Large station wagons with magnificent diesel drives are in the heyday of their development - but they still have traffic policy on the Kieker. Anyone who procrastinates now may not be able to buy a new Audi S6 Avant or BMW 540d Touring xDrive in the near future. Don't say we didn't warn you...
Dinosaurs and diesel engines - yes, you can read such stupid comparisons on the online boulevard. In fact, the combustion engine species will probably die out: not fatally by asteroids, but willfully by a ban. Especially at the peak of the season, when the diesels work more efficiently, cleanly and powerfully than ever before. For example in the Audi S6 Avant. And in the 540d Touring, which BMW only offers as an xDrive all-wheel drive version.
Dear legislature: You can glide along in these around 340 hp luxury class cars with an average of 5.7 (Audi) or even 5.2 (BMW) liters/100 km. After all, low CO2 emissions are exactly what you are looking for - of course, viewed sustainably over the entire life cycle, including production and recycling, right? And why, when it comes to sustainability, does a diesel come to mind? Because as a used vehicle it should be able to enjoy its umpteenth life in some markets outside of Germany. Replacement starter batteries are available there, probably also 48-volt versions for the e-boost. Can the same be said for e-car batteries?
Incidentally, the efficiency machines tested here can cover more than 1,200 kilometers before you would be there again around six minutes later with a full tank of fuel - without emitting any significant nitrogen oxides and particles thanks to complex exhaust gas aftertreatment. We auto-activists are very impressed by this.
However, we are easily impressed when technical competence is paired with an automotive lifestyle. For example, there is the interior, which is only slightly behind the opulence of the luxury class - and which smells of coming home every time the door is opened. In which one simply feels in good hands, surrounded by an aura of comfort. Here, Audi and BMW only differ in the brand-typical design.
There is little to criticize
Compared to what billion-dollar start-ups in the new world set as a quality benchmark, the S6 and 540d are in the highest spheres.
Because there is little to criticize about the whole of this pleasure glider, we dissect details here. Give the five more points for variability and functionality. Justify this with the multi-adjustable angle of inclination of the rear seat backrest. The separately opening rear window. And with the option of storing the load compartment cover in the compartment under the boot floor.
Together with a higher payload and a better view to the rear, this adds up to a solid lead in the body section. Especially since Audi itself uses touch fields for basic functions such as switching on the lights, accessing the air conditioning or selecting the driving mode.
The zeitgeisty, distraction-intensive touching continues when operating the S6 infotainment system - the five shows how it can be done better, puts it in the comfort chapter under "Multimedia" with the best expansion stage of the iDrive system including rotary pushbutton and outsourced menu buttons and an extremely "understanding" voice control.
Sure, these are considerations that decide a comparison test, but probably do not influence a purchase. Premium cars appeal to emotions - the heart argues the mind down. And it would also have earlier rejected a diesel engine as beneath the dignity of a dynamic model. BMW shows that a diesel engine can fascinate.
BMW 540d Touring: A dream engine
Haven't we already celebrated the smooth-running in-line six from Munich! And this three-liter deserves a big party. E-boosted, he gets down to business in no time; there is no need to wake up the supercharger blades, there is no need to take a breath before pushing: 700 Nm drive you first into your stomach, then into your limbs - casually shaken out of the crankshaft at low engine speeds, accompanied by earthy acoustics, smoothly managed by the Steptronic gearbox (250 euros). And the speedometer needle clicks to one hundred in less than five seconds.
The first radii that require a significant steering angle are already approaching. You appraise the passage, sounding out its possibilities – in blissful anticipation of the centrifugal forces, the dopamine of driving enthusiasts, especially since a BMW traditionally interprets curves as opportunities to prove its talent.
You give in happily and realize that lateral dynamic exuberance would be out of place. Because the front axle of the all-wheel-drive fives wants to get a taste of it carefully. Only after the vertex may - clap! – the hot fango pack made of torque warms up the asphalt. The vigorous acceleration is preceded by hesitant steering understeer.
The adaptive shock absorbers (1200 euros) also lack panache. They understand their job in socializing with bumps, keeping inexorable contact with the asphalt. Only partial resources are left for working through the small but frequent bumps that pave the way. The chassis walks nonchalantly over her, she passes on with a shrug.
At this point you would like less feedback, but more in the steering. And, please, more grip on the front axle. All in all, more fives. Incidentally, the measuring device has little to complain about when it comes to cornering. What we criticize is more in the emotional world - but that's exactly what we want to trigger.
The only thing you can be sure of is that the xDrive will make good headway on snowy roads or damp meadows. Small consolation for driving dynamics.
Audi S6 Avant TDI: energetic and comfortable driving behavior
The S6 also drives all four wheels. Audi, Quattro - logical.But that in no way paralyzes his urge to take curves: although it is 71 kilograms heavier than the Touring, the Avant whirls around corners more alertly, steers more directly, energetically aligns its rear end and is – whoosh! – ready for the next straight.
The curve dance is choreographed by the sport differential (1500 euros) and the all-wheel steering (1900 euros). But the five brings the latter as well, as an option for 1250 euros.
The S-Audi still has 20 instead of 18 inch tires as a driving dynamic advantage - but not, as might be assumed, a sports chassis. On the contrary: Its air suspension for 870 euros caresses its passengers on the comfort level with gallantry, attentively takes care of bumps that the BMW trivializes. Nevertheless, the S6 implements more peppy, wags just around the gates, stays close to the radius. And with himself.
Unfortunately, the V6 takes care of keeping to itself in a disturbing way: It only hesitantly releases its rich torque, no matter how actively you downshift the transmission and sometimes get lost in the jerking. When studying buzzwords such as belt starter generator, e-booster and electrically driven compressor, one first thought of the components of a quick starter. But then quark in the oil pan seems to slow down the vigor of the three-liter. And with it the entire mission of the Avant. Because a sports model - S! – must take off immediately when you step on it. Not just after that.
The engine makes the difference
The engine costs the Audi a lot of points - from the drive to the environment to the cost chapter, here in the form of higher fuel bills. Would the diesel reservations regarding a sports model have come true after all?
Of course not. Because BMW shows how euphoric a diesel can ignite. The Munich three-liter is a dream engine that rakes in a lot of fame and deserves a winning chassis accordingly. One that combines eager turning with competent comfort. Are we not actually describing the fiver? Already - but as a pure rear-wheel drive.
Oh, you don't need an all-wheel drive anyway? Wonderful. Under these circumstances, we recommend the test winner with a discount, so to speak: Take the 530d, without xDrive, with the same inline six in a slightly weaker configuration. This not only saves the front wheels propulsion work, but your account whopping 6950 euros.
Intuitive operation and the powerful and economical engine pave the way to victory. When it comes to handling, however, the xDrive falls well short of expectations.
His energetic and comfortable driving behavior earns him praise. But the touchscreen operation provides distraction from traffic, the starting weakness for resentment.