Over the years we’ve harped on the previous generation M6 a ton here at BimmerFile. From its lackluster chassis dynamics to the questionable “power” button the E63 M6 wasn’t M’s finest moment. But BMW has moved on and so have we with turbo power and a focus on broadening appeal while creating better all-around cars. But does the all new 2013 BMW M6 buck that trend?
We recently spent a day at the famed Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California with the M6. Our goal was simple; see if it is worthy of running the corkscrew rather than just transporting one to a dinner party.
Truth be told, we had low expectations going into this track test as the last M6 was such a let down to us (outside that godly V10) and Laguna Seca is a technical track better served by light agile machines rather than 4,200 lbs grand tourers. One thing is for certain, without ever looking at a spec sheet, starting an engine or sitting in the driver’s seat, this car looks faster than almost any BMW before it.
It flicks all the right switches to get our hearts racing just on the possibility of performance based on the aggressive exterior. And that double bubble Zagato ‘esque carbon roof looks even more amazing and aggressive in real life.
With 560 ponies just ready to let loose and 500 torques to go along with them, this all new M6 should not be looked down upon because the engine doesn’t have a racing lineage. The dual twin scrolled turbocharged reverse flow aluminum V8 is as close to naturally aspirated as can be found in the land of forced induction.
That is due in no small part to the patented intake manifold that keeps the engine’s exhaust pulses and turbo spools in perfect harmony. Rather than individual throttle bodies that disturb air flow and add turbulence the S63tü utilizes BMW’s Valvetronic system which uses valve lift as the throttle bodies; increasing combustion efficiency and precision. Not to leave anything out in terms of engine tech, M added in direct injection and a rather robust engine management processor to make this engine an all around performer.
It is more powerful, more efficient and easier to live with day-to-day than the former V10, so what’s not to like? If we’re honest there is one thing. It’s not the turbo-charging that bother us nor the throaty sound that barks on lift off but having to train one’s right foot to be a lot smoother on power delivery. There’s so much power and the delivery is so instantaneous that it’s easy to break things loose.
Thanks to increased engine efficiency and a larger fuel tank the highway range has increased by 34%, which means the M6 can now get from Munich to the ‘Ring on a single tank of super- a pipe dream in the past. Stop light racers will rejoice with the usually conservative BMW 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds- sub 4 seconds will be laid down by one of those glossy car publications in short order, without the use of any afterburners.
The 7 speed M Dual Clutch Transmission used in the M6 is derived from the current generation M3 but is given a dose of PEDs to handle the added torque and has software improvements that aid in low speed situations. It is a huge step up in street driving compared to the previous generation’s Sequential Manual Gearbox III, it almost feels like a torque converter automatic.
On the track with the Drivelogic at the maximum level it unleashes neck snapping gear changes that would be at home in a GT3 car racing around Europe let alone a luxurious boulevard cruiser. It matches revs and engages with little hesitation from the time the paddle is pulled. Rumor has it that a six speed manual (same as used in the US M5) will be offered later in the life cycle but even the staunchest manual defender will be hard pressed to find issue with the semi-auto in this application for track use.
BMW M has always stood behind the concept that their chassis dynamics are designed to be faster than the engine supplied, with the M6 this idea continues to ring true. With the typical adjustable M suspension the car easily goes from comfortable cruiser to a sporty canyon carver. The marketing people will tell you that the new rigid mounted rear is derived directly from racing. And there’s truth in that. BMW M took the rather surprising step of bolting the rear subframe directly to the chassis in a bid to improve dynamics. The result is a 4200 lbs car that seems to defy logic with it’s ability to feel quick whitted and more eager in the corners than expected. The M5 introduced this last year as the first non limited edition M car with this method of construction and the first to land in the US (the M3 GTS and CRT being the first two worldwide).
The near neutral handling and ability to transfer weight properly in such a large heavy car is nothing less than remarkable and far beyond the driving abilities of most that will be purchasing this car. Steering remains an M developed hydraulic servotronic unit which varies boost based on speed. It’s not as communicative as the M3 but compared to the EPS unit in the 6 it is nothing but pure bliss, plus it can be adjusted for boost with the console mounted switch.
Getting all that power to the ground and keeping everything stuck to the pavement are the latest Michelin Pilot Super Sports (295s out back) which continue to impress even the staunchest critics with their stickiness, durability and ride comfort. The tires may have the final say as to what the car does for grip but the new Active M Differential can decide which of the rear tires gets the power. This is due to the integrated electronics that communicate with the Dynamic Stability Control system and then sends direct power where the grip is and to the outside wheel during cornering. The trick rear diff also is only active when it’s needed so fuel economy is less impacted than with the fully viscous system of the past.
