More than twice as powerful as such cars were in the mid-80s…
One of these days it will stop. All the heads of the big, butch German brands will gather around a table and one will say “enough”, at which point all the others will breathe massive sighs of relief. The power struggle will be over and car manufacturers will turn their attention to making models more interesting rather than just ever faster, ever more powerful.
But I’ve been saying this for a while and nothing’s yet changed, as this new BMW M6 illustrates very well. For the past 30 years, BMW’s fastest coupé has been gaining approximately 100bhp per decade. Thirty years ago the M635CSI had 286bhp, 20 years ago the 850 CSi was up to 380bhp, while by 2005 the M5 had just nudged through the 500bhp barrier. And now? You guessed it, this new ultimate ‘Competition Package’ M6 has hit 600PS, or 592bhp for the accuracy sticklers among you. Once the same time has elapsed again, does that really mean the M635CSI’s descendant will offer 900bhp? Or, more extreme still, you could argue that because the latest M6 has more than double the power of the original, in 30 years it could have 1200bhp. Like I said, sooner or later, someone is going to have to call time on this.
For now though, welcome to an M6 more changed than the additional 40bhp under its bonnet and £7300 price rise might suggest. Contrary to its grandiose title, it has in no way been turned into any kind of competition car (which is why there are also Competition Package versions of both the Cabriolet and four-door Grand Coupé models), but it does come with stiffer springs, uprated anti-roll bars, an electronic differential, reprogrammed steering, a titanium exhaust and even its own slightly less restrictive coding for the stability control systems.
Whether it’s worth the extra depends very much on the manner in which you’re going to drive it.
If you are used to a standard M6 you’ll be used also to its surprisingly supple ride, but that’s now gone. The new suspension stops well short of being harsh, but it’s firm and if you forget to stiffen the dampers (there are three different maps for each of the engine, suspension and steering and four for the transmission) it can become quite bouncy on undulating roads.
But if you spend a little time adapting the car to its environment, it’s actually a great pleasure to drive – not so much for the predictably mighty performance and pleasant engine noise, but for the significant handling improvement that comes with them. Naturally the car has a fairly wild surfeit of power over traction, but even if you furl the safety nets the back end won’t go flailing around unless instructed so to do. In fact it’s deliciously controllable in a way, oddly enough, I don’t recall from either the standard M6 or M5 saloon.
This is a car I liked more than I expected, but then I did spend most of my time driving it the way it wants to be driven. Even as it is, it’s a pretty good car, but with just a little more secondary ride comfort it could have been rather splendid.