For the third time since 1987, BMW is launching a new high-performance car based on the 6-Series line: the latest version of the M6. But they're taking a decidedly unconventional approach with it. The convertible comes first as a 2012 model and will be shown in April at the 2012 New York Auto Show. The M6 coupe will be a 2013 model, but it will be shown to the world a month earlier than the convertible at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. To recap, that's 2013 BMW M6 Coupe in Geneva, 2012 BMW M6 Convertible in New York. Why? Who knows.
As was the case with the previous M6, the new coupe and convertible share almost all of their mechanical components with BMW's M5 super sedan. Power for the new BMW M6 comes from the same drivetrain as the M5: an amped-up version of BMW's S63Tue twin-turbocharged, direct-injection, 4.4-liter V-8. Peak turbo boost of 21.7 psi helps produce 560 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque; the latter delivered in a flat band between 1500 and 5750 rpm. The new mill produces 10 percent more horsepower than the retired 5.0-liter V-10 and is 30 percent more efficient at the same time, BMW says.
A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission transmits that power to the rear wheels, complete with shift paddles on the steering wheel and a launch control mode. BMW claims the M6 coupe will hit 62 mph in 4.2 seconds and the M6 convertible in 4.3 seconds; both are electronically limited to 155 mph.
To help rein in all that performance, the M6 has massive brake rotors measuring 15.7 inches in diameter in front and 15.6 inches in the rear. The car also will introduce M division's first-ever carbon ceramic brakes as an option with the 20-inch wheel package. The carbon-fiber ceramic discs are even larger, at 16.1 inches front and 15.6 inches rear, yet weigh 42.8 pounds less than the standard cast-iron units. Better still, BMW says the M Carbon Ceramic stoppers are more resistant to fade and last longer than the regular brakes.
Like its M5 cousin, the M6 benefits from an Active M Differential that can automatically vary between open and full lock depending on available traction. It's designed to provide extra grip on slippery surfaces, while making the car easy to control in tight turns or slides. Other bespoke chassis upgrades for the M6 coupe and convertible include stiffer mounts for the suspension subframes and new aluminum suspension components. BMW's Dynamic Chassis Control allows the driver to switch the dampers among three settings ranging from Comfort to Sport Plus. And of course, BMW says the M6's handling was fine-tuned on Germany's famed Nuerburgring, like the 2012 M5 and almost every new sports car nowadays.
Racy Design FlourishesThe basic shape of the BMW M6 is roughly the same as the base 6 Series, albeit with a host of new body add-ons designed to give the car a racier appearance. The front fenders are flared to accommodate the widened (by 1.2 inches) track, deeper side skirts are fitted, and subtle M6 badges grace the body. The front fascia has enlarged air intakes and a deeper lip spoiler, while the rear cues include a subtle black diffuser and M division's signature quartet of round exhaust tips.
To help keep weight down, the front fenders and doors are made from aluminum. The M6 coupe goes even further with a roof panel constructed from lightweight carbon fiber, with an indentation in the center that lends the panel a double-bubble appearance. Both cars also get BMW's Shadowline treatment, which replaces the chrome around the greenhouse with gloss-black trim. The standard M-specific alloy wheel measures 19 inches in diameter and the aforementioned 20-inch version is optional.
The M6's cabin also looks racier, starting with carbon-fiber trim pieces, special bolstered M seats, an Anthracite headliner, and a racy metal dead pedal. The most significant changes, though, concern the steering wheel and center console. The former gets M1 and M2 buttons, which allow the driver to access preset driving modes -- one might be configured for winding back roads, while the other could dial in a hard-edged chassis setup for track days. BMW's M DCT shifter sprouts from the center console, flanked by buttons allowing the driver to optimize steering, suspension, transmission, and engine performance settings.
We have high hopes for the new BMW M6 based on our experiences with its key ingredients. We've found the regular 6 Series coupe and convertible to be outstanding grand tourers, while the new M5 sport sedan is a fantastic performance machine. Mixing the performance of the latter with the bodies of the former should make for a thrilling new model.
The 2012 BMW M6 convertible reaches dealers in the U.S. in June 2012, followed by the 2013 M6 coupe later this summer. BMW won't announce fuel economy and pricing for the pair of fast two-doors until closer to their on-sale dates, but expect the M6 to start north of the present car's $102,000-plus starting point.