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Tuesday 26th June 2012


DRIVEN: BMW M6

40 years of BMW M, embodied in the new M6 and a whoosh of twin-turbo V8


The £93,820 asking price for the new BMW M6 is, depending on how you look at it, a right rip off or something of a steal. All depends what you compare it with really, which at first glance seems tricky. And then you start scratching your chin and, darn it, for the PHer in need of a 500hp-plus coupe and with a few quid to spend the choice is actually pretty broad.

New M6 looks the absolute business
New M6 looks the absolute business
Citing a shared turbo/tech mentalist approach, Chris Harris compared the Nissan GT-R with the M5 recently. And now the M6 is out of the blocks the Nissan has a more obvious Bavarian rival, even if the increasingly expensive GT-R - for now - undercuts the M6 by nearly 20 grand. Give it a couple of weeks and another 'revision' though...

So now it's looking a little pricey. And then you consider the alternatives. CL63 AMG? £117K. V8 Bentley Conti GT? A few grand more still. Even the more simplistic Jaguar XKR-S costs £97K.

So there you have it. The M6. It's a bargain. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is PH maths in action.

Having made the financial case, what's it like to drive?

Fewer revs, more turbos
Fewer revs, more turbos
Out with the old...
The previous M6 and its M5 equivalent walked to very much to the same highly strung V10 beat. And now, as before, the M6 shares a lot with its saloon brother. Which may or may not be a good thing.

To re-cap, though. The new M6 loses a couple of cylinders, gains a pair of turbos and 53hp over the old V10 and drives through a dual-clutch, seven-speed Getrag M DCT gearbox just like its M5 brother. That ain't all though - it also gains 140kg, offset by 501lb ft of torque from just 1,500rpm rather than the 6,100rpm you needed for the measly 383lb ft from the old car. And though you may miss that high-revving character it's hard to argue with the new M6's (official) 28.5mpg and 232g/km against the V10's 19.8mpg and 342g/km.

Quick, no dawdling Spaniards in the way!
Quick, no dawdling Spaniards in the way!
For all its highly strung nature, though, the old M6 was pretty popular. BMW shifted nearly 15,000 of them, two thirds of those coupes. Pretty astonishing really. And quite an act for this new car to follow. Until you note that in the UK BMW sold just 25 in the last three years.

Mean, if not especially lean
First impressions are strong, though. Where the M5 almost plays it down a bit, the M6 is much more in your face. Coupe dimensions and an 82mm lower roofline help make it feel a little more compact than the M5, even if it isn't really, and the exterior, even in that insipid metallic ochre, bristles with menace and muscle. It's a seriously handsome car, classically well proportioned but bursting with intent and some beguiling styling flourishes. A fine celebration of 40 years of M too.

Stylish, opulent and full of toys in here
Stylish, opulent and full of toys in here
Given that the previous generation M5 and M6 were among the early pioneers of the multi-mode, driver-selectable programming it's no surprise to find this expanded in scope and complexity. How you respond to this depends on your tastes, but it's a clear ideological contrast to the more straightforward Jaguar XKR-S.

It does give the M6 massive reach though, the base setting a perfect everyday default. The now familiar configurable M1 and M2 hot keys at least simplify the huge number of settings - including steering, suspension, throttle, HUD and more - into on-demand preferences.

To the max
With everything up to 11 - 'Sport Plus' officially - the M6 is a very different beast, even if development boss Albert Biermann admits the most aggressive gearbox setting is only really there to cater to the "SMG enthusiast" missing the evocative thwack of skull against headrest.

Pick a mode ... any mode!
Pick a mode ... any mode!
A more nuanced combination of settings mixing and matching Sport and Sport Plus according to taste achieves a more pleasing balance. But is it actually as engaging as the simpler, more honest approach of the Jag?

Variable it may be but the steering weighting never feels more informative than just that and there's enough jarring in the most aggressive settings for chassis and drivetrain to have you wonder what the point of having them might be. Credit where it's due though - the dampers do have a decent amount of travel and even on (optional) 20-inch wheels there's some vertical movement, but damped very effectively. Fluid might be going a bit far, but the ride is far from over-authoritative.

It'd be nice if the M6 let you into the picture too
It'd be nice if the M6 let you into the picture too
Overall though the M5's aloofness and reluctance to engage is carried over into its coupe brother. Which is how you can find yourself meandering along at what seems like a mind-numbingly sedate pace only to realise that you're actually nudging three figures - mph - on a single carriageway road.

Excitement versus competence
And if that's happening, by golly, you'd want to feel just a little bit turned on by the experience.

Perhaps anticipating this, BMW laid on some time at Ascari Race Resort and the opportunity to push the M6 a little harder. But, like any lard arse, sweating in the sun, the big Beemer doesn't feel entirely happy here either.

To be fair its balance and poise are excellent, understeer well contained for a big fella and easily and predictably dialled out with the throttle and M Differential once past the apex. And if you want to play the hooligan it'll respond with huge, smoky drifts if you want it to.

Well, they were changing tyres anyway...
Well, they were changing tyres anyway...
A two-tonne coupe will never a track car make though and, wheezing in the mid-30s Spanish heat, after a couple of laps the powertrain falls back into self preservation mode, defiantly upshifts two or three ratios and remains there at the top of the stairs, arms folded and refusing to come back down. Cue arrival at that third-gear chicane, tugging the downshift paddle but still in sixth and somewhat missing that engine braking you'd factored into the corner entry speed.

At least the brakes - optionally upgradeable to ceramics for the first time on an M - are now up to the job and a big step up from what went before.

Back in that 'real world'
In truth it's not a natural track car but having experienced the upper reaches of what it is capable of to then be denied them by pesky things like traffic and speed limits is then doubly frustrating.

Looks like fun, be nice to feel it too
Looks like fun, be nice to feel it too
In short then the M6 is a car of impressive scope and ability, little of which it'll let you sample at vaguely sensible speeds. It does, however, look brutally and unashamedly aggressive and is brilliantly cosseting and stylish inside. At which point we should probably refer you to our much discussed 640d review and leave you to figure the rest out for yourself...

 

 

 


BMW M6 COUPE
Engine:
4,395cc V8, twin-turbo, direct-injection
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto (M DCT), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 560@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 501@1,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.2 sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1,925kg (EU, unladen)
MPG: 28.5mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 232g/km
Price: £93,820 (basic list)





Author: Dan Trent