One-day Test: BMW M6 Coupé. Super GT?
BMW M6 Coupé7.5
It is interesting how certain words and phrases have made their way into the collective knowledge of piston heads. An ‘S’ or ‘R’ tacked onto the name makes it go faster, while ‘X’ or ‘4’ on the badge possibly means that all four wheels do the work.
‘I’ indicates fuel injection, ‘d’ is for diesel-powered, and then the more modern addition of ‘e’ for anything that might even look electrically powered. And there are differences between manufacturers, and even between models from one manufacturer.
But some elements of the alphabet soup are older than any of us, and with age comes distinction and, luckily for us, definition.
‘GT’ is one such abbreviation, having made its mark on the motoring scene in the 1920s, and also on a group of cars and at a location where it mattered: Italy. Ferrari, Lancia and Alfa Romeo were the first to use the term Gran Turismo, and to them it was a car that was designed for those long journeys where speed, style and comfort were of equal importance.
The Grand Tour.
You needed something that was quick, but that also had the engine in the front of the car, and the power funnelled to the rear. It also needed to be able to eat up the miles to wherever you were going, and it had to do it without killing the occupants with road noise, compromised suspension or unforgiving seats.
Two doors were expected but not a given, but four seats were essential to distinguish a GT from a normal fast car.
In the 1960s, if you wanted to cross the country quickly, but didn’t mind if you needed a few hours to recover when you got there, you could buy a Jaguar E-Type. But if you ere prepared to accept a slightly slower pace, but arrive ready to take on the world, you got yourself an Aston Martin DB5.
That’s the difference between a supercar and a GT.
By all accounts, BMW’s 6-Series is a GT car. It has four seats, and two doors. The engine is in the right place and it will get you to faraway places quickly without frying your nerves. And this is true of all 6-Series models: whether you choose the frugal 640d or the more powerful 640i and 650i, a cross-country drive is exactly what these cars where made for.
But if the vanilla 6-Series is best suited for the GT commute, then what is the point of today’s test car – the BMW M6 Coupé?
As with any M-Division car, it is angrier than its lesser alphabet endowed siblings, with its wider stance and deeper air vents on the nose of the car. And it should be, because under the bonnet is the same power plant that is found in M-Division’s crown jewel, the M5.
That’s 412 kW and 680 Nm of torque, delivered by a turbocharged 4,4-litre V8.
And those numbers are as effective as you would think in achieving rapid real-world performance. Sprinting to 100km/h from standstill takes a mere 4.2 seconds, and while the top speed is limited to 250 km/h it would easily reach 300 km/h if ungoverned.
Behind the large coupé doors the GT formula continues in earnest. The seats are not lightweight carbon fibre and suede-clad prison cells, but rather nice and plush, heated, air-cooled electric leather seats that will massage you on those long journeys. Or in your garage while it is parked, which I have personally tested, proving our commitment to a comprehensive test.
But all of these things are also true of the virgin 6-Series, and for a price tag that is not close to the R1.6 million that our M6 coupé commands. Sure you don’t get all the dynamic buttons that can change the suspension settings, power level, traction control and gearbox changing speed. You also do not get the two programmable M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel that will recall your favourite settings.
And there is a lack of rear rumble on the hold-the-fire 6-Series, unable to match the howl of the M-Division’s signature dual twin exhausts.
So then is the M6 a failed GT, a car without a purpose?
No, because it is a special kind of GT, a Super GT. It is the kind of car that you can pilot down to Cape Town, drive straight onto Killarney racetrack and bash out a few excellent lap times.
There is enough of a track day focus edge on the M6 that when you put your foot down and get into a corner with some pace, you think: hmm, yes this would work much better on a wider piece of a tar. But it does this without compromising the luxury and everyday drivability.
It is then in the same league as Ferrari’s Grand Turismo, the 599 GTB. A car that you can enjoy on the highways in peace and quiet, and still unleash the fury of a performance tuned engine on a racetrack.
I am not saying that the M6 would beat a Ferrari around a track, but if I was in a 599 GTB, and a professional racing driver was coming up behind me in the M6 coupé, I’d be moving to the left…