Car news

23 June 2012

TopGear drives the new BMW M6

Paul Horrell reports back on a date with the biggest M car in town…

Paul Horrell
Car image

Look up. There’s a photo of me in a BMW M6 getting big oversteer on a track. It does this impossibly well. Whether you’re looking at small slip angles or giant slides, it’s cool and nonchalant and helps you out.

So, big kudos to the M engineers for making a big and heavy car feel so friendly when it’s in this unnatural environment. But really, they’ve missed the point. It never feels light. Worse, it never feels especially sharp. It’s not a sports car. It’s not, in the old sense, an M car.

I’d rather the engineers had spent time making the steering more progressive on the road. It’s got a mushy deadness around the centre, and then after a few degrees of lock becomes suddenly more direct. Both of these things made me feel edgy and uptight through fast open corners on the road, even though it’s got insane grip.

By the same token it’s good that the carbon brakes are so strong when you’re trying to scrunch up the tarmac ahead of you. But I’d be happier if they were sharper and more sensitive at the top of their travel.

And at the heart of an M-car is the engine. The M6 shares one with the M5. I know why it’s turboed. It’s generous with its performance because of the immense torque. And it’s far more economical than the old naturally-aspirated V10.

This V8 goes like stink. It’s an absolute monster, constantly surprising you by getting you to a speed 30kph faster than you thought you’d be at. You can accelerate mightily even if you never go above 5000rpm. Then you pelt it into the sixes and sevens and, oh crikey, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

But that doesn’t quite do it for me. It never really sounds very interesting, because the sound doesn’t alter enough with revs or effort – all you get is a rising or deepening pitch to the woolly rumble. And for all the high-tech measures to remove lag, at mid revs there’s still a delay between ask and get.

All these things mean that on the road it’s a staggeringly capable car but not a very captivating one. Really, what I want is a car that talks to me, rather than just has me along for the ride.

Because doesn’t communicate enough, it’s not a sports car.

So it must be a big GT then. Well, it’s certainly big. It’s not a useable four-seater so why’s it so bulky? Never mind, that won’t matter if you’re on the highways packing hundreds of kilometers into a day.

Now we’re making sense. In many ways it’s a top-notch GT. The engine’s effortless muscle really gets the job done. The adaptive dampers and well-judged springs manage to give it a remarkably pliant rode in the softer settings. Gigaflops of driver aids take the pressure off you. The interior has all the style and amenities you’d feel entitled to for the price.

So is the M6 any better at being a big GT just because it drifts for Deutschland? Somehow, because it’s too remote to be a sports car, this seems an irrelevant skill. I mean, is a seal any better at swimming and catching wild fish just because someone’s trained it to balance a football on its nose?

Tags: bmw, 6 series, m6



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