The BMW M6 is the automotive equivalent of Patrick Bateman, the antihero of the novel American Psycho. Bateman is a respectable Wall Street trader by day and a maniacal serial killer by night-and the M6 has a personality that's just as split. One minute you're lolling along in relative peace and serenity, enjoying languid automatic gearshifts, a plush interior, a quality sound system, and a firm yet comfortable ride. Push a few buttons, though, and the M6 be-comes a frenzied monster that assaults its occupants with massive power, gearshifts that are so fast and brutal they hurt your neck muscles, and a ride that will shake your fillings loose.
The M6 is the ber-Bimmer, a car so full of technology and capability that it makes your head spin, yet it has real soul. One of the M6's key features is the naked carbon-fiber roof, which is significant more for what it represents than for what it achieves. It saves only about ten pounds, but it lowers the center of gravity, thus helping the driving dynamics, and shows just how serious BMW is in using the M division to pioneer technologies that will find their way down the food chain. The front and rear bumper structures are also made of the exotic material.
The rest of the car showcases BMW technology, too, just as the M5 does. The 5.0-liter V-10 engine uses double-VANOS variable valve timing, has ten individual throttle butterflies, spins up to 8250 rpm, and sustains piston speeds that are close to those of a current F1 engine. The engine makes 394 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque when you're puttering around, but you can liberate all 500 ponies by pressing the power button. The engine is mated to the latest version of BMW's sequential-manual gearbox (SMG), which has no fewer than eleven modes, including a launch-control setting. The speed-sensing differential lock can transfer 100 percent of the available torque to either rear wheel. There's skid control, three-position electronic damping, and Servotronic steering with dual modes, firming up for spirited driving. There's even a head-up display that shows speed, gear selected, and a tach dial so you can keep your eyes on what's going on outside rather than glancing at the instruments-fundamental when the V-10 is roaring away and the scenery is flashing past.
We drove the car in southern Spain over a variety of roads: a private racetrack, where we could wring out the car in relative safety; narrow, sinuous hillside paths winding between olive groves; and the wide, fast, sweeping roads up to Ronda. We went gonzo on the track and on the road, and when we tired of triple-digit speeds, we tried to discern the more mellow side of this car.
The engine is to die for. It lacks the low-down thrust of a supercharged Mercedes-Benz AMG V-8 but has an entirely different character. Thanks to a relatively flat torque curve that gives 80 percent of maximum pulling power over a 5500-rpm range, there's decent grunt from low revs, but overall it's racier and more hard-core than the Benz. That's apparent when the revs approach 4000, because the engine seems to get a second wind and zings to the tach dial's 7800-rpm yellow line before hitting a soft rev limiter at the 8250 mark. It sounds stunning, with a hard-edged snarl that is utterly distinctive and deeply intoxicating. And it definitely produces the goods, because the 3771-pound M6 will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.4 seconds, reach 100 mph in less than 10 seconds, and go on to a top speed of 155 mph. Without the speed restrictor, we are told that it will hit more than 200 mph.