By on August 23, 2012

When the “F01″ 7-Series arrived in 2008 followed by the “F10″ 5-Series in 2009, I saw the writing on the wall; BMW is the new Mercedes. My theory was “proved” after a week with the 2011 335is and 2012 X5M. BMW fans decried my prophesy as blasphemy. I repeated my statement with the 2012 328i and caught the eye of egmCarTech. A Mercedes fan tried to run me over in a parking lot. My colleagues in the press thought I lost my mind. BMW’s media watchers were eerily silent. A month later I was told that BMW would allow me a week in the all-new 2012 M6 Convertible. Would the most expensive M car change my mind or prove the point once and for all?

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Exterior

The previous 6 suffered from Chris Bangle’s posterior, a design that was either loved or hated. The new 6 replaces the awkward trunk with curves and creases that seem to please everyone. Despite being lower and wider than a 650i with plenty of unique sheetmetal, the casual observer was unable to tell just how much was altered to create the M6. Who knew the M6 would be a sleeper?

BMW continues to employ a soft top with “classic” 6-Series buttresses on either side of the rear glass, bucking the retractable hardtop trend that’s sweeping the three-pointed star. Aside from the weight benefits, the canvas lid maximizes trunk space, has less impacted on weight balance when the top is down, and most importantly: it operates at speeds up to 25MPH. Compared to the Jaguar XK-R, the M6 is larger and more aggressive. Thankfully, as aggressive as the M6 looks, the profile and details are more elegant than the Mercedes SL63 whose hood vents and trunk spoiler look overdone.

Interior

Inside the changes to the 650i donor car are less dramatic and limited to trim tweaks, lightly restyled seats, new steering wheel, and M-themed shifter. Despite sharing heavily with the plebeian 640i, the cabin is completely at home in a $120,000 luxury coupe with perfect stitched dashboard seams and soft leather everywhere. The only problem I found is the steering column shared with the lesser models. The M6′s airbag is considerably smaller, perfectly round and in the center of a thin three-spoke tiller making the rectangular plastic steering column extremely visible.

During my week with the M6 I acted as a quasi-pace-car driver for a 40-mile charity walk. Four of us spent two 10-hour days driving from one stop to another and hours in the seats getting sunburnt waiting for the walkers to arrive at the next stop. Normally four people jammed into a luxury convertible would be a trying experience, but  the M6 was surprisingly comfortable with a useable back seat and supportive front seats. In comparison, the XK’s rear seats are more of a joke than an actual feature, the Mercedes SL doesn’t have any back seats and the Maserati GranCabrio has a similar amount of legroom but awkwardly angled seat backs.

Infotainment & Gadgets

As with most modern BMW products, the M6 comes with BMW’s standard 10.2-inch iDrive system. Unfortunately the minor tweaks made to the new 3-series have not made it to the 6-Series meaning you still have a CD button rather than a media button and the head-up display won’t show you infotainment info. If you want to know more about iDrive, checkout our video on the 2012 650i or click on over to the 650i Coupe and 650i Convertible reviews.

For some reason, BMW’s excellent radar cruise control is not available on the M6, but the rest of the 6-Series’ gadgetry can be added. Our M6 was equipped with the $4,900 “Executive Package” which included full LED headlamps, a heated steering wheel, satellite radio, anti-fatigue front seats, soft-closing doors and BMW’s “apps” package for iDrive. Should your gadget-love know no budget; lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, all-around video camera and electronic speed limit info can be had for $1,900. Ventilated front seats are a $500 stand alone option, as is the $2,600 night vision system with pedestrian detection. The essential option is the $3,700 Bang & Olufsen sound system. The standard 12-speaker BMW audio system is balanced strangely toward the bright side of normal. If you’re throwing down six figures on your topless weekend car, checking this option box won’t hurt.

iDrive alone puts the M6 at the top of the gadget lover’s list, but let’s compare anyway. With a starting price over $30,000 higher than the M6, the SL63 brings active lane keep assist and radar cruise control to the party but lacks BMW’s night vision, all-around camera, anti-fatigue seats, LED headlamps and, let’s face it, COMAND should be sent out to pasture. The XKR-S looses this battle as well with a $20,000 premium, Jaguar’s aggravating infotainment system, and no gadgets to speak of.

