It feels a lot like BMW month at the moment, an M3 recently joining the garage, an i8 roadtrip last week and now this.
So I landed in Heathrow Airport last week and after a bit of chatting, grabbed the keys for my chariot for the weekend. A 2018 M6 Gran Coupe with 2,500 miles on the clock. With a ticket price not far off 100,00 of the Queen’s money, I nervously stuck them in my pocket and set about the journey North.
M Badges and Gran Coupe insignia everywhere, you again see the classic M Car hallmarks. Quad pipes, side vents and tucked away in the 20 inch alloys, some absolutely behemoth carbon-ceramic brakes. It’s a classically handsome brute, I must admit. Not sexy per say, but think more – Desperate Dan than Brad Pitt. As much as I don’t understand the brand dilution that BMW are now as guilty of as Mercedes (C200 AMGs, 320 M-sports and the likes), you can’t help but admire it. It’s girth is tucked away in a package that doesn’t feel as large as it should.
And that leads on to one of the first issues I take with this car. Perhaps my only issue – so I’ll get this rant out of the way.. There is a slight aura of ‘why’ about the M6 GC (No, I’m not writing Gran Coupe each time). Think about it – the M5 is MUCH cheaper yet features a similar size-plan and seating configurations. There was a time when you simply had an M3 for your small coupe thrills, an M5 for your power-sedan needs, and the 8 series – later the M6 for Grand Touring Duties. The proliferation of the M badge is such that they are now producing cars that are almost stepping on each other’s toes. It doesn’t take away from what will proceed, but it does make the mind wonder.
In the cockpit, everything oozes Grand Tourer, from the every-which way adjustable seats and steering, to the comfortable way in which the controls fall to your hand. Typical new-BMW nappa leather smell and everything operates with a satisfying tactility. Lashings of carbon fibre wrap the dash (you can replace these with wood – I’m glad they didn’t in this car), surrounding the chunky leather steering wheel. I’m not a fan of the silver plastic trim, perhaps dropping the standard of an otherwise classy affair. But that’s me trying to find something to criticise – truth be told this is the best of BMW.
But enough of that, some stats. 0-100kmh? 4.2 seconds. A Super Car chasing four point two from a two-tonne car. It’s testament to the state-of-play of the latest turbocharged, quick-shifting machines out there. The optional M Performance package will add 15bhp and see you reach 189 mph at the top end. The motor produces a worthy 550bhp and 680Nm of torque, which was enough to put a very angry expression on the face off the Ferrari 430 driver that popped up in front of me on the motorway.
In Typical M fashion, the power goes straight to the rear wheels passing through a 7 speed dual clutch transmission. It comes with the power tweaks that we’ve come to expect, steering weight adjustment, gearbox shift ferocity options and adaptive dampers.
Pushing the starter gets a brief, sharp snarl from the motor, perhaps backed by the augmented soundtrack through the speakers. I feel it’s a shame but it’s a by-product of the quieter acoustics generated by the later generation of turbocharged motors – Under the bonnet is the same 4.4 litre v8 blunderbuss that can be found in the m5 and m6 coupe. The 550bhp sledgehammer lurking beneath the muscular aluminium bonnet is a hell of a thing though. Around town it will waft you along on a ride that is not so soft that you forget where you are, but supple enough to melt away bumps and nooks on the road’s surface. It features a familiar ‘M’ Button seen on many BMWs of age, which causes everything to tense up, similar to shouting “retracted testicle” at the gym.
It becomes a hilariously nimble barge. With the lightning fast gearshifts input through the paddles, it snarls as the turbos propel you on a seemingly endless wave of torque. This feels a bit out of character given the extreme girth that the car has but it handles it well. Don’t get me wrong, you’re always well aware that you’re not in an M2, physics being physics means that you will only ever go into a corner so fast before it ends in tears – but it’s not like the car crashes and rolls through the twisty stuff. The ride is excellently dampened and in sport mode you get a modulated feedback through the wheel as you press on. You don’t feel unsettled, but you’re aware of the weight. Even with the super-wide rear tyres and drive weather, you get a chirp from the wheels as the gearbox changes and the wheels for a split second break traction with a little squirm from the rear end. This gives the car a bit of a character.
As I mentioned, 0-100 takes just over 4 seconds in this two tonne German. That means when I took an A-Road from near to the Queen’s Castle, pulling out behind a brand new DB11, I got to meet his frustrated face with a big grin when we pulled up at the lights after 2 miles of me utterly stuck to his tail without breaking too much of a sweat.
The real Punch comes from the massive amount of torque that the M6 produces from 1,500 bhp all the way through 5,750 rpm. In gear acceleration when speeds get serious is effortless, with the car revving to 7,200rpm and producing peak power between 6 and 7,000 clicks. It would be more at home on the AutoBahn – squeeze the loud pedal and you are in to licence loosing territory in most other countries.
It was a nice spring day in the UK, so there weren’t too many issues putting the power down, but you can guarantee that the M6 will chew through tyres as quick as it does fuel. Compared to the mental V10 found in the e60 however, it returns an extra 5 litres / 100 km which if economy is your thing will keep some change in your back pocket. The brakes make very light work of pulling you up to a standstill and strangely you get out of the other end relaxed and in total comfort.
The wide-screen up front is crystal clear, hooked up to the standard i-drive. Real time traffic updates are piped to it as well as data from installable web-apps. It’s loaded with DAB and a 20gb hard drive to compliment the USB and bluetooth hook-ups. Other functions include auto-braking cruise control, adaptive LED headlights with auto high beam and one of my favourites – a Head Up Display. You’ll need it with the rate at which this thing gathers speed, to keep looking the right way. It also has a neat all-round parking camera function to give a 360 view of the car. All in all it drips opulence – which for the price tag you’d hope it would.
All in all the GC fills a strange niche in the market. I don’t know if I ‘buy’ the moniker of Gran Coupe – with its massive boot and rear doors, it feels like a pseudo sedan. A slightly sweeping rear roofline cuts into the rear seat space and rear legroom is ample – if not generous. An Alcantara headliner gives a nice finish to the interior, with heated front seats and triple zone air conditioning to give the rear passengers their own controls. Despite the confusion, the turbo charging and the sheer boatiness of the thing though, it makes more and more sense the more you drive it.
It simply eats up highway miles, at an intergalactic pace if you so wish. On Australian Soil you’re looking at $300k. That’s insane no matter what way you paint it. It fits a segment in the M lineup that I’m not sure really exists or needs to exist and as such has taken up a bit of a halo-car position.
But it is exclusive, spectacularly comfortable up front and and its blend of luxo-touring and performance credentials are balanced to perfection. And it even got a thumbs up from the old man!