2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe review: BMW makes a four-passenger cruise missile

The M6 also came with BMW's hated idle-stop feature. At stoplights, the car will shut off the engine to save gas. Good enough, but its restart, when I lifted my foot off the brake, was just a little too slow. I was more impressed with the idle-stop feature on the new Mercedes-Benz S550 . With a similar-size engine, the S550 restarted much more quickly and smoothly.

Fuel economy obviously wasn't a priority for the M6 anyway. Its EPA numbers are 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, earning it a gas-guzzler tax. I ended up on the high side of that range, 18.1 mpg, mostly due to a large amount of time spent freeway cruising.

Big screen
For those more sedate drives in the M6, it comes loaded with BMW's most cutting-edge cabin tech, the same equipment we saw in the 640i Gran Coupe.

Sitting up on the center of the dashboard is a large, 10.2-inch LCD. Despite its breadth, the thin-panel design makes it look elegant in the cockpit. The console holds BMW's iDrive controller, a jog-dial surrounded by buttons for quick access to navigation, stereo, and the phone system. This iDrive controller lacks the touch-pad surface being introduced on the latest BMW models.

2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe
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The navigation system looks gorgeous on this 10.2-inch LCD. Josh Miller/CNET

The maps from the navigation system have a very refined look, fitting for the M6's premium character. I found it easy to read street names and get a sense of my location. One particularly nice feature was that the maps showed topographical features, so I could tell when the road ahead was going to head uphill or down.

I had seen much of this before in other BMW models, but one thing I noticed was much more extensive traffic coverage. Surface streets around San Francisco showed traffic flow information on the map, as did mountain highways that had previously not been covered.

This system offered excellent route guidance, as well, partly due to its integration with the M6's head-up display, a windshield projection showing the car's speed and turn-by-turn directions. The head-up display also had an M performance mode, where it showed a graphical representation of the tachometer and the car's speed in digits.

BMW includes a native data connection enabling Google local search in the car. This search feature is tied into the navigation system, so you don't have to rely on a fixed points-of-interest database in the car.

2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe
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The HUD is an excellent adjunct to the navigation system. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Apart from the onboard data connection, I also had BMW's ConnectedDrive app running on my iPhone. In the car, it let me access Twitter, Facebook, a Web Radio feature with a ton of online radio stations from around the world, and a feature called Wiki Local. This app let me see Wikipedia write-ups of nearby landmarks, which would be extraordinarily fun on a road trip. Twitter and Facebook integration let me post canned updates to these social-media networks, so I could update friends on my estimated arrival time at a destination, as one example.

The M6's stereo offers pretty much all the audio sources you can imagine. I played music off the car's hard drive and from my iPhone with it plugged into the car's USB port. There was also the aforementioned Web Radio feature, along with HD Radio and satellite radio. Oddly, I had trouble figuring out how to make the car stream music from my iPhone over Bluetooth, as it lacked that capability after I paired it with the hands-free Bluetooth system.

And that's a symptom of one of my few criticisms of iDrive. There is a Settings screen, but it does not seem to have all the car's settings available on it. I could not find where to set my iPhone as a Bluetooth audio streaming device, and I didn't find any settings for the navigation system. I believe those settings were available somewhere in the car, just buried deeply under some set of menus.

This model also came with the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system, which used 16 speakers and 1,200 watts from multiple amps to completely blow me away. With all the tone settings at neutral, this system created the most perfectly balanced sound I have heard. Whether highs, mids, or bass, sound came through with incredibly fine detail. Bass was strong and rich, but never overwhelming. Highs were glistening without being shrill. Sustains that I hadn't noticed on songs I had played through other stereos now came through with perfect clarity. Vocals played through with all the breadth and depth the singer put into it.

This is one sound system that any audiophile should appreciate.

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The center speaker of the Bang & Olufsen audio system rises from the dashboard when in use. Josh Miller/CNET

A few other tech options BMW included on this car were a surround-view camera system, useful for avoiding scraping the wheels against curbs when parking, and a front split-view camera, for pulling out of blind alleys. Lane departure warning vibrated the wheel whenever I crossed a lane line without signaling, and a blind-spot monitor lit up an icon in the side mirror casing if another car was in the next lane over.

A complete tech champ
CNET's automotive reviews have always focused on technology, both in the cabin and under the hood, and the 2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe scores high in every category. Not only is there an insane amount of tech in this car, it all works brilliantly, for the most part.

A little better fuel economy from the engine would be nice, but I can't argue with its smooth power delivery and BMW's truly innovative Valvetronic system and twin-scroll turbos. The transmission is so good I wish every car had one like it. Despite the Comfort mode not leading to a soft ride, I was perfectly happy with BMW's suspension settings.

The idle-stop feature is about the only problem with the performance tech. Other companies have done a better job implementing this feature.

The cabin tech is equally good. The audio system in particular stands out for its excellent sound reproduction and its many available audio sources. BMW brings in some useful and even fun connected features as well. The navigation system worked flawlessly, and the extended live traffic coverage was nice to see.

The iDrive interface is good, but far from perfect. BMW has never quite got the music library screen right, making it difficult to select and start playback of stored media. And all the settings need to be easily accessible from one screen.

As for driver assistance features, the M6 can be well-equipped, the HUD standing out as a must-have option. Camera systems and the blind-spot monitor are also good additions. LED headlights do an excellent job of lighting up the night. The only feature I missed on the option list is adaptive cruise control, a surprising miss on the part of BMW.

Tech specs
Model 2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe
Power train Direct-injection turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
EPA fuel economy 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 18.1 mpg
Navigation Standard hard-drive-based with live traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources Internet-based radio, onboard hard drive, Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system Bang & Olufsen 1,200-watt 16-speaker system
Driver aids HUD, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitor, surround-view camera, rearview camera
Base price $115,000
Price as tested $137,575

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