There ‘s this moment on turn ten of the circuit of the Americas that defines a car and the driver. Coming from T9 you ‘re accelerating hard and heading up-hill slightly. T10 approaches quickly and to the left. Suddenly there ‘s a blind crest and the track falls away beneath you, the laws of physics trying to deposit you into the rumble strips and off the track. By my third lap I had a thought; trust the M6 Gran Coupe. Stay flat out, hit the apex, maintain the line and trust the M6 GC and it ‘s Nurburgring pedigree. Next lap I did just that. As I went from the crest into the downhill portion, the weight transferred and there was a hint of wiggle; then there was nothing but grip and speed as I went downhill heading to the T11 hairpin. And then onto the massive back-straight.
Trust the M6. Those were the words that I murmured to myself continuously as I explored the car and this Tilke designed widow-maker of a track. Braking later, carrying more speed and being smoother is what confidence gives you. And the M6 Gran Coupe is as confident inspiring a car as I ‘ve ever driven.
The BMW M6 Gran Coupe is the flagship model for BMW M. And as the halo it ‘s more than just a product. It is the crystallization of the M ethos; duality of performance and drivability. As we found out around the streets of Austin, Texas and on the Circuit of the Americas, that duality has never been illustrated better in an M product.
It should, considering that this is the high-point of both BMW and BMW M. Head of Development at M, Albert Biermann, calls this the closest to an M7 we ‘ll perhaps ever see. And it makes sense looking at the numbers. An overall length is close to the F01 7 Series and a base price of around $113,000 makes this the absolute top end of the BMW brand save for the V12 powered 760iL and the Alpina B7.
However, with that said, the M6 Gran Coupe isn ‘t an unknown. We know the engine. We ‘ve tested it in the M5, M6 Coupe and Convertible. We ‘ve tested an earlier version in the X5 M and X6 M. We know the car. We ‘ve driven the 6 Series Gran Coupe (non M version) several times as well as the M6 in two door and convertible form.
But M didn ‘t just take a 6GC and drop an engine in it a la Mercedes AMG. In M tradition they ‘ve rethought everything; seats, transmission, engine and of course suspension down to the sub-frame. In doing so they ‘ve bolted the rear suspension directly to the sub-frame in a bid to improve dynamics. The result is a 4400 lbs car that seems to defy logic by feeling quick-witted and more eager in the corners than expected.
My day started behind the wheel of the M6 GC heading west into the Texas hill country west of Austin. Truth be told many of the more interesting roads we stumbled onto would have been better served by a 1M or M3 due to the width and tight apexes. Yet the M6 GC (all 197 ” of it) provided a level comfort and performance that almost any other performance car on the planet could never achieve. Beautifully designed, appointed and engineered, the M6 GC was simply faultless on these Texas roads.
The answers as to why lie in the attention to detail that the M Division gives these cars. The S63Tü is a free-revving twin turbocharged engine that feels like something old school rather than a forced induction power plant with an eye towards MPG requirements. The key to this is the cross bank manifold which perfectly sequences exhaust gas pulses resulting in “regular” charging of each turbine wheel and minimum turbo-lag, razor-sharp response, and vastly-improved efficiency. They also doubled the size of the intercoolers and added Valvetronic which effectively gives the S63Tü 16 intake throttles. Yet shockingly it ‘s also 30% more efficient. The sum of it all makes the S63Tü feel like a naturally aspirated engine while providing dramatically improved efficiency over the previous M V10
And those 560 hp? We ‘re assured by Albert Biermann that those are “strong upper Barvarian horses ” and thus will be there if you ‘re at high altitude or sea level. According to him, the fact that BMW guarantees that figure at high altitudes is often the source of dynos showing extra power and why BMW ‘s 0-60 times are notoriously conservative.
The DCT motivating it all is the same 7 speed in the M5 and M6 and similar to the M3 ‘s unit. However, unlike in the M3, M has reinforced it to handle the enormous amounts of torque delivered at peak – 480 lb ft. In short it works perfectly on the road and is inspired on the track. While we loved the manual in our M5 test car last year it ‘s hard to argue with the performance of the DCT. Especially when the clutch on the manual is so light and lacking in feel.
