All’s fair with love and phwoar. BMW has long woken up to the idea that some implant action with the sexiest vital statistics of its cars generate just the right raising of the eyebrows, quickening of heart rate and shortness of breath to allow it to get away with otherwise intolerable prices.
The recipe is simple enough: shoehorn a high-power big-bore V8 into a car normally powered by a humble four or six-cylinder unit and uprate the chassis, brakes and steering. That is all. Instant horsepower bimbo. You know who you are, BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG and Audi RS6.
This BMW M6 Gran Coupe on the other hand is somewhat different. It’s based on a coupe – albeit one with not two but four doors – and thus is already ahead of the rest of the pack in concept, competence and character. Read on to find out if it has any substance behind the obvious flair.
New to the M division, the M6 GC features the latest variation of BMW M GmbH’s 4.4 litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. It makes 560 hp between 6,000 and 7,000 rpm and 680 Nm of torque from 1,500 to 5,750 rpm – the same state of tune to that fitted on the mechanically similar BMW M5 super saloon and M6 Coupe and Convertible.
Its technical wizardry includes a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers, a cross-bank exhaust manifold, high precision direct petrol injection, Valvetronic variable valve timing and Double-Vanos continuously variable camshaft control. Clever engine management allows customisable twist-action peaks and accelerator-to-engine characteristics, so you can have it tailored to your needs.
There isn’t a choice of transmission here. The world of performance-oriented automobiles has almost completely abandoned manual trannies in favour of quicker dual-clutch two-pedal set-ups. That’s a regrettable move for most driving enthusiasts, but in the case of the M6 Gran Coupe, it’s really better off with the standard seven-speed M DCT.
The quick-acting and intelligent dual-clutch auto ‘box is well suited for slicing this loaf of torque, in such a way that banishes any call for a manual variant. Cries for traditional trannies aren’t usually heard from customers in this market sector anyway, and the M DCT really is a plus rather than a fuss.
While the competing Audi RS6 and Mercedes E 63 AMG boast permanent four-wheel drive (optional on the Merc), the Bimmer’s blown V8 drives the rear wheels only. BMW M GmbH is adamant that rear-wheel drive paired to a petrol engine is the only way to go, leaving all-wheel systems and diesel motors, no matter how comparatively powerful and efficient they are, to the lesser M Performance boys. No complaints here.
Comparatively speaking, the current-generation BMW M5 is a subtle variation of its base model (F10 5 Series). The M6 Gran Coupe leaves the onlooker in no doubt about its true mission. It sports flared wheel arches, lowered suspension, extra-wide 20-inch wheels, quad chrome tailpipes, prominent badges, a bespoke grille and exquisitely finished carbonfibre roof – a first for a four-door M car.
Next to the M6 Gran Coupe, a BMW M5 looks a little outmoded, even in its new facelifted form. Its closest competition on the other hand, the Mercedes E 63 AMG and CLS 63 AMG, prefer to flaunt their go-faster treatment like how testosterone-pumped teenagers wear hair gel. There’s a fine line between sporty and OTT, and the BMW falls in the more favourable camp. You decide where the AMG pair goes.
Inside, the latest M car provides a go-faster atmosphere that is quite different in execution and taste compared to the class norm. It would lose out on the living-room-on-wheels contest to sedan-based alternatives for favouring a tighter but more engaging cabin ambiance.
Leather-covered dashboard is standard fare here, as are finely finished and intuitive controls. The M sports seats look fine, is thinly but very comfortably upholstered and offer more than sufficient adjustability. The pull-out element adds thigh support that’s desperately short on other such machines.
Rear passenger space is at a premium, especially compared to conventionally-bodied alternatives. There are three sets of seat belts back there, but the centre seat is best forgotten entirely. One would have to straddle the centre console to fit in, and even then the deeply sculpted bench is barely bolstered for three-abreast seating. Just two is cool though, the lavishly adorned interior proves as cossetting as you’d expect of a high-end BMW.
