2007 Audi RS 4 vs. 2007 BMW M5 Comparison Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

2007 BMW M5 Sedan

(5.0L V10 7-speed Automated Manual)
  • 2007 Audi RS 4 vs. 2007 BMW M5 Comparison Test Video

    Watch the 2007 Audi RS 4 vs. 2007 BMW M5 Comparison Test Video on Edmunds' Inside Line | October 13, 2009

1 Video , 24 Photos

  • Comparison Test
  • Second Opinion
  • Top 5 Features
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • 2007 Audi RS4 Specs and Performance
  • 2007 BMW M5 Specs and Performance

You asked for it, and now it's here. The 2007 BMW M5 is available with a conventional manual transmission, and it's all because of American drivers like you.

BMW will make only 2,000 BMW M5s with a six-speed manual transmission this year, and they will all come to the U.S. BMW purists were outraged when the mad Germans didn't include a manual transmission in the model mix when the new-generation M5 arrived here in 2006, and their outcry forced the hand of the disapproving Bavarians.

Now that the 2007 BMW M5 is here, it turns out that there's just one other German sedan with both a manual gearbox and an engine that makes more than 400 horsepower: the 2007 Audi RS 4.

The 2007 Audi RS 4 and 2007 BMW M5 are practical four-door sedans, yet they are also dedicated high-performance machines. They are sports cars disguised as everyday transportation.

It's the kind of comparison we live for. Never mind sensible transportation; this is all about fast driving.

"M" is for meddling
As soon as we drove it over our favorite test loop in the Santa Monica Mountains, the M5 impressed us. Its variable-ratio steering is precise, and so unlike the active steering of the civilian BMW 5 Series. And the stupendous 500-horsepower V10 gives the M5 the ability to inhale straight sections of road.

Even when the M5 is grinding its tires in the acute corners of the mountains, the car's suspension is in such control that body roll is practically nil, so the transitions between corners are made gracefully and rapidly. When you're driving below the absolute limit, the M5 has few peers in terms of both composure and out-and-out pace.

The 2007 BMW M5's ZF-built, six-speed manual gearbox has slightly different ratios than that of the regular 540i, but it has the same long shift throws and notchy-yet-positive gear engagement typical of BMW manuals. The clutch pedal effort is surprisingly light despite the challenge of controlling the V10's 500 hp and 383 pound-feet of torque.

Press on harder and the BMW M5's Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) takes hold smoothly yet sternly, and finally the fun bleeds away just when the going gets good. "M Dynamic Mode," the most permissive setting for the M5's DSC, allows the M5 to be driven right up to the limit until you might get a whiff of understeer as you turn into a corner. But the slip angle of the rear tires (let alone any wheelspin) is kept resolutely in check by DSC's manipulation of the throttle and brakes.

Oh, but we switched off the stability control, right? Sour news, Jack; the DSC cannot be defeated in a BMW M5 when it's equipped with the manual transmission. No powerslides or burnouts, and you can also forget about the kind of throttle inputs that might influence the M5's cornering attitude.

More disturbing than the stability control was the warning that flashed up on the iDrive screen after just 12 miles of fast driving. Transmission temperature was escalating, so the M5 announced that it was taking matters into its own circuits by reducing engine output. The redline then steadily crept down. And down. By the time we got fed up and pulled over to let it cool, the redline had dropped to 6,000. Apparently the manual transmission just doesn't have the cooling capacity to deal with 500 hp.

Suddenly any notions you might have of flinging the BMW M5 around a local road circuit at a track day turn to vapor. Apparently the Germans are unaware that track days are pretty common in America, and that a BMW M5 driver is just the sort of guy who knows this.

So forget about a big rear-drive sedan that is keenly responsive to your throttle foot in the corners. When you're driving with extreme commitment, this car's a dud.

A sheep in wolf's clothing
BMW tells us that the DSC in the six-speed M5 can't be disabled because of warranty concerns associated with aggressive launches.

If BMW was worried about the effect of wheel hop on drivetrain durability, we would have preferred that the system simply limit wheelspin (or launch rpm) in 1st gear only. As far as at-the-limit driving, we think BMW has messed with the idea of what the M5 concept is all about.

The likely explanation might be that a low-volume afterthought like the M5 with manual transmission doesn't carry much weight when it comes time to commandeering BMW's engineering resources. Simply removing a line of code from the DSC menu in iDrive might have been a temptingly fast (and cheap) way for BMW to mitigate any risks associated with bringing this niche model to market in the U.S., where the Germans are fearful of litigation.

With no workable way to defeat DSC, we selected M Dynamic Mode for all of our performance testing. The M5 manual achieved 0.83g on the skid pad and 68.4 mph in the slalom, 0.1g and 0.8 mph shy of the performance achieved by the SMG-equipped M5 we tested a year ago.