As we left Austin ‘s lake country things begin to straighten out and become more Texas-like. Big, straight and fast. In these wide open spaces the M6 GC excelled as any 4430 lbs 560 hp car would. No that ‘s not a typo. That is exactly what the standard 650i weighs. How can this be despite the carbon fiber roof and many other weight saving measures? The amount of hardcore hardware on the M6 GC that allows it to have that ultimate duality of being at home on the track as well asthe street is the culprit. That trick rear differential and heavy duty suspension components are just a few examples as to why the M6 GC is not a lightweight many enthusiasts wish it was. But lets face it, the M6 has always been a GT car. More at home Autobahning than whipping through cones in a parking lot.
As we drove further and further away from Austin the anticipation set in. We were heading to the Circuit of the Americas. COTA (as it ‘s known) is 3.5 miles of the latest in track design wrapped over Texas hills.
And then there it was. COTA isn ‘t much to look at from the road other than a massive race vantage point spouting out from the in-field (aka the “mullet “). But it ‘s quickly clear that the track is an awe-inspiring masterpiece laid-out over undulating Texas topography. And after a day at the track I can easily say it ‘s the most intimidating I ‘ve ever driven with one exception – the Nurburgring.
But the M6 had one secret weapon to tackle F1 ‘s newest track, the optional $9,250 carbon ceramic brakes. By the first corner it had become clear that they were probably the biggest performance boost you could get at a track. They ‘re so good that I can ‘t think of another technology that needs to be made at a mass level quicker. And for those balking at the high price, I can assure you they are priceless.
Lap after hard lap I felt zero fade all while pedal feel was exceptional. And every lap I went from 150+ to 32 mph into a hairpin. And lap after lap I began to realize I could brake later and later. Until. Well until I realized I couldn ‘t. Luckily we didn ‘t film that lap.
After a few laps I dove back into the pits to dial in some of the M specific settings. Naturally you ‘d expect that everything should be turned up to the nth degree. Albert Biermann had mentioned that ‘s not necessarily the case. He insisted that the S3 mode for instance was only there to honor the SMG gearbox. Yes that neck snapping jolt from the gearbox is theatre. He prefers S2. But beyond that he suggested we do our own testing which we were only too happy to do.
What can I say, I ‘m a sucker for that violent gear change. So with S3 mode engaged and everything turned up all the way I went back out with my goal to push as hard as possible. And run the tank dry while not hitting a wall.
Despite the 560 hp and a track that challenged me in every way the M6 GC was both rewarding and relatively easy to drive at the limit. BMW M ‘s famed 50/50 weight distribution was essential in allowing the M6 to remain composed no matter how hard I pushed. Trust the M6 and trust the engineers that put it together. That ‘s a secret in getting more out of this car on the track.
But this isn ‘t any track. It ‘s not just the blind corners and elevation changes that makes COTA so impressive. The dramatic straights leading to mind-bending hairpins are some of the most exciting parts of each lap. And with the carbon ceramics stopping you, it ‘s a constant test of how late you can go in to the corner before you give up and give in. And the M6 GC never wavered and never protested through it all.
One of the reasons for the high speed stability is the improved aero over the standard M6. Because the BMW Design didn ‘t want another spoiler debacle like they had on the M6 Coupe (where it was added last minute to increase downforce) engineers had to work harder under the car and on the diffuser to increase downforce. The result is even more downforce than the spoiler would have given and a car with more high speed stability.
The S63Tü powers the M6 Gran Coupe feels unshackled at the track. There is no substitute for a flat torque line that lays around 500 ft lb. But engines need character and over the past few years it ‘s been berated for not being particularly interesting to listen to. Not unexpected given how cool those naturally aspirated V8 and V10 M engines from the past view years were to listen to. But under stress and at high revs the S63Tü starts to change tone and get almost exotic as you approach that 7200 rpm redline.
Trust the M6 Gran Coupe. Trust BMW M. I couldn ‘t help but linger on those thoughts as I got out of the car. Mentally exhausted and physically tired after pushing hard for 90+ minutes. And yet the M6 GC showed no signs of stress. The brakes felt fresh and the engine idled quietly. This is how a big M car should perform: plenty of speed without the drama.
Then I was struck by the words of Albert Bierman. “Don ‘t be sad there isn ‘t an M7. We have one in the M6 Gran Coupe. “
The new king has been crowned atop of BMW M. It may not be the one we expected but it ‘s better than we could have ever imagined.