Should BMW Respond To The Audi RS6 Avant?

It’s official; after we reported earlier this year that Audi may bring its RS6 Avant to U.S. shores, the rumors have been confirmed, and the model will be arriving for the 2020 model year. The RS6 Avant will join the ranks of other high-performance station wagons, like the Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate, which offers incredible power and acceleration in a platform that can haul more than most crossover SUVs.

But with Mercedes-AMG and now Audi bringing the heat to the high-end sport wagon segment, what is BMW going to do? The current M5 is nothing short of a world-beater, and has no trouble competing and besting the most powerful counterparts on the market, but it’s only sold in four-door form, as BMW never planned a touring version.

To make matters worse, BMW sells plenty of other touring models, but not a single one is available in the U.S. Much to the chagrin of American BMW enthusiasts, the automaker has chosen to invest heavily in its SAV and SAC models, a large portion of which are built in Spartanburg, South Carolina. There are plenty of powerful versions of these models, like the X3 M40i, or X3 M, while the X5 will also soon be gaining an M Performance variant, and a fully-fledged M version is also expected. This still leaves a gap however, one that many diehard enthusiasts lament the existence of—why should respectable hauling capacity only be available to us in the form of an SUV? Why not wagon?

For comparison sake, the 2020 RS6 Avant will start at over $110,000 according to Car and Driver, and it’s 4.0-liter V8 TFSI develops 591 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. The engine uses a hot-vee layout, motivation is put to the ground by quattro all-wheel drive of course, and there’s also a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, much like that found on other Audi models, and the new Mercedes inline-six engine which went into production back in 2017. The RS6 makes use of an eight-speed automatic transmission, and can sprint from zero to 60 mph in a mere 3.6 seconds, while a top speed of 189 mph is attainable with the optional Dynamic Package.

For those keeping track, those figures are a bit more than the current RS6 Avant which is available in Europe as of this writing. More importantly though, they slot directly against the M5, which offers 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque in conventional trim, or 617 horsepower in Competition trim. The M5 also relies on all-wheel drive (a proprietary M xDrive system) to achieve its downright blistering acceleration performance, while the Mercedes-AMG E63 S comes with 4Matic standard as well. We haven’t given it much attention here, but the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo is another wagon in the same category, but automotive news media outlets are saying the forthcoming RS6 likely has the power and performance to claim the top spot as the most capable wagon on the market.

The current M5 is an excellent vehicle in four-door sport sedan form, but the wagon market is another realm that attracts a different set of well-heeled buyers. One need only look to completed sales and auction results for the Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate over the past several years—even high mileage examples of the pre-facelift W212 generation can still fetch high prices, because there’s just nothing else out there for those looking to procure a station wagon that really can do it all.

BMW builds an M550i xDrive Touring for the rest of the world, but you cannot buy one in the U.S.

Should BMW respond with a touring variant of the current M5? We obviously hope so, but it’s probably not in the cards. The G30 5 Series is currently in the midst of receiving its LCI (life cycle impulse) redesign, which means the end of production for the model range is just a few years away. Moreover, gone are the days when M models were simply series production models given M engines, improved suspension and minor aesthetic changes. Today, M models ride on their own exclusive platforms, which can be quite different than their regular counterparts depending on the model.

There’s always the next generation which could seed an M touring, but by then, the V8 engine architecture could be in jeopardy as automakers look to move away from internal combustion propulsion as a whole. Don’t believe us? The V12 is already on its way out for BMW and others, and it remains unclear if BMW will produce a next-generation modular V8 to replace the N63 and S63.

Realities aside, we still hope to see some kind of performance BMW touring model brought to the U.S. market. While previous generations have been something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, an M5 Touring could be just the ticket.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy Audi AG, BMW AG.]

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