BMW M6 Gran Coupe Test Drive in Germany.
The BMW M6 Gran Coupe has ‘great idea’ written all over it. We love the regular Gran Coupe, which has quickly become the favorite 6er for many. The F10/12/13 M cars are also fascinating machines, even if the only truly cohesive one is the BMW M5 itself. What if the sexy Gran Coupe could be turned into a snorting M car – how cool would that be?
Enter the cool new BMW M6 Gran Coupe. A very cool car indeed.
I thought this as I went through the specs for the latest new M car on the plane over to Munich: 560hp, full M styling and suspension, quad exhausts, M-stitched steering wheel, M dials, the works. There were questions about how this four-door coupe would fit in alongside the four-door M5 saloon but they could wait a while. We had a high-speed blast in a 750d over to BMW’s Munich presentation center to make first.
Waiting for us there was a row of matt ice white M6 Gran Coupe, lined up outside with millimetric precision. Quite a site and, yes, literally cool.
First impressions were of something pumped, muscular and very M, although I preferred it finished in the black of the grubby test car parked round the corner. A mean car like this needs a mean color.
Smoothly inside this BMW inner sanctum, we were whisked past security and into the press conference area. Car handout would follow the briefing: we were later to drive north, to a fancy castle, before looping back to the BMW base and then whisking back to the airport. A one-day event that was as fast and efficient as, we hoped, the M6 Gran Coupe itself.
First on stage for the press conference was BMW M president Dr. Friedrich Nitschke, who introduced the new BMW M. This would be interesting, I reckoned: for the first time, the M6 Gran Coupe was about to be defined. What was it – a hardcore M5 alternative? A roomy new M6 Coupe mimic? Something else entirely?
Things started dubiously. In almost the second sentence, the word ‘luxurious’ was mentioned. Hmm. Since when has this been a top priority for M cars?
Indeed, the M6 Gran Coupe is the ‘new BMW M flagship,” Dr. Nitschke continued, offering “luxury like no other M”. It is the highest quality, most luxurious M ever, he continued, later confirming that it is elegant and luxurious. Interesting. Although he did also confirm it’s “very sporty”. Some of us thus didn’t know quite what to expect. Other than, well, the fact it would be rather luxurious.
Luxurious but… more M Performance than genuine M?
And so to the car. We called out our number to a man with a radioset who buzzed in to call it round. An M6 Gran Coupe duly burbled round before us, sounding purposeful and looking decidedly potent. The characteristically massive M air intakes dominate the front end, looking even more exaggerated here due to the low height of the rest of it (the M6 Gran Coupe is 58mm lower than an M5, something accentuated by sharing its 2964mm wheelbase – that’s 113mm longer than the regular M6 Coupe). The glinting double-bar grille looks really effective and the M gills are as neat as ever: both feature tiny M6 badges.
The side sills are bold and the 20-inch wheels are amazing, but it’s the carbon fiber roof that really draws the eye. BMW Design man Florian Nissl explained it as a new twist to the double bubble effect, with a sunken center section between two raised rectangles stretching front to back. With the carbon fiber bit of the CFRP material fully on display behind a glossy top coat, the effect is impressive – particularly as the low height of the car makes it so easy to admire.
At the rear, there are the usual quad exhausts plus a rear diffuser that’s again made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic. You really can see where a big chunk of the car’s heady list price goes – in the UK, it costs nearly £25,000 more than an M5…
Even more so than with the regular Gran Coupe, your first hands-on contact with the M6 version is strikingly different from the start. The aluminum doors are light and, if the windows are down, open to reveal frameless cool (it’s a really striking effect – rear doors are frameless too). Step in and you drop down surprisingly low, atop firm and voluptuously sculpted seats. It already feels very, very different from an M5: much more purposeful and focused.
That’s before you even clock the gorgeous 6 Series dash, too. This lavish, luxurious, sweeping interior is BMW’s best current cockpit and is even richer and plusher in M6 guise. Over the standard car, it gets extended Merino leather and the effect really is quite special. The passenger, you soon notice, can’t help but caress the gently-twisting leather-finished arc that separates them from the driver. It’s a really hands-on sort of car interior.
Hands on the wheel will be pleased to discover a firm round wheel that’s not over-thick and not over-stuffed. BMW seems to be learning what keen drivers want from a good rim and it’s not the spongy thing that you get with an E90 M3. This lovely wheel gets two aluminum bars in its bottom rim: they’re there, says Nissl, to mimic the double spoke wheels and double-bar grille. Another M theme they’re keen to reinforce.
But is it M? Well, the seats are stupendous and the contact points are positive (I still don’t like the stubby gearstick, though). M dials glow from behind the steering wheel too, and there’s the usual myriad driver control buttons surrounding the gearlever with ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ shortcuts on the steering wheel. You get M door sills, M logos on the seats and the lovely detail touch of M-colored stitching for the steering wheel.
So, yes, it is M. Exceedingly luxurious, but still focused. The seats may be plush beyond believe but they’re also notably firmer and way more supportive than a luxobarge. Everything has a purpose you don’t quite get in a 650i. And then there’s the amazing roofline. All-black, the outer sections are recessed and finished in Alcantara; the center section is leather and stands proud to mimic the carbon roof above. It’s quite an effect, particularly looking at it from the rear seats.
Ah, yes: rear seats. There’s space for two, but not three: that center perch really is an emergency pew (and perched its occupant will be, atop a high, hard and uncomfy base). Meanwhile, only if front seat passengers trade some of their sportily-low driving position will those in the back have sufficient space beneath the front seats for their feet. You can get four people in relatively easily but a little compromise is still needed to make sure it’s comfy: this won’t replace an M5 if frequent four-up journeys are vital.
