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BMW M6 Coupe review (2005-2011)
Model: BMW M6
Body style: Coupe
Engine: 5.0-litre, V10 petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual
Date of Test: November 2005
What is it?
A 507bhp coupe that’ll sprint to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds, the M6 is BMW’s flagship ‘M’ car. Using the same 5.0-litre V10 and SMG (Sequential Manual Gearbox) of its slightly more sober suited M5 saloon relative the M6 is a more self indulgent, faster (minutely) and involving M car to drive than the M5. It’s far more blatant with its looks, too. Sure, the M5 might not be a shrinking violet in the pumped-up style stakes, but the M6 takes it to a slightly different level with a showy carbon fibre roof panel to reduce weight by around 5kgs and huge 19-inch alloy wheels clothed in widened front and rear arches.
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Where does it fit?
Right at the top of the BMW M range. At circa £80,000 before any options are added it’s BMW’s most expensive car bar the V12 7-Series saloon. It’s also the fastest, beating the M5 to 62mph by just 0.1 of a second and theoretically able to reach 205mph – ‘theoretically’ as you’ll need to persuade someone at BMW to remove the electronic 155mph limiter to do so. That large sticker price might initially seem extreme for a go-faster 6 Series, but consider that it’s got 507bhp on tap and has so much of BMW M division’s expertise lavished on it and it’s actually rather good value. There’s nothing out there at the same sort of money with so much power on offer – unless, of course, you include the M5 that weighs in at a whopping £18,000 less.
Is it for you?
If you’re minted and British then absolutely. After the Americans we buy the largest number of M cars in the world. We’re mad for BMWs here and the M cars in particular so the first allocation sold out on spec, the demand so high there’s always likely to be a lengthy wait to get your hands on the keys of a new one. Despite our draconian speeding laws us Brits favour the fastest, most expensive models in the range, and the M6 fits both criteria with ease.
What does it do well?
Cover ground quickly. Not only does that engine give it plenty of pace, but the M division’s chassis improvements allow you to exploit the increased tempo more readily. For such a big car it’s remarkably wieldy and it’s an easy drive, too (once you’ve found a setting that suits your driving preferences). It has all the strengths of the 6 Series; these being serious comfort, decent cruising refinement, useable (for children) rear seats and a huge boot allied to bruiser looks and performance that’s supercar quick. That V10 engine sounds like an F1 car when it’s pressed hard and the gearshifts via the paddle or centrally mounted stick selector for the seven-speed unit are super quick. It’s petty much fully loaded when it comes to equipment, too, the brilliant heads-up display adding to the drive and something we’d like to see on all cars...
What doesn’t it do well?
There’s no denying that some rivals offer a more delicate, more involving driving experience, the M6’s steering lacking decisive feel and the transmission is sometimes jerky when being driven more sedately. We’d love a conventional manual transmission to really enjoy it, though admittedly the seven ratios of the SMG gearbox really are needed to keep that engine in its sweet spot. And that’s the chief complaint; the engine needs big revs to produce its best. It’s a dual natured unit lacking in the low rev reserves of torque that turbo or supercharged rivals offer in favour of a revvy, peaky performance. To get the most out of it you need to drive it hard and do so and it drinks fuel at an alarming rate. The ride is fairly uncompromising on rough roads and the bewildering array of options as to engine, differential and gearbox settings really is technical overkill.
What’s it like to live with?
Find a setting that suits you – we liked the M button default setting with P500 Sport (the full 507bhp setting compared to the optional 400bhp one) with the M Differential and DSC set up to only intervene when absolutely necessary – and you’ll have a blast on your favourite road or track. Leave it with just 400bhp if you’re pottering about though. We’d always choose one of the manual settings for the gearbox over the automatic ‘Drive’ ones, the SMG suffering the same ponderous lurching effect that all automated manual transmissions suffer. You’ll have more fun more of the time in something like a Porsche Carrera S, but there’s no denying that the M6’s thumping GT ability, ridiculous pace, sonorous soundtrack and surprising agility add up to a hugely appealing package.
Would we buy it?
If we had the sort of money buyers in this category have we’d certainly put it near the top of the list. Ultimately though we’d probably opt for an M5 as it’s just as quick, much cheaper and far more useable as a day-to-day proposition. Against it’s coupe and cabriolet rivals among the AMG Mercedes line-up it’s infinitely preferable for driver appeal though it struggles to produce the sort of fluidity of a Porsche 911 Turbo or emotional, charismatic appeal of something like a Maserati GranSport - even if neither of these examples can offer the M6’s headline grabbing bhp figure. It’d be a nice choice to be making though, the M6 underlining just how able BMW’s M division is at making ludicrously powerful and capable high performance cars based on BMW’s regular production models.
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