If the Jaguar is a diamond with a few visible flaws, at least it's fairly priced. That's a hard claim to apply to the M6, but watch me try: One way to look at the M6 is as a grossly expensive alternative to an M3 convertible. The other way to look at the M6, though, is as an exotic bargain. After all, the next V-10-powered roadster up the food chain is the Lamborghini Gallardo, and that's closer to $200,000 than $100,000. So is the M6 a bargain four-seat Gallardo or an overpriced M3? It's both.For my hypothetical money, if I wanted an M6, I'd go for the hardtop model and for god's sake take it to the track every now and then, where it's happy. And if I wanted a 6-series convertible, I'd buy a 650i and relish the V-8 torque and seamless conventional automatic, a powertrain combo that's far more in line with the MO of a big luxury droptop.
Which brings me to our winner. I didn't want to pick the Porsche, honestly. A Porsche winning a comparison test is such a clich. Furthermore, with the 911 Carrera S, it seems like Porsche isn't even trying. While BMW knocks itself out by building an 8250-rpm V-10 and Jaguar goes to the extravagant length of making its car out of aluminum, Porsche just takes the car it's been building for four decades and tinkers with it a little bit.
I mean, 355 hp for $104,000 must be the worst horsepower-per-dollar ratio on the market. The Carrera's rear seatbacks actually angle forward, which is only ideal if you carpool with Quasimodo. Options are criminally expensive. And this is the winner?
Yes. The main reason for the 911's appeal doesn't jump out at you, but it's there on the spec sheet: curb weight, or lack thereof. The M6 packs a 145-hp advantage over the Carrera S, yet it's only 0.1 second quicker to 60 mph. That's because the 911 weighs a mere 3318 pounds to the M6's 4398 pounds. To put that in perspective, if you could somehow fit Shaq and the rest of the Miami Heat starting five into the Porsche (maybe Jason Williams could sit on Dwyane Wade's shoulders), it would weigh only slightly more than the BMW. With every corner, every stop, every change of momentum, the BMW drags around its 1080-pound handicap. Even the aluminum-intensive Jag weighs about 600 pounds more than the Porsche.
Every year, cars get bigger and heavier, but Porsche has resisted that trend with the 911. Thanks to the Boxster, we tend to view the 911 cabriolet as a porky GT car for successful dentists. It's only when you drive it next to its competitors that you realize what a scalpel this car is, a minimalist device designed to provide uncut driving pleasure.
The car industry is something like the music industry--there are a lot of one-hit wonders, but true staying power is a rarity. The 911 is like a band that keeps pumping out hits year after year. Don't be fooled: it takes a lot of work to make it look easy.