The new DS3, customise every feature to suit your style
Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the fastest BMW this publication has ever tested.
And yes, like some of you reading this we were also a little surprised that the title went to Beemer’s newest M car, the M6 Convertible. Not only is it heavier than the recently-launched M5, but it runs exactly the same powerplant with not a drop of power or torque more.
Even with a fairly hefty kerb mass of 1980kg, the open-top M6 managed to match BMW’s eye-watering 4.3 second 0-100km/h claim (it actually did 4.27), and scorched the tarmac of our test facility with a quarter-mile time of 12.5 seconds.
The M5, which we weren’t exactly unhappy with, gave us VBox readings of 4.6 and 12.9 - which in this league is quite a difference (interestingly, BMW claim the M6 to be a tenth quicker to 100km/h than the M5, which they attribute to differences in the final-drive ratio).
And if you thought that was an anomaly...
We managed the M6’s quickest run without actually using its fancy launch control system. The getaway programme, which can be tweaked in terms of revs, seemed to bog the car down for a tenth or two before unleashing the horses. We found that by regulating the wheelspin with the throttle and getting into second with some decorum left (using the paddles) the M6 launched that little bit more cleanly.
Performance aside, and thanks to the convertible nature of the beast, it’s hard not to call this M6 good looking. Yes, it’s a big car, but this time around it’s more shark than whale in body styling, and with an M badge it’s certainly ready for the odd feeding frenzy. Sadly, it’s winter and freezing in Johannesburg, so regular top-down flying was a bit of an ask.
Nevertheless the electronically-operated roof drops in 19 seconds and tops in 24, and this can happen at driving speeds of up to 40km/h.
But when it comes to an M car, I reckon it’s not just about posing with the roof down, there’s a little more going through the minds of the designers and engineers.
FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
When I drove the previous-generation M6 Convertible, with that mother of a V10, it was as if the decision for an open top was made around the war cry of those ten naturally-aspirated cylinders. With the roof down it was fire and brimstone coming through those four tailpipes.
The new M6 Convertible, with its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, has the right credentials but the aural additives, while entertaining, aren’t as vocal as the previous V10’s.
The turbocharged V8 of AMG Mercs also sounds more hardcore.
The one time that I briefly dropped the roof I was rather disappointed with the lack of growl from those pipes.
Even M’s newfangled fake soundtrack technology, which plays through the speakers in the M5 and M6, didn’t seem to make any difference.
The bottom line then is that if you have the one and a half bar to spend on the car, find another hundred grand for the aftermarket Akropovic exhaust system, which I’m told will rattle your garage windows.
Having driven the M5 not too long ago, and with power outputs being identical in the M6, I was expecting quite a similar car in terms of feel. Well, yes and no. It’s not first prize that all the M toys and gadgets are exactly the same to use in M5 and M6, but to be fair it’s always been that way.
The major differences obviously lie in the look and feel of the cabin, with the M6 being more Grand Tourer - with that sense of luxury - versus the business-suit feel of the M5. Rear legroom in the M6 is a joke though, which could turn buyers with small families away (and it’s strictly a 2+2 affair).
But where you feel like a captain in the M5, you feel more like a Commander in the M6, if you get my drift. Maybe it’s because the M6 feels so big and mothership-like.
But don’t get me wrong, it certainly doesn’t feel heavy and bloated, not with 412kW and 680Nm of thrust under your right foot - which, thanks to the input of both those turbos feels like power is available with the tiniest prod of the right pedal.
TWEAKING THE RESPONSES
And then there’s those toys from the M-division boys, which some may say offer you too many options but I reckon go with your day’s flow.
I like that I can tweak throttle response (engine dynamics control in M speak), suspension (electronic damper control), steering (servotronic), and gearbox (drivelogic) through simple, dedicated buttons next to the gear lever - allowing me to choose between softer, harder or sharper (in the case of the gearbox) settings - with a cool display below the rev counter telling me precisely what type of assault parameter I’m in.
Should this be a bit much when all of a sudden that E63 AMG lines you up, there are two shortcut buttons on the steering wheel (M1 and M2) which you can pre-configure. M1 I like to think of as the Bring It button, M2 as the Kill It button.
And for those of you wondering if there’s a Power button like in the previous M6 (which added horses), no, there isn’t, even in all the comfort modes all 412kW is there – you’re there to decide how to translate it to tar.
FORCEFUL YET SMOOTH
The dual-clutch gearbox, especially in comparison to the horrid SMG robotised manual in the previous M6, is manna from the mechanics in heaven, switching through gears and converting power to rear rubber in a forceful yet smooth and calculated way. And it all comes together quite nicely, with all the Sport Plus boxes ticked and gearbox sharpened, through a nice piece of road.
Where the M5 felt heavy the M6 somehow manages to feel more willing and pliable; it’s the GT nature of the beast I reckon. I can’t put my finger on it but it almost slices and dices that little bit better, and gives you feedback through the steering wheel that’s a little more colourful than clinical.
There’s also that feel of the car around you being a coupé, the seats feel bigger and comfier, and even your driving position is more relaxed. Under the skin though it’s obvious everything hardens and tightens to plan, and though I didn’t play much with the roof down I can safely say with the roof up there’s no inherent loss of body stiffness worth mentioning here.
Who would have thought a convertible Beemer would be the fastest we’ve ever driven? But it is and, soundtrack issues aside, it’s every bit as hardcore as we thought it would be. Now I wonder if the lighter M6 Coupé, which lands in SA later this year, will go even faster.
Follow me on Twitter: @mineshbhagaloo