The BMW M6 Gran Coupe lands to compete with two sets of segments – fast sedans, and fast coupes – but it aims to neatly blend both of them.
Gran Coupe stands for a four-door version of a two-door coupe, in this case the regular BMW 6 Series. It shares its engineering fundamentals with a proper four-door sedan, the M5, which costs $70,000 less; and its styling and low-slung driving position with the M6 coupe that costs $8500 more.
BMW insists that the M6 Gran Coupe is a sportier drive than the M5 – thanks primarily to a low-slung driving position, wider tracks and a lower centre of gravity – but it equally admits the extra charge over the M5 is down to lashings of leather on the dashboard, sexier styling and not much else.
The BMW M6 Gran Coupe gets a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine with 412kW of power and 680Nm of torque. It gets a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, an active M differential, specifically tuned adaptive M suspension, and other key details, all shared with the M5.
It looks superb in the flesh: low, muscley, and sporty.
The M6 Gran Coupe also lives up to its maker’s promise of delivering a far richer interior than the M5. Wonderful seats are claimed to be covered in the highest grade of leather available to the company, and it certainly feels that way, while the alcantara-and-leather-clad roofline maintain a plush consistencty. The snug, driver oriented cockpit is both ergonomically sound and brilliantly finished.
It’s highly commendable that BMW has included a centre-rear lap-sash seatbelt in the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, even if the bulging centre console relegates the middle position to a ‘sometime seat’.
If a car is this large and weighty, it really should have a middle seatbelt, and the M6 Gran Coupe does.
Options at this level are few and (literally) large – a $12,000 Competition Package with extra power and dynamic tweaks (see here), carbon ceramic brakes claimed to resist fade longer ($24,000), and 1200-watt Bang & Olufsen audio ($14,000). Our test car only came with an optional ($950) digital radio tuner.
On the road, the BMW M6 Gran Coupe is quiet and quick. The engine sounds fantastic, its smooth warble staying flat-pitch but only getting louder towards its 7200rpm cut-out, and accompanied by an exhaust blurt after gearshifts.
Although you can individually choose between Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes for the throttle response and power delivery, steering weighting, and suspension compliance, on the road there really is only one choice…
The standard Comfort mode provides light steering weight, yet regardless of setting, the variable rack ratio remains the same. So what you get with Sport is a heavier weighting, and in Sport Plus this gluggy resistance that almost feels like there’s not enough power assistance being supplied. Only out on the track does Sport Plus make sense (more later).
It’s a similar story for the suspension. In this case the ‘Comfort’ setting, in conjunction with 30-aspect 20-inch wheels, makes the M6 Gran Coupe feels slightly edgy and occasionally lumpy on backroads. Yet it doesn’t allow the body to float over crests in the road, and and is never absolutely harsh, so it is an acceptable blend for a super-sports sedan.
Choosing the Sport or Sport Plus suspension settings in the M6 Gran Coupe increases impact harshness notably, and the car becomes overly abrupt on rebound over larger bumps. One country road bump caused the rear wheels to bounce off line and panic the stability control, which is neither sophisticated for a suspension tune nor premium-feeling for a driver.
The M6 Gran Coupe feels its weight in corners and struggles to use any of its power while the stability control is switched on. Even feather-footing the throttle gets the yellow stability control light flashing out of bends, as it struggles to put 680Nm instantly to the ground. And it is instantly. If the tachometer reads between 1500rpm and 5750rpm, then every touch of the throttle means the M6 engine sends all its torque to the back wheels.
Gone are the days of non-turbo BMWs, with linear throttle delivery where the amount of throttle applied dictated how much power was delivered to the rear wheels. Now, however, the throttle in the M6 Gran Coupe acts like a light switch – and delivers a football to the face – making it an all or nothing performer.
The upside to this change in personality is absolutely superb performance in a straight line. With that full slab of torque, wonderful engine sound, yet hushed road noise, the M6 Gran Coupe demolishes distance with ease. It also rewards commitment from its driver, which is easier to do on a race track than it is on the road.
Switch the stability control to the more relaxed M Dynamic Mode (MDM) and, when driven with intent, the M6 Gran Coupe is ultimately a finely controlled and beautifully balanced car.
Particularly for a big, 1875kg sedan the M6 Gran Coupe can hustle very hard. Phillip Island’s corner two – a long, cresting double apex – is seemingly designed to sort out the front end sharpness of a road car. It’s here that the heavy engine up front means the front end wanders slightly, requiring driver patience to keep it on line.
The circuit is fast, dotted with tighter corners. Particularly in them, the M6 Gran Coupe displays wonderful composure and poise. On the straights between them it feels every bit as quick as its 4.2 second 0-100km/h time suggests.
It playfully kicks its backside out on tight bends, yet the M Dynamic Mode proves masterfully tuned to allow it to do so. Yet it is so effortless that it feels as though you could cut quick lap times using fingertips and listening to Classic Hits Radio…
In some respects the BMW M6 Gran Coupe is a curious mix – difficult to judge on the road, with an intrusive stability control and a remote disposition that makes it feel like a luxury car if not for its firm ride. It really is superbly composed and balanced on a racetrack, yet it has lost something in terms of classic BMW M car intimacy and clear focus of abilities.
It only justifies its $70K over the M5 sedan if swoopy coupe style and an exquisite interior are a priority, because otherwise the M6 drives much the same. The $70K more expensive Aston and Bentley, meanwhile, feels more sorted and complete overall, though they likely aren’t as talented on a racetrack.
There, the BMW M6 Gran Coupe is a fiendishly fast, finely finished, and fantastically frisky executive express.