Does the new BMW M5 take the Audi RS6’s main advantage away?

For years, the Audi RS6 had a distinct and unique advantage — Quattro all-wheel drive. While the BMW M5 always reaped praise for its tail-happy, manic, power oversteer dynamics, the RS6 was the grippy, all-weather monster that was faster in every real world scenario, thanks to its all-wheel drive traction. The RS6 was faster off the line, faster in the rain and actually usable in light snow. Now, though, that advantage has been taken away.

The new F90-generation BMW M5 has just been released and it’s packing an M5-first — all-wheel drive. The new M-specific xDrive all-wheel drive system has been added to the m5 to allow it to put all of its power to the ground, regardless of weather. And there’s a lot of power to put down.

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Under the M5’s creased hood lies a 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine that makes 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. That’s about as much as the Audi RS6 Performance, so the Audi is really starting to lose its ground. That 600 hp and all-wheel drive allows the M5 to rocket from 0-60 mph in a claimed 3.4 seconds, although we’ve seen recorded times as low as 3.2 seconds.

Now, that’s not really that much more impressive than the Audi RS6, so it would seem that they’re on an equal playing field. Except for the fact that the BMW M5 can switch its front driveshaft off and become completely rear-wheel drive. With the press of a button, the new M5 can go from all-wheel drive grip monster to rear-wheel drive, tire-smoking hooligan. So BMW’s new M5 allows drivers to have their cake and eat it, too.

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Admittedly, the RS6 is quite old, now. So BMW has had some time to develop this new M5 after the RS6 debuted. With the coming RS6, though, Audi might have to implement such a switchable all-wheel drive system. Because it’s not only the BMW M5 that can do it but also the Mercedes-AMG E63. That leaves the RS6 as the only super sedan that can’t become rear-wheel drive.

While rear-wheel drive is not something typically associated with the Audi brand, the Audi R8 RWS just became the first rear-drive Audi Sport product. So Audi may have to develop a similar all-wheel drive system to the BMW M5’s if it wants to stay competitive with its new competition. Although, the RS6 comes in wagon form, which the M5 does not. So it still has that going for it.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.