2016 BMW M6 Coupe
The M6 is a shockingly capable Usain Bolt-like sprinter despite its Lennox Lewis size.
When I was a kid of 13 years the original 6 Series arrived at our local auto show where my dad and I ogled over it like two school kids checking out the pretty new girl that was way out of our league. Ok, creepily weird to contemplate a ‘tweenager and 46-year old white-hair sizing up the same young woman, but you get my analogy. After spending too much time on the BMW show stand we wandered over to Porsche’s section to learn more about the 924 we’d been reading about in PM and other buff mags, which believe it or not was more within my dad’s financial reach, and finally ended up getting serious with a then-new VW Scirocco, after driving (of course with me riding shotgun) the Ingolstadt-powered Zuffenhausen creation first. How we both would’ve loved to have had time in the 630CSi, but my dad’s machine/welding/fab shop foreman salary wouldn’t allow such extravagance. As it was, I learned to drive manual behind the wheel of that ’76 VeeDub.
I’ve since driven both an old E24 635CSi and a number of even older E9s including a 2800CS, a 3.0CS and a few 3.0CSi coupes in my quest to buy one of the latter two, the E9 being on my personal favorite list, and if you don’t know already the much-lauded predecessor to BMW’s 6, arriving before any “Series” cars existed at all. It’s hard to believe that when the then-new 630CSi came on the scene in 1976 it made that outgoing 3.0CSi look somewhat stale and dated, but such is how almost anything new can even initially cause a future collectible to seem like yesterday’s news. That’s how many of us felt when the very long-in-tooth 635CSi and M6 duo were effectively replaced by the 8 Series (E31) in ’89, after an amazing 13-year run, and even more so when Henrik Fisker’s beautiful Z8 (E52) became the new BMW flagship a decade later in 1999, although I can’t say I was quite as excited when my then favorite exotic (I had the Z8 tester twice and managed to extend my time in the first car four additional days) was effectively replaced by the second-gen 6 Series in 2003.
I drove them all, the 8 Series an inherent understeerer due to too much weight over the front axle, the Z8 brilliant in every way as long as you had the chutzpah to master it without electronic nannies, and the 2004 645i Coupe a thoroughly impressive performer that I initially experienced at its global press launch in Malaga, Spain during the fall of the previous year, after which I tested the 6 Series Cabriolet (E64) during BMW’s Southern California event the following March (we even stayed at the storied Beverly Hills Hotel, the real Hotel California), a car, like the hardtop, that I appreciated more for its drivability than its looks. My first stint in an M6 was that same E63 body style in 2006, while BMW was kind enough to lend me a then-new 2013 F13 version nine years later, an almost identical car to the 2016 model driven most recently.
Finally, in the here and now, the current M6 Coupe and 6 Series Coupe it’s based on are aging gracefully, a design whose long, lean lines beguiled me when it first debuted just over four years ago. Of course, four years is hardly old compared to the original E24’s baker’s dozen, but today’s much more competitive, faster paced environment wouldn’t allow for such a lengthy tenure unless we’re talking anachronistic military-grade 4x4s. As it is the wheels have been updated to gorgeous machine-finished twinned-six-spoke 20-inch alloys with black painted pockets, which do a good job of modernizing this two-door’s overall appearance without changing wheel diameter. Still, the 6 is no compact, so even these immense rims are unable to make it look any smaller than it is, but its slender shape certainly is elegant.
Interestingly, the original 850Ci was heavily criticized for its overall size and curb weight, but take note it was actually quite a bit smaller than the new 6 and not much heavier even with its massive V12 shoehorned behind its M1-inspired nose. So equipped it weighed 4,354 lbs compared to 4,275 lbs for the twin-turbo V8-powered 650i Coupe. That’s not the lightest 6 Series on offer either, that being the rear-drive 3.0-liter straight-six 640i that weighs in at just over 4,000 lbs. BMW makes an all-wheel drive version of that model too, as well as an all-wheel drive 650i xDrive Coupe that hits the scale at an even more daunting 4,410 lbs. That’s 55 lbs more than the original 850i, but before we attempt to directly compare the two cars let’s remember that BMW has come a very long way with chassis engineering, powertrains and driveline performance since the ‘90s.
Even the comparatively lightweight 640i has more muscle within its turbocharged straight six than the old 850Ci’s V12 at 315 horsepower to 296. Sure the 850Ci would eventually increase its output to 322 horsepower and finally 375 in 850CSi trim, but once the 840Ci became available, a great deal more 8 Series buyers purchased that 282-horsepower model than the pricier 850, the “entry-level” 840 a better driver in my experience due to only 4,030 lbs of total mass, with less of that over the front wheels. Still, the 640i offers a better power to weight ratio than that old ‘90s machine, while the new F13’s overall balance, no matter the chosen powertrain or driveline, would easily put even the best E31 to shame.
