Track Review: BMW M6 Gran Coupe at Circuit Of The Americas F1 Track

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Much has been written about the gorgeous new BMW M6 Gran Coupe, but and this is a big but, no track reviews. Is this going …

Much has been written about the gorgeous new BMW M6 Gran Coupe, but and this is a big but, no track reviews. Is this going to be a big powerful yet understeering German beast? Or is it going to be a true drivers car?

BMWBLOG went to Austin, Texas to drive the new 2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe on COTA, Circuit of The Americas, the new US F1 racetrack. We are also putting to test BMW’s Carbon-Ceramic Brakes on a really high speed course to see if they hold up as advertised. History tells us that the M division will, without a doubt, work their magic and deliver yet again an excellent track monster that’s still civil enough for daily use. However, being that the 6 Series Gran Coupe is such an elegant car, does it handle the M treatment well? Will customers be put off by the lack of a sunroof? The stiffer suspension with low profile wheels and tires yielding a much firmer ride? So we had a lot of questions to answer when we landed at the Austin Airport.

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The following morning we woke up early and headed to the track for our drivers briefing. To maximize driving time, the group of journalists was split in two. One group would drive an excellent and hilly country road course with a bit of city driving mixed in, while the other one was ready to conquer the track. Starting with the city drive and hilly roads first gave us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the car before hitting hard the track’s fast corners.

Road Test – Driving Impressions

We found the city and back road driving a great real world test as most M6 Gran Coupes will live here. With multiple adjustments on the car, you can tailor the driving experience to suit your taste. Just like the other M6 models, the BMW M6 Gran Coupe comes with four different settings: Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Those settings dynamically adjust the chassis, throttle pedal and the steering rack.

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Starting off in Comfort mode, we found the more relaxed setting on the throttle to be irritating. There was a fair amount of resistance to tip in on the throttle as we believe it’s meant to encourage efficient driving. The Comfort setting on the suspension also gave a floaty suspension that perhaps some like, but not our cup of tea.

Next up is the Sport setting which seemed to be just right, while Sport+ seemed a little to trigger happy, harder to modulate the throttle with out overdoing it. The steering had equal disparate sensations in the settings and I found Sport to be the best for my taste. The firmer dampening and less body roll in the Sport and Sport+ settings seemed more in keeping with the mission of this M6 Grand Coupe – namely kick some asphalt.

The hill country switch back roads were journalists’ dream come true: hair pin turns and massive rapid elevation changes. We were amongst a trio of M6 Gran Coupes that along the way formed a nice tight pack on a thankfully otherwise empty road. Some of the turns were so tight and involved such elevation changes that literally you could lose the road in the roof! We recall one section where a huge dip is combined with a very tight 90 degree right-hander followed by a rapid uphill. The nose of the M6 Gran Coupe was still pointed down as the road off to the right rose above the windshield. The eyes were trying to follow but instead of the road we were looking at the Alcantara headliner.

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Then as the M6 hit the nader of the dip, you could see the continuation of the road. Crazy good stuff. The über tight roads allowed the M6 Gran Coupe to show off its incredible grip and balanced chassis control. Not once did we feel the car get unsettled, and just once we felt the understeer in a very slow turn. The 500 lb-ft torque which is available way down low at 1500 rpm pulled the M6 Gran Coupe out of these hairpins like a rocket ship and the active differential was working away to keep the rear-end planted when accelerating out of the hole.

As far as the civilized section goes where we hit some decent traffic, we came out impressed with the civil nature of such a powerful, grippy car. When just motoring along at the speed limit, the M6 Gran Coupe swaddles the occupants in incredibly luxurious cabin. The Head-Up Display is one of the best in the business and posting the speed limits in front of your eyes helped stay out of trouble with the local constable.

The M6 Gran Coupe is one of those cars that with a switch of a button can accommodate a wide range of customers and driving preferences. If the road is too bumpy, hit the Comfort mode, turn on your seat heaters while you have “chair conditioning” (seat cooling) on at the same time and crank your optional Bang & Olufsen stereo, and just ignore the rest of the world. Parting ways with the car at the end of this test was a little heartbreaking.

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Conquering the COTA

The COTA, short for Circuit of The Americas, is a brand new world class Formula race track finished in 2013. It’s easy to spot from the air on approach to landing. The gorgeous 3.4 mile track has 20 turns and 133 feet of elevation changes, and a long back straight of three-quarters of a mile. The straight through the grandstands with the Start/Finish ends straight uphill to the highest part of the course, Turn 1. It’s an absolute stunning thing to behold and even more fun to drive. More on that later.
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On the race track, weight is the enemy and the BMW M6 Gran Coupe has a listed curb weight of 4,430 lbs, creating a concern that this wouldn’t be a fun car to take on a track. Even though the M6 Gran Coupe has a carbon fiber roof and carbon fiber diffuser, its overall weight is more than the standard Gran Coupe. The main reason has to do with the enormous heat the 560 hp S63tü motor is able to generate and the beefed up cooling system needed to deal with it. The motor even has a very small and elevated covering that helps direct air over the top of the “hot V” center of the motor. Additional weight is added by the massive wheels and tires this monster needs to be able to put its power down, and to man handle the road. Despite journalists pushing these M6 Gran Coupes to the max in 95F weather, there were no limp-home mode experienced. The M6 Gran Coupe can handle a beating on the track in some hot weather.

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The most notable visual appearance of weight loss is the lightweight carbon fiber roof which replaces the steel roof and accompanying sunroof. This saves roughly 50 lbs and given that the weight saving comes from the very top of the car, it helps bringing the center of weight down. We did confirm with BMW of North America that they have no plans to offer an optional sunroof as they did with the E92 M3.

