One-Day Test: BMW M6
Tip-toeing in the rain with a BMW M6
This BMW M6 might be newly updated, but it feels as if I have driven nearly every derivative before that. Over the last three years, I have been able to drive a standard M5, a Competition Pack M5, an M6, a facelift 640i and now — finally — the facelift M6.
When I drove the 640i I remember commenting that it would be difficult for even a seasoned BMW enthusiast to tell the facelifted and the former 6-Series apart, and the M6 is more of the same. Fundamentals have not changed, with a turbocharged 4,4-litre V8 engine sitting under the bonnet, feeding 412 kW of max power and 680 Nm of torque to the rear wheels.
By my approximation, the interior is also very much the same, with only minor differences cropping up here and there. The navigation now supports traffic alerts as part of the arrival time calculation, and will try to choose a path that is less congested.
The M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel, which is used to recall an arrangement of driver settings, now don’t require an extra “Are you sure?” confirmation click. That’s useful for a quick overtaking manoeuvre — less so if you are clumsy and drop into banzaiu mode instead of increasing the radio volume.
Those small changes aside, the 2016 M6 is on par with its predecessor. For me though I had a different driving experience, because for the first time in what felt like months, Johannesburg received torrential late summer rains.
Driving in the wet can be tricky at the best of times, but when the roads in certain parts of the city have turned into rivers, and the manhole covers have become bubbling water features, tricky becomes hairy … becomes worrisome, in fact. Especially in the M6, where the ferocity at which it can deliver its power is legendary.
So for a change, this is a BMW M6 test focusing on what the car is like to live with on the days when you want something comfortable and safe, and not a supercar slayer.
With all settings in Comfort and the engine mode set to Efficient (which takes some of the power off the table), I ventured out into the rain to tackle the hour-plus commute from Hartbeespoort to Pretoria.
I chose the N4 highway (not the quickest or shortest route) because I reasoned that it was less likely to be flooded, and this was not the time to test the ground clearance of Munich’s finest.
Even in ‘detuned’ mode, the M6 feels more at home at 150 km/h than 120 km/h on the highway, regardless of the bucketing rain. The drive is still smooth when you take into consideration the suspension has been set up for a car that can reach 300 km/h and corner like a touring car.
In traffic, the gearbox is a little twitchy, and in the wet pulling off illuminates the DSC and MDM lights like a hazard dance party. There isn’t any noticeable slip because of the driver aids, but if you try to move too quickly, you will more than likely do so sideways.
The M6 walks both paths quite successfully: brutishly quick, but surgical in execution. But while it won’t win any awards as a limousine (or fuel economy for that matter) it doesn’t ask you for a pound of flesh to own one of the fastest cars on the market.
For that reason, the M6 and its four-door M5 sibling still count among favourites. If any of us won that elusive Lotto I think it would be difficult to justify walking past one on our way to a supercar.