These are decent results, but the Audi did better. The RS 4 posted 0.88g on the skid pad and turned 69.0 mph through the slalom cones.

Two engines, 72 valves, 16,500 revs
When you match up the BMW M5 six-speed in a speed test with the Audi RS 4, it's no contest. The 3,903-pound RS 4 gets to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and then sprints to the quarter-mile in 13.0 seconds at 107.3 mph. Yet the M5's unrelenting thrust borders on lunacy, as the 4,122-pound sedan tears to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and then covers the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at 113.6 mph.

In fact, the manual M5 is quicker than the SMG-equipped M5 we tested. With the SMG, the M5 hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and ran the quarter in 12.8 seconds at 115 mph.

Though the M5 SMG seven-speed has a faster trap speed in the quarter-mile thanks to its closer-ratio seven-speed, the brutal clutch takeup in the SMG-equipped M5 renders it difficult to produce a clean launch, hurting its elapsed time. So the SMG can be beat in a straight contest of speed.

Unleashing this sturm und drang puts tremendous demands on the brakes of both cars, and neither one disappoints. The M5 comes to a standstill from 60 mph in just 114 feet, and the RS 4 stops in just 2 feet more. The ABS system in each car cycles with rapid-fire speed.

The Ingolstadt upstart
Audi's RS 4 is a tweener. In terms of physical size, it competes with the BMW M3, though there's not yet an M3 sedan available in the U.S., of course. Meanwhile, the RS 4's base price splits the difference between a BMW M3 and an M5, and the same goes for its horsepower rating.

Tweener or not, the 420-hp RS 4 had almost no trouble keeping up with the 500-hp M5 on the real-world roads of our mountain test loop. More grip and confidence in the Audi's chassis is part of the reason; the other is the combination of all-wheel drive and a stability control system that can be fully switched off when you like.

While you're charging into a tight corner, you can chop the RS 4's go pedal aggressively to help pivot the nose toward the apex, dial out some steering lock, roll in a lot of throttle and then just hang on. When it comes to exiting 2nd-gear corners, the Audi has explosive acceleration on tap, nullifying its 80-hp deficiency compared to the M5.

Audi's short-throw close-ratio gearbox delivers blazingly quick shifts and is a perfect match for the heroic V8 engine. This 4.2-liter jewel revs effortlessly, delivering a broad swath of torque across the rpm range and producing a spine-tingling exhaust note besides.

Like a Mitsubishi Evo, the Audi's faithful, communicative chassis goads you into leaning on the tires ever harder until the limit of adhesion is only a memory. You discover varying degrees of understeer, but the RS 4 responds well to balancing the chassis at the limit with the throttle, and a rear-biased 40:60 torque split helps out.

The RS 4 is enormous fun, and a much more engaging drive on our favorite roads than the M5. There's an honesty to the RS 4, a willingness to play that cannot be elucidated by bench-racing its specification sheet.

In comparison, there's a sense of artificiality to the BMW M5, even as fleet and composed as it is. Maybe it's the extreme measures taken by BMW's engineers to keep their 4,000-pound sedan from not feeling like one, but after driving the RS 4, the M5 felt strangely detached from the road. Fast, but aloof.

Hand me your cape and scepter
It's a terrifically bad idea to design a car with the weight of a V8 engine hung entirely over the front axle. It hurts weight distribution, generates a lot of polar moment of inertia, overworks the front tires and brakes, upsets ride quality and makes the steering heavier.

None of this seems to matter in the 2007 Audi RS 4. Using just such a layout, Audi has managed to out-fun the 2007 BMW M5, one of the world's most respected driver's cars. And it's done so for tens of thousands of fewer dollars.

The RS 4 didn't succeed all alone, though. It had help from the competition.

The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds says:
While I was out walking the dog a few nights ago, an unseen car rumbled up to a stop sign a couple of hundred yards behind us. Without turning around, I said to Rudie, who was busy selecting a tree at the time, "You watch. Someone just bought themselves an Audi RS 4."

I was right of course — the exhaust note is that distinctive. Even Rudie looked up as it blew past. Aurally intoxicated drivers of the thing always shift at a higher rpm than necessary, just to hear it wail. And they downshift through each gear when slowing, too, even when going to the mall. I should know. A few days ago I was that guy. Sniff.

The RS 4's compact dimensions and willing powertrain encouraged me to fling it at corners. Yes, it sometimes felt nose-heavy, tending to understeer into certain corners. But it responded well to a heavy right foot, tracking out on my preferred line with little effort.

But it's another story in the M5. For starters, it sounds like a fish in a blender when it fires up. And the new six-speed manual tranny isn't what I was hoping for. A combination of longish throws and slender gates demands a deliberate, three-step shifting technique that rubs me the wrong way.

