BMW's new M6 is a beast

DAVE MOORE
Last updated 07:00 20/11/2012
BMW M6s: The Cabriolet (right) is 130kg heavier than the Coupe (left). but you don't notice much, even on the racetrack, with 412kW on tap.
BMW M6s: The Cabriolet (right) is 130kg heavier than the Coupe (left). but you don't notice much, even on the racetrack, with 412kW on tap.

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In terms of power, 412 kilowatts does not seem as good as 552 horsepower. The former gives the picture of a car park full of electric bar heaters, while the latter evokes a stampede of perfect ponies.

AT A GLANCE
Drivetrain: Front inline-mounted rear-wheel-drive M twin-power turbocharged 4395cc V8. Seven-speed M double-clutch transmission.
Output: 412kW at 6000-7000rpm, 680Nm at 1500-5750rpm, 250kmh, 0-100kmh 4.2-4.3secs, 9.9-10.3L/100km, 232-239g/km CO2.
Chassis: Front double control arms; Rear multi-arm axle. Servotronic hydraulic-assisted rack and pinion steering. 20 inch alloy wheels.
Safety: Vented front and rear disc brakes, ABS, DSC, Integrated chassis management, Front and side airbags for front seats, head airbags front and rear. Five-star EuroNCAP rated.
Dimensions: L 4898mm, H 1368-1374mm, W 2106mm, W/base 2851mm, F/track 1631mm, R/track 1612mm, Weight . 1850-1980kg, Fuel 80L.
Pricing: M6 Coupe $265,100, M6 Convertible $277,100. 6-series Gran Coupe $224,500.
Hot: Slick styling; lusty, unburstable engine; sound signature; uncanny cornering ability; first BMW alternative to a Porsche 911.
Not: Cramped rear; ugly non-folding i-Drive screen; often feels just a little aloof on the racetrack; a proper manual would be nice.
Verdict: Fastest ever BMW two-door is a pussycat when it has to be; but erupts into action at the drop of a hat; immensely capable. However, I’d take the Gran Sport and feel slightly less in the public eye.


Click on photo at left for more views of the BMW M6 coupe and cabriolet.


But either way, BMW's new M6 is a beast and the twin-turbo engine it has inherited from the M5 helps make it the fastest two- door car the company has produced. When that category includes the iconic mid-engined original M1, you can see how impressive the fact is.

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Compared with its predecessor, a V10, the new BMW M6 appears even more performance oriented - not that any 6-series car is less than that, not even the four-door 650 Gran Coupe, but more about that later.

The M6 is blisteringly quick around the racetrack, and much more nimble in such situations than its predecessor, while also uncannily being a better daily commuter ride, with levels of smooth refinement that the old car simply couldn't deliver.

An added thrill for a lucky owner is that its Twinpower V8 has a much more cultured voice than the old V10, with a Nascar- meets-Nurburgring cross-cultured V8 snarl, which really does raise the hackles on your neck when it's trying hard. However, the nice trick is that it will shut down to a more servile rumble when you back off, so you won't be annoying non-motorphiles any more than you have to.

What's so amazing about this thunderingly quick motorcar is that it's so easy to drive slowly. This will please those who opt for the Cabriolet, who will probably want the town speed drama of the open-top as much as its Porsche 911 chasing performance and soundtrack.

And it is that quick, with the extra weight of the Cabriolet's strengthening and the tiny but present element of flex, meaning that it's just a little behind the solid roofed car at the track.

On top of that blown V8 power unit, the M6 has adopted the M5's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, as well as the suspension setup bolted straight to the body. The former is responsible for the car's on- demand pussycat to tweaked tiger personality, while the latter, with the aid of strengthening plates at each end under the suspension, is responsible for the car's amazing body control and tenacious high- speed cornering grip.

Such ability to suck up curves with so little drama is a huge achievement, for with me behind the wheel, the M6 weighs more than two tonnes.

The M6 coupe could have been a lot heavier too, because it has alloy suspension parts, alloy door panels, a carbon fibre roof and front wings made from superlight composites.

