The third generation of the BMW M6, which has been around for 25 years, incorporates many new high-performance features, starting with a compact and powerful 4.4-liter V8, mated to a 7-speed twin-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. The M6 convertible made its debut May 2012 with a coupe following late summer.
The 2013 BMW M6 breaks new ground, with acceleration from 0 to 60 in four seconds, delivered by the 560-horsepower twin-turbo V8 engine, which features high-pressure direct injection and variable valve timing and control. The car can be programmed to more than 200 combinations of suspension, throttle, transmission, steering and traction settings. In other words, the M6 delivers racecar performance on the track, or can be driven casually to the grocery store. However its nature can't be totally disguised, so if all you need or want is a big, beautiful, and smooth BMW, the 640i looks the same and is simpler and easier to drive.
The 2013 M6 has an athletic aura, with powerfully taut surfaces, elegant lines, and precise contours. Its long hood and smooth bulging fender flares are impressive. From the rear, it suggests it's about to leave you in its dust, with a wide track, fat tires and four exhaust tips coming out of the diffuser that's integrated into the lower rear fascia. The sweeping silhouette looks best in black. The heated glass rear window of the 2013 M6 convertible opens with the top up. The top can be lowered in 19 seconds or raised in 24 seconds, at 25 mph, or with the key fob.
The leather seats adjust every way imaginable, including lumbar, thigh and headrest. They have more bolstering than those in other BMW 6 Series models, but still not enough for the hard cornering that the M6 can do on the track, where BMW rightly says the M6 comes into its own.
The instrumentation is clean and beautiful, with silver-rimmed analog gauges befitting of such a high-performance car. The Head-up Display is optional, and it's so good that it should be a must with the fast M6 that needs your eyes on the road. BMW's display brilliantly uses color, and it's excellent for the navigation directions that can be displayed.
The center stack is relatively tidy angled toward the driver. The navigation is displayed on a beautifully wide 10.2-inch screen with a big eave and special treatment so it can be read in the sunlight. We drove with the top down in sunny California, and it works, a great relief because many information screens can't be seen.
There's not much rear legroom, but who among M6 owners cares.
The new V8 engine is more compact than the V10 it replaces, and makes a bit more horsepower and torque. All 500 foot-pounds of torque is available from 1500 to 5700 rpm, and on the highway, that incredibly broad range almost takes the fun out of the 7-speed transmission with paddle shifters, because you don't have to use it much. The engine redlines at a sweet and heart-pounding 7200 rpm, and its exhaust note is distinctive, yet not as deep or satisfying as the big V8 Mustang or Camaro. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, achievable by the M6 on a number of tracks around the country such is its amazing acceleration performance.
The all-new 2013 M6 is loaded with sophisticated electronic driving features. Unlike other 6 Series BMWs, which use a button to select up to five driving modes, the M6 has three settings each for the shock absorber stiffness and damping, transmission shifting, throttle response, steering quickness and weight, and stability control. So there's little we can say about dynamics, because if the ride is too firm, you can make it softer. If the steering is too slow, make it quicker. And so on.
There's the Auto Stop/Start feature, which saves some small amount of gas by turning the engine off every time the car stops moving, and turning it back on when you take your foot off the brake pedal. It's unpopular among BMW owners because it's annoying. With the M6, it doesn't avoid the gas-guzzler tax.
BMW estimates the fuel mileage at 14 miles per gallon in the city, 20 mpg on the highway, or 16 mpg combined. We got 13.6 mpg. We hammered it a lot.
BMW M6 Convertible ($113,100); M6 Coupe ($116,100)
The 2013 BMW M6 convertible is totally eye-catching, with big sumptuous lines, whether conspicuously topless or covered by its top, especially in black which makes the soft-top roofline stand out. Our test car was white, the pristine color adding to the allure and statement of the convertible, the feeling of freedom.
From the backside, the car makes the statement of power, with its wide track, fat rear tires and four exhaust tips coming out of the diffuser integrated into the lower rear fascia.
The M6 has an athletic aura, with powerfully taut surfaces, elegant lines, and precise contours. The front wheels fill wide flared arches, while the fascia is filled by big black eggcrate intakes, rimmed by fins and flaps to flow the air into them. Smooth slanted trapezoidal headlamps glare down upon the BMW kidney grille with black ribs, too bad about the chrome rim around it. An LED accent light cuts across the tops of the standard adaptive Xenon headlamps like a glittery eyebrow. LED headlamps are available, so even in the dark, they'll know your car is something special.
