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2010 BMW M6 Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 BMW M6 Coupe

With Carey Russ
The Auto Channel

Don't think of the BMW M6 as an expensive sports coupe, think of it as a bargain-priced supercar.

$100K 500HP 2010 BMW M6

Anyone remember the "F16" caught on Los Angeles Basin air traffic control radar some years back, headed for the Nevada desert and decelerating into controlled airspace from something like Mach 5? Stepping on the throttle in a BMW M6 is kind of like that in reverse, only you as a private driver, not the test pilot of something that officially doesn't exist, are unlikely to have an alphabet soup of black-budget agencies to save you from the wrath of the authorities...

The M6 is BMW's current performance-luxury flagship, based on the 6-Series coupe or convertible but redesigned by the "M" performance division and differing considerably from a regular 6 in detail. In the engine bay, the 650i's 360-horsepower 4.8-liter V8 is replaced by a 5.0-liter V10 with an 8250-rpm redline, matched either to a six-speed manual or seven-speed automated sequential manual SMG gearbox. The suspension is uprated to match the increased power, and bodywork modified suitably for improved cooling, lighter weight, and greater downforce. Despite the larger engine and other modifications, curb weight is only up by about 100 pounds thanks in part to use of carbon fiber, thermoplastic, and aluminum in place of steel for body panels.

An M6 is not a car for everyone. Price, over $100,000, will see to that, and quickly. If fuel economy is a requirement, stop reading now. Any M car is primarily about motorsport-derived performance, and the M6 is no exception. It offers supercar-class acceleration (0-60 in 4.5 seconds or less) with braking and roadholding to match. EPA fuel economy is 11 mpg city, 17 highway, and I suppose if you leave the SMG-equipped car in decreased-horsepower, gentle automatic mode and idle down the freeway, treading lightly on the throttle at all times, you might even see that. The trip computer in this week's test car, a coupe with SMG and a collection of useful options, did show 13.8 overall when I got it. A spirited romp on some uncrowded backroads, getting acquainted with the upper reaches of the rev band (in second, anyway) quickly knocked that down to 9.0, and more gentle driving later only increased my mileage slightly, to 9.5. Fuel economy the reason to buy an M6? Nein!

Never allowing revs over 3000 rpm in an engine that redlines at 8250 is engine abuse, ihmo anyway. And lugging any engine is a good way to kill bearings, quickly.

Lest you think that the M6 is all performance and no comfort, no. It's even better-equipped than the regular 650i, with most all of the modern comfort, convenience, and safety items standard or at least readily available. Grand touring at it's grandest, the M6 is far from being a race car. And while it's hardly inexpensive, something with similar performance from Ferrari or Lamborghini is considerably more, and likely doesn't have room for two in the rear and a real trunk. An M6 is unlikely to be used as a daily driver or commuter, but it could be. It's that un-temperamental. But don't be fooled by that, especially in the engine's sweet spot it's a viciously quick piece of ultra-civilized machinery.

APPEARANCE: If the M6 looks like a 650i with a mild body kit, it isn't. While the basic contours are instantly recognizable as 6-series, the greyhound (and I don't mean bus) of the BMW line, the pieces are all different. Most apparent is the carbon fiber roof panel. The front fenders are thermoplastic, the hood and roof are aluminum, and the longer rear deck reminds me, from some angles anyway, of the tray-type spoilers used on IMSA competition-spec M1s back in the early 1980s. In front, the "M-look" lower fascia has a larger engine air intake and twin functional brake ducts. "Faux" is a word that does not apply to an M-car. The lower side sills are more pronounced, but are not overdone, and the rear lower fascia echoes the front, with quad exhausts

COMFORT: Inside, the M6 gets a similar treatment to the exterior. It builds from the standard 650, with the look and comfort of top-level German performance and luxury. If the seats are firmer than usual American-spec, all the better for long-term comfort. The driver's seat is a fine office for serious driving, with great visibility and excellent control layout. As in other new BMWs, the once-nefarious iDrive controller has been tamed, and is now simple to use without recourse to a thick manual. You will still need the manual to comprehend all of the possible suspension and engine-management settings, though. A navigation system is standard, as is a Logic7 surround sound audio system (although I still prefer the V10 symphony...). The "Head-up" display, which projects information on to the windshield, is a recommended option as it allows easy monitoring of engine revs and car speed - which will generally be higher than realized. Carbon-fiber interior trim is appropriate option, and at $300 a very reasonably-priced one. In a car for serious driving, don't expect cup and bottle holders - there is one very add-on afterthought-for-the-American market cup holder, period. Don't drink and drive... The rear seat will hold two medium-sized adults in comfort, and there is a spacious trunk - helped to some extent by the lack of a spare tire as the specified tires are run-flats.

