10 out of 10 : BMW M6

Car Specifications
Engine: 
4999cc, 40-valves (Full Specs Below)
Cylinder Layout: 
V10 (S85B50)
Top Speed: 
248km/h (electronically limited)
Transmission: 
7-Speed SMG III
0-100km/h: 
4.6 seconds
Power: 
507bhp at 7750rpm
Torque: 
520Nm at 6100rpm
Features: 
  • V10 soundtrack is a symphony all by itself
  • Aftermarket exhaust elevates this symphony to orgasmic highs!

Cult Car Central revisits the BMW M6 (E63)
Vital Statistics
Car: BMW M6 Individual
Owners: 3
Original Registration: March 2006 (in Japan)
Registered: November 2008 (in Singapore)
Mileage: approx. 35,000km
Revisited: 20th June 2010

We can probably never say this enough, but BMW 'M' badged cars are quite possibly the most engaging vehicles in the rarefied clique of high-performance sports cars. Of course, we don't just mean 'engaging' in terms of handling dynamics, but also in the emotional sense.

It's safe to say that we've yet to meet a M car that has disappointed us. While some 'M' models may not have been any better than the cars they replaced, it's certainly safe to say that every M car has possessed a quality that has made it memorable to us enthusiasts.

In the case of the M6 (and E60 M5), it is the naturally-aspirated V10 screamer under the bonnet that really sets our pulses racing... More poignant is the fact that BMW is abandoning the purity of such well-tuned and highly-strung naturally-aspirated engines for engines pumped up by the steroid of forced induction... a real shame if you ask us.

Most people are familiar with the stealthy M5 'super' sedan, since there has always been one variant of this since the first generation E28 M5 in 1985. So even if many bystanders continue to rubber-neck when the very distinctive 6 Series drives by, the engine variant of the 6 Series seems to have less impact on them, so be it 630i, 645i or 650i, it's pretty much all the same to them.

There has only ever been another production 'M' variant of the 6 Series, which was based on the 'E24' 6 Series of the 1980s (badged M635CSi), so it's not surprising that this M variant isn't as well-known as the relatively more 'commonplace' M5s or M3s.

'M' or not, today's 6 Series (codenamed 'E63') cuts a striking, sexy silhouette on the roads. More 2+2 Grand Tourer than outright sportscar, the 'regular' engine variants were pretty sporty drives, even if the 645s and later 650s were criticised for their immense appetites for premium gasoline.

Largely differentiated by quad tail-pipes, an even more aggressive bodykit, comprising front air-dam, rear diffuser and 'M' aero-mirrors (albeit a highly functional one; remember, this is still 'M' and nothing is ever merely for the sake of aesthetics), alloy rims (to accommodate the larger brakes needed to haul the 1.7 plus-tonne kg coupe - the convertible adds 200+kg to this - to a standstill) and a weight-saving carbon-fibre roof (although this is painfully difficult to make out on this dark-coloured car; other elements that help the M6 shed weight include the composite boot, aluminium doors and bonnet and thermoplastic fenders).

In true unpretentious 'M' form, there are no delusions of grandeur with the unassuming M6. For instance, it's not dressed up as a sportscar, even though the bespoke M-developed V10 is more than worthy of such presumptions. As we commonly hear, "speak softly but carry a big stick...!"

Unfortunately, due to its relative lack of flash factor compared to its contemporaries, the M6 never quite enjoyed the same kind of appeal as the Audi R8 (here in Singapore), probably due to the many 6 Series variants in attendance, which somewhat diluted the M6 ownership experience, so rather than the success it deserved, it was always relegated to 'unsung hero' status.

On this particular car, the owner has up-sized to larger aftermarket rims due to the installation of an aftermarket AP Racing BBK (Big Brake Kit), which provides even stronger braking prowess from stock (however, this isn't saying very much, because we did find the stock brakes to grow alarmingly stodgy after repeated hard braking).

With the AP Racing brake kit, the pedal feel is reassuring and brake pressure remains strong and confidence-inspiring even after repeated demands from us to shed serious speed.

