It’s official. Every millimetre counts. While most mechanically-minded and market-savvy readers will know that BMW’s new M6 Gran Coupé (yes, the four-door one) is indeed a re-skinned M5, there are actually some minute differences between the two and in this case these tiny variances make all the difference.
The current M5 never really knocked my socks off, I’m sorry to say. Of course not even the snootiest car snob could turn up a nose at the tidal wave of power its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 delivers, or levels of mechanical grip in corners that could skew the earth’s rotational spin; but at the same time it feels a little too upright, a little too bloated and a little too big for its britches. At least more so than the connected ancestors in its rich bloodline do.
The M6 Gran Coupé is also huge. In fact it’s a smidgen bigger if looked at from an aerial view. But some slight suspension adjustments mean it rides 10mm closer to the ground, its track is a little wider, and its four-door coupé roofline makes its overall height a tad lower too. Most importantly, though, you sit deeper in the suede-lined and carbon-clad cabin and it’s this aspect alone that really makes the GC feel squatter and more plugged-in than its sedan counterpart.
But that’s all a little like describing the structural reasons why Giselle Bundchen’s body composition makes for a good catwalk model... let’s not forget she’s also really beautiful. Its hunkered stance, and the addition of two doors, has done wonderful things to this 6 Series body, and where the M5 bobbles the M6 GC slithers – even if most of this is an illusion conjured by appearance alone.
MORE SURGE THAN EXPLOSION
Mechanically it’s identical to the M5. Same chassis, same 412kW/680Nm engine, same whoopass. Dab the throttle and the big saloon heaves forward with minimal turbolag. Long gearing means acceleration happens with more of a surge than an explosion, but turn traction control off and wheelspin will still ensue with little provocation.
This biturbo motor is a marvel and I love how it responds to foot taps with naturally-aspirated immediacy, but I must say it’s quite deficient in the exhaust note department. Even with a R135 000 (excluding fitment, and not a typo!) optional Akrapovic freeflow exhaust system the Gran Coupé sounds like a hurricane in a tin can compared to some boisterous German rivals with similar engines. BMW has countered the lack of noise with an electronically synthesised tone emitted from the cabin’s speakers, but truthfully it’s more of a cheesy irritation than anything else.
The Akrapovic system adds exactly 7.4kW and 17Nm says BMW, and it weighs 10.5kg less than the standard pipe. Still, in our Gauteng test it went slightly slower than claimed with a best 0-100km/h launch of 4.7 seconds (4.2 quoted) according to our Vbox test equipment. It was a little quicker than the M5 with a standard exhaust over the quarter-mile, however, at 12.7 seconds to the M5’s 12.9.
Handling is freakishly good for such a mammoth car. It sticks to bends with a staggering magnetism that’s probably far in excess of what most drivers will be comfortable pushing to. On the flipside, comfort levels are also exceptional, especially considering low-profile 20” rubber at all four corners. Damping is three-way adjustable along with steering sensitivity and gearbox shift points, all via console-mounted buttons and all independently of each other. I preferred soft suspension, medium steering, and aggressive gear changes – and this clever system allows for it. Others don’t.
But, even with its launch control starts and insane cornering grip, this car is more suited to long-distance cruising. In seventh gear the GC will chow large sections of freeway at high speed with low revs and there’s plenty of space for luggage and four people. There is a fifth seatbelt at the back, but only for emergencies I’d say as the middle hump is not an ideal perch for anything more than around-the-corner journeys.
Slightly lower and wider than the M5 it’s based on, the M6 Gran Coupé gets a whole new attitude with its squatter dimensions.
The attitude does come at a cost, though, and at R1 550 191 the GC is a whopping R315 000 (before Akrapovic) more than the nearly identical mechanically M5. Is it worth it? That depends. How much would you pay for a few extra millimetres in the right area?
Engine: V8, 4.4-litre twin-turbopetrol
Power: 419kW @ 6000 - 7000rpm
Torque: 697Nm @ 1500 - 5700rpm
0-100km/h (Gauteng) - 4.7 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 250km/h
Consumption (claimed): 9.9 l/100km
Price: R1 550 191
Maintenance play: 5-year/100 000km
Audi RS7 Sportback (412kW/700Nm) - R1 450 000 (estimated)
Jaguar 5.0 SC XFR-S (405kW/680Nm) - R1 258 700
Mercedes CLS 63 AMG S (430kW/800Nm) - R1 510 020
Porsche Panamera Turbo (382Nm/770Nm) - R1 996 000