BMW M6 (E63) | The Brave Pill


There is a scene common to many war films where the grizzled sergeant asks for volunteers for a mission with almost no hope of return. This week's Pill is for those courageous enough to raise their hands in the face of impossible odds; or not react quickly enough when everybody else takes a step backwards. The V10-powered M6 is a car for those who laugh in the face of danger and deliver a brutal wedgie to the underpants of fear. While many of the high-risk cars Pill have celebrated have "if" issues, the M6 has several that would be more fairly categorised as "when".

Yet despite the odds stacked heavily against medium-term financial health, you'd be hard pressed to find a more attractive roulette wheel to spin, with pricing now close to outrageously affordable. The E63 M6 is a modernish coupe with 500hp, right-wheel drive and the compelling prospect of a rev-ravenous V10 under its heavily curved bonnet. For perspective it has got more power than a 997 911 Turbo of the same vintage but - wearing a mileage that has just tipped into six figures - our Pill is being offered for barely a quarter of what would be asked for a shabby version of the Porsche. Yes there's risk, but this is still a huge amount of car for the money.

Let's start with the good. The E63 M6 launched just behind the E60 M5 and used the same engine - a specially developed 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated V10 which revved to a dizzying 8250rpm. Officially the deca-pot layout was inspired by the configuration of that era's Formula 1 engines - although regulations had changed to a V8 for 2006 when BMW bought Sauber - but it was also undoubtedly chosen to keep up with Audi Sport's switch to its own Lambo-derived 5.2-litre V10.


At 1785kg the M6 was slightly lighter than the saloon thanks in part to a carbon fibre roof, and at the time it was launched it was the fastest road-going BMW of all time. The 0-62mph sprint took 4.6 seconds, it could get to 100mph from rest in under 10 and - but for that pesky speed limiter - M engineers claimed it would be capable of cracking 200mph. I attended the original press launch of the car and still hadn't encountered the limiter at an indicated 175mph, although officially it was set at 155mph.

By the standards of the time it was savagely fast, but it was also much less of a comfy GT than the bigger M cars that followed it. The V10 always sounded a bit rough under gentle use - there's an almost dieselly harmonic at idle - and there isn't much go until about 3500rpm. The gearbox is one of the automated single-clutch SMG units that blighted a generation of performance BMWs, with sometimes lunge-prone reactions and a distinct pause between ratios. It will work better under full manual control, as lifting off smooths part-throttle upshifts, and our Pill may well have been given the revised software that improved the manners of later cars. But it will still be the least fun part of the experience.

Dynamically the rest of the M6 should be pretty much spot on, indeed in many ways this and the E60 M5 stand out as high water marks. The steering is close to perfection in terms of both weighting and feedback, giving a sense of connection to the front axle that M's electrically-assisted racks just can't match. The chassis balance is similarly finely judged, with the engine's limited low-down torque and ultra fine throttle response - allowing you to pretty much add one horse at a time - the M6 stays remarkably friendly as the rear starts to run out of grip. The turbocharged F13 M6 that followed was quicker everywhere, but it wasn't anything like as much fun to pedal at 10/10ths.


The rest of the 6-Series hasn't aged quite as well. Time has turned Chris Bangle's design a bit blobby and melted; it's a personal take but I think the E60 now looks far better. Like last week's C140 S600 the M6 is another car from the "gut over a belt" school of styling. Our Pill has a respectable quantity of carbon trim, much of which would have been optional, but switchgear will still feel cheap, especially the flimsy rotary heater controls. It's also unlikely that 14 years will have done much to improve the unintuitive nature of the iDrive system which is addressed through an eight-plane rotary controller - our Pill dates from before BMW reintroduced shortcut buttons.

Everyday running costs will be wince-inducing; even brimming the 70-litre tank is unlikely to give more than 250 miles of real world range and harder use will see the needle sagging in real time. Some good news is that it is impossible to see worse than 7mpg displayed on the trip computer, but that's only because this is the lowest value it can show. Service intervals are just 9,000 miles and the V10 has expensive tastes in both oil and sparkplugs. A hard-driven M6 will also devour tyres and snack on brakes.

But it is the potential for out-of-routine costs that turn truly scary, both in terms of known risks but also the complicated powertrain's ability to throw huge bills out of left field. Like the E90 M3 the V10 can suffer from rod bearing failure, normally the result of engines being thrashed from cold, and oil starvation can also lead to spun big-end bearings which will likely destroy the engine. At least one PHer has discovered it is possible to find yourself facing a five-figure bill for a new V10 in a well-maintained car with almost no warning.


But while the engine's meltdowns are maybes the ability of the SMG to drop Β£-bombs is pretty much a given. Early cars - like this one - can suffer from premature pump failure, clutches wear quickly under harder use and the transmission can throw judders and vibration from worn bushes and bearings. The feared "red cog" dashboard light is almost always a sign things are about turn seriously spendy.

Yet to return to the important point here, the market has already factored pretty much all of the risk of an M6 into prices that look unlikely to slip much lower. Our Pill has been chosen as a particularly attractive looking example thanks to comprehensive spec, a fat wodge of history and fresh front brakes and Pilot Sport 2 tyres. There's nothing scary in the MOT history, either - and black is definitely one of the E63 M6's better colours.

When new BMW charged a substantial premium for the M6 over the M5. This car had a pre-options list price of Β£81,760 at the same time as the saloon was Β£63,495. That made the coupe considerably rarer than the saloon, but these days there is no difference in values for cars of similar age and mileage, which makes it a Man Maths bargain. So, what do you think: our bravest pill yet?


See the original advert

Search for a BMW M6 here

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (78) Join the discussion on the forum

  • redroadster 10 Aug 2019

    Think bangle styled cars have stood test of time styling wise ,V10 engine won many awards if u don't do many miles could be worth buying as will rise in value no doubt .

  • LooneyTunes 10 Aug 2019

    Agree! Never understood the dislike of the Bangle era cars. E60 in particular still a good looking vehicle as far as I am concerned.

    A neighbour runs an E63 M6, and as far as I’m aware hasn’t had any major issues. Buying one without knowing it’s history would be something of a leap of faith but one with FSH history could turn out to be quite rewarding. Would probably be tempted to get an independent inspection before purchase.

  • LaurasOtherHalf 10 Aug 2019

    I still see one regularly tootling about town, I think it’s one of those cars where being an internet nerd makes you infinitely worse than a none car guy.

    Every twist of the key would have me stting my pants instead of driving along, blissfully unaware of how close the next financial meltdown may be.

  • Fittster 10 Aug 2019

    Can't think of anything more hideous than a Bangle styled car, both BMWs and the Fiat Coupe.

  • Court_S 10 Aug 2019

    I think these have aged pretty well; I hated them when they were first released, but now find them quite handsome (the F series car was much better looking though). I used to pass a chap going the other way on my way to work with an M6 and if I timed it right, it sounded fantastic as he went from a 30 to a NSL.

    I do think you need brave pills for this though, especially if the internet is to be believed.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment