5k Face-Off: Clash Of The Teutonic Titans: 1997 BMW 540i 6spd vs 2001 Audi A6 2.7T 6spd

The Daily Turismo is proud to introduce a new kind of post, the Face-Off, where we compare and contrast two similarly priced cars.  Today we offer you 6 speeds for 6 thousand dollars, a fantastic speeds/dollar ratio and each transmission is wrapped with German steel, style and luxury.  The contender on my left is a 2001 Audi A6 2.7T 6spd from San Mateo, California weighing in at 3750 lbs and wearing blue coat for the asking price of $6200 via craigslist. The challenger on my right is a 1997 BMW E39 540i 6spd from Austin, Texas weighing in at 3748 lbs, wearing a silver coat for the asking price of $6,800 via craigslist. Thanks to tip from Kaibeezy on the A6 and OneFish TwoFish for the 540i.

Let’s start with the basics; when new the A6 cost $40k out the door and the 540i cost $52k, so right away we can say that the BMW has offered up more of its soul to the depreciation gods.  We already covered the remarkable similarity in curb weight, but dimensionally the A6 and 540i are within a few inches of each other in length, width and height – the A6’s bubbly styling translating to a few inches bigger in every dimension.

A peek inside reveals comfy leather, fancy woodgrain trim and lots of buttons, but no navigation or other ‘really expensive to fix’ gadgets.  Each car is also equipped with the rare Do-It-Yourself shifter, 6 forward speeds of automotive nirvana.  The power-train similarities end here, as the Audi transmission is connected to a 2.7 liter twin turbocharged 30-valve (that’s 5 valves per cylinder!) V6 that puts out 250 horsepower and 248 ft-lbs of torque into all four wheels.  The BMW is powered by a 4.4 liter V8 that puts out 282 horsepower and 324 ft-lbs of torque and is connected only to the rear wheels.

Even the interior dimensions are similar, with the Audi offering just a few millimeters more leg/head room front and rear.  Now, used and broken in, both of these 150k mile cruisers are offered for about $6,000…that is only $1k per forward-gear.  Can’t decide?  Buy both – you will need to drive the BMW while the Audi is getting its coil-packs and turbos overhauled…and then drive the Audi when the BMW is getting its cooling system, head-gaskets, & electrical smoke replaced.

Want to see another face-off?  Send use your face-off requests along with some candidate cars: tips@dailyturismo.com