BMW is in danger of making several of its models irrelevant with the introduction of the superb new M6 Gran Coupe.
Road Test: BMW M6 Gran Coupe
When BMW launched the 6 Series Gran Coupé last year many questioned its reason for being. After all, the 5 Series saloon is similar in size, has four doors and more space in the rear, while the 6 Series Coupé and its open-topped Convertible sibling are for those who prefer a sporty car that can also travel thousands of kilometres in a day.
However, once we drove the Gran Coupé we came away declaring that there's little or no point in the two-door car, and that the 5 Series is for mere mortals in comparison to the new model. Fast forward a year and we're in Munich for the launch of an even more special version of the Gran Coupé, the new M6. Surely this car makes both the M5 saloon and M6 Coupé both redundant?
Strong words, perhaps, when you're dealing with 560hp super-saloons and coupés, but given that the Gran Coupé retains the company's twin-turbocharged V8 engine, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a mesmerising number of settings for how the car drives, we reckon they're warranted. And we defy anyone that takes the time to walk around the M6 Gran Coupé and drink in its detailing (including that decadent carbon fibre roof) to decline to drive it. Pop open one of the four doors (complete with frameless windows of course) and one of the most glamorous cabins in the business welcomes you.
The regular car's interior is a work of art itself, but the M6's manages to fuse sporting intent with understated luxury to even greater effect. Up front are two "M" sports seats with integrated seat belts trimmed in supple Merino leather. That same material is featured in the doors and on the dashboard, though of course there's a high level of personalisation available too. We particularly like the prominent stitch that sweeps from the driver's side of the centre console across the top of the glove box on the passenger side of the car.
Rear seat occupants are no second class citizens either. The same luxurious appointments are found back there and there's plenty of space for two adults as long as you're not expecting stretched limo levels of legroom. The seat back splits and folds to increase luggage space considerably. Presumably, that's to accommodate paintings bought at auction and such like, though any such valuables should be well-secured.
That's because the driver will be concentrating on driving. Quickly. Ahead is a surprisingly large diameter, leather-rimmed steering wheel, which is devoid of much in the way of a centre boss. It makes the large, tactile gearchange paddles behind all the more obvious. It's also hard to miss the "M1"and "M2" buttons.
Given the incredible amount of customisation of this car's sub-systems available, it makes sense to allow the driver to group them together under these two pre-set programmes. Most likely these will be a cruising mode and a fun mode. The steering assistance, engine calibration, gearshift strategy, adaptive damping and stability control systems may all be altered through three modes, while the characteristics of the "Active M" rear differential can also be tweaked. There are also tangible differences between all settings, making it a cinch to quickly alter one to suit the conditions of the road or the mood of the driver.
Our first foray in the M6 involves a brief section of derestricted autobahn highway and it doesn't take long to prove that this car is fitted with the M Driver's Package, which, among other things, has a speed limit lifted from 250kph to 305 kph. It's exceptionally fast, more so once the (fantastically useful) head-up display flickers past 160kph. That's thanks to the tech-packed V8 engine and its two twin-scroll turbochargers. It sounds like few other V8s either, more turbine-like, but no less exciting. Although the peak power figure grabs all the headlines, it's this engine's torque output that really defines its performance. A figure of 680Nm is impressive in its own right, but that it's available all the way from 1,500rpm to 5,750rpm is staggering and it means that meaningful acceleration is available at any time and any speed.
All too soon a junction looms and it's time to test the brakes. There's no fuss, just serious retardation and iron-fisted stability as the M6 sheds speed even quicker than it gained it. Our car is fitted with the optional carbon ceramic stoppers. These are most likely unnecessary for most owners, although their availability hints at the capability of the chassis underneath. True, this is a big car for throwing around the countryside or a racetrack but there's a surprising level of interaction with the driver too, so it never feels out of its depth. The body and wheel control are extraordinary, even on poorly surfaced roads.
In brief, the M6 Gran Coupé feels more tied down than the M5 saloon, yet inherently more stable than the shorter M6 Coupé and, somehow, more exciting than either. But don't question this car's reason for being, nor how it compares to anything else in the world; just bask in its glory.
Base price/as tested Dh565,000 / Dh590,000
Engine 4.4L, twin turbo V8
Gearbox seven-speed, dual clutch DSG
Power 560hp@6,000 rpm
Torque 680Nm@1,500 rpm
Fuel Economy, combined 9.9L / 100km
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