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BMW M6 tested

2007-02-16 07:30

BMW M6 Coupe

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model M6 Coupe
Engine 5-litre V10
Power 373kW @ 7750 r/min
Torque 520Nm @ 6100 r/min
Transmission 7-speed SMG
Top Speed 250 km/h
Price R1.18m

Steve Smith

Some fast cars are scary. The M5, for example, is definitely scary. While docile enough mooching around the 'burbs', drive it hard and believe me there's a good chance you'll have to change your lederhosen.

It's big, heavy and stupendously powerful, which means that when things get away from you, they go far away... like to Mongolia. Sure, it's a mightily impressive motor car, but I always felt like I was sitting on top, hanging on for dear life, rather than completely integrated into its controls.

Which brings me to why I was scared when they handed me the keys to the M6. I've driven all the other current 6 Series bombers and again, they made me slightly scared.

Though I feel I should point out this isn't a 'size-of-my-kahunas' issue. Honestly. In my defence, let me put forward the Z4 M Coupe. Now that's a quick car right there and one I was more than happy to thrash it around at speeds that perhaps weren't all that legal.

With that glorious M3-derived engine, the M Coupe is indecently quick, but crucially the chassis has that special ingredient that allows you control of every single horse foaming at the mouth beneath the bonnet.

The Sixers on the other hand feel powerful in a very headstrong kind of way. With them, speed and acceleration obviously isn't a problem, it's just that getting them to change direction at speed takes the kind of Nomex-suited driving skills that I unfortunately don't have. "Chuckable" is not a word you would associate with a 6 Series Beemer. "Cruise missile" yes. "Chuckable" no.

So...the M6 then. Let's start with the potentially scary things first.

The price:

That's pretty scary...R1.18m. But mine was a test car...so scared 'schmared'.

Speed and acceleration:

Well given the fact that this is the fastest production BMW made to date, I can safely say mucho scary.

We're talking 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h. And it would easily bullet past 320km/h if it wasn't for the little German security guard patrolling the engine management system.

This is all courtesy of the same 373kW 5-litre V10 found in the M5. It's an engine that's already been touted as one of the automotive greats and, based solely on the glorious red-lining howl it emits, it gets my vote.

SMG 7-speed gearbox:

Impressive from a tech point of view - it's a clutchless system operated either by paddles on the steering or a sequential-type lever on the console. There are also umpteen settings you can key in to make it shift as leisurely as a 70s Caddy, or as quick as a pair of red knickers at a Valentine's Day sale.

So it was with a degree of trepidation that I pressed the starter button of my purpley-blue M6. Actually... before I pressed the starter button, I stood outside and had a good long look at it. It's the kind of car that necessitates a good long look.

Visually, like all the Bangle's Beemers, the Six is a bit of a challenge, but I'm a Bangle fan and for me a design that requires some work from the observer is a design that has longevity.

The big point of difference on the M6 are huge 19-inch wheels (Bangle's cars definitely look better with bigger wheels) that give the M6 a far more purposeful look than its siblings.

A more aggressive front spoiler, a swathe of carbon-fibre visible in the roof, twin double exhausts, and that coveted little blue/purple/red M badge plastered on its bootie are further indications of its abilities.

Creature comforts

And they are very impressive abilities. Not scary at all, as it turns out. Once you've worked out what settings you like best (typically BMW, the M6 has more electronic gizmos than Darth Vader's kitchen), the car seems to gradually shrink around you as you get to grips with its performance possibilities.

Choosing how you want the car to behave is crucial though, and to fully experience it's seismic abilities the first button to press is the one with the 'M' on the steering wheel. This kicks you into M-Drive mode, putting all 373kW at your disposal, stiffening the suspension, and sharpening the throttle response. Then there's the DSC traction control button to switch off to ensure a little sideways action, and finally the Power button next to the gear lever that switches the gear-shifting to hyperspeed.

Now we're talking the kind of acceleration that detaches retinas and opens the adrenaline sluice gates. You need to use the gears to get all the power on tap though - the engine is kinda peaky and delivers its real torque above 6 500 r/min, and staying in that powerband is where the 7-speed gearbox comes into its own.

The M does without BMW's active steer and it's a tad dead at normal driving speeds plus there's a bit of understeer you have to deal with...but make the needle dance and head for some twisty tarmac and you immediately get what Beemers white-coats were thinking.

For a GT, the M6 is gob-smackingly agile and clearly way more of an athlete than the standard Six. The car provides the kind of feedback through your hands, feet, middle ear and most significantly, your butt that inspire confidence to push it until your self-preservation gene intervenes.

And with the M6 it takes a while for that to happen - which, for me, is always the sign of a great sportscar.

So all-in-all scary didn't even enter the equation. I'd like to think I've faced down my fear, kicked up driving skills to the next level, and conquered the whole über-vibe of the M-brand. But that's pushing it.

The M6 is the hero. It's a sublime mix of GT and agile sportscar. It's rare to find a four wheels and a combustion engine that combines that kind of g-suit requiring acceleration and handling with comfort and practicality that makes tootling around town a doddle.

  • Steve Smith is the Editor of Sports Illustrated magazine, a sister publication of Wheels24.


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