On the sides, functional gills that could look distinctive are instead heavily chrome-plated, a design touch worthy of a Buick. A sharp crease drops down and back from the gill, matched by another at the line of the door handle, while a steep edge streaks straight back above each M6-badged sill. High-gloss Shadow Line trim surrounds the coupe's side windows or underlines the convertible's waistline. We're not crazy about either the 19-inch or 20-inch alloy wheels, touched in black with wide spaces to expose the 15.6-inch rotors and six-piston calipers painted blue metallic standard. Black is available.
BMW calls the shape of the soft top, “flying buttress architecture,” which makes the M6 convertible sound like a cargo plane, which it's definitely not. “Projecting into the rear section, the buttresses accentuate the car's dynamically sweeping silhouette,” which they definitely do. The heated, vertical glass rear window retracts with the top up. The top can be lowered or raised at 25 mph, good for sudden summer rainstorms, 19 seconds to open and 24 seconds to close. You can do it with the key fob, before or after you get in or out. It comes in black, beige, or optional Anthracite Silver. We only saw black, as it should be.
The coupe's top is cool carbon fiber, its light weight lowering the center of gravity. The trunk lid for both the coupe and convertible are also a composite material.
The standard Merino leather upholstery is the same leather that's an expensive option for the other BMW 6 Series models. The seats, specific to the M6, adjust every way imaginable, including lumbar and thigh support and adjustable headrest. They have added bolstering, but still not enough for the hard cornering that the M6 is capable of. BMW boasts that the M6 is ready and popular for track days, but seat-sliding happens. It's nice that the dead pedal the driver needs for support has an M badge on it.
The instrumentation is clean and beautiful, with silver-rimmed analog gauges befitting of such a high-performance car. The 200-mph speedometer is optimistic only in the sense that top speed is electronically limited to 155. Coincidentally or not, 100 mph is located on top, so your eye can watch the red needle at high noon. The red needle on the M-badged 8000-rpm tach climbs so fast it's a blur. The M6 accelerates so quickly your eyes need to be on the road, so to keep up with the 7-speed gearbox without watching the tach there should be a shift light, like the Mercedes SLS AMG has.
Actually, there is a shift light, but only with the optional Head-up Display, which displays the rpms among other programmable things. This HUD is so good, and so important, that it's really must-have equipment with the M6 if not every car. BMW's display brilliantly uses color, and it's excellent for the navigation directions that can be displayed.
There's a small horizontal window under the speedo and tach, that's easy to read and scroll through. It provides great information, including feedback from all the drive and chassis settings that the driver can select.
The center stack is relatively tidy and angled toward the driver. The navigation is displayed on a beautifully wide 10.2-inch screen with a big eave and special treatment so it can be read in the sunlight. We drove with the top down in sunny California, and it works, a great relief because many information screens can't be seen, Jaguar at the top of the list. And with that width, you can get radio information and navigation on the screen at the same time.
Since most of the functions are controlled by the iDrive dial on the console and the display screen, the function needs to be effortless; and with the simplified and improved iDrive, it's easy now. Especially tuning the satellite radio, without struggling or dangerous distraction. The BMW now is one of the easiest, better than most Chrysler cars! In the audio mode, it gives you all the XM information you need, including artist and song title.
The trunk is small for the size of the car, at 11 cubic feet. And as for the rear seat, forget it. If you want room for your backseat passengers' legs, buy a Fiat 500. We're only half-joking. The Fiat has 32.2 inches, the M6 30.5 inches, which gives you some idea. At least with the M6 convertible, you can put the top down to make it easier for your passengers to squeeze in. Not the case with the coupe.
There are so many sophisticated driving features that we could use five times our space for Driving Impressions merely describing them. What we want to say is that we had one of the most fantastic road-testing afternoons of our life, behind the wheel of our M6 convertible on a forgotten central California two-lane, particularly over one winding mountainous 51.3-mile leg during which we drove the topless M6 like we stole it, from a waystop with great food called Sagebrush Annie's to the Full of Beans coffee stop east of Ojai. It was such a desolate day that even at rocket speeds, we passed only one car, and only saw a couple coming the other direction. Rare air, where an M6 convertible works.
So there's your bottom line: if you want to fully enjoy the M6, you have to break the law. Uber-performance is not simply what it does best, it's the only thing it does better than, say, a plain BMW 640i. BMW press materials speak the precise truth when they say that “its exceptional dynamic potential is geared squarely towards the demands of track use.” But even for track days, the M6 is so staggeringly fast that only the very best drivers can reach its exceptional dynamic potential.
