The prevailing view is simple, when one lays eyes on an M car flying within their vista they are witnessing something special. Its dichotomy is somewhat contradictory to popular belief. One spectrum foreshadows the letter M as a docile, well-mannered touring sedan with luxury appurtenances and civil, mellifluous power. Conversely, this exact automotive marvel with its motorsports enthused DNA and menacing performance is just as comfortable on a Formula 1 Circuit as is around town shopping for groceries. Moreover, the melodious engine notes leave you questioning the need for the flamboyant Bang & Olufsen audio system. Well, as if things couldn’t get any nobler for the M Brand, they return to stardom with the introduction of their flagship 2014 M6 Gran Coupe. Marvelous!
Functionality, design and engineering go hand in hand when competing in any new market segment. BMW is loathe to do anything unless ultimate success is the overall goal. First shown at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, BMW unleashed the Gran Coupe as a 2013 model and continues to build on the platform. Theoretically, there is no such thing as a 4-door coupe, but it allows marketing to play along with the theme while enticing Bimmer enthusiasts who may have been Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin Rapide or Audi A7 prospects. The 6 Series Gran Coupe’s sporty and elegant appearance comes from an extended wheelbase, long hood, short deck lid and sharp creases and lines which convey the vehicle to movement when stationary. Now infused with the Power of M, the M6 Gran Coupe ascertains immediate intimidation and has reached the pinnacle of Bimmer aficionado’s expectations.
Launching an M car is of the utmost significance to BMW. Yet, when they launch a new M car and it happens to be the captain of the team or simply the flagship, it leads to decisions of major consequence. After all, this is a car company engineering cars for enthusiasts. The relevance of the M6 Gran Coupe’s duality is important to M buyers because 60% utilize their vehicles in sporting events inclusive of track days. For that very reason BMW created an M Power App for smartphones that allows owners to record very compelling track data to be sent to their social networks. The intuitive App uses GPS technology, an accelerometer and in-car sensors to compute the data, all through a standard smartphone jack connection. Social media and automotive engineering infused are ideological since the M car buyer is youthful, successful and typically wealthier and owns more cars than archetypal BMW customers.
To convert myself into one of these titleholders I headed to Austin, Texas to confront Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the second time since its debut last year. Witnessing the incredible beauty and nature of this new $113,000 German sedan and COTA simultaneously was a revelation; simply because BMW produces only 6,000 to 7,000 M cars a year with the M3 Coupe and M5 representing a larger percentage of those sales. Normally a BMW’s lifecycle lasts 7 years, yet an M car could see duty for only a few years or less. The M6 Gran Coupe drive was profound in two dimensions. One, the power in its 4.4-liter V8 TwinPower Turbo was omnipresent and the transmission was relaxed during our road drive. Two, the vehicle is configurable whereas the driver can manipulate the mannerism of the steering, dampers and throttle response. So what ingredients comprise the formula for this “Beauty and the Beast?” Simple:
- 4.4-liter M TwinPower Turbo V-8 with 560 horsepower (575 with the Competition Package) and 500 pound feet of torque from 1500 rpm. BMW moved the two twin-scroll turbochargers to the combustion chamber for more energy and efficiency. The system uses costlier and heavier water/air intercoolers.
- 7-speed M Dual-Clutch Transmission (M-DCT) with Drivelogic. This reinforced version has stronger clutches, a wider range and Launch Control. A 6-speed manual transmission is optional.
- M Servotronic Steering and M Compound Brakes with 6-piston front Calipers. The optional Carbon-Ceramic discs contribute to reduced unsprung weight (-42.8 lbs), increased brakeforce and better heat dissipation.
- Active M Differential with racecar stiffness and technology. It’s always adjusting for under or oversteer and determines when lock is needed. The M Brand is engaged with enhancing RWD fun. There are no future plans for an AWD M car.
- M Dynamic Damper Control (DDC) to electronically control the shock absorbers.
- 0 to 60 mph in the 4.1 seconds and 155 mph top speed (electronically governed).