A previous owner did comment that he had gotten so used to the relatively 'slower' reflexes of the original brake set-up that he found the AP Racing kit to be too 'immediate', but conceded it was just a matter of getting used to.

aftermarket alloys not our cuppa, but they serve the purpose of accommodating the BBK

On to the 'whizz-bang' factor of the M6... the spectacular 5L V10 engine at the heart of this muscular coupe. We could throw a whole slew of superlatives at it, but we'd likely run out of words before we even come close to describing this award-winning V10 engine.

Conceived at a time when F1 cars were still powered by hearty V10 engines, the 4999cc unit (with double VANOS) in the M6 proved to be a real screamer, especially the closer we got to its 8250rpm G-spot. In this regard, it proved even more operatic than the V10 in Audi's R8.

Apart from its rev-happy characteristics, this V10 already hit all the right notes out of the box; it was a veritable symphony all by itself and in this test car, the notes have been even further amplified by the aftermarket exhaust system, which even comes with a 'Mute' button for more discreet progress on the road.

This M6 starts up with an almighty ruckus and exudes 'wrath-of-God' type vibes... but only if you're milling around on the outside. A true testament to BMW's thorough sound-proofing can be experienced with this car, since the cacophony on the outside is barely noticeably inside the car. Although the original seats are sporty (and comfortable) enough, the current owner has installed a pair of front sports bucket seats, in anticipation of some serious track time in the car (which is also why we didn't take a picture of the interior; the seats do not match the interior upholstery).

Both car colour and interior are part of BMW's 'Individual' customisation programme. Although it looks black in the pictures, the colour is a deep lustrous purple, while the interior has been executed in a bespoke leather with customised stitching.

Don't ever be mistaken into thinking the M6 is just a 'tarted-up' 6 Series. Like all of M GmbH's offerings, this is a well-sorted fully-fettled sportscar that is more than capable of humbling far more expensive machinery. The M6 is more than willing to give garden variety Lambos' and Ferraris' a real run for their money up to the 200km/h mark.

In fact, the M6's appearance was so nondescript that bystanders were constantly craning their necks to play 'spot the supercar' whenever they heard the sound of the V10 approaching. We reckon their minds weren't able to reconcile sight and sound with the shape of the M6 versus the V10 scream from afar.

On the move, there is scarcely any drone from inside the cabin, even with the valve fully opened. This particular exhaust set-up comes with a remote fob, which electronically controls a valve that allows one to slink back home in the wee hours of the morning without waking the neighbours... or the wife.

At cruising speeds, the sonorous V10 note follows the M6, almost like a disembodied thundercloud waiting to unleash its fury upon the roads. Many cars have a loud induction note, which emits from the front of the car,  but the intrinsic aural purity of the naturally-aspirated V10 is really allowed to stretch its vocal chords with this exhaust set-up and almost seems to be projected out from behind the M6.

Someone said before, a V10 is best appreciated as it approaches and as it's pulling away; you only get to enjoy the full cinematic experience when you hear it coming and as it's hurtling towards the next horizon.

Mated to BMW's 7-speed SMG-III (SMG for Sequential Manual Gearbox), the M6 is a mobile showcase of the brand's technology. There has been some criticism of the SMG-II in the E46 M3, but we feel the SMG-III in the M6 is in an entirely different league.

Even if SMG has been supplanted by the M-DCT (DCT for Dual Clutch Transmission) found in the latest cars, the 7-speed gearbox served up lightning-quick shifts, yet could be tractable enough to be driven daily in the vagaries of start-stop traffic.

Despite its sporting credentials, the suspension on the M6 never feels overly harsh in daily driving. Also, the car's dynamic and engine output levels are hooked up to a 4th Generation iDrive and 'M Drive' system, which enables the owner to personalise the car's damping and engine performance. At the same time, Drivelogic provides up to 11 different shift-modes (6 for the 'S' manual mode (S) and 5 for the 'automatic' D mode) to suit different preferences and driving conditions.

The extensive vocal range of the V10 means that it's easy enough to evoke growls, barks and spine-tingling screams from the car; it all depends on the amount of pressure your foot exerts on the gas pedal.