And the thing feels generally bulky, giving it a distinct "dad's car" vibe. Careful. Don't scratch it. I'm not feeling very much M5-ness here. What I see is just a BMW 5 Series with a lot of horsepower. You know what I mean?

Features

Features
2007 BMW M5 2007 Audi RS 4
All-wheel drive N/A S
Cockpit adjustable dampers S N/A
Driving school/instruction S N/A
DVD-based navigation system S O
Satellite radio O O


Key:
S: Standard
O: Optional
N/A: Not Available

All-wheel drive: These sedans will be driven in the real world over imperfect real-world roads. In addition to enhancing wet-weather capability, all-wheel drive also broadens a powerful car's performance envelope over any varying-grip surface, whether it's broken pavement, wet leaves, dusty roads or some combination thereof. Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive is standard equipment on the RS 4. The M5 is a dedicated rear-driver.

Cockpit adjustable dampers: Only the BMW allows the driver to select from various levels of suspension firmness and control. At the touch of the EDC button, you choose from three modes on the M5 — Normal, Comfort and Sport. The Audi's dampers are not adjustable.

Driving school/instruction: If piloting a 500-horsepower BMW with dozens of setup options has you thinking somebody could teach you a thing or two about driving, you'd be right. As part of the purchase or lease contract of an M5, BMW invites those lucky few to "be their guest" for a course in advanced driving techniques at the wheel of somebody else's M5 at the BMW Performance Center in South Carolina. Audi offers no such driver enhancement course.

DVD-based navigation system: With the power these sedans pack, you can cover huge distances in no time. Navigation systems show the way home. Optional for both the BMW and the Audi, the M5 we tested had it but our RS 4 tester did not.

Satellite radio: Satellite radio might cost a few bucks a month, but it offers a better variety of programming than traditional radio. And unlike your favorite AM or FM station, satellite radio comes in loud and clear from coast to coast. It's a $595 stand-alone option on the BMW, but Audi bundles it into an optional $4,700 Premium Package for the RS 4. Both BMW and Audi feature Sirius Satellite Radio.

Final Rankings

Final Rankings
Weight 2007 Audi RS 4 2007 BMW M5
Personal Rating 5% 100.0% 50.0%
Recommended Rating 5% 100.0% 50.0%
Evaluation Score 30% 79.1% 76.9%
Feature Content 20% 33.3% 73.3%
Performance 20% 92.0% 94.8%
Price 20% 100.0% 59.7%
Total Score 78.8% 73.7%
Final Ranking 1 2

Personal Rating (5%): Purely subjective. After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the sedans in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object.

Recommended Rating (5%): After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the sedans in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in this segment.

31-Point Evaluation (30%): Each participating editor ranked the two sedans using a comprehensive 31-point evaluation process. The evaluation covered everything from exterior design to cupholders. Scoring was calculated on a point system, and the scores listed are averages based on all test participants' evaluations.

Feature Content (20%): Editors picked five features they thought would be most beneficial to a consumer shopping in this segment. Each test vehicle was then given a score based on which of those features it possessed. More points were awarded when these features were standard versus optional, and no points were given if the feature was unavailable. The score given here represents the percentage of points, out of a total possible 15 points.

Performance Testing (20%): Both cars were put through a comprehensive battery of instrumented tests including 0-60-mph acceleration, quarter-mile runs and panic stops from 60 mph. They were also run through a 600-foot slalom course to test transitional handling and around a skid pad to determine ultimate grip. The vehicles were awarded points based on how close they came to the best-performing vehicle's score in each category.

Price (20%): The numbers listed are the result of a simple percentage calculation based on the less expensive vehicle of the two. Using the "as-tested" prices of the actual evaluation vehicles, the least expensive vehicle received a score of 100, with the other vehicle receiving its score based on how much more it cost beyond the first vehicle's price.