Let’s begin with the very essence of any M vehicle — the engine. The technically updated 4.4-liter V8 is borrowed from the explosive X5 M and X6 M SUVs and also sees duty in the new M5 and M6. It was tough taming myself when 500 lb-ft of torque was available from 1,500 rpm under foot. The M-DCT (originally from the M3) was chosen over an 8-speed to handle the M6’s heavy torque loads and enjoys two overdrives — 6th and 7th gear — that aid in the reduction of fuel consumption. There is the option of manually adjusting the responsiveness of the gearbox via the Drivelogic meter with three bars that can turn the shifts into monster territory or keep them solemn. On public roads D1 is the default mode and perfect for dialing commutes. On the circuit D2 or D3 is the better choice since downshifts are lightning quick. Additionally, the driver can switch to M-DCT’s manual mode (S1, S2 and S3) for even quicker, self-controlled upshifts and downshifts. S3 for example is very extreme with hard, jolting shifts and is needed to engage Launch Control. I didn’t find the 6-speed manual as enjoyable as the M-DCT. The gear lever is thin and flimsy with long throws and devoid of Drivelogic. Other notable M features include the thick M steering wheel with M shift paddles, M Head-Up Display, signature M instrumentation cluster, M specific upholstery, and very supportive M Multifunction sport seats. The aerodynamic Carbon Fiber roof is menacing as well.
Perhaps the most appealing technology is the pliable set of M1 and M2 buttons — each allows the driver to customize and program the vehicle’s engine dynamics, damper control and Servotronic power steering into Sport Plus, Sport or Comfort settings by way of three buttons on the left of the M Shifter. Essentially, M1 can be programmed for efficiency by setting all systems in “Comfort” and M2 can be programmed for extreme sportiness and agility by setting all systems in “Sport Plus.” Once you’ve customized a preferred configuration, simply hold either M1 or M2 for a few seconds. I like all settings in Sport, as Sport Plus is highly aggressive and only needed for extreme cases when you have to prove a point at the light or on a race circuit. Even for a fitness buff such as myself, Sport Plus was heavy and quite resistant. But I needed a workout for the day since I missed my morning gym session.
Inside, Merino Extended leather, black carbon fiber trim and an Anthracite Alcantara headliner are standard. The improved iDrive remains with a 10.2” Control Display and the multifaceted BMW Apps and ConnectedDrive. Here you can pair your smartphone so the vehicle can run Facebook and Twitter, show your calendar, or play Pandora playlists. It also has Google search that sends query results directly to the BMW navigation and puts you on course.
The delineating moment came after our street drive. Unrest built up while waiting to experience COTA with the M6 Gran Coupe. This track was the perfect place to showcase the features and semblance of the M6’s power, steering, braking and cornering capabilities. The vehicle was well-versed in race performance and utilized its updated skills to maneuver through the 3.4-mile, 20-turn (11 Left, 9 Right) F1 course proficiently. COTA’s signature uphill turn one is probably the most exciting with turn three earmarked as the most dangerous. On the ¾ mile back straight I was able to accelerate to 140 mph with heavy, downhill braking not a problem using the co-branded Brembo M compound six-piston calipers with 15.7” front rotors. Onlookers will instantly notice your M6 Gran Coupe by way of its hallmark 6-piston fixed blue M calipers. An optional M Carbon-Ceramic Brake package that saves you 42.8 pounds is only available with the light-alloy double-spoke 20” rims (295/30-20 rear and 265/35-20 front Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires). This 6-piston fixed matte gold calipers clamp down on manhole sized 16.1” perforated rotors for optimal braking power. Back to the track, the many turns at COTA can throw an ordinary car out of line. Not so with the M6 Gran Coupe, as handing and directional shift task are easily accomplished with the rear Active M Differential which was engineered for high-speed stability and agility — especially out of corners — The system measures throttle position, yaw rate and wheel speeds to ensure traction stabilization.
Opt for the Competition Package to laud the M6 Gran Coupe with exaggerated performance. It instills your M with double-spoke 20” light-alloys; direct and precision steering; stiffer springs and anti-sway bars; a sport exhaust with M Black Chrome tailpipes (quad); re-mapped Active M Differential Program; an increase to 575-horsepower, and DSM’s M Dynamic Mode is re-mapped.
The M6 Gran Coupe looms in the spotlight of every auto fanatic’s dreams. You simply cannot go wrong with this “Pick 6” if you want German performance and grace. Yet, the only lamentable thought you will experience if you fail to go for the homerun is, “why didn’t I study the letter M?!