By S. Hill
I never thought I’d say this about a car, but when I set my eyes on the 2016 BMW M6 in San Marino Blue Metallic paint and gorgeous 20-inch seven-spoke wheels, I was instantly in love. Who thought such a bold colour would blend so easily into this beast of a car. The design is an exclusive one fitted as part of the new Competition Package introduced in mid-2015.
The M6 was clearly designed and built for more than just popping out to the grocery store, commuting to work, and navigating the incessant city traffic. Don’t get me wrong, it could definitely do these things just fine, but it was clearly eager to do more. The regular M6 already outputs 560 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque from its twin-turbocharged direct-injected 4.4L V8, and the Competition Package increases the boost pressure to crank things up to a whopping 600 hp, all of which is constantly waiting to be unleashed to the rear wheels through the car’s seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission. You could opt for the six-speed manual gearbox at no extra cost. So a little jab of the throttle and the M6 would surge forward hopefully, only to be reined tightly back in as another red traffic light loomed up.
Like any petrol-head, I enjoyed being seen in the glamourous company of the M6, but I found it a bit bossy and demanding. As I drove out of my parking spot it would tug my seatbelt to make sure it was tightened adequately, and warning chimes seemed to go off constantly as I accidentally did things the on-board computers and sensors didn’t approve of. When I dared try to sneak forward with the driver’s door open in order to line up for a photo, the M6 put its foot down and obstinately shifted into neutral. A bit of a spoilt brat used to getting its way if you ask me.
Looking to bury the hatchet and reconcile things with the blue beauty, I decided that a drive up a twisting country road was in order – something that would get the M6 to wake up a little, show some excitement. With the M-Drive’s selectable steering, suspension, and powertrain switched to Sport+ mode and some aggressive uphill switchbacks to tackle, I did get a couple of brief glimpses of the car’s wild side, its enormous and awe-inspiring potential. But given that you’ll be exceeding the speed limit anywhere in the world before the speedometer climbs up even one-third of the way around, the briefest of glimpses were all I could get, and the M6’s enormous capability is such that even when you’re going fast it doesn’t really feel that fast. Yep, it’s clear that to really enjoy what the M6 can do, you need a race track.
I thought that was perhaps the end of it for me and the M6, with no story to tell. The M6, well, it may have been designed to run at racetrack speeds, it was also made for turning heads.
Driving back down the mountain roads, I’d finally come to terms with the M6. I switched the powertrain, suspension and steering back into Efficient and Comfort modes, and marvelled at how well behaved and tractable the M6 is for a car that can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds and top out at an electronically limited 250 km/h.
The M6 is thoroughly comfortable too, as befits its grand touring roots. Thanks to the adaptive suspension the ride can be softened for highway cruising, so even with the Competition Package’s retuned suspension and stiffer springs you’ll arrive relaxed, not shaken. And the interior is an opulent work of art with exclusive high-end materials (including fine-grained merino leather upholstery, black Alcantara roof liner, your choice of real wood or authentic carbon-fibre trim, and the list goes on). The fit and finish is impeccable, and the heated and cooled active front seats included with my car’s Ultimate Package are supportive yet roomy. It’s a great place to spend time in, and there’s even real room for adults in the back seat and an impressive 460 L of cargo in the trunk.
Naturally, the M6 has all the conveniences and technology you could wish for. The basics are taken care of with a full-featured infotainment system showcased on a big 10.2-inch colour display and rich-sounding Bang & Olufsen audio included as part of the Ultimate Package (a very expensive option). The navigation system can recognize handwritten input on the rotary selector, and features true-to-life 3D representations of selected landmarks and buildings. There’s an M-specific head-up display, surround-view back-up camera, adaptive headlights, high-beam assistant, blind-spot information system, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with collision warning, an available night-vision system, and more.
There are even a few features that appear to be entirely gratuitous, like a centre-mounted tweeter that rises smoothly out of the dashboard whenever you turn on the audio system.
Where the M6’s grand touring roots do weigh it down somewhat is in, well, weight. My test car tipped the scales a somewhat mind-boggling 1,928 kg, which is almost exactly the same as what an AWD Honda Pilot LX weighs (an enormous CUV that can carry eight passengers). Thanks to its active suspension, torque-vectoring differential, massive horsepower and dynamic stability control systems, the M6 does a marvellous job of hiding its weight – it accelerates not just briskly but explosively, it stops with authority thanks to its massive brakes, and it corners crisply and cleanly with nice turn-in and good feedback.
Its centre of gravity is clearly lower than a Honda Pilot’s too, so there’s essentially no body roll. The M6’s lightweight carbon fibre roof is said to help in this regard, although it means you don’t get a sunroof; which to me is very unfortunate.
Other niggles include paddle shifters that are mounted on the steering wheel rather than the steering column, A-pillars that restrict vision more than I’d like, and a fuel saving engine stop/start system that can be downright brutal in its re-engagement of the powertrain if you hop off the brake and onto the accelerator too quickly (fortunately the auto stop/start can be defeated with the quick press of a button). Speaking of saving fuel, despite the auto stop/start system and Efficient Dynamics regenerative brakes that ease alternator loads by feeding electricity to the battery, the M6 doesn’t really save any fuel as a matter of fact.
With the Competition Package and dual-clutch gearbox it’s rated at 17.3 / 11.5 L/100 km (city/highway), and the M6 needs at least 91 octane fuel (Shell V-Power), so you’ll be burning pricey premium fuel.
Then of course there’s the purchase price. I suppose once you’re in a certain income bracket it becomes less consequential, but the M6 starts at $125,000 and you pay another $8,500 on top of that for the Competition Package, $8,500 for the Executive Package (which includes many of the driver assistance technologies), and $4,900 for the Bang & Olufsen audio system. That adds up to $21,900, so you might as well plunk down the $25,000 for my test car’s Ultimate Package which combines the bits and pieces from all three of those packages and adds a few more items like titanium exhaust and carbon-fibre rear diffuser, bringing the total to $150,000 and leaving the M6 almost fully loaded save for the $8,500 carbon ceramic brakes and $2,500 night vision system. How much truly usable extra performance the M6 gets you over a garden-variety 650i xDrive Coupe (starting at $99,500) is debatable, and may depend on whether in fact you have access to a race track. For that matter, there’s the 435-hp M4 Coupe, which starts at a comparatively reasonable $75,000 and adds 300 kg of lightness (it weighs in at 1,626 kg), resulting in a decidedly friskier-feeling car.
I could go on all day, but the thing is, it doesn’t matter. Sure, the M6 competes against a wide range of would-be rivals – in addition to its own less-expensive stablemates there are the Porsche 911, Maserati GranTurismo, and Mercedes-Benz SL to consider, among others. But if the M6 is right for the role and you’ve got the budget, then the casting decision is easy. My only regret is that my brief fling with the M6 didn’t take place during a week that required an 800-km road trip, because that’s the kind of role that’s perfect for this stunning and hugely capable BMW.
Warranty: 4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation.
Base Price: $125,000
Options: $25,500 (Electric rear sunshade, Ultimate Package including Competition Package, Executive Package, Bang & Olufsen audio)
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