Vehicle
Model year2007
MakeAudi
ModelRS4
Style4dr Sedan AWD (4.2L 8cyl 6M)
Base MSRP$66,720
As-tested MSRP$69,570
Drivetrain
Drive typeAll-wheel drive
Engine typeV8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)4200cc (256cu-in)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)420 hp @ 7,500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)317 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm
Transmission typeManual
Chassis
Suspension, frontMultilink
Suspension, rearDouble wishbone
Steering typeSpeed-proportional power steering
Tire brandPirelli
Tire modelP Zero Rosso
Tire size, frontSame as rear
Tire size, rear255/35ZR19 69Y
Brakes, frontFront ventilated disc - rear ventilated disc
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)2.9
0-60 mph (sec.)4.5
0-75 mph (sec.)6.6
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)13.0 @ 107.3
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)28
60-0 mph (ft.)116
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)69
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.88
Sound level @ idle (dB)46.3
@ Full throttle (dB)80.8
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)68.8
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration comments(ESP off; "S" on) After several gentle attempts at a launch with clutch modulation, it turns out that it is far easier and more entertaining and quicker to raise the rpm from 4,500 to 6,000 and dump the clutch. You get some wheelspin and a kick in the back on the way to a seriously quick 0-30. Love the short-shifter and found the clutch rate regulator odd but very useful. Oh, and that engine note!
Braking ratingExcellent
Braking commentsLike the M5, the ABS is so obviously well tuned that it doesn't feel like ABS at all. The car just stops.
Handling ratingExcellent
Handling commentsSkid pad (ESP off): Obviously, it eventually understeers; however there's so much grip that it happens at a high g-load. There's a little time to be found with on/off throttle, but not much. Slalom (ESP off): It took a number of runs to learn what the car wanted from me. It turns out the "S" throttle was too sensitive and upset the fore/aft balance. Steady throttle elicited understeer so on/off was the way to go to coax rotation. Finally, a mix of throttle positions and living with some sideways yaw angles worked with a wide-open throttle blast for the gate. Quick steering helps a bunch.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)1121
Temperature (F)73.5
Wind (mph, direction)1
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)14 city/ 21 highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)N/A
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)16.6
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3903
Length (in.)180.7
Width (in.)71.5
Height (in.)55.7
Wheelbase (in.)104.3
Legroom, front (in.)41.3
Legroom, rear (in.)34.3
Headroom, front (in.)37.9
Headroom, rear (in.)37.1
Seating capacity5
Cargo volume (cu-ft)13.4
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)N/A
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance1 year/5,000 miles
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsDual front
Head airbagsFront and rear
Antilock brakes4-wheel ABS
Electronic brake enhancementsBrake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution
Traction controlTraction control
Stability controlStability control
Rollover protectionSide-curtain airbag rollover sensor
Emergency assistance systemN/A
NHTSA crash test, driverNot tested
NHTSA crash test, passengerNot tested
NHTSA crash test, side frontNot tested
NHTSA crash test, side rearNot tested
NHTSA rollover resistanceNot tested
Vehicle
Model year2007
MakeBMW
ModelM5
Style4dr Sedan (5.0L 10cyl 7A)
Base MSRP$83,195
As-tested MSRP$97,590
Drivetrain
Drive typeRear-wheel drive
Engine typeV10
Displacement (cc/cu-in)5000cc (305cu-in)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)500 hp @ 7750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)383 lb-ft@ 6100 rpm
Transmission typeManual
Chassis
Suspension, frontMacPherson strut
Suspension, rearMultilink
Steering typeSpeed-proportional power steering
Tire brandContinental
Tire modelSportContact2 summer
Tire size, front255/40ZR19
Tire size, rear285/30ZR19
Brakes, frontFront ventilated disc - rear ventilated disc
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)3
0-60 mph (sec.)4.4
0-75 mph (sec.)6.2
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12.7 @ 113.6
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)29
60-0 mph (ft.)114
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)68.4
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.83
Sound level @ idle (dB)54.2
@ Full throttle (dB)77.8
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)67.1
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsMDrive programmed with as much of an M-mode as is "allowed" and a very, very difficult 4,000-rpm clutch feather produces an even better 0-30 than an SMG-equipped M5. Despite non-defeat DSC, it'll still scratch a 1-2 shift. Also, I shift just as quickly as the SMG in every gearchange.
Braking ratingExcellent
Braking commentsAbsolutely nothing anomalous to report. The ABS pulses are so rapid and undetectable that it feels like true threshold braking.
Handling ratingGood
Handling commentsSkid pad: What can I say? Take it up to the stability control limit and put the throttle on the floor. Slalom: The DSC nanny allows more play than I anticipated and it seems to recognize a driver-initiated steering correction. The only time I was happy for the "help" was at cone #3's hop in the pavement. It became a non-event. I was really disappointed, however, that the system takes away my throttle on the exit. Buzz kill.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)1121
Temperature (F)73.5
Wind (mph, direction)1
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)12 city/18 highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)N/A
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)18.5
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)4122
Length (in.)191.5
Width (in.)72.7
Height (in.)57.8
Wheelbase (in.)113.7
Legroom, front (in.)41.5
Legroom, rear (in.)36
Headroom, front (in.)37.7
Headroom, rear (in.)37.8
Seating capacity5
Cargo volume (cu-ft)14
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)14
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance4 years/50,000 miles miles
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsDual front
Head airbagsFront and rear
Antilock brakes4-wheel ABS
Electronic brake enhancementsBrake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution
Traction controlTraction control
Stability controlMultimode, non-defeatable stability control
Rollover protectionN/A
Emergency assistance systemN/A
NHTSA crash test, driverNot tested
NHTSA crash test, passengerNot tested
NHTSA crash test, side frontNot tested
NHTSA crash test, side rearNot tested
NHTSA rollover resistanceNot tested
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