Cooley On Cars
On the road: BMW M6 Gran CoupeCNET's Brian Cooley takes BMW's 2014 M6 Gran Coupe out for a test drive on the track at Sonoma Raceway to see how it performs.
-Yes, it's a little odd that I'm driving a four-door luxury coupe on a racetrack, but it's up to it. This car needs lithium. It's got at least two personalities. One as a quite credible track car, the other as a four-day for four adults who are all for comfort. I don't think anybody, but BMW could pull this off. Let's drive the 2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe and check the tech on the track. Let's cut to the chase. The power train. BMW's 4.4 liter V8 with direct injection and a pair of twin squirrel turbos turn a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission out to the two rear wheels via an active electronic differential. This is how the company earns its name. We're just about the ragged edge of all performance functions except that I'd left a little bit of stability control on to save my ass when I lose it. 560 horsepower, 502 foot pounds of torque. Notice it's rather oddly under-torqued for a turbo V8. Now, as we noted earlier, the torque on this car is not crazy. As a result, it absolutely loves to be opened up and breathe. And it just runs, and runs, and runs. It feels like there is no red light. All right. Come on. Woo-hee. You have the option of getting a six-speed manual instead of this seven-speed dual clutch. Now, that's interesting. And really, a 4,400 pound car has no right to it 60 at about 4 seconds, but this one does. Wow, you can get up to 100 plus so fast. Here's what you pay the piper. In spite of brake force energy regeneration and automatic start/stop, it's not enough to avoid a gas guzzler attacks. MPG is 14/20. The best way to describe this car's performance and especially its power delivery is effortless. There's just no problem in here where the car feels like it's gotta breathe harder. It just breathes easy all the time. That's what I come away from on this engine. The breathing is absolutely unbelievable. Now, short of the ostentatious BMW X6M, that coupe UV, this is the most outrageous of the M cars. It says you can have it all except excess weight and here is how. Aluminum hood, aluminum doors, plastic fender, plastic trunklette. Up here, we've got a carbon fiber roof; all of this saving a lot of weight and saving it in the right places. Oh, I love this touch back here. Look at that faired in, high center mound at stoplight. Now, inside our M6 Gran Coupe, not a lot we haven't seen before. I'm still waiting for the new version of iDrive that will have a touchpad here on the controller and lets you move your finger around, draw characters, and pinch to zoom. Here's the home screen. The key things are the connected drive area where you've got BMW online and an interesting way to add little applications that are sort of like mini apps. More importantly, you've got built-in internet connectivity and therefore online search. All of this is on a standard 10.2-inch, really wide, beautifully done LCD display. German cars don't know touch. It's all in the iDrive control, but they got this working really well now. And this is something. You know, I've not seen this before. BMW online widgets. It's like a subset of apps. I've one running right now. It's that weather app that I chose and they are cloud-based. This is new also. When you're in the screen, you also see a shadow of the other screen that you clicked over to. This is a nice improvement. Now, off the infotainment, let's get to some of the drive control. Really complex in M cars. This one's no different. You've got screen-based macros for the M Drive mode and then a whole bunch of direct-set buttons down here. Let's walk through them. Two M Drive buttons on the wheel. So, you get the choice of setting stability control to full on, barely on, or completely off. Here's your engine or throttle response. Sports, sport plus, and efficient. Adaptive suspension settings, these are your three levels of firmness, aggression, and road reading. Steering is variable as well. And this is what I call the twitch control. Tells you how twitchy or tight and fast your shirts are gonna be. And finally, I love this. They've got the most amazing hood in the M mode and you can have it show either general information or you can put in the M View, which puts this really cool kind of banded tachometer and shift light indicator right in the glass. And down here you've got some feasible buttons to go with a lot of that. Here's my throttle response. Suspension, steering response. There's my twitch control. So, hardware, software, however you wanna get there, but these you can do on the fly, not just as a micro. The shift is interesting on these M cars these days. You've got reverse, neutral, drive. That's it. Plus, you can kick it back and forth to shift it. Shifting can also be done via the pedals on the wheel. Left is down shift. Right is up shirt. Unfortunately, they are on the wheel, which I hate. They should be on the stalk for a car of this much road credibility. Over on the left here, your driver assistance technology enables for lane departure and blind spot, collision prevention. And these cars have efficient dynamics, which means among other things it recaptures energy from braking to regeneratively charge the battery and it's got the important inclusion of auto start/stop, which on this car is as bad as it is on just every other car. I hate it. I turned it off. Standard audio is stunning. It's 16 speakers and 500 watts or you can option up. We have here the Bang & Olufsen system, which you know because you got that pop-up dispersion lens on top of the dash. It sounds incredibly good. I bet the basic system does as well. Much of that cabin tech comes together in one message on the track. A big effortless rocket that sheds weights with acceleration. Delivers the classic joys of rear wheel drive, throttle steering, but also a completely modern delight in its dual-clutch transmission. So fast and so quick you'll finally give up on any egoistic pretense that you can shift better than a machine. In full twitch mode, the gear change actually seems to happen faster than the pedal can return to its rest position. Now, you can't live with this car on the track all the time, so how is it on the road? Well, first thing I noticed is there's a certain amount of driveline noise, sort of I guess I'd call it driveline wine, that is sort of intrusive. Around town and such when you just wanna chill and just drive this thing, there's this-- kind of hard to pick up on our microphone here, but it's really annoying. In regular automatic mode, it's also a good, well-behaved gearbox. And reversing, good luck. I can't back it up without lighting 'em up. Okay, let's build this guy. Now, it's the second most expensive of the M cars, so it's not gonna come cheap. With destination and the gas guzzler attacks, it's 117 and some change. And we haven't even gotten it CNET style yet. The intriguing six-speed is a no-cost pick. Carbon ceramic brakes are the big one, 9,200 bucks. They may pay for themselves because they can get up to four times the life and they're virtually dust free, which I love. Bang & Olufsen audio, probably overkill, but $3,700. Night vision with pedestrian detection 2,600 more. Come on. Why not? The executive package is 5,500 bucks. That brings you a lot of sort of silly niceties, but also that great hood, automatic high beams, and amazing active seats. And if you want the driver assistance package with the lane departure and the blind spots, that's kind of a steep 1,900 bucks considering it's not really active technology. All in, we're over 140,000 here. Now, you know me. I don't buy this idea that folks who buy track capable cars ever take them there. Very rarely if ever. So, I have to look pretty hard at this car's sibling. The 650i Gran Coupe, which gives up very little in terms of performance. Gives you the option of all-wheel drive, which is important in a lot of your regions, as well as the more comfortable ride when you want it and a lower cost of ownership both upfront and a little bit better fuel economy as well. Plus, with this guy, you're taking on the responsibility of a little bit of M car tooliness, which may or may not print for the person who wants a luxurious four-door. All in, I do love this car, but with your money.