Drivetrain

With CAFE regulations looming, twin-turbo engines are the latest craze for luxury marques and even BMW’s mighty M division has caved. The result is a step backwards and forwards with the bespoke V10 replaced by a modified version of BMW’s 400HP 4.4L twin-turbo V8 (N63). The same basic engine (S63) first debuted under the hood of the 555HP X5M and X6M. For M5 and M6 duty, BMW tweaked the engine by adding Valvetronic, increasing the compression ratio from 9.3:1 to 10:1 and bumping peak boost. The result is a minor increase in horsepower to 560 and a flattening of the power curve from a peak at 6,000RPM, to a plateau from  5,750-7,000. Torque remains steady at a stump-pulling 500lb-ft but broadens to 1,500-5,750RPM. BMW revised the 7-speed “M-DCT” dual clutch transmission from the last M5/M6 and tossed in a new electronic rear differential. While not strictly a drivetrain change, BMW swapped the floating rear subframe for a fixed unit to improve handling and power delivery.

In comparison, the Jaguar XKR-S delivers 550HP and 502lb-ft of twist from its blown 5.0L V8 and the all-new Mercedes SL63 offers your choice of 530HP/557lb-ft or 590HP/664lb-ft from AMG’s new 5.5L twin-turbo V8. Jaguar has continues to stick to the tried-and-true ZF 6-speed automatic while Mercedes continues their love affair with their 7-speed automatic sans torque converter. While each of these transmission types has an advantage, BMW claims their M-DCT transmission shifts in half the time of the competition.

Drive

It often takes a week for me to decide how I like a car. With the M6 it took 50 miles. Why? Because of how well BMW has blended savage acceleration with a soft luxurious ride and comfy seats. The M6 has turned into the ultimate road trip convertible.

Don’t get me wrong, the M6 is a serious performance contender. Bury the throttle and 60 passes in 3.75 seconds followed shortly by a blistering 11.89 second 1/4 mile at an eye popping 123MPH. These numbers are without launch control which, strangely enough, elevated our times by about 3/10ths. Just let the nannies do their thing. The numbers below show the M6 “suffers” slight turbo lag from 0-30. From 30-60, the M6 is a beast taking 0.70 fewer seconds than the XKR-S. By 120MPH the lighter weight of the Jaguar helps it stay right on the heels of the BMW. By the end of the 1/4 mile, the BMW finishes ahead by a car length. My seat time in the SL63 was limited and we weren’t able to get it out on the track, but don’t expect it to be much faster to 60. Despite the serious power advantage, the rear tires are skinnier than the Jag or BMW and traction is king.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S           2012 BMW M6 Convertible

0-30: 1.18 Seconds                 1.8 (Thank the turbos for that)

0-60: 3.83 Seconds                 3.75 (It’s all about the torque curve baby)

0-120: 11.84 Seconds             11.80 (curb weight means something)

1/4 mile: 12.0 @ 122 MPH       11.89 @ 123 MPH

A word about 0-60 numbers. With high horsepower cars, traction is the limiting factor. Because road surfaces, tires, etc. vary greatly. Our track times cannot be directly compared to other publications as they are not performed on the same surface – nevertheless, we’re all in the same ballpark. We use a 10Hz GPS meter for our testing. According to the manufacturer,accuracy is  +/-0.2MPH on 0-60 runs and +/-0.4MPH on 1/4 mile tests. According to our drag-strip verification, the system is within +/-0.3MPH over a 1/4 mile.

Out on the track, the XKR-S and M6 are well matched. While the XKR-S is a bit heavier in the nose and has narrower tires up front, the rear seems to find grip more easily and the steering is more direct and responsive. The English competitor is also 429lb lighter with a firmer suspension, less body roll and an absolutely savage 0-30 time. The M6 counters with lightning fast dual-clutch shifts and seemingly endless mid-range power. For 2012, BMW polished M-DCT’s software and the result is one of the smoothest “robotic manuals” I have ever driven. I’d like to compare it to the Mercedes SPEEDSHIFT transmission in the SL63, but I still have harsh-shift related whiplash from my test drive.

On the broken roads of Northern California, it’s a different story. BMW’s adaptive suspension makes the M6 more composed than the SL or XKR-S on broken pavement, even at higher speeds. It’s not that the Jag or Merc are unrefined by any measure, its that the M6 rides like a 7-Series while it handles like an overweight M3. Thank you modern technology.

The softer ride and number steering mean the M6 is less engaging in the bends. On the flip side, the M6 is a car you can drive every day while the SL63 and XKR-S exact some practical compromises. The M6 is the more comfortable car, it seats four and the monstrous trunk can hold luggage for 3 easily. What the BMW can’t counter is the visceral roar produced by Jag’s 5.0L V8. The M6 in comparison is quiet, some might even say demure.

