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2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe review

This 2014 review is representative of model years 2012 to 2015.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.5

Bottom Line:

With its combination of style and performance, the 2014 M6 Gran Coupe really is the next best thing to an M7. We wish it were lighter and the driver could feel a bit more involved during performance driving, but an M7 would certainly be worse. We're glad there is no actual M7 and we're happy to think of the M6 Gran Coupe as a viable alternative.
Pros:
  • Ridiculously fast
  • Supermodel sexy
  • Balance of ride and handling
Cons:
  • Gran Coupe plus M6 price premiums
  • Rear seat realistically limited to two
  • Too heavy for best agility

"Don't be sad that there is no M7, because in my mind we have one," says Albert Biermann, BMW's vice president of engineering, M automobiles and BMW individual. The car he is referring to is the new 2014 M6 Gran Coupe. Based on the 5-Series platform, the Gran Coupe is the brand's style leader and the M treatment makes it a performance monster. BMW has never offered an M7, saying the full-size 7-Series is too big to be a proper M car. But the Gran Coupe and all 5- and 6-Series cars share elements of their platform with the 7-Series, and that begs the questions: Is the Gran Coupe too big to be an M car, and should really we think of it as a de facto M7? We drove it on a racetrack in Texas to find out.

View Pictures:  2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe

Model lineup
The Gran Coupe is a 4-door coupe in the vein of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, and the M6 is its high-performance variant. Starting at $113,000, some $62,000 more than a base 5-Series upon which it is based, the M6 Gran Coupe comes loaded with standard features, including Merino extended leather upholstery, iDrive control interface with a 10.2-inch dash screen, universal garage door opener, keyless access and starting, rearview camera, auto-dimming rear-view and exterior mirrors, heated front seats, 4-zone automatic climate control, front and rear park assist, xenon headlights and a navigation system.

Also standard is BMW Apps, which can access Facebook, Twitter and Web radio, as well as certified third-party apps. As part of BMW Apps, the company is introducing a new M Power app that syncs an iPhone with the car to gather data. It will be especially helpful during track sessions, allowing owners to review, analyze, compare and share driving inputs and performance with their friends.

An optional Competition package lowers the ride height 10 millimeters; adds 15 horsepower; gets 20-inch light alloy wheels, firmer steering, and stiffer, springs, shocks and sway bars; and remaps the stability control and rear differential programming. Other options are numerous. Highlights include blind-spot alert, side- and top-view cameras, heated steering wheel, power sunshades, carbon ceramic brakes, night vision with pedestrian detection, head-up display, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system.

Under the hood
Beneath the skin of the rear-drive 2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe lurks BMW's twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine that spins out 560 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque. It is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission that BMW calls the M-DCT. The Competition package ups the horsepower to 575.

Inner space
BMW has been accused of offering interiors that, while high in quality, lack style. That's not the case with the M6 Gran Coupe. BMW designers have taken some risks in their choice of interior trims, with unique accents such as white ash wood, 2-tone leather on the dash, carbon-fiber trim, and a leather and Alcantara headliner. This car is stylish inside and out.

The front seats offer numerous adjustments, and more range of motion in those adjustments than just about any other vehicle, so any driver should find the perfect seating position. The front seats have lots of head- and legroom, and the rear seat is surprisingly roomy given the coupelike roofline. BMW calls it 2-plus-1 seating, but it's really meant for two. A pair of 6-footers should fit back there provided nobody up front is too tall. Both head- and legroom will be limited for anyone taller. The rear seats fold down to expand the carrying capacity of a fairly large 16-cubic-foot trunk.

BMW's iDrive interface is standard. It controls the navigation, communications and entertainment functions through a 10.2-inch screen on the dash and a rotary knob on the center console. iDrive eliminates the need for many buttons, although it has eight programmable buttons that can be used for more than just radio presets; they can also be used to store such commonly used functions as navigation addresses and phone numbers. BMW also provides a 12-gigabyte hard drive that can hold thousands of songs. While iDrive has received a lot of negative press over the years, we are used to it and find it fairly easy to use. Still, new buyers will experience a learning curve, and it complicates some functions no matter how familiar you are with it.

On the road
If it has an M badge it has to perform, and the M6 Gran Coupe delivers in myriad ways. First and foremost is straightline performance. The twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine announces its presence with an aggressive rumble, and it supplies ridiculous amounts of thrust across the rev range. Its 500 lb-ft of torque are available as low as 1500 rpm, so it has lots of grunt from a stop, launching the car from zero to 60 mph in a scant 4.1 seconds. However, it really comes alive at highway speeds and beyond. We drove the car on the new 3.5-mile Circuit of the Americas road course in Austin, Texas, and on one three-quarter-mile straight the M6 Gran Coupe accelerated up to 150 mph with ease. We even saw the electronically limited 155 mph on one occasion.

It should be noted, however, that on this 95-degree Texas day, the 4.4-liter engine's water temperature heated up to 250 degrees on a regular basis, usually just after a long straightaway, and the car went into limp mode, shifting into 7th gear and cutting power until it cooled off. BMW says 60 percent of its M buyers take their cars to a track, so this could be an issue for performance enthusiasts. We suspect, however, that far fewer M6 Gran Coupe buyers will track their cars than the typical M3 customer.

View Pictures:  BMW in Detroit

Both transmissions work quite well with the engine. The 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual has three settings. In the lowest setting the shifts are slower and smoother, and in the third they are quicker and more abrupt. The middle setting offers a nice balance of the two, and we found it plenty responsive for the racetrack but relaxed enough for the street. The manual is typical BMW: natural clutch pedal feel with silky shifts that could use a bit more mechanical feel.

The M6 Gran Coupe handles well, too, but you don't get the visceral, connected feel that you do with the M3. That's mostly due to weight. Biermann's statement likening the M6 Gran Coupe to an M7 isn't far off. For this generation, the 5-, 6- and 7-Series vehicles share a basic structure, and it makes the M6 Gran Coupe pretty heavy, weighing in at some 4,400 pounds. On the track all that weight causes the car to understeer (push forward rather than rotate) when driven hard into turns. But reduce the speed a little before entering those turns and the car carves nicely through corners, with little body lean and prodigious grip. All of the cars were outfitted with the optional — $9,250! — carbon ceramic brakes, and they performed admirably, gripping hard under heavy braking and handling a day of hard driving without any fade.

BMW points out that the M6 Gran Coupe will get around most tracks quicker than the M3, but that's due mostly to much more power and torque. We'd rather take an M3 to the track. The driver feels much more connected to the car and the track, and the M3 will eat the M6 Gran Coupe up in turns.

Considering the M6 Gran Coupe's track-ready capability, it is surprisingly tame on the street. Despite low-profile 20-inch tires, the ride is certainly firm but fairly supple. You probably won't want to drive it on potholed streets very often, but it won't beat you up if you do.

Right for you?
With a starting price over $113,000, the 2014 BMW Gran Coupe M6 is a very exclusive car, making it more an object of lust than a realistic purchase. For those with the coin, BMW's own M5 or M6 will offer as much or more performance for a lower price. However, the M5 can't match the Gran Coupe's elegant style and the M6 lacks its useful backseat.

(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitatethis report.)

Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.

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BB05 - 9/20/2014 5:49:03 AM