A welcome addition to the weight savings are the Carbon Ceramic Brakes, a $9250 option. The high-performance brakes decrease rotational mass and afford the driver nearly fade free braking. The work of art brakes have a 16.1 inch diameter in the front and 15.6 inches in the rear, and save a stunning 43 lbs off the rotating mass. The BMW M6 Gran Coupe has a weight distribution of 52.3% Front and 47.7% Rear. The M6 Coupe in comparison is 4,255 lbs with a 52.6/47.4 Front- Rear distribution netting a 175lbs different in favor of the two door. M6 Convertible checks in a a more hefty 4,508 lbs.

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One of the first things we did when getting close to the track M6 Gran Coupe was to look at what tires they were running. The BMWUSA website says run-flat performance tires are standard on the M6 Gran Coupe, and that’s just not gonna cut the track work. However, the M6 Gran Coupe made available to us was wearing Michelin Pilot Super Sports, and incredibly good tire. Read our review of these awesome tires here. The M6 Gran Coupe has 20×9.5” wheels with 265/35/20s on the front and 20×10” wheels with 295/30/20s rubber on the rear.

After the requisite head sock was on and the accompanying helmet, we fastened the chin strap and jumped in one of the M6 Gran Coupe standing by. To get on the track, pit out is on the left side of the end of the Grand Stands straight. A quick nod to the flag man holding a green flag on pit out, and then on the throttle while staying left of the blend line. The 7-speed M Double Clutch Transmission (M DCT), which is standard, rips of lighting fast shifts. A no cost optional 6-speed manual transmission is offered also for U.S. customers.

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Turn 1 reminds me most of a roller coaster. Rapid climb up from the Grand Stand straight then roughly a 135 degrees turn to the left and over flowing hill you go. Enter it right and it’s very rewarding. Get it wrong and this one will scare even the most experienced driver as the track drops off rapidly just past the apex. And you need to be arcing over to the left to get set up to late apex Turn 2.

Farther down on the track, you approach, what Matt Mullins, BMW’s Chief Driving Instructor of Performance Center, says is geological evidence of a difficult set of turns. He commented several Porsches had recently bonked the wall in the chicane. Enter this complex early -aka early apex it- and it’s going to punish you. The BMW Performance instructors had laid out turn in, apex and track out cones for us non-professional drivers. They definitely help you learn the track quicker. Turn 11 is an interesting hair-pin turn. Again early apex it and you get kicked way wide, and you just shortened the back straight. Late apex this one and you can get on the gas early for the three-quarters mile straight and get a higher top speed.

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This long back straight is where we gained a new found respect for the M6 Gran Coupe. Letting cars rip past 120 mph sometimes gets a bit unnerving as the car can get light on the front end or start to dance around. Not so with the M6 Gran Coupe. That thing was rock solid at 150 mph. Before we knew it, it was time to nail the carbon ceramic brakes at the 250 feet marker before the turn. The Carbon Ceramics Brakes easily hauled the M6 Gran Coupe down fast and in fact, we felt like we could have braked later, maybe say at 200 feet. Only problem is that the track starts to descend and if you screw up here, you are having a bad, bad day. Another fun complex of turns was 16, 17 and 18. You just set your wheel’s steering angle and went for it power on. The arc is perfect.

Finally that crazy looking Grand Stand straight with the Start/Stop. It looks just out of this world. We hit about 130 mph here just before the rise. We probably over braked at the top of this but that’s because we didn’t want to screw up between Turns 1-2 in a segment you can’t see until you are on it. Changing your angle of attack once you arrive here is just too late.

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So how did the M6 Gran Coupe perform on track? Well it may be cliche but the car really does shrink around you once you get into the flow of COTA’s fast, yet technical track. Chassis’ electronics on track deliver an unfiltered experience. It’s crazy how much the adjustable dampers and electronic nannies can change the character of this car. There is so much technology that helps the drivers get around a track and these include: M Dynamic Mode and selectable damper settings. We felt none of the BMW’s old over intrusive stability interventions, though we did have the M6 Gran Coupe in MDM mode, Sport Steering, Sport+ chassis and sport throttle. We found the chassis to be ballanced with very little understeer and power on oversteer should you request it.

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0-60 happens in a stated 4.1 sec, and BMWBLOG’s butt dyno says it feels every bit of that, maybe even faster. Top speed in the United States is limited to 155 mph. Fuel economy ratings are a very reasonable 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway. Fuel capacity is 21.1 gallons which gives the M6 Gran Coupe an impressive highway range of 400 miles. Given the addictiveness of the thrust the M6 Gran Coupe is capable of, we doubt many will see a range that far. The 560-hp response from the 4.4.-liter V-8 “hot V” engine is nearly instantaneous. and gives a near linear delivery of a massive 500 lb-ft of torque. The crazy thing with this motor is that it pulls so hard early, AND all the way to the top.

Conclusion

BMW continues to expand their offerings in the $100,000 plus range and the M6 Gran Coupe is seen as the top of the M line. The M6 Gran Coupe is such a powerful yet elegant car, that many future owners may just want the knowledge that they have such a potent car. I can tell you having driven the car on both the street and the track, that is indeed powerful knowledge.
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Configuration – 2014 M6 Gran Coupe

All ready in Production, should be hitting show rooms shortly. MSRP of $113,000, plus destination

Notable Options:

  • $9250 for Ceramic Brakes
  • Executive Package $5,500 – LED, HUD, Active Heated and Cooled Seats,
  • Bang & Olufsen – $3,700
  • Night Vision $2,600
  • Driver Assistance Package $1,900
  • Manual – NO COST Option
  • Competition Package adds 15hp + some other goodies and should be available late summer.

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