 

If you want the best track car, get a GT-R. It will “out everything” the M6 on the track. If you want the best sounding V8 engine, get the XKR-S. If you want the sexiest coupe, get a Maserati. If you want the best all-around sports luxury coupe, look no further than the BMW M6. I admit that after a week with the most expensive M, I am smitten. But have I fallen for the M6 for all the “wrong” reasons? I value the M6′s perfect interior, comfortable seats, electronic do-dads and LED headlamps over straight-line or corner performance. In other-words, I elevate all the values I was raised to associate with Mercedes-Benz. But here in front of me is a BMW that embodies all the luxury I demand yet sacrifices only a smidgin of track performance in the process. I will leave the discussions of branding to more qualified writers, but I will say that nobody I met felt the Mercedes SL brought any more cachet than the M6, despite its price tag. Mercedes has been put on notice. BMW’s M6 reigns alone as the king of the German luxury coupe. AMG: you have been found wanting. (You know, except for that whole SLS thing.)

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BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 1.8 Seconds

0-60: 3.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  11.89 Seconds @ 123 MPH

Average fuel economy: 16.1 MPG over 825 miles

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46 Comments on “Review: 2012 BMW M6 Convertible...”


  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    An excellent write up and a really impressive machine. The golden era of the automobile truly is now.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    If only they could make it look as good as an 850.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “[A]nd most importantly: it operates at speeds up to 25MPH.” Most importantly? Honestly, has anyone other than an automotive writer ever (a) opened a convertible top other than when parked or at a slow crawl or (b) cared that one car’s top operates three or four seconds faster or slower than another car’s?

    Also, I couldn’t glean anything from the first paragraph apart from the author’s self-importance.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Here in California, AKA the land of the convertible, there are two types of drivers. The first is the type that has a soft top that operates at some forward rate of speed, these people start closing or opening their lid at a stoplight and are able to complete the operation without impacting traffic flow too much when the light turns green. The second is the kind of person that has a Chrysler 200 Convertible and has to remain completely still for 35 seconds to complete a top operation. This kind of driver gets honked at, flipped off, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Alex nailed it here. My PRHT Miata has a top that goes up and down fast, within 15 seconds or so. But the car has to be in neutral going 0 mph or it won’t work. If you start rolling mid-transition, it just freezes until you stop again.

        My commute to work is about 20 miles of excellent country roads followed by 7 miles of crowded freeway. I leave my house with the top down and try to get it put up while stopped at one of the 3 lights I go through just before the freeway. If I don’t arrive at a light just as it turns red, I can’t get the top up before the light turns green, which annoys the traffic behind me. I may only delay them 1-5 seconds, but no one likes that!

        Going home it’s the opposite, I want to lower it after getting off the freeway and need a red light to do so.

        If my top could work even at 10-15 mph, I could start it up/down while coasting to the light, or complete it in the first few seconds of pulling away.

        Never thought I’d hope for a red light :)

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        It’s something I have never thought about. I always,just pull over. I can understand, that in heavy traffic,it might be a POA.

    • 0 avatar
      Wunsch

      Being able to close the top on the move, and how fast it closes, are both important considerations when going out in a convertible with the potential for rain in the forecast. The faster you can put the top up, the less worried you have to be.

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    I like the SL better.

  • avatar
    LKre

    I merely glanced over the review so I cant comment on its depths. Working in Midtown Manhattan and living on Brighton Beach, I see plenty of luxury cars, including all BMW models, and, of course, the 6. Brighton Beach even beats Midtown in that regard due to social habits and tastes of Russian community. The 6 is a beautiful car, and has always been, and I probably see more of them than many readers due to my geograophic location. Great are, too, Tesla S and VW CC. Nevertheless, the last time a car review with a remote practical value appeared on this cite was beginning of July. You can keep the 6, I am a New Yorker, I have nowhere to park 2 cars, so give me a crossover (a review thereof, at least.)

  • avatar
    philadlj

    An SL55 with a back seat, usable trunk, and more sleeper-ish looks. Not a bad deal! Though some details, like the older iDrive and protruding steering column, are disappointing.

  • avatar
    Slab

    You’re going to have to explain why saying “BMW is the new Mercedes” is an insult. I don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Wunsch

      BMW vs Mercedes can be something of a religious debate, similar to Ford vs Chevy in some places. And BMW has traditionally emphasized performance and handling over luxury, whereas Mercedes has been the king of luxury. “BMW is the new Mercedes” implies that BMW is sacrificing the all-important performance and handling, to be more luxurious like a Mercedes.

