Coming hot on the heels of our recent test of the M5, our brief time with the 2006 BMW M6 was especially enjoyable as we had already learned enough of the Sequential Manual Gearbox's behavior to really tap into the M6's performance. The same basic drivetrain powers both cars: an operatic 500-horsepower 5-liter V10 engine coupled to the seven-speed SMG. Performance in both cars is startling but kept doable with stability control, adjustable damping, and numerous engine and transmissions modes. The M5 actually has the better drag coefficient of the two, but the M6 evens out any performance edge with a slight weight advantage.
The M6 looks distinctly more purposeful than a regular 6 series. As with most current BMWs, styling is a controversial issue, and the rear end of the M6 makes an easy target: in our time with the car we heard it compared with a bathtub and a tramp's hat. This 6-series doesn't live up to the previous generation's design, but the no-nonsense treatment given to the 2006 M6 is an improvement to our eyes. The standard 19-inch wheels are an especially bold upgrade, with a thin five-spoke design showing off the brake hardware.
BMW provides a comprehensive roster of technophile goodies, most of which we've seen in other BMWs: iDrive is the now-familiar--if unloved--main cabin control interface; Bluetooth integration is offered along with voice control of other interior systems; and the same split-screen navigation setup we've always liked is standard.
Major options include the heads-up display ($1,000) that we saw in the M5, Sepang Merino leather ($3,500), comfort access ($1,000), high-definition radio ($500), and carbon-fiber interior trim ($300). With a stiff gas guzzler penalty of $3,000 and the $695 destination charge, our M6 stickered for a whopping total of $106,690. The 2006 BMW M6 is performance-oriented, but passengers are treated well as they fly along--as well they should be in a coupe in this price range. As in the 2006 BMW M5, the full leather option in our M6 impressed us with the material and the degree of coverage. Our M6's carbon-fiber interior trim, however, left us rather cold. The dark mesh of the trim lacked the warmth of the wood trim we'd seen in the M5, especially against the light-hued seats, dash, and console. The carbon fiber does make a nice reminder of the lightweight roof panel overhead, but most buyers will probably forgo the interior trim.
The M6 we tested also lacked the $1,900 multifunction seat option, making do with the standard heated front seats and their 16-way power adjustments, including lumbar and thigh support. The seat-cooling option was not present in our M6, which we missed, but we were just fine without the gee-whiz active bolstering of the seats in the M5. Support was very good and with the power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, getting comfortable was easy. The main gauges are large and clear, with a digital information display between them. The optional heads-up display shows a virtual tachometer, current gear and speed, and warning messages where the driver can see them while maintaining a view of the road ahead.
We noted in the M5 how difficult it is for the driver to reach the six-CD magazine located in the glove box, which augments the single-disc slot in the dash. In the M6, a slightly wider center console makes it all but impossible. And we felt slightly claustrophobic in the M6, which is almost four inches shorter than the M5. Headroom was adequate yet we still felt cramped, possibly due to having been in the M5 immediately before.
In terms of layout and space, the interior reminded us of the Porsche 928, a car which also seemed to fit tighter than the overall size would suggest. As in the 928, the M6's rear seats are for small children only. A ski pass-through from the spacious trunk is standard.
Interior electronic systems all performed as we've come to expect. The navigation system plots routes and zooms speedily--zooming being one rare setting for which the iDrive dial is the perfect controller. Voice control for the audio, navigation, and Bluetooth systems was effective. The same top-notch audio system we saw in the M5 is again standard, and Sirius satellite radio is a $595 option. The M6 is also equipped with high-definition radio for an additional $500.
The comfort access option allows entry and engine-starting with the key pocketed. Numerous other lighting and central locking options are controllable with iDrive, as is the automatic air recirculation system. Climate control requires some iDrive use for setting airflow, but there are dedicated controls for fan speed and temperature for both front seating positions. The 2006 BMW M6 features one of the most potent production-car engines currently available. Thanks to individual throttle bodies for each of the 10 cylinders, an oversquare bore-to-stroke ratio and steplessly variable valve-timing, the 5-liter unit revs with amazing ease. Power is always available, and mashing the throttle to hear the ensuing bark and crescendo from the four big exhaust outlets becomes addictive. As we noted in our M5 review, the production of 100 horsepower-per-liter of displacement without forced induction is impressive in 2-liter engines such as the VTEC four-cylinder engines found in Honda and Acura models; the same relative output, along with an 8,000rpm redline in a 5-liter V10 is almost magical.