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BMWs New M6: Luxury At Speed

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After a two-year hiatus, BMW’s luxurious M6 coupe is back. This time the automaker has resisted reaching into the racing parts bin for its high-strung, thirsty 10-cylinder engine mated to sequential-manual gearbox. Instead, BMW’s M team massaged the 650 model’s turbocharged V8 from 400 horses to 560 and bolted up a new 7-speed M double-clutch transmission that can do smooth as easily as aggressive.

The result of this endeavor, along with a host of other mechanical and cosmetic improvements, is a big GT coupe that’s as fun for friends and family on public roads as it is quick around a track when all the M buttons are selected. In contrast, the previous generation was only at its best at full throttle with frantic paddle shifting. Now, the only weird trick the M6 springs on the unsuspecting operator is shutting off by itself when brought to a halt, and for those who dislike this new start-stop feature, they can switch it off.

If a handful of purists were ready to gripe about the loss of a racing engine and transmission, I suggest they hold their complaint letter until driving this new M. It’s quicker, more powerful, and more entertaining to drive hard than the former M6. And the fuel economy has improved in the process. OK, so 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway won’t win the Sierra Club global warming prize, it trumps the 11 city/17 highway that the former, less powerful M6 delivered. And for boasting honors, BMW’s 560-horsepower nudges past Cadillac’s CTS-V’s 556-HP, making it the momentary luxo-tuner power champ.

I did the first part of my M6 homework at Laguna Seca Raceway where I could test the big coupe’s limits without adding points to my driving record. Pushing a 4,255-pound coupe around a racetrack is a fascinating endeavor. The M6’s prodigious power sheds much of the weight, allowing quick acceleration and the revamped suspension along with 19″ performance tires hold the big coupe through the track’s 11 turns. Even a bit of late braking didn’t overheat the car’s revised brakes with six-piston calipers up front clamping on 16″ cross-drilled rotors. For those who want more, carbon-ceramic brakes will be offered in 2013.

Off the track, the M6 shines brightly. The 6-Series styling, dramatically refined in the current cars, is reworked to accommodate an increased demand for cooling and aerodynamics. BMW designers accommodated these needs with big air intakes and ground-effects bodywork without the cartoonish style that too often finds its way into tuner cars. The M6 roof is carbon fiber, adding style and strength while subtracting weight, and the four-pipe exhaust is authentic as well as stylish.

Inside, BMW has added a youthful touch to the interior without lessening the luxury. The well-bolstered seats hold occupants firmly and are comfortable enough for long journeys. The iDrive system gets better each generation, and the latest version is connected to a high-resolution 10.2-inch screen for ease of use. And now, the electronics are software upgradable so you won’t fear the obsolescence the plagued older models.

The premium coupe market is small and fickle, with plenty of rivals to choose from. The M6 is in pretty good shape these days, with an offering as statuesque and stylish as Mercedes CL63 AMG for far less money. And Audi’s RS5 coupe retails for under $70,000 but squares off against BMW’s M3 coupe. So if it’s big and powerful you’re seeking in two-door German supercars, the M6 is a great choice.     BRIAN DOUGLAS

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