BMW's ballistic M6 Gran Coupe is a car that poses many questions. Jonathan Crouch attempts to provide a few answers.
Ten Second Review
Some may question the purpose of the BMW M6 Gran Coupe but upon careful consideration, it's a car that makes the M6 Coupe seem virtually redundant and the M5 saloon seem staid. BMW's finest four door? That's about the size of it.
I would venture that I speak for many when I proffer the view that BMW's recent styling direction has been, at best, hit and miss. From a personal perspective, I'd say the designs of the latest Five Series, Six Series and the Z4 sit on the positive side of the ledger, with Gran Turismo versions of the 3 and 5 Series as well as most 1 Series models on the other side and quite a lot of rather unexceptional shapes in between. BMW's 6 Series Gran Coupe, however, has wowed virtually everyone that's clapped eyes on it with its sleek silhouette and delightful interior detailing. It was only a matter of time before BMW unveiled the ultimate iteration on this theme and the M6 Gran Coupe might at first seem to occupy the smallest of niches but in fact looks set to outperform initial estimates. Let's put it this way, it's more than an M5 in a posh frock.
The engine shouldn't come as any great surprise to you. Yes, it's the same 552bhp twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 that's found in the M5 saloon which unsurprisingly endows this four-door M6 with utterly searing straight line speed. Despite tipping the scales at 5kg heavier than the M5, the M6 Gran Coupe is actually slightly quicker, getting to 62mph in 4.2 seconds before running on to an electronically limited top end of 155mph. Opt for the driver's package and this is extended to 190mph. This is an engine with an almost turbine-like power delivery, and while it lacks the aural charisma of the old 5.0-litre V10, it more than makes up for that with its extravagant torque - some 680Nm at just 1,500rpm. BMW has tuned the ride quality to be a fraction more yielding than the rather firm M5 saloon and you can switch it into comfort mode if you're just looking to waft along. The engine note might be a little insistent to put this in the top league of the most relaxing luxury saloons but this remains an M car and therefore has a requirement to steer accurately, offer taut body control through corners, deliver nuanced driver feedback, and, thanks to the fitment of an electronically operated M-differential, deliver excellent for such a potent rear-wheel-drive sports car.
Design and Build
For a car that's over five metres long, the M6 Gran Coupe disguises its bulk extremely well. The carbon fibre roof stands out a bit better with paler colours and this is a vehicle that seems somewhat colour sensitive, but it's striking, sleek and possesses so much more sense of occasion than either the M6 Coupe or the M5 saloon. Nobody I spoke to could quite define why this car has a charisma that's slightly absent in the others but it has. It's palpable. The interior is beautifully executed, with decent space for four within the 2970mm wheelbase. The surprisingly big steering wheel feels great in your hands and the pedal positioning is good too, although you don't get a clutch pedal. The 'flying buttress' that runs from the centre armrest up onto the passenger side of the dashboard is trimmed in buttery Merino leather and features thick double stitching that looks particularly good in contrast colours with the seat trims. The rear compartment offers two or three seats, the backrests of which can split and fold down in a ratio of 40:60 to increase boot capacity from 460 to as much as 1,265-litres.
Market and Model
This being the top model in the entire 6 Series panoply, it's reasonable to assume that your outlay - the best part of £100,000 - includes a fair bit of kit and so it proves. Customers get 20-inch M alloy wheels, leather trim and heated driver and front passenger seats. Available as an alternative to the standard 2-zone automatic climate control is a 4-zone system with a control panel in the rear compartment. Start on the options list and you'll have to assess the benefits of M multifunction seats, heated rear seats, Comfort Access, a heated steering wheel, the Soft Close Automatic function for the doors, electrically operated sun blinds, the new generation of the Professional navigation set-up and a Bang & Olufsen High End Surround Sound System. Standard safety gear includes an M-specific BMW Head-Up Display, Park Distance Control, a rear-view camera, High Beam Assistant, Speed Limit Info, Lane Change Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Surround View and BMW Night Vision with pedestrian recognition. Ceramic brakes reside on the options list though. Let's go back to that asking price. Can this car really be worth £24,000 more than the mechanically identical M5? In terms of ability, there's not a lot to separate the two. When it comes to that intangible sense of drama, of specialness, the M6 Gran Coupe is in a different league. Some will think BMW is profiteering but if this four-door M6 can find a steady stream of buyers - and initial order banks suggest it can - then BMW has clearly priced the car fairly in the eyes of its target market.
Cost of Ownership
If you've got a twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine at the command of your right boot, it's reasonable to assume that fuel economy is going to be catastrophic and if you punt the M6 Gran Coupe as hard as you can, you'd be dead right. Ease back on the loud pedal and things come back the right side of reasonable, with BMW quoting a combined fuel economy figure of 28.5mpg and emissions of 232g/km. That's remarkable for a vehicle of this size and potency Most other things will be predictably expensive. Servicing isn't unmanageable, but drive it hard and you'll face a hefty tyre bill and insurance isn't going to be cheap. Residual values are a tricky one to judge. A retained value of 40 per cent after three years would be very good going although most industry experts predict a figure closer to 37 per cent.
Even the most jaded and cynical motoring journalists who expected to do a hatchet job on the BMW M6 Gran Coupe as an exercise in profiteering have emerged quite charmed by this car. BMW hasn't always been long on charming but there's something very special about this four-door that's difficult to define. Perhaps it's because it does seem such a wilful oddity, there's something illogical and slightly un-German about it in a way that was similarly endearing with BMW's wacky Z3 M Coupe. Where the breadvan Z3 always remained a very minority interest, the M6 Gran Coupe has the potential to become a bit more than just a cult hit. At a stroke, it makes the M6 Coupe seem vaguely irrelevant and paints the M5 saloon with a distinct wash of the penultimate. Anything that can make the outlay of nearly £100,000 seem a reasonable course of action needs to be something special. The M6 Gran Coupe does and is.