As for size, before I mentioned it earlier in this review you might have also found it difficult to believe the new 6 is larger than that 8 Series, the now classic two-door measuring just 188 inches long with a 105.7-inch wheelbase, 73.0 inches wide and 52.8 inches tall for a particularly elegant shape even by today’s standards, whereas the new 6 has been stretched to 192.8 inches in length with a 112.2-inch wheelbase, 74.8 inches wide plus a height of 53.9 inches. That’s an astonishing 4.6 inches of growth from nose to tail and 1.9 inches from side to side.
Such is the state of the modern luxury sports coupe, its mega mass due to crash and pedestrian safety regulations, the luxury equipment expected for such a pricey car, and the need to base it on an ever-growing 5 Series sedan that’s facing the same market and regulatory demands, that in the case of this M6 Coupe is all overcome by the technical prowess of TwinPower turbocharged V8 performance tweaked to 560 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque in base trim and an even more outrageous 600 horsepower with its Competition Package included; a seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission that shifts even quicker than the great Nelson Piquet could swap cogs in his F1 championship-winning Brabham BT52-BMW; an active differential that variably distributes torque between the rear wheels to optimize grip and stability when changing lanes or accelerating out of a curve; electronic shocks that automatically (or manually) adjust damping force as required; specially tuned Servotronic steering that dynamically adjusts assistance to suit a given speed; performance-tuned electronic traction and stability control systems; massive cross-drilled rotors with yet more electronic braking aids (with carbon ceramic brakes available); and the list of techno wizardry going on and on.
Fortunately the M6 Coupe is no larger than any of the other current 6 Series two-doors, actually weighing less than some at just 4,250 lbs thanks to its awe-inspiring carbon-fiber roof panel, which has the added benefit of lowering the car’s center of gravity too. This isn’t the only CFRP addition, a stunning albeit optional carbon-fiber diffuser stuffed between four jumbo titanium pipes at its tail end, the rest of the lightweight material found as available embellishment inside.
I have to say, as stunning as that exhaust quad and blackened diffuser looks, the M6’ styling enhancements are more modestly applied than those on the M4. It gets an aggressive lower front fascia, of course, with the usual center cooling intake at bottom and intercooler/brake ducts to each side, the latter two surrounded by some sweet looking aero sculpting for directing air, plus the expected baby blue, dark blue and red “///M6” badge tacked onto the glossy black grille slats, plus the same M6 insignia attached to decoratively chromed engine vent on the rear portions of each front fender, as well as a tastefully understated rear deck lid spoiler capping of the back end, but it doesn’t have the mean look of an M4.
As noted the carbon theme continues inside, with large glossy inlays across the instrument panel, center console, door panels and next to the passengers ensconced within its abbreviated rear quarters, looking much more appealing than aluminum, piano black lacquer or wood, at least to my eyes. Of course there’s plenty of billet aluminum trim too, the nicest bits reserved for the optional Bang & Olufsen speaker grilles set within each door, albeit the center-mounted spatial tweeter that automatically rises up from within the dash top at startup really takes the cake as far as making an entrance goes. The rest of my tester’s cabin was beautifully finished finely stitched leathers in dark anthracite and light gray tones, the roof pillars and headliner done out in a sumptuous suede-like material.
The steering wheel, with it’s thick leather-wrapped rim trimmed with blue and red M stitching, all held in place via wonderfully thin, almost retro spokes, nevertheless filled with all the expected redundant controls, is a rare bit of automotive art. It’s flanked by long metallic shift paddles that combine with the wheel to frame BMW’s classic four-dial primary gauge package, albeit this one featuring a high-resolution color TFT background complete with every type of information display conceivable, the M’s comprehensive user-programmable engine, suspension and steering settings allowing just about any combination of Efficient, Sport or Sport Plus setting for the powertrain and Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus choices for the suspension and steering systems. Like I said earlier, BMW has the M6’ mass issues covered with tech galore.
A widescreen infotainment display sits atop the squat center stack, filled to the brim with BMW’s digital goodies including regular and satellite radio, a multimedia section that features an internally storable music collection, Bluetooth streaming, USB and aux connectivity, while it still includes an optical drive along with the usual phone, navigation, wireless internet, vehicle info, and other settings. BMW fits a thin strip of presets under the CD slot next to fast-access audio mode and radio/track scan buttons, which I found handier than relying solely on the iDrive screen via its rotating controller on the lower console, while a nicely organized dual-zone auto HVAC interface fills out the bottom half of the central instrument panel.
I’m not going to go into more detail with respect to features, the M6 filled to the brim with more standard luxury kit than most performance fans want or need and just enough to satisfy the luxury crowd that would rather suit up for this ride than the edgier M4, making this larger sports coupe ideal for long albeit fast road trips where all of life’s comforts are most appreciated. That’s not to say the M4 isn’t equally pampering when it comes to standard gear, it’s just purposely less refined about the way it comforts occupants. Both deliver the get-up-and-go goods just as eagerly, however, which made me very curious as to which would be the winner if let loose side by side on a twisting track.