WOT, or Wide Open Throttle, unleashes the Beast, which starts its climb up the rev-band (and octave) towards a thrilling finale. Even easing off the gas pedal gives rise to the most delicious of 'snap, crackle and pop' as each of the 10 individual throttle bodies shut... you can almost picture the gnashing of teeth as well, with frustration that is, as the car sulks when you ease-off the accelerator pedal.

This is another one of those cars where you'll actively drive around looking for tunnels in which to really let loose Armageddon. Many cars we passed would have thought that the end of the world was here, since we've heard that the experience is akin to experiencing a nuclear holocaust.

Another tasty feature is the M Differential Lock, a variable, speed-sensing unit that provides a huge dollop of control during really spirited driving. Over surfaces where the wheels may have different levels of traction, the M Differential Lock builds locking force with the increasing difference in speed between the drive wheels. Power is then channeled to the driven wheel with greater traction for an altogether more dynamic driving experience.

Although we've already said it before, we'll say it again... the exhaust is EPIC. It seems so obnoxious yet during our time with the car, we could never bring ourselves to close the valve... it was almost like conducting a full choir, where it's possible to experience a full spectrum of aural nuances from the eager-to-please V10.

The power band is hugely elastic, where there's ample shove from low down the rev-band, yet has enough of a sucker punch at the high-end to see-off all but the most tenacious of exotics and souped-up rally homologation monsters.

There are several 'power' modes that range from a 'detuned' 400bhp to the full 507bhp (P400, P500 and P500 Sport), which surpasses the golden 100bhp/litre. Again, running on anything less than the full bhp brunt was never an option for us... Needless to say, we only really gave it a hammering once the car was warmed up to 100 per cent operating levels.

The 'M' button is a one-stop, erm, button, to access all your favourite settings for: engine power (P400, P500 or P500 Sport), SMG Drivelogic (any 1 of the six 'S' or five 'D' modes), Electronic Damping Control (Normal, Comfort or Sport), Dynamic Stability Control settings (Normal, M Dynamic mode or completely off) and level of information on the Heads-Up Display (HUD) (Standard display or MView).

In a nutshell, select all your favourite DSC, EDC, Power, SMG settings from the M-Drive on iDrive (that's a total of 279 possible permutations!) and save this as your preferred setting, which you can then access at any time by hitting the 'M' button on the steering wheel. (conclusion further down)

photos by dk

FAST FACTS : BMW M6
ENGINE
Engine: 4999cc, 40-valves, V10, 10 individual throttle bodies
Maximum power @ rpm: 507bhp @ 7750rpm
Maximum torque @ rpm: 520Nm @ 6100rpm
Bore x Stroke (mm): 92 x 75.2
Compression ratio: 12.0:1

TRANSMISSION
Driven wheels: Rear
Transmission: 7-Speed SMG III 247
Gear Ratios: 3.985/2.652/1.806/1.392/1.159/1/0.833:1 / R 3.985:1
Final drive (1st to 4th): 3.765:1Final drive (5th/6th): 2.909

PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 248km/h (electronically limited)

SUSPENSION
Front: Aluminium double pivot strut type
Rear: Integral 4-link

BRAKES & TYRES/WHEELS (Original)
Front: 374mm Ventilated discsRear: 370mm Ventilated discs
Wheels: (f) 8.5x19; (r) 9.5x19
Tyres: (f) 255/40 R19; (r) 285/35 R19

DIMENSIONS
L x B x H: 4871 x 1885 x 1372 mm
Wheelbase: 2781mm
Turning circle: 12.5m
Kerbweight: 1773kg
Fuel tank: 70L

Summary
The M6 may not have the form factor of a supercar, but its (the V10 is so addictive and well-deserving of cult status) performance is well into the league of extraordinary exotics. The visual addenda are subtle, yet effective in imparting menacing, 'Darth Vader'-levels of road presence to the car and to whom for which such things matter, this 2+2 coupe is practical enough to be driven every day. - dk
Photos: 
aftermarket alloys not our cuppa, but they serve the purpose of accommodating the BBK
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