Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, BMW’s M division was originally only focused on motorsports, but within a decade had begun producing street legal “M” cars, starting with the M1 supercar.
|1. A twin-turbo 4.4L V8 makes 560-hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.
2. 0-60 comes in just 4.3 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph.
3. M6 Cabriolet models start at $113,100 with the coupe $7,000 less.
While the motorsports side of the operation is still on-going, most people recognize “M” as the tuned in-house, faster versions of ordinary BMWs. As a result, anything with an “M” badge will certainly be more exciting to drive than models without this designation.
One of BMW’s latest offerings is the second-genration M6 Cabriolet, which is essentially (you guessed it) a more powerful and faster version of the 650i Cabriolet we tested a few months ago, a car we liked a lot. So is the M6 version worth the extra coin?
LOOKS THAT THRILL
From a styling point of view, it certainly is. While the 650i looks rather soft, no one will convict the M6 of being plain. From its aggressive front bumper to its massive four exhaust pipes out back, coupled with delicious 20-inch forged light alloy wheels, this car looks the business. Parking it anywhere will bring people flocking with their cell phone cameras and our tester, painted in San Marino Blue, also ensured plenty of attention.
For some, the visual enhancements would be enough to convince them of the extra outlay, but there is much more that the new M6 Cabrio can offer, especially under the hood.
MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF POWER
Open its vast hood and you’ll find a 90-degree V8 displacing 4.4-liters and housing two turbochargers. It looks almost identical to the engine found in the 650i version, and the reason for it is that, essentially, it is. However, thanks to two, twin-scroll turbo-chargers, a reprogramming of the engine management system and a unique cross-bank exhaust system, an extra 160-horses have been liberated, with the new M6 producing a total of 560-hp. Torque is also up over the 650i by 50 lb-ft for a total of 500, which comes in between 1500 and 5750 rpm. Maximum power is, however, produced between 5750 to 7000 rpm, so be in no doubt, this engine likes to play near its red zone.
All this manic power is sent to just the rear wheels (no all-wheel drive option here) through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (no manual either). While we have tested many cars with similar systems, including Porsche’s PDK, the BMW system is one of the best, if not the best.
Speed is one thing, stability is another, as anyone with a powerful muscle-car will tell you. There are no such issues with the M6 Cabriolet, which stays rock solid no matter how quickly you’re travelling, which is a good thing, because it is quick.
Use its complicated (and somewhat annoying) launch control system properly and you’ll accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. Keep the right pedal buried and it’ll hit an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph with ease.
BUT IS IT FUN?
So this is a quick car, yet it is not as exciting as its figures might suggest. The first issue we found was with its noise. Cars that go this fast, usually sound like war planes, but the M6 is a bit too quiet. It’s not completely lacking in aural excitement, but we wish it was more pronounced.
It’s also very heavy, tipping the scales at 4,508 lbs. What this does is limit the type of fun you can have.
While it is seriously quick in a straight line, in the corners, the weight just pushes it wide and you never get an exact feel of how much steering angle the car requires at different speeds. Throwing it into some quick, tight corners, you can actually feel its multi-plate limited-slip differential (named “Active M Differential”) working overtime, compensating for this car’s shortcomings.
Since it doesn’t inspire carrying a lot of speed into the corners, you will be getting on the brakes more often. While the brakes a good, they do require a very firm, assertive foot to bring this car to a halt. That said, despite repeated heavy braking, its 15.7-inch front and 15.6-inch diameter rear brakes never showed any sign of fading, and our tester wasn’t even equipped with the optional carbon-ceramic units.
Like all recent M-cars, the new M6 Cabriolet comes with an “M” setting, but unlike others, this one comes with two M-modes. Both you have to set-up yourself, and each can be programmed differently, so you can have a sporty street setting under one button and an ‘all systems off’ track setting for the other button, although exactly who would take this heavy car on the track is beyond us.
The M6 Cab is not the ideal tool for attacking any circuit or mountain pass, but it is at home on long stretches of tarmac. So it’s a fast, long distance cruiser, and there is plenty to accommodate you for such trips, like a massaging seat for a start. BMW makes some of the best seats in the business and the one in the M6 Cabriolet is no exception. It adjusts in every which way possible, so if you cannot find the right driving position, you’re not using its controls properly.
Once comfortably seated, you’ll spend days playing with its iDrive system, which allows you to adjust many functions of this car. You’ll also like its 10.2-inch LCD screen, which has very clear graphics.
Now all you need is a sunny day to drop the top and cruise. Doing so couldn’t be easier, since it is fully powered and can be raised or lowered even while moving at speeds up to 25 mph. The roof operation is plenty quick also, opening in 19 seconds and closing in 24 seconds.
Furthermore, this is one of the most pleasant convertibles to be in at highway speeds. While we all like to drive on the highway with the top down, the reality is that wind-buffeting in most cars makes any extended drive at speed uncomfortable. Not so in the M6 Cabrio, with its four side windows and power glass wind deflector up, even at 65 mph it is about as breezy as sitting on a balcony on a calm day.
About the only drawback to its practicality comes if you’re planning to go anywhere with more than one passenger. Don’t. Despite being a four-seater, don’t stick anyone in the back seats for too long or they might not like you very much afterwards.
The new BMW M6 Cabriolet is a technological powerhouse. It has the gadgets, the comfort, the speed and the looks. Heck, with it averaging 20 mpg on the highway, it’s not even that thirsty when compared to other cars with similar power and performance numbers. As for numbers, let’s not forget one of the most important, it’s $113,100 sticker price.
Unfortunately the M6 drop-top it is a bit too heavy, and it’s just is not as much fun to drive as its powerful motor or M badging would suggest. What it offers in refinement and numbers, it lacks in driving theatre. Perhaps the M6 Coupe, which is 253 lbs lighter and has a stiffer chassis, offers a more exciting package. We hope so.