Test Drive: 2016 BMW M6

I picked up the 2016 BMW M6 on a Monday afternoon, resplendent in its stunning San Marino Blue Metallic paint and gorgeous 20-inch seven-spoke wheels – an exclusive design fitted as part of the new Competition Package introduced in mid-2015. By the time I woke up Friday morning, however, it was clear our relationship was already in trouble.

"We don't mean to bother you," they said, "but can we put your car in our movie?"

For its part, the M6 was clearly made for more than just schlepping to the grocery store, running my daughter to appointments, and navigating cross-town traffic. Oh sure, it could do these things just fine – it could play the part of the docile domestic partner – but it was clearly chafing at the bit. The regular M6 already churns out 560 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque from its twin-turbocharged direct-injected 4.4L V8, and the Competition Package increases the boost pressure to crank things up to a whopping 600 hp, all of which is constantly waiting to be unleashed to the rear wheels through the car's seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission (a six-speed manual is a no-cost option). So a little prod of the throttle and the M6 would surge forward hopefully, only to be reined tightly back in as another red traffic light loomed up.

For my part, while I enjoyed being seen in the glamourous company of the M6, I found it bossy and demanding. As I drove out of my parking spot it would tug my seatbelt to make sure it was tightened adequately, and warning chimes seemed to go off constantly as I accidentally did things the onboard nannies didn't approve of. When I dared try to sneak forward with the driver's door open in order to line up for a photo, the M6 put its foot down and obstinately shifted into neutral. "This," I thought, "is a car that's used to getting its own way."

Looking to reconcile things with the iridescent blue beauty snuggled so winsomely in my garage, I decided that a drive up a twisting mountain road was in order – something that would get the M6 to wake up a little, show some excitement. Alas, even here the M6 felt boxed in and constrained, like a cheetah confined to a dog run. With the M-Drive's selectable steering, suspension, and powertrain switched to Sport+ mode and some aggressive uphill switchbacks to tackle, I did get a couple of brief glimpses of the car's wild side, its enormous and awe-inspiring potential. But given that you'll be exceeding the speed limit anywhere in North America before the speedometer climbs up even one-third of the way around, the briefest of glimpses were all I could get, and the M6's enormous capability is such that even when you're going fast it doesn't really feel that fast. Yep, it's clear that to really enjoy what the M6 can do, you need a race track.

Not so related: Boss Cars in Movies and Television

I thought that was perhaps the end of it for me and the M6, that I'd be left abandoned with a broken heart, melancholy memories, and no story to tell. But salvation awaited at the top of the mountain. It came in the form of a group of students from Rockridge Secondary School who were participating in the Zoom 48-Hour Film Fest. I'd passed them on my way up the mountain, and the snarl from the M6's exhaust as I'd shifted gears had grabbed their attention. So when I reached the top and started back down, they were waiting. Flagging me down into a big ski resort parking lot, they crowded around. "We don't mean to bother you," they said, "but can we put your car in our movie?"

They'd already lined up a car of their own, and it was even a BMW 6 Series – a metallic gold second-generation Cabriolet. But the Cabriolet looked and sounded tame compared to the M6, and for this scene they wanted a car with menace. The M6, well, it may have been designed to run at racetrack speeds, but it was made for turning heads.

I paused momentarily, but it was clear what the right thing to do was: "Uh, sure," I said, "as long as it doesn't involve anything unsafe or illegal." (We sign waivers when we take cars out, you know.) And so the M6 became a movie star, and the students' movie, Watch Your Luck, won Best Technical Film and 2nd Best Film Overall in the Zoom competition – at least in part, I'm sure, due to the M6's grand performance. It's six minutes and 29 seconds long, and I recommend watching the whole thing (it's an impressive student production) but if you want to skip to the part with the M6, snarling exhaust and all, it appears at the 3:50 mark.

Driving back down the mountain, I'd finally come to terms with the M6. I switched the powertrain, suspension and steering back into Efficient and Comfort modes, and marvelled at how well behaved and tractable the M6 is for a car that can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds (0.1 seconds quicker than the regular M6) and top out at an electronically limited 250 km/h.

The M6 is thoroughly comfortable too, as befits its grand touring roots: Thanks to the adaptive suspension the ride can be softened for highway cruising, so even with the Competition Package's retuned suspension and stiffer springs you'll arrive relaxed, not shaken. And the interior is an opulent work of art with exclusive high-end materials (including fine-grained merino leather upholstery, black Alcantara roof liner, your choice of real wood or authentic carbon-fibre trim, and the list goes on). The fit and finish is impeccable, and the heated and cooled active front seats included with my car's Ultimate Package are supportive yet roomy. It's a great place to spend time in, and there's even real room for adults in the back seat and an impressive 460 L of cargo in the trunk.

