BMW M6 Convertible

3 Sep, 2012 11:00am

Flagship drop-top is a hi-tech triumph. But is it any fun compared to rivals?


There’s a lot to like about the M6: it has a fantastic engine and gearbox, while the top- quality cabin comfortably seats four. The fabric roof is well insulated and nicely designed, plus in its softest setting, the BMW is refined. But while it’s fast and well engineered, it doesn’t feel as special as its price tag, and name, suggest.

The new BMW M6 arrived just in time to steal some of the SL63 AMG’s thunder, and leaves you in no doubt about its potential, with pumped-up bodywork, large wheels and trademark side vents.

But BMW’s flagship convertible is no svelte roadster. It’s bigger than its rivals, and feels wide and heavy on tight country roads. This isn’t surprising when you consider its hefty weight of 2,055kg. At least the M6’s large proportions allow for a spacious cabin that can seat four people in relative comfort.

The fabric hood is well insulated and neatly hidden when stowed, while the glass rear screen doubles up as a wind deflector. It’s noisy in operation, though. Up front, the three-spoke steering wheel takes its cues from the quirky eighties Z1, while the 10.2-inch colour screen offers very clear navigation and easy operation of audio, phone and vehicle settings via the iDrive controller.

Modern dials, first-rate switchgear and upmarket trim finish off a cabin that’s every bit as desirable as the SL’s. The seats are great and the driving position is excellent, too.

On the move, the twin-turbo V8 engine makes an instant impression. Peak torque arrives at only 1,500rpm, and despite a slightly slow throttle response, the M6 is blisteringly quick. The DCT twin-clutch gearbox has a near-seamless shift action, while the engine’s smoothness impresses as much as its performance.

At the test track, the more expensive Mercedes just has the legs of the BMW, but you’ll never feel short-changed by the M6’s speed on the road. However, M car purists may be a little disappointed with this car’s driving experience. The steering, throttle and dampers can be independently set to Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus modes, while the engine can be set in Efficiency, Sport or Sport Plus. To simplify matters, you can save your favourite mix of settings and stability control set-ups to a pair of steering wheel-mounted short-cut buttons.

We found the best set-up on the road was Sport for the engine and steering, with the dampers in Comfort, as Sport Plus makes the throttle too sensitive and the steering too heavy. But even with these settings optimised, the BMW’s weight means it doesn’t change direction or turn in as eagerly as the Merc.

Lateral body control is better than in the Jaguar, but the M6 just doesn’t feel as nimble as its rivals. And unless you specify £7,395 worth of optional ceramic discs, the BMW’s brakes feel a bit soft after hard use.

Crucially, it simply isn’t as much fun to drive as its rivals and lacks the highly communicative controls you expect from an M car. Refinement and ride quality are okay, but a lack of driver engagement could be a crucial factor as the M6 faces up to the accomplished SL63 and lively Jaguar.

Key specs

  • Price: £99,020
  • Engine: 4.4-litre V8, 552bhp
  • 0-60mph: 5.3 seconds
  • Test economy: 14.7mpg/3.2mpl
  • CO2: 239g/km
  • Annual road tax: £460