The only other debatable M6 cabin feature is the omnipresent piano black plastic trim across the dashboard, instead of more exotic materials like lacquered carbonfibre. Some may say it’s passé, that they look like laminated pieces of a turn-of-the-century morning gowns while the other camp think it’s really spiffy and classy. BMW M seems to agree on the former. The generous real aluminium inserts are the cabin’s saving grace.
Otherwise, it looks and feels like a downsized 7 Series. Strong points include the fantastic new three-spoke M steering wheel with long and easily-reachable pedals plus the short and purposeful gear knob with a raft of M-specific controls around it. Not that you’ll ever mistake it for a standard 6 GC, but there’s a load of M badges in here.
The large wide-screen display is easily legible with the controls logically laid out that you don’t need to be a Harvard graduate to understand the basic functions. The iDrive’s dark days are long gone, and it’s now one of the most intuitive of all-in-one interfaces among premium brands.
Back to the crucial bit: the performance. The engine revs to a maximum of 7,200 rpm, taking the BMW M6 Gran Coupe from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds on the way to an artificially governed top speed of 250 km/h (305 km/h if the optional M Driver’s Package is specified). Average fuel consumption in the EU test cycle stands at 9.9 litres per 100 kilometres and CO2 emissions are 232 grammes per kilometre.
Speed is not an issue then, and the engine is now more efficient than ever. Mission accomplished, boys, we now have a super saloon. Or is it? Congratulations aren’t in order just yet, as the M6 would also need to have a good all-round package, lest it be known as a one trick pony. Going fast is a trick that’s all too common nowadays.
When this car was developed, ride comfort was obviously high on the priority list. Higher than you’d first think is necessary, to be honest. The low-profile Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (265/35 R20 up front, 295/30 R20 in the back) offer hardly any compliance at all, which makes it a big surprise when the uprated chassis proves to be particularly spine-friendly.
Stiff springs, fat anti-roll bars, taut shock absorbers and lowered ride height are all hard at work here, primarily to help improve handling and roadholding. That they’re not at daggers drawn with potholes and transverse ridges (of which there were many through Germany’s country roads) crafts the M6 Gran Coupe’s best attributes, especially when you’d expect them to be the worst of its enemies.
Ride is remarkably not uncompromising; with the actively adjustable dampers completely and strategically dispensing mercy to the occupants. The low ride height, shortened springs and stiffer suspension mountings do, however, permit a significant amount of vertical movements, which is unavoidable really, no matter how well tuned everything else is.
It hardly disappoints in the ride department, this car. There’s an impressive degree of compliancy through rough roads and it’s all very composed in the chassis department, where it is now at, or at least near the head of the super saloon pack. It’s hard to fathom a more convincing or pleasant long distance travel companion. Not one with this much performance potential.
Confirmation that the M6 Gran Coupe really is a sports car in thin disguise comes first of all from your eardrums, which are bound to register the sonorous exhaust note, the unbridled intake roar and barely muffled high-rev thunder. Everything is well exposed, especially when the M boys have done well to supress the suspension noise and filter out the tyre hum.
Initially the acoustic assault is a little overwhelming, though after a few hours at the wheel you barely even register it. The uber Gran Coupe hasn’t shed any of its surround filters, a move that sees it retain all of the donor car’s refinement and perhaps lose out on the intense, in-your-face sensation of sheer speed that others offer.
It really is a velvet-glove super saloon. Relatively quiet unless you have your foot to the floor – very refined and somewhat detached from the road underneath – its prime ambition is to cover ground in a fast, fuss-free style. When the need arises, it is very possibly quicker from point to point than true blue sports cars, while also offering much in terms of entertainment.
Composure is its primary forte, with the standard ESP cutting in way too early (for a car with such tall sporting intention), taking away torque prematurely like a novice guardian angel. The system is an unquestionable bonus when it rains, and is occasionally a must on gradients, as the mountain of torque on offer makes mince meal of traction.
