Engine
5.0 V10
501 bhp / 383lb/ft torque
Layout: Front engine, Rear Wheel Drive
Performance
0-60 mph: 4.5 seconds
Top Speed : 155 mph - electronically limited (205 delimited)


There’s no shortage of impressive figures to describe BMWs M6.

The engine and gearbox are straight from the M5, BMW’s awesome V10 giving 501bhp and 383lb ft of torque, coupled with the world's first production 7 speed semi automatic gearbox. This means that all that raw power is available in a very controlled and useable way.

Like the M3 CSL, the M6 has a carbonfibre roof, giving a weight reduction of 4.5kg compared to the steel version and a lower centre of gravity. Combined with other weight saving measures the M6 is some 120 kgs lighter than the standard 5 series on which it is based, and with a lower centre of gravity too, giving the M6 the agility you would expect of a far smaller, lighter car.

Performance wise these figures add up to make the M6 the fastest accelerating BMW of all time, seeing 60mph in just 4.5 seconds, and de-restricted top speed of 205mph.

None of this however can begin to tell you just what an incredible machine the M6 is. From the moment you set eyes on it, you will notice the M6 is by far the most muscular looking car in BMWs current range; a snarling brute ready to break out of the clean lines of the standard 6 series.

Getting in the car does nothing to dim this impression. There are gadgets everywhere, and for everything. The ones you notice however are the nifty head up display, and the Mdrive manager. The head up display in default mode projects speed and RPM onto the lower section of the windscreen, and flashes when it’s time to change up a gear. Perhaps more novelty value than genuine usefulness, but an enjoyable novelty all the same.

There’s nothing frivolous however about the Mdrive manager. This is BMWs computer control system that changes engine, gearbox and suspension settings making the M6 many cars in one. I confess I’d been somewhat sceptical of this feature, having been disappointed with “sports mode” switches before. In the M6 however it’s a different matter completely. From a serene grand tourer you’re only the push of a button away from tyre smoking, tail out action. The Mdrive manager truly does alter the entire character of the car.

It’s not the easiest system to get used to, and more than once I actually had to pull over and cycle through seemingly endless settings to get the combination I wanted, but the scope for changing settings provides immense scope for personalising the car to suit your mood, and this is a fantastic feature once you get the hang of it.

The stereo can be a bit confusing too, with so many settings and adjustments that a simple action like changing stations or adjusting the volume can easily become an involved operation, and that regularly interrupted by the satellite navigation, which can be equally difficult to turn off when you don’t need it. Of course once you have the hang of them these features make for a car that can be adjusted to suit almost every eventuality.

In the end though, given my limited time with the M6 I used the nuclear option. I switched everything off, set the Mdrive to it’s all out sports setting and headed for my favourite stretch of back road to enjoy the car as nature intended. This is where the M6 really shines, it’s relatively light weight, and stiff chassis giving making the big 6 series shrink around you to feel sporty and nimble in the corners, and that mighty engine propelling you between them at astonishing pace.

In the fast sweeping bends the car is amazingly sure footed on it’s 19” tyres, encouraging you to press on all the way. Even with the traction and stability control systems off it would take a serious error of judgement to provoke the M6 into anything but the most gentle and predictable of slides. In the slower corners a spirited dab on the throttle can provoke the tail to step out, but again this is easily controlled.

The gearbox is an evolution of the SMG unit fitted to M3s, but much more satisfactory. Gear changes are smooth and with 7 ratios available they're tightly enough packed to give you all the power you need, just when you need it.

If there is a weak spot on the M6 it’s the brakes. They’re perfectly adequate for normal use, and stand up to hard driving reasonably well, but with repeated heavy braking there is noticeable fade. For reasons best known to themselves, BMW’s M division have stuck with the standard 2 pot callipers and steel disks as found on the M5. When everything else about the M6 is so far above adequate, it’s hard to understand why they would skimp on the brakes. With Porsche using full ceramic brakes on their 911 and much lesser cars than the M6 using Brembo’s excellent 4 pot callipers, the M6 has no excuse for BMW not keeping pace.

This and more are easily forgiven however, when you drive the M6. The handling is near faultless, and the power is just astounding. Slower traffic is passed with ease, and even a short straight is enough to see 100mph. On a long drive the M6 readily morphs into a well mannered and relaxed GT car that can carry you and your luggage – and BMW claim it has the best luggage space in it’s class – effortlessly.

A few years ago this sort of power was only available with the most expensive Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s. Impractical hobby cars that cost a fortune to buy and run, they were uncomfortable and unreliable. With the M6 BMW have raised the bar. It’s not exactly cheap at $96,795, but you would have to pay a lot more for anything that offered similar performance. The M6 makes supercar performance practical for every day use, and massively enjoyable. For that, you’d need a good reason not to love it.