Used Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series

With their super-efficient engines, these top-selling luxury saloons please both head and heart. But which is the better used buy?...

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What Car? team
16 April 2017

Used Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series

The Contenders

Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE

List price when new £30,135

Price today £13,500

Available from 2011-present

With an upmarket interior, suave styling and a smooth diesel engine, the A6 is a class act

BMW 520d Efficient Dynamics

List price when new £30,435

Price today £13,000

Available from 2011-2017

Keen prices and low fuel consumption mean the 5 Series has plenty going for it on paper

Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

With plenty of talk in the news about diesel engines lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking diesel cars are not long for this world. But in some classes of car, diesel engines aren’t just the norm – they’re a necessity.

Take luxury cars, for example. These large, leather-lined saloons make long journeys effortless. But because of their size and weight, they can often be lethargic when fitted with a small petrol engine, or thirsty if they’re equipped with a larger one.

Used Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series

And because low-CO2 emissions diesel models such as the BMW 520d Efficient Dynamics and Audi A6 2.0 TDI were so frequently chosen as company cars when they were new, they’re now plentiful and ubiquitous on the used market – so much so that they barely cost any more to buy than the rarer petrol equivalents.

So, these two luxury best-sellers offer low prices, luxurious interiors, lengthy equipment lists and they’re even light on fuel. It seems cars like these really do allow you to have your cake and eat it, then. But which one serves you up the biggest, sweetest slice? Time to find out.

What are they like to drive?

As you would expect, both cars make fine luxury expresses. At 70mph in top gear, neither is running at more than 2000rpm, which means you're whisked along the motorway in superb isolation.

The most obvious difference is that the Audi offers more flexible responses; by contrast, the BMW’s longer ‘economy’ gearing hampers its in-gear performance. You’ll find yourself staying in a lower gear for longer in the 520d, and its sixth gear rarely comes into play anywhere other than on the motorway.

Used Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series

Don’t think that means the BMW is slow, though. On the contrary, it still gets to 60mph in less than 9.0sec, and feels punchy as long as you keep the revs above 1700rpm. The Audi is slightly more relaxing, simply because it demands fewer gearchanges, but the BMW is still a fine car.

It’s certainly better than the Audi away from the motorway. Even though our test car wasn’t fitted with the Variable Damper Control (VDC), which so improves this generation of 5 Series’ ride and handling, it still felt the more composed of the two cars. It was sharper through the bends, too, with more steering feel.

Plus, in the Audi you’re more often aware of your body shifting around in the driver’s seat, which can become irritating.

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Used Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series