Thundering around Lakeside raceway in Queensland, where more than 200kmh can be clocked between curves that can cut in hard at just over 60kmh, the M6 defies physics. There are points where the car has to be taken from left to right very quickly, and vice versa, and other spots where a wicked camber means you have to go over what seems to be a tarmac berm right in the middle of a hairpin, before applying full wick to the next apex.

On the first lap or two, I was reticent, born of a touch of disbelief when exploring the M6's handling prowess. Yet, despite the nastiness of some of the track's changes of direction, the car was very easy on me and I was soon keeping up with experienced instructors, surprising myself as much as them.

There are parts of Lakeside where snap, throttle-off oversteer has caught the unprepared many times, and the metallic orange car did leave some of its spore behind on the tyrewalls.

But the driver in question is more of a gung-ho character than me, and he admitted that his excursion was more to with the driver than the car.

You can drift the M6 with ease. It has superb throttle responses. As well, thanks to a cluster of driver settings that you can dial into two set programmes from a menu as long as your arm, you could drive the car to the track in your own "commuting" or road programme, then prod another button to deliver your pre- organised track settings.

Your settings cover damping control from comfort level right up to sport-plus, which battens everything down for playtime.

The steering's responses can be dialled in to taste too, as can the gearbox shift speeds.

This saves the M6 owner the tedious job - noted by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear - of taking a few minutes to set the car up every time you want to execute a quick start or stiffen everything up for the track. Your presets are all ready for cruising or bruising. Just punch the right button and you're there.

On the track, the transmission is a little reticent when left to its own devices, even when in its most aggressive mode. Then the paddle shift comes into play.

Tugging on the paddles elicits super-sharp up or downshifts to taste, with the sharpest settings allowing the car down two or even three slots on the way into a very slow bend at the end of a super-fast straight. But it's all unnecessary, really, as the engine has such a deep well of torque that even when you get the ratio selection wrong (the car won't make this mistake, but I did) and find yourself a ratio too high, the car will still catapult through to the next bend with great alacrity, the only difference being a deeper engine note.

The key to such quick responses and flexibility is the fact that by plumbing the Twinpower impellers close to the engine, within the Vee in fact, they can be kept on the boil more easily. Thus there's no turbo lag to speak of. You don't have to wait for boost to build up, because it's always there.

You won't be thinking of this on the track, but such responses also help with fuel consumption, as part-throttle work is all you ever seem to need on the road.

As well, when you don't have to stir the engine too much, thanks to its uncanny flexibility, fuel use comes down dramatically, with the lighter Coupe version able to post combined economy figures of 9.9 litres per 100km, while the M6 Cabriolet manages just over 10L/100km.

My favourite aspect on the track was the car's ability to shift its two-tonne bulk so nimbly from one direction to another.

From apex to apex, the dynamic stability control, even in its most nannying settings, allows some tailwork to take place and, although I'm probably a little old for such activities, I did manage some sideways activity on the track's top hairpin to main straight section, where it unravels nicely before the pits.

Strap hanging brakes - which showed no sign of fading, even after two hours of flat-out activity - were a boon, while back on the road, the M6 has all the radar cruise and heads-up accoutrements to make traffic much less of a chore than I'd have expected with 500-plus (ponies) under the bonnet.

So which to buy? At $265,100 for the Coupe and $277,100 for the Cabriolet, it's not a decision I'd have to make, until the Lotto gods shine on me.

Simply, if I was going to indulge in regular weekend trackwork, it would have to be the coupe. It's tauter and lighter than the soft-roofed car when pressing on, and knowing that I'm not quite as talented as other circuit users, the relative anonymity of the M6 Coupe means that no-one need ever know who the slowcoach is.

The Cabriolet is still probably the most talented rear-drive ragtop you can buy, so trackwork is not out of the question with it.

On the open road, hood down and rumbling along, it's beyond comparison, although by opting for the standard 650i Cabriolet for $42,000 less than its M6 cousin, you might lose 112kW and some nice wee tell-tale M-badges, but behind the wheel you won't care.

- The Press

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