BMW's M, or Motorsport, line started as tuned-up versions of its standard models for BMW racing drivers. Now M has emerged as an in-house tuner, equivalent to Mercedes-Benz AMG and the Audi S.

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The M6 Coupe sports a carbon fiber roof panel, which lessens the overall weight and also lowers the center of gravity. These roof panels are becoming an M signature, as they are also used on the new BMW M3.

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From the front, the M6 is not distinct from the standard 650i. But the M6 uses a sport-tuned suspension with BMW's Electronic Damping Control, which lets the driver choose rigidity or comfort.

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One new touch on the slightly refreshed 6-series body are LED turn signals, set in a row above the headlights.

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The engine is another difference between the 650i and the M6. The M6 gets a 5-liter V-10 that produces 500 horsepower, while the 650i makes do with a 4.8-liter V-8.

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The M6 is a fairly long coupe with a good amount of cabin room. Rear seat leg room is tight, but usable. Being an M, the car handles well, but its size is evident in the corners.

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Although we like 90 percent of the car's styling, the trunk lid seems like an aberration, tacked onto the back and not quite meshing with the rear fenders.

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This particular M6 has the optional carbon fiber cabin trim and some very expensive merino leather on the seats.

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Two buttons on the right spoke of the steering wheel, the M and the star, are programmable within certain limitations. You can set driving characteristics with the M button, and program cabin tech shortcuts for the star button.

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The redline on the tach actually moves, starting low when the car is cold and eventually running up to this level. There is a preliminary yellow zone running into the 7,000 range, while the redline hits at above 8,000 rpm.

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The EDC button controls the three stages of the Electronic Damping Control. No lights mean comfort, one light is normal, and both lights come on when the system is in full sport mode. In normal mode, EDC is dynamic, adjusting to the driving style.

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The iDrive controller is present, serving as the main means for using the software interface that controls navigation, stereo, climate, and the phone system. It is augmented by a few dashboard controls and voice command.

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Under the settings menu, you can program these parameters for the M button on the steering wheel, giving you one-touch access to impressive performance.

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Although the maps have good resolution, they are stored on DVD, making some of the navigation system's functions slow. This system does have integrated traffic reporting.

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The single disc slot plays MP3 CDs, although the interface doesn't show ID3 tags.

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Sirius satellite radio is an option on the M6, along with HD radio.

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Our preferred music source while testing the M6 was the iPod integration, which gives full access to the iPod library.

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Bluetooth cell phone integration is excellent in the M6, featuring an automatic download of our cell phone contact list.

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The star button on the steering wheel can be programmed with any of these functions. We think 'Show map' should be on this list.

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