My personal and company budget not to the point that I can arrange such a session, I looked to the web for more than one example of these deeds done. Of course, one has to consider that the test cars weren’t driven on the same day in identical conditions, but the results are what I expected, and other examples not noted here confirmed my suspicions. Professional driver Claudius Karch, a Nürburgring veteran, managed an 8:05.68 on the longer 12.9-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife Full track and a 7:44.00 on the slightly shorter 11.9-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife BTG, while Horst von Saurma was able to circle the longer track in 7:52.00 with the M4. A circuit I know much better from personal experience is California’s Laguna Seca, however, where “The Rocket” Randy Pobst managed the 2.2-mile course in a scant 1:40.52 with the M6 and 1:39.69 with the M4, so it’s fairly clear the much less powerful M4 is the more sporting of the two BMW M cars, but only by a hair; the M6 is still shockingly quick for such a large and comfortable 2+2.
With foot on the brake pedal (which was oddly finished with a rubber pad, as was the throttle, M pedals normally getting the shiny metal treatment), dash-mounted ignition button pressed, lovely albeit muted engine and exhaust note doing their best to permeate the isolated luxury coupe’s cabin (it actually sounds better when outside the car), I released the electromechanical brake via a toggle on the center console (yep, no “archaic” brake lever here) and nudged the gear selector to the right for “D” and then once more for “S” or sport mode. Strapped into a driver’s seat that’s beyond just comfortable not to mention ultimately adjustable, foot went to throttle, the audible rush of mechanical noise moved up a significant notch to near spine-tingling levels, as did the overall sensation of forward thrust that pinned my backside into the body-hugging bucket with awesome force, 4.1 seconds of tree-blurring zero-to-60 velocity making me forget everything I ever thought about size and weight gain (my personal mid-rift bulge included), the M6 a shockingly capable Usain Bolt-like sprinter despite its Lennox Lewis size.
As you might expect it dances like Ali through the curves as well, those aforementioned seats allowing very little lateral slip despite their all-leather perforated surfacing, its 265/35 front and 295/30 rear ZR20 Michelin Pilot Super Sport performance rubber combining with an aluminum-intensive mechanical suspension and all of those electronic aids previously noted for unfathomably capable handling no matter the speed or corner it gets thrown into, the M6 even capable of fixing problems inexperienced drivers will no doubt create, at least to a point. Even more impressive than its extreme road-holding are brakes that scrub off speed at such an alarming rate you’ll need to be careful not to bruise chest and left shoulder from negative Gs if jacket-less, a boon to confidence that lets you push the big coupe faster than you might otherwise would.
While I could go on ad nauseam with performance accolades it should be noted that BMW hasn’t left the M6 devoid of its EfficientDynamics systems either. Along with the safety regulators inferred earlier there are at least as many environmental governing bodies to deal with, which has forced BMW and every other automaker to engineer fuel saving technologies such as auto idle start/stop, regenerative braking and more into all of its models, the result helping the M6 binge less on premium unleaded than it otherwise would have at a claimed 14 mpg city, 20 highway and 16 combined with the as-tested auto and 15, 22 and 17 with its six-speed manual.
I’m actually a fan of these green technologies and normally let them do their work in the background rather than shutting them down, especially auto start/stop that not only saves fuel but limits noxious fumes while keeping the cabin EV-quiet at standstill, but I rather enjoyed listening to the 4.4-liter V8’s wonderful rumble while I found the M6’s auto-restart a tad slow and more than just abrupt, even causing adjacent drivers to glance over in wonderment as to why I’d be firing up my car just when the light went green.
Now that I’m talking practical issues, it’s possible to fit in the M6’ back seat, although my five-foot-nothing partner felt cramped enough to remove her boots and rest her feet on the opposite seat, so let’s reserve these for little ones, shall we. Odd that the much smaller M4 is a great deal more accommodating in the rear, but still it’s nice to have those wee seatlets back there for emergencies.
Now that I’m griping I need to point out my biggest M6 disappointment, how things look under the hood. BMW usually celebrates its M engine bays with glorious carbon-fiber crafted components and other dazzling details, but this turbocharged V8 doesn’t have the same bespoke handcrafted uniqueness as the naturally aspirated mills of the past. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see all the exposed mechanical and turbo bits that most manufacturers try to hide with fancy engine shrouds, but the simple black plastic skull cap covering the rear half of the M6’ V8 is a bit of a visual letdown.
OK, I’m nitpicking a car apart that’s truly superb, an absolute marvel of modern engineering. As you can probably tell this wouldn’t be my first choice amongst BMW’s current crop of M cars, the M4 with a six-speed mixer my favorite, and I’m already guessing that the upcoming M2 will at least be second on my list, although I reserve the right to change my mind after time well spent with a (finger’s crossed) upcoming tester. Still, I can’t knock this big super cruiser because it does everything so incredibly well while delivering a level of luxury and quality, not to mention fine attention to detail that few premium sport coupes come close to matching, even those from Crewe that cost more than twice its price.
Yes, at $113,400 plus freight and dealer fees, and more for my upgraded tester, the M6 isn’t for the upwardly mobile, you’ll need to have already arrived to apply, but its combination of absolute power and impeccable refinement puts it in a rarified class that few can attain, which for those who are financially capable will make it the BMW to own by default. I certainly wouldn’t mind having this car parked in my garage for another week, although that said I can promise you it wouldn’t be stationary for much of the time.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press