Can BMW's M6 Coupe deliver on those 'Ultimate Driving Machine' advertising straplines? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
BMW's mighty M6 Coupe delivers a 560PS power punch that catapults it through 62mph in little over four seconds. Yes, it's significantly more expensive than the M5 saloon that it appears mechanically similar to, but it's lighter and more agile. It also has a dual personality, switching between GT and sports roles with some elan.
The BMW M6 Coupe is a car that puzzles some people. In short, they don't see the point of it. After all, the mechanically similar M5 does everything the M6 does but with the addition of back doors and a big boot. The four-door M6 Gran Coupe offers the slinky looks of the coupe with a bit of added practicality, so there lingers the question of the M6's role. It's certainly not the prettiest coupe we've ever seen, nor will it smash lap records of the Nurburgring. It won't cut quite such an elegant dash as a Mercedes-Benz SL on the Promenade des Anglais at Nice and neither will it possess half the jaw-dropping tech of its i8 electric sibling. But let's shelve all those concerns for the time being and deal with the product at hand. The day we start questioning the place of a 560PS V8 rear-wheel drive coupe will be a very sad day indeed for petrolheads the length and breadth of the nation. Instead, let's just revel in what remains an extraordinarily capable car that possesses a depth of talent that's hard for most to wrap their heads around.
That mighty powerplant tucked under the bonnet shouldn't come as any great surprise. We've seen it before in the M5 and this twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 endows this four-door M6 with scorching straight line speed. BMW has striven to strip a bit of weight from the M6 and redistribute it in all the right places using parts like a bonded carbon reinforced plastic roof to lower the centre of gravity. Of course, it's sledgehammer quick, 560PS of power and 680Nm of torque will do that for you. The sprint to 62mph is smashed in just 4.2 seconds before a soft electronic limiter brings a halt to acceleration at 155mph. 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 huge reserves of low-end torque, which peaks from 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 stability for such a potent rear-wheel-drive sports car. The seven-speed Double Clutch Transmission (M DCT) snaps through shifts in a blink and if you want even greater stopping power than the already impressive standard setup, you can pay to option in ceramic brake discs.
Design and Build
As well as that carbon roof the M6 benefits from a hybrid construction of steel, aluminium and composite materials to keep a cap on weight without sacrificing strength. In addition to the high tensile steels used in the monocoque, the doors and bonnet are made from aluminium while the front wings are formed in plastic while the boot lid's built from fibreglass. This M6 is a lower-key but better-looking thing than its rather blunt predecessor, to this eye at least. At the front there's an M apron with wide air intake apertures directing air to the engine, while sharply contoured headlamps featuring the characteristic BMW Corona rings with Adaptive LED headlight technology sweep the path ahead. There's also a wide M kidney grille, with its black slats and shape inspired by the double spoke alloy wheels. The interior is beautifully executed, with good sightlines from the driving seat. The lightweight M Sport seats feature an integrated seat belt system, electric seat adjustment, a pneumatic lumbar adjustment and manually adjustable under thigh support. The cockpit is finished in Merino leather and the 460-litres of luggage capacity gives it the sort of versatility you'd expect from a top-end GT car.
Market and Model
The asking price of £94,625 might seem a bit of a stretch given that you can put an M5 in your garage and still have over £24,000 change, but are these cars really viable rivals? Probably not. The M6 instead campaigns against cars like the £94k Maserati GranTurismo Sport Auto, the £112k Mercedes SL63 AMG and the £130k Bentley Continental GT. When pitched against these rivals, the BMW certainly doesn't seem overpriced. In fact, it's easy to make a case for it being the bargain of the big coupe division. Customers get dual-zone climate control, heated and multi-adjustable M Sport seats, the M-specific HUD, Extended Merino leather interior trim and BMW Professional Navigation with 10.2" colour screen. Customers can also specify 20-inch alloy wheels, M Carbon Ceramic Brakes, Internet, BMW Night Vision and a monster Bang and Olufsen stereo.
Cost of Ownership
First the good news. The latest M6 is a good deal more fuel-efficient than the old V10 model. That said, there are probably bulk freight carriers or intercontinental ballistic missiles that are more fuel efficient than that car. EfficientDynamics technology encompasses a suite of fuel-saving measures on this car such as Auto Start-Stop, Brake Energy Regeneration and Active Aerodynamics, helping to reduce consumption and emissions by approximately 30 per cent. The M6 claims a combined fuel consumption of 28.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 232g/km. It's even got a decently-sized 80-litre fuel tank which means that your touring range extends out to over 440 miles in real world conditions. 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. Run an M6 over three years and it'll work out cheaper than its ostensible rivals. The pence per mile cost comes to 240, with the Maserati GranTurismo Sport Auto costing 246ppm, Mercedes SL63 AMG weighing in at 269ppm and a Bentley Conti GT V8 a hefty 310ppm.
All of the constituent parts of the BMW M6 Coupe do a fantastic job of convincing you that their totality will be an absolutely incredible vehicle, but the result can seem a little confusing in its execution. It doesn't at first seem a fully-fledged syrupy GT continent-crusher and it's certainly not a flinty-eyed bruiser with which you'd choose to dice with a Porsche 911 or a Nissan GT-R. Spend a little more time with the car, however, and its appeal gradually coalesces. You'll eventually figure out that once you've spent time playing with the 486 different chassis, steering and gearbox permutations, you can turn it into a decent GT car. Tweak them some more and it'll be a brutish oversteer monster. So yes, it can do both roles. Not as well as the dedicated cars but closer than you'd at first think. That is perhaps the genius that's buried deep within the BMW M6. It's easy, lazy perhaps, to write it off as a car that falls between stools; an overpriced jack of certain trades. It's actually a car that does that rarest of things, namely credit its operator with some smarts. Perhaps the M6 deserves a bit more kudos than it's received. It's earned our respect, that's for sure.