If you are fortunate enough to have at least $114,000 to spend on a car, preferably a convertible, the recently released 2012 BMW M6 is an obvious candidate for your shopping list.
Insane power delivery meets a seemingly never-ending mix of performance, convenience and safety gadgetry for a spectacular open-air driving experience in one of the most gorgeous cars on the road today. We have taken the M6 Convertible for an extended spin.
Our tester arrived in stunning Black Sapphire paint in or driveway with a lofty sticker of $122,095. The bottom line included more than $8,000 in options such as side cameras, lane departure warning, LED lights, a head-up display and fully adjustable sport seats. There was also a $1,300 gas guzzler tax. A fully configured M6 convertible with the optional Individual package and the 20-inch wheels, which our car did not have, tops out just north of $128,000. So, what can you expect when you spend that much money on a convertible?
What you get
There is, of course, the 4.4 liter, twin turbo-charged V8 with 560 hp - an engine that is shared with the 2012 M5 and is BMW's most powerful engine in a production car to date. It is up from 500 hp in the previous model's V10, but red-lines much earlier and delivers a different driving experience. Its power delivery is smoother and it turns the M6 into an even faster car. Add to that a fuel efficiency that is better than what you get from a mid-size SUV and this is an engine that makes plain sense.
The M6 Convertible is not a sports car. At 4,509 pounds and a length of 193 inches, this is a large car and it never hides this fact from the driver. It has four seats and, if you need to, you can fit a booster seat for your 4-year old in the back. The M6 is loaded with gadgetry, both for convenience as well as driving performance adjustments that lifts the car more into the enthusiast range than the grand touring segment. On one hand, you have the navigation system that goes along with the usual entertainment system options in today's luxury vehicles, online access complete with a Google search option, news and stock market display. On the other, there are the performance driving configurations, which is what makes this car attractive.
According to BMW, there are 481 different ways to configure this vehicle. I did not explore all of them, but the sheer number of options makes it sound more complicated than it really is. In most scenarios, you simply deal with each three setting options for suspension, throttle response, gear shifts and steering, along with the ability to remove the traction control and store two preferred settings behind two "M" buttons on the steering wheel, and the integration of a fantastic launch control system was plenty to extract the power the car has to offer in every driving scenario. I am not a big fan of head-up displays, but the M6 is one of the cars where such a feature can be easily justified, as the road needs your eyes' full attention.
In the end, what you get is not an even more expensive 570 hp $220,000 Lamborghini Gallardo Convertible and you don't get the cheap 580 hp $60,000 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. What you get is a machine that bridges the gap between everyday driving capability and a race track. What you get is a vehicle wrapped into a beautiful shell that feels refined as a cruiser with a power limit few drivers will ever touch. If you want to, you can take it to the race track and be amazed how the gadgetry will guide you around the track like a train on rails, as long as you keep your fingers off the traction control button.
The driving experience
I won't spend much time on the inside features. The interior design is a matter of taste and I was not a big fan of it, even if the quality is at a level what you expect in a $100,000+ car. BMW has its very own way to design car entertainment systems, but there are clearly better systems with more and better designed features out there in cars that cost only half as much. The UI in the entertainment system is a step behind of the best in the market today. A standout in the interior are the seats, which are both comfortable on longer drives and keep the average body in a tight fit when you need it.
During my week-long test drive, it became obvious to me what kind of attention magnet this car really is. The design of the car isn't very aggressive, but I cannot quite remember that I have had to answer so many questions about a car before to strangers. Part of the attention-getter deal is the engine and exhaust note that accompany the looks everywhere you go. You can keep the sound at a relatively subtle level, but there is a distinct increase in exhaust volume at about 2,000 rpm and another much more noticeable jump at 4,000 rpm. While very present, the engineered sound is not as prominent and sexy as some buyers may expect and like - for example, I personally found the valve-controlled exhaust of the Corvette Grand Sport breathtaking in comparison - but it is enough to capture the interest of other drivers and let them know that this is not a regular 6. Clearly, this V8 is a far cry from the V10 and disappoints from the perspective of sound. Of course, I am picky here and this is a complaint at a very high level.
