Former F1 champ tells TG about his car history, and why he’ll never own a McLaren F1
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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
V8 goes like stink. It’s an absolute monster, constantly surprising you by
getting you to a speed 20mph 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.
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.
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.
doesn’t communicate enough, it’s not a sports car.
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 miles into a day.
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 £93,820.
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?