What's New for 2010
The 2010 BMW M6 receives BMW's much-improved new iDrive interface, which includes more buttons on the center console, a better menu structure and a hard-drive-based navigation system.
The 6 Series-based 2010 BMW M6 deserves to be more of an automotive icon than it is. Just look at its résumé: zero to 60 mph in well under 5 seconds, stellar handling and braking, daily-driver ride quality, coupe and convertible body styles and a phenomenal race-bred V10 that belongs in any conversation about the top engines in the world. The previous M6 from the 1980s is certifiably iconic, as is the V12-powered 850CSi coupe that followed in the 1990s. So what is it about the current M6 that keeps it from being mentioned in the same breath as its illustrious predecessors?
Plain and simple, it's the car's styling. A subjective matter, to be sure, but one that also has a way of separating the legendary cars from the pretty good ones. The M6 has got it all on paper, from knuckle-whitening performance to high-tech features, but its oddly protruding trunk lid and droopy headlights knock its elegance index down a notch. Still, there are those for whom the M6's styling will seem edgy, different, daring. These are the people who will buy the M6, and they'll know better than anyone what a downright thrilling car this is to drive.
Having said that, we've repeatedly slapped the M6 with two performance-related demerits: The steering feel falls short of BMW's customary high standards, and the lurch-prone SMG single-clutch automated manual is well behind these dual-clutch times. However, you can get a conventional six-speed manual if you want, which fixes the SMG situation, and the rest of the M6 is so entertaining that the subpar steering is hardly a deal-breaker.
For 2010, one additionally previous demerit has been erased thanks to an updated iDrive system. Like other 2010 BMW models, the M6's iDrive gets a new interface with more sensible-to-use menus, extra buttons for accessing oft-used features and a hard-drive-based navigation system. With this fixed, one's consideration of the M6 could very well come down to styling. If classic looks is your thing, you'd be better off going with a Porsche 911 (the current model has got its aesthetic groove back), a Jaguar XKR or the coupe-only Maserati GranTurismo. But if all-out performance and daily-driver flexibility are high on your list of priorities, the 2010 BMW M6 is hard to beat.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 BMW M6 is offered as either a coupe or convertible. Based on the 6 Series, the M6 comes standard with 19-inch double-spoke wheels, a carbon-fiber roof (coupe only) a body kit (including a more aggressive front airdam, side-sill extensions and a rear diffuser), adaptive xenon headlights, adjustable suspension dampers, leather-upholstered 12-way power front sport seats with driver memory settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, Bluetooth, the revised iDrive interface with a hard-drive-based navigation system featuring real-time traffic updates, and a 13-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. The convertible comes with a power soft top.
Options include a head-up display, keyless entry/ignition, satellite radio, HD Radio, iPod/USB integration and leather trim for the dash and console. Walnut wood trim is standard in the M6, but olive ash wood and carbon-fiber trim are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive 2010 BMW M6 is powered by a 5.0-liter V10 that pumps out a thrilling 500 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed single-clutch automated manual gearbox called SMG is standard, and it can be operated via wheel-mounted shift paddles, manual shift-lever manipulation or a full-automatic mode. A six-speed manual transmission is available at no additional cost.
The M6 makes quick work of acceleration tests, as you might expect. We've timed an SMG-equipped coupe at just 4.6 seconds to 60 mph en route to a 12.8-second quarter-mile. Expect the heavier convertible M6 to require a few extra tenths. EPA fuel economy estimates for all M6 models are an impressively bad 11 mpg city/17 mpg highway and 13 mpg in mixed driving.
The 2010 BMW M6 comes standard with multilevel stability control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags for the coupe, automatic rollover hoops for the convertible and front and rear parking sensors.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 BMW M6's dashboard layout is clean and attractive, but it's basically lifted out of the 5 Series sedan, so it's not particularly sporty relative to, say, the dash Porsche puts into the 911. Materials quality, however, is absolutely first-rate. The newly revised iDrive system with hard-drive-based navigation is finally a competitive infotainment interface, thanks to additional physical buttons around the control knob and a new menu structure that just makes a lot more sense. As ever, it also provides access to in-depth functions like the maximum-performance "P500 Sport" mode that unleashes all 500 hp (400 hp being the default output) with instantaneous throttle response.
The M6's front sport seats are among the best in the world, offering both excellent lateral support and drive-all-day comfort. The tight rear seats are strictly for short trips, though. Trunk capacity for the coupe is 13 cubic feet, while the convertible manages a decent 12.4 cubes (10.6 with the top down).
The M6's V10 is the kind of engine we wish we could carry with us from car to car. With a redline in excess of 8,000 rpm, it's got the goods to satisfy wannabe F1 drivers, yet there's plenty of midrange punch as well. Throttle response is immediate, and the engine note is about as close to a real racecar soundtrack as you can get on the street. Unfortunately, the SMG gearbox always lurches on upshifts, an unavoidable consequence of its outdated single-clutch design. The six-speed manual transmission rectifies this problem, although in testing of the mechanically identical M5, we found the manual prone to overheating. In aggressive cornering, the 2010 BMW M6 is a willing companion thanks to its taut chassis and wide tires, though advanced drivers will find the steering feel wanting -- an unusual shortcoming for a BMW. As a daily driver, the M6 is impressively quiet and comfortable despite its sporting pedigree.