SAFETY: The M6's exceptional acceleration, braking, and maneuvering abilities allow a good driver, paying attention, to avoid accidents. The head-up display projects desired information transparently in front of the driver for easier visibility. Passive safety equipment starts with the design and construction of the unibody structure and includes dual-threshold front and front side airbags plus the head protection system.

PERFORMANCE, RIDE AND HANDLING: If the Nurburgring is in your back yard, this is your car of choice. If you want to explore the limits of the M6's power and roadholding, join BMW CCA and do driver's schools and track days. And/or take BMW's own M School at their Greenville South Carolina facility. On the speed-limited streets of the USA, the M6 is so underemployed as to border on the ludicrous.

Unlike some iterations of the M3, the M6's suspension is never harsh. Firm, absolutely, and absolutely necessary. But even in the hardest of the three modes of the EDC (electronic damping control) system, it is never jarring, even on the poor roads in my part of the world. The aluminum-intensive double-pivot strut front, four-link rear suspension is similar in design to that of the 650i, but tuned more firmly and with subtle changes to geometry. The 255/40 and 285/35 ZR19 Michelins on forged alloy wheels offer more potential adhesion than is sane this side of the track, and the cross-drilled, vented brake discs and huge calipers stop immediately and repeatedly, with the aid of antilock and Dynamic Stability Control with M Dynamic Mode to allow high angles of slip before engagement.

The M6 is more at home on high-speed sweepers than the tight corners and indifferent pavement of my area. Think Nurburgring, not Targa Florio. It's large, heavy, and very, very fast - think land-bound executive jet. As wonderful as the chassis is, the engine is the real star here. BMW engineers took lessons learned with the 3.0-liter Formula 1 V10 developed between 2000 and 2005 and applied them to a less-stressed road engine. The F1 engine made upwards of 700 horsepower and revved over 18,000 rpm -- with rebuilds every couple of hours or 250 miles. The 5.0-liter M6 engine shares its basic design and construction, but only makes 500 horsepower (at 7750 rpm) and 383 lb-ft of torque (at 6100 rpm) from its 5.0 liters, with a redline of 8250 rpm. That's naturally-aspirated, no turbo- or supercharging. That's with the "Power" switch on, activating all 500. Off, there's a mere 400... a bit more than merely adequate still, and using slightly less fuel.

Power on, the engine works best over 4000 rpm, and starts to feel really strong at the 6100-rpm torque peak. Sound? If you remember the V10 era in F1, you'll be smiling. Second gear is all you really need, at least on this side of the Atlantic, unless the Bonneville Salt Flats are nearby. That would be about the only place in North America where seventh gear could see appropriate use. With 80 percent of peak torque available from 3500 rpm, response is instantaneous.

The SMG gearbox is a good match for the engine's exotic spec. In this incarnation it's a close-ratio seven-speed, all the better to help acceleration. There are both manual and automatic shift modes, six in manual and five in auto, which vary in speed and abruptness of shifts. The box is a regular manual, with a single clutch that is operated electro-hydraulically when either the shift paddles on the wheel or the shift lever are used -- there is no clutch lever. In automatic it, unsurprisingly, feels like a manual operated by an invisible hand, as that is what it is.

CONCLUSIONS: Don't think of the BMW M6 as an expensive sports coupe, think of it as a bargain-priced supercar.


Base Price			$ 102,100
Price As Tested			$ 113,170
Engine Type			90-degree dohc 40-valve V10 with Double-
				 Vanos variable cam phasing and lift on
				 all camshafts
Engine Size			5.0 liters / 305 cu. in.
Horsepower			500 @ 7750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			383 @ 6100 rpm
Transmission			7-speed SMG
Wheelbase / Length		109.5 in. / 191.8 in.
Curb Weight			3909 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		7.8
Fuel Capacity			18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				Michelin Pilot Sport
				F: 255/40 ZR19  R: 285/35 ZR19
Brakes, front/rear		vented discs all around,
				 ABS, DSC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double-pivot strut /
				  independent 4-link
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		11 / 17 / 9.5
0 to 60 mph				4.5  sec

Indianapolis Red merino leather			$ 3,500
Comfort Access System				$ 1,000
Carbon Fiber black trim				$   300
High Beam Assistant				$   250
iPod and USB adapter				$   400
Head-Up Display					$ 1,200
Satellite Radio with 1-year subscription	$   595
Destination charge				$   825
Gas guzzler tax					$ 3,000