For the first time in a long time we were hesitant to turn off all the nannies in a car. After getting comfortable in the driver seat and in the passenger seat with BMW Works driver Bill Auberlen (who is a master behind the wheel of cars and boats) it was very apparent that this M6 was a monster that required a lot to be tamed. Partly because of the weight, partly because of the technical nature of Laguna Seca, it was a daunting task to reel the M6 in. A word of warning, unexperienced drivers really need to take care behind the wheel when driving in anger with the new M6. There is a point with the M6 that is of no return and one better have the skills and cajones to get out of a self induced pickle.
We witnessed many an auto journalist drive beyond their own means and nearly hit things that did not move during our time at the track. During development there were several crashes that were caught by spies and even a late change in the aero package to improve the cars ability to remain on track. The car is more than capable on the track and quite safe in capable hands. But we are talking about a heavy, powerful machine and the laws of physics, while seemingly defied by the engineers, still apply. Driving with DSC completely off required full concentration on weight transfer, throttle modulation and a good bit of our less preferred technique of left foot braking to get the most out of the car at the limit.
Another point to drive home here is that the M Dynamic Mode setting of DSC is the least invasive ever, allowing more tail out and wheel spinning shenanigans than even the 1M coupe. According to the trackside pros there is little in terms of lap time gains when the system is defeated as being smooth on this track means speed and from our experience that was spot on, not to mention it added a layer of security just in case we were a little too aggressive on the gas.
We can’t talk about handling and track ability without discussing brakes. With all that power and weight being thrown around the binders need to be confidence inducing and have some spare muscle for those moments drivers’ exceed their own abilities, those we tested did just that. The caveat is the brakes we came to be enamored with were those that only exist in the future. Where is Doc’s DeLorean when it’s needed?
The optional 6 piston gold calipers with New York pizza sized carbon ceramic discs (16.1″) won’t be introduced until sometime in 2013 and cost around 10 large when the required 20″ wheels are added in. Can a set of brakes worth the price of a purpose built E36 race car? That’s a tough call but they are nothing less than ridiculous. They allow significantly deeper braking in corners and NEVER experience any fade no matter how much abuse they are dealt. The rotors should last 100,000 miles before needing replacement under normal driving, with pads (which cost only slightly more than normal) lasting around 2-4 times longer than the conventional setup according to BMW.
The base brakes are the M compound brakes we tested on the M5 and M6 convertible. While they are adequate and a huge step up from the 550i, they can’t hold a candle to the carbon ceramics. Part of us wishes we had never driven the carbon setup as now our view of braking is completely jaded and nothing will ever meet expectations.
The blue painted calipers feature six pistons up front, a 15.7″ steel disc and an aluminum hat to reduce unsprung weight. Out back are single pistons clamping on 15.6″ discs. The steel system was good for a handful of laps before fade checked in, something that could be extended with pads and fluid designed for track use but something BMW doesn’t believe in for press launches as that is not how the cars are sold on showrooms (hat tip to them for being genuine).
Luxurious accouterments with M seem to go hand in hand these days as the clientele has shifted from performance junkies to those that want a car that has it all- comfort, luxury and sport. The materials, textures and design of the M6 leave nothing to be less than luxurious. The real carbon fiber trim, to the full Merino leather are executed as well as, if not better than, cars costing more money and having less sporty intentions. M has made the M6 a dual personality car from a night at ballet to race circuit at the push of one of two steering wheel mounted M buttons.
Speaking of steering wheels, the all new M split three spoke wheel is a nod to the past while being more comfortable in the hand- it’s less bulky and just is more appropriate for a daily driver. Some may argue that all that leather and luxury do not belong in an M car, while on some level we agree there is target market for this car and they know what they want and they are willing to pay a premium for it. With only some 3,200 units of the last generation sold in the US it goes without saying that this is a niche vehicle and competes with cars costing far more that offer less performance and luxury- making the M6 somewhat of a bargain amongst the likes of Aston Martins and Jaguars.
With an option list full of the latest gadgetry from a Head Up Display and a futuristic B&O sound system to Full LED headlights there is everything the most particular buyer could want.
The new M6 is a revelation. A revelation that once again M has done the impossible and made a very heavy vehicle seemingly defy the laws of physics thanks to advanced chassis design and a monstrous powertrain. Make no mistake, the M6 is not a car we’d line up to buy unless we hit it big in a stock trade, it comes in at around 130k once options are ticked. But the fact is we’d actually buy this one if we could. That’s not an insignificant comment considering where our opinion was not that long ago with the E63.
While the car is still too heavy to be as agile and communicative as we’d prefer (significantly lighter cars from M are still a generation or two away as carbon becomes cheaper and more prevalent) it is now an aspirational offering we’d consider. Something that when the money comes in and a fast luxurious daily driver is in order, it’s on the top of the list. It’s worth repeating that. Even as BMW fans that’s a list that formerly only included exotics. The late addition of the Gurney lip spoiler also showed us that the engineers are clawing back and making cars that are designed to be driven rather than just looked at, which is what we’d hope from the likes of M rather than an outfit run by marketing and designers.
We’d be hard pressed to find any major areas of weakness outside of weight with this M6.