Silvio Calabi: BMW’s New M6 a chariot of the gods
You might think that replacing the previous V-10 engine with a mere V-8 — as BMW has done in its flagship, the new M6 — is a step backward, a grudging nod to the world’s petroleum woes.
But it isn’t so. Instead, swapping each of those two amputated cylinders for a twin-scroll turbocharger makes this the most powerful production engine BMW has ever uncorked, a 4.4-liter good for 560 horsepower and 500 pounds of torque. It’s a large part of what makes this third-generation M6 a bona-fide supercar, capable of the sort of savage acceleration and brain-draining grip we expect from exotics that cost twice as much.
This makes the 2013 M6 good value for money, sort of, and fuel consumption is down more than 20 percent from the old V-10. But the M6 still isn’t exactly affordable. With just a couple of options, this ragtop version costs more than $120,000.
The M6 isn’t an easy car to master, either. Just figuring out how to operate the transmission takes a few minutes of fiddling (and I still can’t engage Park with the engine running).
Under that stubby selector lever and behind those steering-wheel paddles lies a driver-adjustable 7-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox (and an active differential) that can rap out gear changes like gunshots or slide from one sprocket to the next like maple syrup oozing down Angelina’s lower lip. While the horizon rushes at the windshield. Sort it all out, and you realize that this is the transmission every supercar should have.
But the complications don’t end there. The M6 is an obsessive-compulsive’s delight. Clustered around the shift lever are five switches that independently adjust the steering quickness, throttle response, suspension compliance and gear changes, and disable the traction control. Want instant shifting but only medium throttle opening and lazy steering? Can do. Want the babysitter systems off and racecar sharpness across the board? No problem. Want to float smoothly along under the stars, top down, music pouring from the speakers, with one hand on the wheel? Can do that, too.
The only non-negotiable function is braking. When it becomes necessary, the M6 can be brought to a halt in a way that makes your face hurt.
When the driver has sorted through these combinations and permutations, he or she can save two customized performance setups and recall them with the special M1 and M2 buttons on the wheel. One might be, for example, “Rte. 100 to Stowe, Potholes” and the other “Track Day at Lime Rock.” Or, as I like to think of my settings, “Crush the Peasants” and “Burn Their Fields, Too.” Power corrupts, absolutely.
Don’t care to fetch the book out of the glovebox to study up on all this? A digital version of the owner’s manual is available on the big computer screen, accessed through the omnipotent iDrive controller knob.
The M6 also happens to be a luxury car. The ride is almost plush, at least when so adjusted. The cabin is every inch as opulent as one expects in a six-figure BMW, and the M Multifunction front seats may outclass whatever Lockheed puts in the F-22 Raptor jet. (The rear seats, however, are essentially places to put stuff that doesn’t fit in the small trunk.) The multi-layer fabric top goes up and down at the push or pull of a switch, even while the car is moving, and it neither leaks nor flaps at speed. Any speed.
Even without a hard top, the M6 convertible is rock-solid, with not a discernable millimeter of chassis flex. The bad news is that the car weighs almost two and a half tons, so it has to achieve its staggering performance through sheer might. The M6 is from the blitzkrieg school of automotive design, which teaches that the way to overcome obstacles is by applying overwhelming force at high speed. Driving it makes me want to invade Poland.
So there you have it: The new M6 bristles with technology, bulges with muscle and mass, and radiates attitude. When the four horsemen of the Apocalypse arrive, I expect at least one of them will be driving a menacing black M6 convertible — top down, so his horned helmet will clear.
Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of IMPA, the International Motor Press Association, whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or 207-592-2619.