model with average mileage and a full service history using the What Car? Valuation tool, and is correct at time of writing

Oh, to have the choice of two luxury cars – one with all the latest hybrid technology to provide effortless electrified motoring, the other powered by tried and true methods while looking like there could be a paparazzi-shy celebrity in the back seat.

The BMW 5 Series (530e) is our current (ignore the pun) Luxury Car of the Year. It uses a battery pack in the boot for around 30 miles of electric-only driving, then a potent petrol engine kicks in to take over driving duties. It represents the future, and could be the way to go if a clampdown is enforced in major cities to outlaw fossil fuel-powered cars in urban areas.

But this is now and the ban hasn't come to pass, yet, so why not enjoy one of the very best luxury cars yet made, the Audi A8? It's our Used Luxury Car of the Year because it's stonking good value even at one year old, but is that enough for it to beat our new car choice? Let's find out.

BMW 5 Series 2021 RHD dashboard

New BMW 5 Series vs used Audi A8 – interior & equipment

Build quality, equipment, ease of use

In the past, BMW was often a bit stingy with standard equipment, but the current 5 Series has almost everything you'll want thrown in, such as sat-nav, LED headlights, parking sensors and a reversing camera. You even get a digital driver information display, although it's nowhere near as customisable as the one in the A8.

The optional adaptive suspension is a bit of a necessity with the bigger wheels used on M Sport models – it mitigates the firm ride you get with larger alloy wheels over rough roads. To get it, you'll need to spec the M Sport Pro Pack.

Used Audi A8 Saloon (17-present)

There are no such issues with the A8 because adaptive air suspension is standard, as are more advanced matrix LED headlights that dim certain portions of the headlight beam automatically to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic. Four-zone climate control means no arguments on interior temperature, and there's even special thick acoustic glassing to quell almost all wind noise, even when travelling at motorway speeds. 

These luxury cars both have very well finished interiors, but the A8 takes things one stage higher with fine-grade leather seats, plus plenty of brushed metal and (if specified) real wood surfaces. The 5 Series would stand up well against a comparable Audi A6. When you compare it with the A8, though, you start noticing how the plastics used lower down on the central pillars and the faux leather on the dashboard isn't quite of the same quality. 

Still, you can't argue with the well-damped feel of the buttons in the 5 Series, and while you don’t get Android Auto smartphone connectivity (only a Bluetooth connection for Apple CarPlay), you can control your phone apps and operate the infotainment system using a rotary controller and physical shortcut buttons. That's much easier to get on with than the two touchscreen-only interfaces in the A8, particularly when on the move.

BMW 530e rear seats

New BMW 5 Series vs used Audi A8 – space & practicality

Driving position, practicality, visibility

Each contender has electrically adjustable front seats with lumbar adjustment, plus enough space for the broadest shouldered and longest legged among us to find a comfortable position. The A8 has 22-way adjustable seats, so while it may take some time to find your perfect position, it will be absolutely spot on when you do.

Forward visibility is fine in both cars and a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors are also standard. While a six-foot passenger will be fine behind a six-foot driver in the 5 Series, you would need to be a descendant of André the Giant in platform boots to struggle for leg room in the back of the long-wheelbase A8 L we have here.

New Audi A8 vs Mercedes S-Class

The A8 wins when it comes to practicality, too, thanks to its absolutely enormous boot. To put it in context, we fit eight carry-on suitcases into the back of the A8, whereas we could only get five into the 5 Series because the size of the luggage compartment is limited by the hybrid battery pack living under the boot floor.

The rear seats in an A8 cannot be made to fold flat, and neither can the ones in the 5 Series unless you spec the split-fold 40/20/40 option, which would be worth going for if you will need to carry a combination of people and bulky items.