The redline of the 2012 M6 begins at 7200 rpm, while the previous model redlined above 8300 rpm, which may also be disappointing for some potential buyers. However, the power delivery of the 2012 M6 is smooth, feels nearly linear and is very compelling as far as the driving experience is concerned. There is a stunningly flat peak 500-lb-ft plateau between 1500 to 5750 rpm. The maximum horsepower is available between 5750 rpm to 7000 rpm. As a result, you can demand breakneck acceleration at virtually all times.
Especially above 5000 rpm, the power delivery is much closer to insanity than to any form of reasoning. Using launch control, there is enough power in the M6's acceleration to move your stomach. BMW's 4.2 second estimate for 0-60 is rather conservative. Our tester consistently scored 4.0 second times. On that note, the M6's 7-speed double clutch transmission works nicely in its default automatic mode, while the gear shift times triggered by the paddles on the steering wheel can run with the best in the industry and compete with Italian exotics.
What makes the M6 special is the ease the 560 hp are delivered to the road. For example, compared to the 556 hp Cadillac CTS-V (which does not come as a convertible and is a size smaller than the M6), the horsepower in the M6 is much more controlled. While the Cadillac requires skill to tame its horses at the limit, the BMW's horses are tame by default and respond with very disciplined and controlled strength when you ask for it. The difference is like comparing a wild Mustang to a trained Arabian stallion, even if the M6 lacks the nimbleness of that breed. Both are very exciting cars in their range, but have a very different character.
The BMW provides a sense of security that those horses are always within the driver's limits and you will have to be ridiculously irresponsible in your driving to lose control as you approach the 0.92-g skidpad limit. That said, it is not difficult to create tire smoke in the M6 even with the traction control engaged, but it is much harder to provoke dramatic behavior in the M6 than it is in the CTS-V or the 580 hp Camaro ZL-1. In that sense, it would be a mistake to describe the M6 as a muscle car.
Given the fact that buyers of the M6 expect an array of driving gadgetry, it is difficult to criticize this vehicle. There is very little you can complain about and after a week of driving this vehicle in vastly different scenarios, you realize how versatile the vehicle is and how many purposes it can fit. You could question the hydraulic assist steering, the engineered exhaust sound with somewhat silly crackling at higher rpms that simulates gear shift sounds of actual race cars, as well as the car's size and weight. Taken all into consideration, the overall packages makes sense.
There is one other feature that deserves to be highlighted: Fuel efficiency.
Sure, you don't buy this car to save gas, but there is no denying that there is value in this discipline. The M6 comes with a 14/20 MPG rating, which seemed a bit unbelievable. As it turns out, I now believe that this rating may even be a bit unfair. In lead-footed driving, it was tough to get the M6 below 16 MPG and my week average ended up at 19.8 MPG. On a more conservative 60 mile drive over country roads, and under conditions where we averaged about 65 MPH, the M6 returned an impressive 26.2 MPG. BMW has several gas-saving features in this car, most notably a function that turns off the engine at a stop light if the driver firmly presses the brake pedal. The engine will jump back on when the foot is lifted from the brake pedal. It can be a rather annoying feature in stop-and-go traffic, but there is no denying that it has its benefits. You can deactivate this feature if you want to. The M6 also comes with brake energy regeneration, which helps save fuel as well.
The bottom line
In today's world, there is little sense discussing the sense or nonsense of a 560 hp car. There is no way you can argue your way into a position that you need this car and there are plenty of ways to call such a vehicle irresponsible, especially since the 445 hp 650i has plenty of power already.
It is one of those cases in which you are talking about a personal dream to drive a car that is able to make you smile every time you press the pedal. Like to other vehicle today, the M6 Convertible bridges the desire of driving an ultra luxury coupe with the capability to hit ludicrous speeds. Unfortunately, for most of us, a car like the M6 Convertible will remain a dream.