Topless and technical
BMW's mighty M6 turns into a rag top Loves open road, not keen on traffic
Sep. 30, 2006. 01:00 AM
NICE, france—BMW chose this fab French city on la Côte d'Azur as the launch locale for its new $140,500 soft-top version of the M6 über-coupe.
Good call. This place makes Yorkville look like Hicksville.
The 2007 M6 Cabriolet, like Nice, is expensive, exclusive, beautiful, loves the sun and attracts wealthy people. Unlike Nice, it will zip you to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, its maker says.
If you're in the market for one of the world's fastest convertibles, look no further than the M6 Cabriolet. With a 500 hp, M-tuned, 5.0-litre V10 lurking under the hood, this baby can shear off your toupée faster than you can say, "Fräulein, mein rug!"
The M6 Cab is a highly technical automobile. In their dogged pursuit of high-performance nirvana, the M engineers have thrown everything they've got into the hopper.
Technophobes and those prone to option anxiety will need to take a deep breath and spend some pre-drive time in the cockpit to get acquainted with the myriad dynamic choices available.
The seven-speed sequential gearbox can be operated by paddle shifters, the floor-mounted shifter or left in fully auto D mode). It has six shift-speed settings.
The electronic damper control has three firmness levels (soft, normal, sport), while the dynamic stability control can operate in two modes (regular and fun with oversteer) or switched off.
Finally, there is the all-mighty "power" button on the console, which summons all 500 horses when the default setting of a mere 400 just isn't enough.
Oh yeah, there's BMW's iDrive, too, which, via a large control knob on the console and a centre LCD screen, will take you deep into satellite navigation, communication, entertainment, dynamic and various comfort functions.
It's actually not as intimidating as it sounds. On start-up, the M6 defaults to its most benign attitude. But here's the cool bit: by assigning your favourite combo of dynamic settings (via iDrive) to the magic M button on the steering wheel, those parameters can be called up at any time.
On this day, BMW had the M button dialing in the most aggressive engine, transmission and damper settings for our coastal mountain blast. Dynamic stability control was on full alert, however. Danke schön.
Press the start button, and the lightweight, DOHC, 40-valve V10 barks to life in a surprisingly coarse, almost agrarian manner. But don't be fooled. It's actually saying, "Let me warm up, give me some revs and I'll sing you a song you'll never forget."
Reflecting motorsport technology, each of the 10 cylinders has its own throttle butterfly, which results in freer breathing and right-now throttle response. The stainless steel, equal-length headers are pressure-formed from the inside, ensuring smooth extraction of the exhaust gasses.
This naturally aspirated V10 loves to rev, with the maximum 500 hp arriving at a very racy 7750 r.p.m; the 383 lb.-ft. of torque peaks at 6100 r.p.m.
Most of our day was spent coursing through spectacular mountainous countryside inland from Nice, where narrow winding roads and switchbacks proved an interesting showcase for the M6's talents.
This car is quite wide and, at 1995 kg, no lightweight. But with the suspension buttoned down and all 500 horses charging, we ate up these roads.
With a near 50/50 front-to-rear balance and massive 19-inch Continental performance tires (255/40ZR front and 285/35ZR rear) gripping the smooth tarmac, the M6 would dive into a bend and power through with a balanced and confidence-inspiring attitude.
The Servotronic steering felt alive and natural, and the massive vented and cross-drilled brakes absolutely melted the speed.
And, no, I did not deactivate the DSC and try any tail-out heroics on these mountainous tracks, which featured little in the way of guardrails. I wanted to look at the scenery — not be part of it.
We finally reached a plateau with a series of long sweepers, and this is where the M6 and I were happiest, toggling between second, third and fourth gear and settling into a beautiful rhythm.
The M division has done a fine job in disguising this car's heft. It may not be as lithe and intimate as the Jaguar XKR, but the M6 is extremely athletic and has its own brutish charms.
One of them being the glorious noise blasting forth from the quad tailpipes. I found myself paddling down to first or second gear whenever we entered a tunnel just to hear that F1-type shriek echo off the stone walls.
Other numbers in the M6 Cab's aural repertoire include the automatic throttle blipping on downshifts, and the deep burble on over-run that my co-driver likened to the sound of distant thunder.
The V10 is very strong, but unlike some of its supercharged or turbocharged competitors, you have to wind it above 4000 r.p.m. to see the real action. No hardship, believe me.
After a few hours of aggressive mountainous driving, the trip computer indicated we had consumed 23.2 L/100 km of very expensive French premium fuel. Gulp.
Working our way back into Nice, we got stuck in traffic, and this is where the M6 Cabriolet was not very happy.
The SMG (sequential manual gearbox) in D mode was halting and jerky and tended to second-guess itself. Selecting the least aggressive shift algorithm seemed to exacerbate the situation. Best to leave it in S and use the paddles.
The VW/Audi twin-clutch DSG (direct selection gearbox) and Jaguar's super-quick ZF six-speed auto in the XKR are better all-round systems.
Nevertheless, the M boys feel there is no place for a manual transmission in their technical tour de force halo car. Bowing to pressure from the U.S. (M division's largest market), BMW now offers a six-speed manual in the M5 sedan, but no such concessions will be made with the M6, the company says.
The M6 convertible comes with all the expected mod cons, and the interior appointments are suitably luxurious in that business-like BMW way. The seats and driving position are spot on, and the chunky multi-function steering wheel is pure joy in your hands.
The fully automatic fabric top — dubbed the "fin roof" for the buttresses flanking the vertical rear window — stows in 25 seconds.
Interestingly, the vertical rear window operates independently of the roof, and can be retracted with the top up for additional airflow, or raised with the top down to act as a wind blocker.
Thanks to the tall "Bangle Butt" styling, the trunk will hold the all-important two sets of golf clubs, even with the roof retracted.
For that extra touch of exclusivity, this BMW can be pre-ordered in virtually any colour you like.
Additionally, there are three options that should strike terror into the heart of any bovine.
The $4,500 Full Merino Leather option covers the rest of the interior in hide, and specially treated SunReflective leather seats, which stay 25 per cent cooler in direct sunlight, are available for those with sensitive backsides.
BMW also showed us a prototype of a very chi-chi full leather soft-top.
No pricing yet on the last two items, but really, if you have to ask...
Peter Bleakney, a freelance journalist (firstname.lastname@example.org), prepared this report based on travel provided by the auto maker.