Enough jumping in and out: the BMW staffers were beginning to look at me oddly. So I dutifully stepped into the passenger seat while my driving partner did the honors for the first section. Cocooned within the leather-wrapped cabin, it felt a very nice place to be, without quite the expectancy I’d get from sitting in, say, an M5. Maybe the luxurious turn of the press conference had damped expectations a little.
So we started up, the V8 burbled distantly and, with a positive slur, the M-DCT took up drive to whisk us away. Smoothly, serenely and, I quickly discovered, with a very smooth and supple ride indeed. It was clearly a potent car, the M6 Gran Coupe, but also an extremely serene one too. The engine murmured and, while we had no problem darting into any gap we wanted to out on the autobahn, the raw involvement wasn’t quite there.
As we know from the M5, it’s a quick thing alright. My colleague soon proved this. Turning up the M modes gives head-snapping throttle response, which can painfully jar necks in town with its intensity, only adding to the powerhouse feel. But he was otherwise keeping his cards close to his chest. Only one thing for it: swap over.
Funny, how it immediately feels sporty and purposeful simply because of the lower driving position, wrap-around cockpit and inch-perfect steering wheel. The built-in seat belts are more fiddly than I remember (no Mercedes-style retractable assist arm here) but once settled, I briefly rack my brain to think of a better set of luxury sports seats than this. I can’t, so I give up and get underway.
First impressions are, yes, of the speed and immediacy we know from the M5. Small throttle inputs have a satisfyingly positive effect here despite the twin turbos, meaning you can meter all 560 horses with exact precision. The massive tabletop mountain of torque ensures I have plenty enough without revving it out too, so the engine remains subdued.
And what a pleasant first run it is. Right away, you can feel the engineering precision that’s characteristic of M. Even in genteel use, it’s that much more accurate, precise and delicate than the standard car; the steering responds with a mite more clarity, the front end turns in with a sharper bite and more natural feel. On switchback German roads, I’m in a flow within minutes, gradually easing up the speed and delivery of power.
Those gnarled German backroads would ordinarily provide a heck of a challenge for a sports sedan running on 20-inch rims but this is another surprise the M6 Gran Coupe delivers: the ride is exceptional. Firm and a bit nibbly in town, yes, but incredibly pliant at faster speeds, with a real ability to absorb grotty surfaces. Well-damped body control is also plush, with the car breathing very nicely across undulating surfaces that mean you can carry deceptive speed without the car getting frenetic.
All very nice. But the nagging feeling it was all just a bit too pliant was gnawing away at me. What to do? Play with the buttons: dampers, steering, M-DCT. Getting better: a much sharper car was revealing itself. But it was all in stages and I wanted the real thing. Thank goodness for the M defaults on the steering wheel, then. One press and within a few hundred yards, it’s clear this is the M6 Gran Coupe I’ve been waiting for.
Roll-free, with iron-fist yet still supple body control, it is a wonderfully agile and quick-responding machine. Small inputs to the steering are telegraphed immediately, the front end is easy to both turn in and then flow through, while the sheer amount of grip is fearsome. Really lean on it and the forces that build up inside the cabin will have your passenger gasping for breath (or is that just surprise at the speed with which the world is passing them by? Not sure). Despite being a big car, it oozes confidence.
Is this courtesy of the lower center of gravity? Subtle honing of the M6 Gran Coupe chassis that shows evolutionary learning at work? Not sure. But while it takes a while to dial out the comfy cruiser, the honed machine that emerges is worth the RSI to your fingers and thumbs.
That combination of always-on torque and monumental top-end bite means it feels fiendishly fast with it. The howl at higher revs may be partly artificial but it’s still pleasing to the ear and the sheer vivacity with which the V8 responds to on-off throttle applications showcases BMW’s sheer mastery of turbocharging. An equally immediate gearshift backs it up – flicking up and down with the paddles is a delight.
Rather cheekily, BMW charges extra for carbon ceramic brakes (the ones with the gold calipers). These were the ones we tested and they too had a depth and quality of feel and performance that fully complemented the mechanical sophistication of the rest of it. How well with the standard blue-caliper brakes fare, though? Sadly, we didn’t get chance to find out.
I did get the opportunity to discover how effective the traction control is, though. On a snarling German backroad with just the lightest layer of damp, I found that it’s quite possible to summon wheelspin without really trying at 150mph. It was quickly caught as I’m not foolhardy enough to drive on public roads with everything disabled, but it was still a surprise. Albeit also a measure of just how immense and immediate that torque is. It certainly makes it almost impossible to exit a junction swiftly without seeing the orange traction control light glow…
As you can tell, then, it was a swift drive. 120km were over all too soon. We crunched into the test car collection area, I left the engine ticking over and stepped out (and up), and admired the gently burbling M6 Gran Coupe before me. A thick layer of road grime added to the cool factor, underlined its potency – and in a strange way, fitted the before-and-after discovery I’d had on the road.
Before, it was a very pretty, very plush car, all about luxury and elegance. After, it was a dirty, hard-driven express whose entire stance perfectly betrayed its attitude. What I expected? At first, no; eventually, yes. Am I convinced? Very much so.
The BMW M6 Gran Coupe is a premium, luxury range-topper for M, but while it refocuses a little of the M attitude towards luxury, it doesn’t remove the engineering behind it. Think of it as a comfier F1 car rather than an F1 racer that’s morphed into a racing sedan. And, despite initial doubts, a welcome new range-topper to the M range. This isn’t an M Performance car in drag: it’s the real thing alright.