Depending on who's doing the testing, the M6 will accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3.9 to 4.2 seconds, using the launch control that electronically prevents burnouts. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, achievable by the M6 on a number of tracks around the country.
The new 4.4-liter twin turbo V8 engine is more compact than the V10 it replaces, and makes a bit more horsepower (560 hp) and torque (500 foot-pounds), while getting better fuel mileage. The engine, which redlines at 7200 rpm, is based on the V8 used in the X5 M and X6 M. There have been many changes to this V8, including increasing turbo boost pressure from 17.4 psi to 21.7 psi.
Some technical details. The two twin-scroll turbochargers are mounted in the V-space between the cylinder banks (along with catalytic converters). It's called a “reverse flow” engine because the intake ports face outward and exhaust ports inward, allowing shorter (and wider) intake runners and exhaust tracts, for less pressure loss and better heat management. There's a special 8-into-4 exhaust manifold feeding the four scrolls in the two turbochargers, a system that sharpens throttle response and reduces turbo lag to virtually zero.
Two exhaust pipes feed into one muffler that sprouts four tailpipes out through the rear diffuser. The resulting exhaust note via this unique path from the engine block is distinctive, although we must say not classically satisfying, like, say, a good old Mustang or a primitive pushrod 6.2-liter V8 Cadillac CTS-V. In fact, when we were treated to another M6 passing us at full throttle, we must say it sounded a bit junkyard dog-like. How dare us.
BMW calls its direct fuel injection High Precision, with capital letters, achtung. It's also high pressure, spraying fuel into the combustion chambers at nearly 3000 psi. The new engine also uses BMW's VALVETRONIC variable valve control, which controls power by varying the lift of the intake valves. The valve timing is also infinitely variable, with BMW's VANOS system controlling the camshafts, key to the remarkable broad torque, with all 500 foot-pounds available from 1500 to 5700 rpm. On the highway, the torque range is staggering.
Then there's the Auto Stop/Start feature, which saves some small amount of gas by turning the engine off every time the car stops moving, and turning it back on when you take your foot off the brake pedal. We'll limit our own comments to calling it annoying, being jerky and audible; and we'll add that it doesn't avoid the $1300 gas-guzzler tax. We're skeptical about how much fuel it saves and are inclined to switch it off. Auto Stop/Start can be de-activated, though the 300-page owner's manual is totally unclear about this. Our thinking is that you have to press the Auto Off button every time you start the car to keep the engine from shutting off at intersections. It's the same story in the new 3 Series.
Unlike other 6 Series BMWs, which use a button to select up to five driving modes, the M6 has three settings each for the shock absorber stiffness and damping, transmission shifting, throttle response, steering quickness and weight, and stability control (that's 243 options, if our math is correct). And then, on the steering wheel, there are M1 and M2 buttons, which basically mean Memory, for two of those programs.
Given this, there's nothing we can say, because whenever we comment on how something feels, there are 242 chances for us to be wrong. If the ride is too firm for you, find a softer setting. If the steering is too slow, make it quicker. And so on.
You can't change the brakes, which are quite sensitive, nicely so; and humongously potent, as they should be, for this 155-mph car that weighs 4500 pounds (convertible). You can, however, spend a lot of money and get ceramic brake rotors, for the track. On the road they might look cool, especially through the thin spokes of the optional 20-inch wheels, but they're not practical because they need to be hot to work their best.
BMW estimates the fuel mileage at 14 mpg in the city, 20 mpg on the highway, or 16 mpg combined. We got 13.6 mpg. We hammered it a lot.
Speaking of hammering it, if you don't have the Head-up Display with a shift light, just short-shift when you're accelerating hard, because it's so fast you don't want to take your eyes off the road to read the tach. And because there's so much torque over such a broad range, it almost doesn't matter which gear you're in.
The transmission is a high-tech high-torque 7-speed double clutch, with paddle shifters. With all the different modes, it will do anything you want it to do, including behave like a sophisticated racecar transmission, or like a docile street automatic. It's linked to a new active differential that optimizes power transfer between the rear wheels.
The third-gen 2013 BMW M6 is a seriously fast machine, with a new V8 engine making 560 horsepower and 500 pounds of torque over a broad range, with a 7-speed twin-clutch paddle-shifting transmission, and more than 200 programmable settings for suspension, steering, shifting, throttle response, and stability. It's also drop-dead gorgeous.
Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the BMW M6 Convertible in California.