Used car twin test: Audi A6 v BMW 5 Series

Used car twin test: Audi A6 v BMW 5 Series
Used car twin test: Audi A6 v BMW 5 Series

Which of these previously owned executive saloons should you be driving?

Right now diesels are getting a difficult rap, but the encouragement for them a few years ago means there are a whole heap of them on the used market. If you want a torquey, large, leather-clad executive saloon then you’ll probably want one of these, and they’re not even more expensive than petrol versions – which were generally either not powerful enough or not frugal enough.

If you want to drift along in either of these 2.0-litre diesel saloons, then you can be doing 70mph for under 2000rpm. That’s a pretty relaxing way to pass the miles, but the longer gearing on the BMW does have a penalty when you’re trying for in-gear acceleration. On the motorway is about the only place the BMW will pull sixth gear, but the Audi proved the more relaxing mile-muncher.

BMW 520d Efficient Dynamics

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
List price when new £30,435
Price today £13,000
Power 181bhp
Torque 280lb ft
0-60mph 8.9sec
Top speed 135mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 119g/km

Away from the straight roads, the BMW plays its usual trump card of superior handling, even though our chosen car didn’t have the VDC – variable damping control – which is a very desirable option if you can find it.

You move around more in the Audi seat during spirited cornering, but the payoff is it feels like a slightly more spacious seating position. Those in the rear of either will have acres of room to lounge in or phone their toy boy or their broker. The Audi plays its trump card in its turn with the superior feel, fit and finish to the cabin, although neither is anything other than excellent for those more used to a Ford Fiesta or whatever.

Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Price when new: £30,135
Price today: £13,500
Power: 175bhp
Torque: 280lb ft
0-60mph: 8.8sec
Top speed: 135mph
Fuel economy: 57.6mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 129g/km

There’s not a lot to separate these two in many ways, and price is one of them. The BMW should just about be the cheaper, which it will continue with better fuel consumption and emission figures – 62.8mpg/119g/km versus 57.6mpg/129g/km for the BMW. If you want an Audi with comparable figures to the BMW you’ll need to find a later version from 2014 or later, when Audi introduced the Ultra engine. The Audi will also prove the cheaper to service, but in most cost areas this is a win for the BMW.

Overall this also gives the win to the BMW. There’s no area where either one or the other is a clear winner, this is a game of small percentage points, but those small differences do add up. Overall that makes the BMW the cheaper to buy and run, the better car to drive, and the one that should be slightly more reliable.

The Audi is a fine car but slips slightly behind the BMW. However, if you value that delightful cabin – which had sat nav as standard from new – or you just liked the slightly more responsive performance, then the A6 would make a great buy.

Either of these would please most people unless they’re terminally fussy, and both represent excellent value for money. Who knows where the whole diesel saga goes in the future but, right now, one of these diesels should go on your drive.

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

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