Cult Cars Road Tests

Cult Cars 10: BMW M6

Time 13 years ago

I almost crashed an M6 the first time I drove one. In the car park. In reverse. Mildly embarrassing, you could say. That bloody SMG semi-auto gearbox…

See, you can’t juggle the clutch in an M6, nor edge along with a slur of the torque converter. It’s either go or stop, one or zero, there’s very little in between. Reversing it out for the first time, I wasn’t aware of this. And almost lunged straight back into a rather expensive-looking Audi.

Things didn’t get much better on the road. I was expecting fireworks. After all, this was a 507bhp 5.0-litre V10! Yet, it felt as flat as a pancake. It droned without too much drama, seemed to fumble gearchanges, and the Porsche sensations I was promised simply weren’t materialising.

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Now, a couple of years before, I’d driven a V8 645i from southern Spain, right back to Blighty – and it was one of the best driving weekends I’ve ever had. The car was pure GT, quite lovely. Yet here, my high expectations for its motorsport-honed sibling simply weren’t being met.

So I got frustrated. Downchanged three of the seven gears, and let the engine reach the stratosphere. Then, the real M6, the one with the carbon fibre roof and weight-saving thinner-glass-than-normal rear windscreen, started to emerge.

As rapidly as the reaction of the rev counter needle, it became clear. To get the best from this car, you can’t faff about, expecting gobs of torque to row you along (not least because, relatively, there hardly is any). You also can’t leave the computer in control of the gearbox. No, wrestle control, press the flurry of ‘M’ profiling buttons to remove limits on power and throttle sensitivity, and become a nutter.

My God, did it wail when I did so. Yelping towards the 8,250rpm red line, the increase in potency and pace was stark; the alternation in character immense. Suddenly the M6 had found its voice, stopped being an in-betweener and entered the hardcore mode its four exhausts, bulging gunmetal-finished alloys and slitty spoilers hinted at.

Flicking steering wheel paddles as the ecstasy of 60mph-in-4.5secs vim was interrupted by the rev limiter, even the derisible gearbox started to make sense. Third (or was it fourth? Who knows…) hammered home in a flash, throwing yet more acceleration into the mix.

I was wired. Properly on edge, tense and felt like I was driving a high-wire. That’s the attitude you need to put into the M6, because letting the car do the work just doesn’t, er, work. It’s all or nothing, lost in a sea of muddlement or brutishly effective and fast – there’s no in-between.

For this reason, the gearbox is probably the ideal combination. Because lazy drivers need not apply here. Utter commitment and steely-eyed focus is the name of the game.

Somehow, I didn’t crash it on the road either, and arrived back at base with a heart rate doubled and reserves of luck depleted by about half. I was buzzing from the intensity of it all, invigorated by BMW’s split-personality extreme machine. I nosed it carefully into the parking bay. And, yes, almost crashed it again…



Price: £84,475

Engine: 5.0-litre, V10 

Power: 507bhp, 520Nm

0-60mph: 4.5s

Max: 155mph

Now finance one with Bridford:

Option One: £24,000 deposit, 24 x £439 plus final payment

Option Two: £10,000 deposit, 48 x £1765 plus final payment



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