      • 0 avatar
        Grahambo

        In addition to “luxury”, the clear advantages that Mercedes Benz used to hold over BMW were things like build quality, longevity, and durability — both real and perceived. Post-W126/W124, Mercedes certainly gave that advantage up. However, as the 2000s have progressed, my impression is that Mercedes is slowly starting to recapture some of what it lost (although with current competition/price/cost pressures, it will never get back to where it used to be, speaking relatively to other car makers) while, if anything, I’d have less confidence in a modern BMW over the long-term than I would have in, say, a 1988 model.

  • avatar
    rickyc

    BMW’s larger models need to go on a serious diet, I mean one can only imagine how good this M6 would handle if it was 500lbs lighter. I’m still wondering whats taking BMW so long to get on the aluminum frame wagon. Audi and Jaguar have been doing it for years.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Rick, It’s called profit. Honestly. If BMW can sell their volume without going aluminum, then why spend the money? Jaguar and Audi need the Aluminum chassis to keep competitive.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Alex,

        Exactly. BMW even gave me a little DVD to show the high-tensile tubular (and rectangular) space frame they use, and it is already light enough to pick up with one hand! So what benefit would they get from aluminum frames at this point? They have been masters at applying race-car construction to a road car chassis.

        ———

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        NMGOM,
        Oh, there would still be a significant weight benefit to Aluminum I’m sure. Aluminum has a number of things going for it, being light weight is only one. It also deforms more predictably and can be used to make safer cars. I have no doubt that an all-aluminum M6 would shed several hundred pounds, go faster, handle better, blah, blah, blah. But if sales are high and owners don’t care, then spending the cash is a bad business expense. Let the other makers spend the money to get the processes down and drive down costs.

      • 0 avatar
        Manic

        Well, last 6 series had interesting composite-alu-steel mix. New has some “plastic” body panels too, no?

        Also, 2 words: Grand Tourer, no need to think of this car as track weapon. It’s just too heavy and big for that. It’s meant for long autobahn/highway trips.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Anyone else noticing the poor quality paint finishes? Forget the Press vehicles. Go to a BMW dealership and check out the orange peel. It’s apparent that BMW is struggling with their water-based paint technology. Their sales figures indicate customers don’t seem to care.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Not really. The last 3 series I had was parked in the Florida sun for 10 years and it still looked great. My new 335 also seems to be impervious to the effects of the sun. It also has the hardest and most resilient clear coat I have ever seen.

      • 0 avatar
        Johnny Canada

        By “orange peel” I’m not talking about how shiny or resilient the finish is, but to the quality of the reflection based on how flat the color and clear coat has been applied. Other manufactures get it right, so it makes me wonder if there is some cost cutting happening on the paint line. V8 M3′s tend to have the worst paint finishes. Like I said, customers don’t seem to care, so why should BMW.

        • 0 avatar
          dirtdoc1

          I agree, the new paint on most cars is pretty bad. I’m sure it has something to do with environmental concerns. No political commentary intended.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Alex,

    Wonderful article. And thank you for your honesty, with this comment:

    “A word about 0-60 numbers. With high horsepower cars, traction is the limiting factor. Because road surfaces, tires, etc. vary greatly. Our track times cannot be directly compared to other publications as they are not performed on the same surface – nevertheless, we’re all in the same ballpark. We use a 10Hz GPS meter for our testing. According to the manufacturer,accuracy is +/-0.2MPH on 0-60 runs and +/-0.4MPH on 1/4 mile tests. According to our drag-strip verification, the system is within +/-0.3MPH over a 1/4 mile.”

    I had been trying to get certain car magazines to “fess up” up about the nature of their test-road surfaces for drag, skidpad, and slalom. To no avail. You are at least beginning to address errors and measurement precision.

    What is ideally needed is a road surface that is standard (that everyone agrees to), and that can be easily washed/cleaned/dried to remove rubber and dust from previous runs. Alternatively, it could be that doing all this testing on a WET, constantly sprayed track solves everyone’s issues if the surface is agreed upon. That also eliminates or minimizes humidity/temperature changes in testing. And it gives a better simulation of those dangerous conditions under which traction and handling are most critical. Yes, all values would be lower, of course, compared to dry runs. But cross-comparisons among vehicles or testers, and reproducibility for given vehicles, should be MUCH better.

