Convertibles are usually not meant to be driven hard. When you think of convertibles, you’re likely to visualise sun-kissed faces cruising around with the roof down, seemingly without a care in the world. Convertibles, after all, best espouse the glamorous and stress-free lifestyle many aspire to.
BMW’s M (or motorsport) division, however, has a radically different idea when it comes to convertibles: They must be built as bruisers first and cruisers second.
The M6 definitely looks the part. It has the same chiselled looks as the regular alfresco 6 Series, but it also has special styling cues that make it look like a prizefighter in a sharp suit. The larger and deeper air intakes, plus the unique double-bar kidney grille (complete with M6 badge) make the car look menacing even when it’s stationary.
Those blistered wheel arches also add to the car’s intimidating stance. Behind those enormous 20-inch alloys lurk equally huge cross-drilled brakes measuring 400mm in front and 396mm at the rear. Carbon-ceramic discs – a $30k option – can be specified if even more stopping power is desired. The rear end is just as dramatic, with its diffuser and chromed tailpipes.
Inside, the cabin oozes raciness. The carbon fibre trim that adorns the dashboard and centre console is as eye-catching as the speedometer, with markings that reach 330km/h. Given the car’s potential, there’s no doubt that this topless terror would easily surpass 300km/h.
Few boy racers will mistake this road projectile for a mere dressed-up 6 Series. Indeed, firing up the twin-turbocharged powerplant within the confines of a carpark is enough to scare off any would-be “challengers”. The 4.4-litre V8 emits a deep rumble as it awakens, before settling into a lusty idle.
Unlike old-school V8 motors, however, this one’s vocals are bereft of the grumbly quality common to muscle cars. Personally, I find that the supercharged V8 of the Jaguar XKR-S convertible and the naturally aspirated V8 in the Maserati GranCabrio Sport produce more spine-tingling soundtracks compared to the M6.
Nevertheless, the M6’s high-revving engine remains frighteningly powerful. The “warhead”, which has a yield of 560bhp and 680Nm, launches this weapon from rest to 100km/h in a scorching 4.3 seconds – figures that make you doubt this vehicle weighs two tonnes sans driver.
The mighty motor sends its thrust to the rear wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Each gearchange, as you’d expect, is executed about as quickly as one can blink. The rapidity of the shifts can be tweaked through the Drivelogic programme, which allows pilots to speed them up or slow them down as required. The D1-D3 settings are less hardcore compared to the S1-S3 range, which are only suited to track work due to the uncomfortable degree of shift shock they deliver.
Despite this feature, however, low-speed crawls are still a tricky affair, because the autobox doesn’t seem to have a “creeping” ability. Manoeuvring through slow traffic is best handled with a light squeeze of the right-most pedal, as anything more is bound to result in unintended acceleration. If you feel a sneeze coming on while parking, you’d better have your foot on the brake pedal first!
Apart from being able to adjust the gearshift characteristics, the M6 also gives drivers the flexibility of fine-tuning the engine response, as well as the damper, steering and DSC (traction control) settings. Two different configurations can be saved and instantly recalled using the M Drive buttons on the steering wheel. This, in effect, allows the driver to give the machine two different “personalities”.
The Sport setting for these various setups is the best, as the extreme Sport Plus mode results in a ride that’s overly stiff and a throttle far too sensitive for regular driving. Not that this V8 needs much prodding to begin with – flooring the accelerator halfway already results in what can only be described as terminal velocity. Fortunately, there are no fewer than three speedometers (the additional digital read-outs are found in the instrument cluster as well as the head-up display) to help keep your clean driving record intact.
The sensation of urgency is amplified with the roof down – the gentle breeze blowing through your hair becoming a full-blown typhoon as the speed increases. The M6 V8 reaches its crescendo at 5000rpm, and the stormy entertainment is made complete by exhaust “barks” that accompany each downshift, further increasing this Bimmer’s road presence. Incidentally, the M6’s soft-top, which can be operated at speeds of up to 40km/h, opens in 19 seconds – same timing as the normal 6 Series convertible.
True to the M6’s nature as a bruiser, this convertible is capable of devouring corners, too. Its large dimensions and hefty mass mean it doesn’t feel nimble while doing so, however. Making up for this is the accurate steering which, despite the lack of feedback (likely due to the large wheels), ably aids you in aiming this rocket in the right direction. For extra assurance, there’s also a rear differential that works by redirecting the powerplant’s output to the wheel with more grip. This helps keep the convertible in line, especially if you punch the throttle in the middle of a turn.
Because of Singapore’s space and speed constraints, it would probably be more fun to let this missile fly in Europe. But the M6 is still a hoot to drive on local roads, for its imposing looks can stop reckless idiots from trying to cut you off. Even those pesky panel vans would actually signal with their indicators before filtering into my lane.
This missile from Munich may not be perfect, but it does deliver shock and awe on the go. Stupendously powerful and excessively heavy, the M6 convertible is the automotive equivalent of using a bazooka to kill a fly – it’s not the most efficient method, but it’s perversely fun.
This story was first published in the September 2012 issue of Torque.
2012 BMW M6 Convertible 4.4 (A)
ENGINE 4395cc, 32-valves, V8, turbocharged
MAX POWER 560hp at 6000-7000rpm
MAX TORQUE 680Nm 15600-5750rpm
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 4.3 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h (governed)
CONSUMPTION 9.7km/L (combined)