Review: 2007 Saturn Outlook
This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2009.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
BMW's M6 coupe and convertible are cars to love and to hate.
Their power and performance are awesome. With a 500-horsepower V10 engine mated to a transmission with six or even seven gears, the M6s develop a race-car-like 100 horsepower per liter and 383 lb-ft of torque by 6100 rpm.
As rear-wheel-drive cars, the M6s also have all kinds of high-tech equipment to maximize handling and to tailor features for an intimately personal experience. But it takes lots of time, patience and referrals back to a hefty owner's manual to get there.
The M6s aren't easy to drive, either. Speeds are deceptive—what feels like 30 mph is really 50 on the speedometer, and neighborhood speeds feel like "crawling" mode.
There's also BMW's Sequential Manual Gearbox that makes the M6s difficult—some might say virtually impossible—to drive smoothly. The M6 fuel economy ratings are like those of a big, heavy sport-utility vehicle and BMW made sure to include its long-criticized iDrive programming system in the M6.
So, buyers best be clear what they want from a car like this, because the M6 presents a very fine line, indeed, between a car to love and a car to hate.
The only thing that's missing, it seems, in the M6 models is all-wheel drive. But then, BMW officials wanted the M6 to have the "pure" sports car attitude of rear-wheel drive.
Unlike many cars where a driver can start up and drive without having to immerse himself immediately in technology, the M6 coupe and convertible, particularly with standard SMG and Drivelogic, don't offer this luxury.
This gearbox setup has 11 shift modes—none of them particularly smooth, from my experience. So a driver tends to start fussing with the seven-speed SMG right from the start. (Note that beginning in spring 2007, BMW officials finally decided to offer a more familiar, six-speed manual.)
Then, there's the M6 engine. It's programmed to start in a setting called P400 that keeps peak horsepower at 400. If a driver wants the full 500 horsepower from the V10 that came with the car's purchase, he or she has to activate it via a button.
And to select and tailor suspension settings, a driver must go through a series of menus via the large iDrive knob in the center console. See what I mean about technology in your face? Most cars simply have a button on the center console to adjust shocks and leave it at that.
So, an M6 driver better like more than just the image of himself in the car, because there's a lot to oversee and "manage" in this car.
A car that gets and needs attention
It's also one awesome machine that gets lots of admiring looks. Coming from the race and performance unit of BMW, where "M" cars attract attention of men—yes, virtually all admirers are men in my experience—the M6 stands out, especially as a convertible. It's not sheer brawn the way the Dodge Viper convertible is, and it's more than a pretty Jaguar XKR convertible.
Young and old, men noticed the test M6 Convertible during my test drive, even in a grocery parking lot. And they all swooned, despite the lofty starting price of more than $98,000 for an M6 coupe and $104,000 for a convertible. Interestingly, they nodded knowingly, too, when told about the M6's well-known nettlesome SMG.
It's easy to see why they spotted the M6. M6 cars look different than other BMWs, including the 6-Series coupe and convertible on which they're based. M6s ride like road-huggers on large, 19-inch, low-profile tires and have an aggressive M-styled front end and a loud, deep exhaust note that sounded, at times, on the test car like a brawny domestic V8.
There was, simply, no way to travel quietly in the M6 Convertible. I heard the engine growl nearly all the time from the four exhaust tailpipes, and so did a number of nearby drivers and pedestrians.
At least the sound reminded me to check the M6 speedometer often, because I could get up over city speeds easily—and by just using the first couple of the transmission's seven gears.
A showcase engine
It's no surprise, then, that the federal government fuel economy rating is low at 12 miles a gallon in city driving and 19 mpg on the highway for the convertible. The M6 coupe rating is 12/18 mpg. Note these are about the same fuel mileage rating as a 2007 Cadillac Escalade SUV.
And one thankful—18.5 gallons—of the M6's required premium gasoline these days costs well over $50, which also is more akin to the gas bill for a big SUV. The gas went down like water in the test vehicle, which didn't even get 12 mpg in combined city and highway travel, by the way.
Impeccable road manner
Brakes are awesome with immediate stopping power and fast response, and steering is quick, too.
The test M6 Convertible had the optional-for-$1,000 head-up display that showed the car's speed, as well as tachometer information, on the lower part of the windshield.
It was a great help, since I otherwise would have had to glance down all the time into the instrument cluster to monitor my speeds. Keeping a close eye on the M6 speed was mandatory, because it's just downright frustrating to drive a car with all this power and handling capability slowly. I felt as if I was creeping along the pavement in the M6 in my neighborhood. Even on highways, I jumped up over speed limits before I knew it and had to back down quickly.
Note that BMW provides an M driving school at its Spartanburg, S.C., facility so buyers get a chance to experience the real capability of the M6, because it sure is hard to tap into it on regular streets.
Odds and ends
Front seats in the M6 Convertible are among the best in the industry as they're roomy, well-shaped and eminently adjustable.
The small, two back seats, however, aren't usable for adults and not exactly inviting for children, either.
Despite the fact that BMW's smallest convertible, the 3-Series, now can be had with a retractable hardtop, the far-pricier M6 keeps its fabric roof. It has three layers for respectable sound insulation. But the three layers don't keep out the throaty exhaust sounds.
The M6 Convertible trunk is decently sized, with 12.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the top up on the car and 10.6 cubic feet available when the roof is down and stored. The roof is power-operated.
All safety equipment is standard on the M6, including front, side and head protection, stability control, traction control and even automatic brake drying.