    ——–

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Alex, an excellent review. But I have a question. Is the M6 worth the premium over the 650i? Does the M badge and all the other goodies make that much of a difference, or in the real world, would the 650i and a heap of cash to waste on gas and expensive vacations be the more appealing route?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Excellent question. I would buy the 650i xDrive. Why? The AWD makes the 650i very sure footed in real-world driving. The M6 is stable, but the slightest imperfection in the road gets the traction control involved. The 650i is incredibly fast as it is, but here’s the kicker. By the time you add options, you can get the 650i up to $122,000 at which point the M premium is somewhere around $13,000 which makes the decision more difficult. It is entirely possible to have a 650i that cost more than your average M6. But my preference would be for the slightly softer 650i with AWD.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        Thanks, that kind of confirmed the impression I am forming about the current generation of luxury sleds from just about every brand. The non-performance division models are now so competent they are just about even with the performance models from even a single generation ago. But they ride better and provide more comfort. I may be insane, but I see little point in an M5/6 or an AMG E65/SL65 when the 650i or E550 are so good as is.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    In total agreement about BMW chasing Mercedes (and Lexus). Nothing visceral or engaging about the new cars (fake exhaust note through the stereo speakers?). All they are trying to be is fast rapid luxury transport, not the ultimate driving machine. I need to stop reading reviews of new BMW cause they always get me frustrated…maybe I keep foolishly hoping theyll find their way again.

  • avatar

    If I were gonna buy a car right now, it would be an A7. If I wanted to drop ridiculous amounts of money on yet another car’s fuel costs: S7.

  • avatar
    C170guy

    This was a very well done review in terms of information you can actually use.

    I understood exactly what was being said when he said that BMW is the new Mercedes. It’s a pretty bold thing to say and not something you say unless you are pretty comfortable saying it.

    I also like the conspicuous emphasis on how easy the machine is to live with compared to other cars in it’s class. Much more valuable than a rehash of the stat sheet.

    After this review and the article on the Rolls Royce the other day, it’s becoming apparent that the lights are on at BMW and they have people working there who get it. That’s not always been the case.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Mercedes has been put on notice. BMW’s M6 reigns alone as the king of the German luxury coupe.”

    CL65?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    0-60 under four seconds and the 1/4 mile under 12.
    Holy friggin rocketship, that’s F40 or 959 league. Is that kind of performance really neccessary or even sensible in a luxurious convertible?

  • avatar
    smartascii

    That’s what makes it *luxurious* – it’s neither necessary nor sensible.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Gosh, please, please! proofread these disjointed utterings before inflicting them on the unsuspecting reader.

    I assume each writer has no editor to do this job, but instead merely submits their disorganized, hastily typed words directly to the site.

    I normally like Mr. Dykes reviews, but really, this is becoming Teh Trtuh Aubot Carsed, and 3$ per Annum incomes in Mr. Kriendler’s Africa. Please spend a few minutes to get it right.

    • 0 avatar
      caltemus

      If there were ever a point that any misspellings made it so that you did not understand the article, I would understand, but he’s human. People make mistakes, even the largest newspapers and other publications have typos. Is your time worth so little that you would make the effort to criticize an article that you are viewing FOR FREE. Nobody is forcing you to read it. If it is “Teh Trtuh Aubot Carsed,” then stop reading it. You won’t be missed

  • avatar

    Alex, how do you like the steering? I’m curious because BMW actually uses hydraulic steering instead of EPS on M6/M5 .

  • avatar

    amazing features of this car !! while comparing with jaguar , the BMW M6 is gives more than any feature of jaguar. And its look is also much better than Jaguar . If I have to choose a car from this 2 , I will choose BMW M6 . It is comfortable to drive. I will to drive this car o high ways with full speed. Thanks for sharing this great post.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    “…bucking the retractable hardtop trend that’s sweeping the three-pointed star.”

    How do you figure? MB has two hardtops; BMW also has two. Mercedes hasn’t even added a hardtop in a decade.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Alex – any thoughts on the LED headlamps? They seem to have a lot of promise to be both cheaper and more reliable than current HID lamps. Any other manufacturers have full LED headlamps right now?

  • avatar
    stuki

    Why not include the new 911′Vert in the comparo? It’s way more GT than old school sports car by now, and with all the crazy suspension trickery that makes the Panamera ride like a Maglev, it can’t be that much more punishing than an M6. My biggest gripe with the 6 ‘vert, is the high beltline and gunslit windshield with a rake that makes it feel more like a glass rood than a windshield. The 911, despite going in the same direction, is still a few generations away.

  • avatar
    dirtdoc1

    It sounds like age has changed priorities. I thought M cars were supposed to be about performance first. I’ll take the XKRS thank you very much.


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