Naturally, the M6 has all the conveniences and technology you could wish for. The basics are taken care of with a full-featured infotainment system showcased on a big 10.2-inch colour display and rich-sounding Bang & Olufsen audio included as part of the Ultimate Package (this upgraded audio system is a $4,900 standalone option). The navigation system can recognize handwritten input on the rotary selector, and features true-to-life 3D representations of selected landmarks and buildings. There's an M-specific head-up display, surround-view back-up camera, adaptive headlights, high-beam assistant, blind-spot information system, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with collision warning, an available night-vision system, and more.

There are even a few features that appear to be entirely gratuitous, like a centre-mounted tweeter that rises smoothly out of the dashboard whenever you turn on the audio system. It does beg the question why BMW and Bang & Olufsen couldn't find a spot for the tweeter that didn't require a complicated mechanism and small servo motor, but if you were the kind of kid who used to build spacecraft cockpits out of the couch cushions, and you still occasionally fantasize that your garage is a shuttle hangar and your car a deep-space attack fighter, then it's the perfect kind of gizmo to fuel your imagination.

Where the M6's grand touring roots do weigh it down somewhat is in, well, weight. My test car tipped the scales a somewhat mind-boggling 1,928 kg (4,250 lb), which is almost exactly the same as what an AWD Honda Pilot LX weighs (and yes, we're talking here about an enormous CUV that can carry eight passengers). Thanks to its active suspension, torque-vectoring differential, massive horsepower and dynamic stability control systems, the M6 does a marvelous job of hiding its weight – it accelerates not just briskly but explosively, it stops with authority thanks to its massive brakes, and it corners crisply and cleanly with nice turn-in and good feedback. Its centre of gravity is clearly lower than a Honda Pilot's too, so there's essentially no body roll (the M6's lightweight carbon fibre roof is said to help in this regard, although it means you don't get a sunroof). But for all that you can still feel the car's overall heft through the seat of your pants, and while it does feel solid and safe as a result, BMW would do well to send a few of its engineers over to Lotus for some professional development (it was Lotus founder Colin Chapman who famously said that the way to build a great car was to "Simplify, then add lightness").

Other niggles include paddle shifters that are mounted on the steering wheel rather than the steering column, A-pillars that restrict vision more than I'd like, and a fuel saving engine stop/start system that can be downright brutal in its re-engagement of the powertrain if you hop off the brake and onto the accelerator too quickly (fortunately the auto stop/start can be defeated with the quick press of a button). Speaking of saving fuel, despite the auto stop/start system and EfficientDynamics regenerative brakes that ease alternator loads by feeding electricity to the battery, the M6 doesn't really. (Doesn't save fuel, that is.) With the Competition Package and dual-clutch gearbox it's rated at 17.3 / 11.5 L/100 km (city/highway), meaning you pay $1,000 in gas-guzzler taxes – and the M6 needs at least 91 octane, so you'll be burning pricey premium fuel. When I first picked up my test car it was showing a long-term average of 16.3 L/100 km in mixed driving, and I achieved almost the exact same number myself over the week, clocking in at 16.4 L/100km. About the best I could manage was in the high 10s during a relaxed highway drive.

Then of course there's the purchase price. I suppose once you're in a certain income bracket it becomes less consequential, but the M6 starts at $125,000 and you pay another $8,500 on top of that for the Competition Package, $8,500 for the Executive Package (which includes many of the driver assistance technologies), and $4,900 for the Bang & Olufsen audio system. That adds up to $21,900, so you might as well plunk down the $25,000 for my test car's Ultimate Package which combines the bits and pieces from all three of those packages and adds a few more items like titanium exhaust and carbon-fibre rear diffuser, bringing the total to $150,000 and leaving the M6 almost fully loaded save for the $8,500 carbon ceramic brakes and $2,500 night vision system. How much truly usable extra performance the M6 gets you over a garden-variety 650i xDrive Coupe (starting at $99,500) is debatable, and may depend on whether in fact you have access to a race track. For that matter, there's the 435-hp M4 Coupe, which starts at a comparatively reasonable $75,000 and adds 300 kg of lightness (it weighs in at 1,626 kg), resulting in a decidedly friskier-feeling car.

I could go on all day, but the thing is, it doesn't matter. Sure, the M6 competes against a wide range of would-be rivals – in addition to its own less-expensive stablemates there are the Porsche 911, Maserati GranTurismo, and Mercedes-Benz SL to consider, among others. But if the M6 is right for the role and you've got the budget, then the casting decision is easy. My only regret is that my brief fling with the M6 didn't take place during a week that required an 800-km road trip, because that's the kind of role that's perfect for this stunning and hugely capable BMW.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Audi RS7
Maserati GranTurismo
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Porsche 911

2016 BMW M6
2016 BMW M6
Base Price $125,000
Optional Equipment $25,500 (Electric rear sunshade, Ultimate Package including Competition Package, Executive Package, Bang & Olufsen audio)
A/C Tax
Destination Fee $2,095
Price as Tested $153,695
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.0
9 Interior
4 Fuel Economy
8 Exterior Styling
10 Performance
9 Comfort