Without engaging the more unforgiving M modes (which is fully customisable and can be assigned to two M buttons on the steering wheel), the M6 rarely makes full use of its genetic talent. Without exploring its deeper limits, the M6 may appear underwhelming to some.
Sure, it’s well-balanced, its directional stability faultless and traction and grip sensational. But to qualify as a top-ranking driver’s car, which an M car clearly needs to be, it needs a more clear-cut handling bias.
Press that unassuming M button though and the car transforms almost completely. M mode in tow, the M6 Gran Coupe scores highly in the entertainment sweepstakes. It has lovely steering: not overly quick or overly light, it provides sufficient feel, feedback and fluidity, though naturally it is more synthetic than those in earlier M cars.
In this mode the ESP is tuned right to its physical limit. It refrains from interfering with driver inputs until it’s absolutely imperative to do so. It even permits a touch of oversteer before showing the red card. If you want to see the whole world through the side windows, switch it completely off and brace yourself for a degree of lurid tail-happiness that is certainly not suited for open roads.
The suspension is supple enough, and can harden up to varying degrees upon your request. There’s a certain welcome elasticity to every move this car makes. It feels lighter than it actually is (it weighs on the wrong end of 1.8 tonnes), making use of its mechanical muscles well and is surprisingly nimbler through the twisties than it looks. At no point does it feel nervous or less than settled, its fancy suspension keeping it honest to the road as well as its ground-hugging stance would suggest.
Only a slight uncertainly at the limit of adhesion mars the package a little, as you sometimes wonder what comes next. Understeer? Oversteer? Four-wheel drift? ESP interference? It displays a little more nose-heaviness than is perfectly ideal, but is otherwise a near-perfect B-road stormer.
It’s not quite synonymous with conventional, old-fashioned fun, but its cornering attitude is still impressive measured by any standard, and its straight-line ability is impeccable (with the exception of some tramlining under braking on crater-pocked roads). Feedback relayed by the controls can be ambiguous at times, yet it complements the driver better than most of its kind.
The engine is nothing short of a revelation. It depends on high-revolutions to deliver the goods. Nine out of 10 twin-turbo V8s are relaxed growlers that fetch the torque from the basement. This 4.4 litre TwinPower Turbo V8 from Munich’s skunkworks, however, unfolds in a more progressive and linear fashion: horsepower and revs rely on each other.
There’s a lot of grunt available even at low revs, which keeps on building up to the redline. Response to throttle orders is perhaps a touch vague, especially compared to BMW M’s own naturally aspirated motors. You can’t quite steer the car using your right foot as you could in older M5 or M3s, but truth be told, no modern car can.
It does exceptionally well in the brakes department too. The optional M carbon-ceramic brakes fitted to the test cars (denoted by the distinctive gold calipers; standard items are blue) call for a heavy pedal pressure, but its anchors have enormous stamina and its exotic compound is virtually immune to recurrent high-speed deceleration manoeuvres. It’s easy enough to modulate – rare among systems with the kind of stopping power that only thoroughbred supercars can rival.
This clearly is a modern super saloon in with a real shout of class dominance. It looks terrific, especially with its signature Frozen Silver paintjob, and appears significantly more exclusive than its conventional rivals, stablemate M5 included.
From a quick glimpse the BMW M6 Gran Coupe does feel like a car made for those more interested in absolute speed than in how to master it. In a way it is exactly that, an extremely competent but strangely soulless vehicle – cool and distant. Dig deeper though, and it reveals a raw side that rewards you for every bit of effort put into exploring it that bit further.
It has its flaws, no doubt. But it’s a truly sporty car underneath that soft gleam; one that offers supercar speed, represents a big challenge to drivers while offering emotional rewards. If the key to driving pleasure is driver involvement, the M badge is still the one to go for.
The BMW M6 Gran Coupe has been launched in Malaysia, and is priced at RM999,800. Read the launch report here.