The new 2013 BMW M6 Convertible is sexy. Not pretty or handsome or beautiful or gorgeous. Sexy. It's provocative, polished and powerful — the sort of car that turns honest accountants into embezzlers in order to afford it.
Amply endowed with a busty twin-turbocharged V8, sheathed in a form-fit body that hugs every curve and perched seductively atop 19-inch stiletto wheels (20s are optional), it beckons you to sin. It spurs shopping sprees that have Citibank calling you worried that your Visa card has overheated. And to bacchanals in Vegas that end with grand pianos being pushed off the roof of Caesar's Palace.
It's that kind of sexy.
Too Sexy for Its Engine
The M6's new turbo V8 represents a break from previous M-spec engines in that it doesn't rely on high-rpm screaming to make power. BMW calls this engine a "high-revving V8 with M TwinPower Turbo Technology," but that's a bit relative. After all, this engine has a rev limiter that shuts it down at 7,200 rpm — more than 500 rpm before the old V10 was even at its power peak.
Where the outgoing 5.0-liter V10 needed 7,750 rpm to scream out its 500 horsepower, the new turbo thumps its 560 hp out at just 6,000 rpm. And while the V10 made its 383 pound-feet of peak torque at 6,100 rpm, BMW claims the turbo V8 delivers a walloping 500 lb-ft starting as low as 1,500 rpm and sustains it all the way to 5,750 rpm. There's less hard-core "Motorsport" in this new engine, but a lot more usable on-road power.
As with the similar 550-hp, "S63" twin-turbo V8 used in the X5 M and X6 M, the M6's "S63Tu" tucks its two twin-scroll, reverse-flow turbos into the valley between the two cylinder banks. So the whole assembly is relatively compact and eerily quiet. The noise that it does make is mostly from the resonators in the exhaust system — designer sound for a high-style convertible.
Bottom line here is that this engine is like having a GE90 turbofan off the wing of a 777 under the hood. And it's the most powerful engine ever installed in any BMW-branded automobile. Only the 6.0-liter, 618-hp V12 BMW built for the McLaren F1 supercar is a more powerful road-going BMW power plant.
The sole transmission backing the new V8 is BMW's equally new dual-clutch, seven-speed automated manual. The transmission operates under three different automatic shifting programs and three more manual shifting schemes. The automatic modes range from butterball lazy to downright aggressive, while the manual modes start at cushy and go up to F1-spec instantaneous.
There's a steep learning curve for getting the most out of the M6's thick layers of technology. At startup every electronic nanny is in safety mode — the transmission is in full soft, the suspension is at full soft, the steering is at its lightest and the throttle is at its laziest. Keep those settings and this may well be the world's most boring incredibly fast car.
Sex on Wheels
We picked up the car in Santa Barbara with suggestions that we should try the road up to San Marcos Pass to get a feel for it. Instead, we chose the slightly bumpier yet twistier Old San Marcos Pass. And it was on that tight, twisting and rising road that both the limitations and talents of the car were on best display.
Left in the softy-soft default settings, the 2013 BMW M6 Convertible would practically shut down when driven aggressively into tight corners. The stability and traction control systems are so conservative that it seems that BMW doesn't trust the big 265/40ZR19 front and 295/35ZR19 rear tires to have any grip at all. The traction control system is so radical that the car will nearly come to a halt in a corner if it thinks you're just not doing it right. Yes, the M6 feels powerful, but also heavy, numb and unexciting when the computers are looking over your shoulder.
So a second run up the road was in order. Off went the nanny tech, everything else was in pure sport mode and...zounds! Using the flappy paddles to shift, the car would rocket toward every corner's apex like a cheetah biting down on a gemsbok's thigh. The perfectly weighted throttle would push the tail out slightly, the hydraulic power steering would react instantly in correction and then the nose would line up for the next application of hyperthrust.
This is a big car, and every one of its 4,495 pounds can be felt when the electronics are minding the store. But choose the superhero setting and the car seems to shrink by half and the power doubles. Even on tight, unflattering Old San Marcos Pass it was utterly brilliant.
A Handful at the Track
Our test drivers didn't feel quite the same way while pushing the M6 through our slalom course. Although it turned in a respectable run of 69.1 mph and 0.92g on the skid pad, a lack of front end feedback made it hard to predict at the limit.
Straight-line testing confirmed the M6's considerable thrust. Its 0-60-mph sprint of 4.2 seconds (3.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) is nothing short of phenomenal and its 12.2-second quarter-mile time is enough to leave all but the most exotic sports cars trailing in its wake. But be warned. Its electronic launch control system is so difficult to access and use that it's wildly impractical anywhere other than on a racetrack.
It was no surprise that it stopped well, too. The brake discs measure 15.7 inches in diameter up front and 15.6 inches in back, with six-piston fixed calipers in front and two-piston sliding calipers in the rear. Combined with the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, consistent stops of less than 110 feet were the norm.
On the open road the 2013 BMW M6 Convertible is an arrogant assembly of comfort and capability. Cruising along at 65 it's almost utterly silent with the top up. But a quick downshift and it will jet to 130 mph without getting much louder. It rushes past semis, large buses and farm equipment like a royal SST ripping through a sea of Cessna 172s. Top speed is limited to 155 mph and it doesn't take long to get there.
Top down, the new M6 Convertible looks downright succulent. Roof up, however, and the M6 takes on a sinister countenance: something like a chopped '50 Mercury with a Carson top. Design elements that carry over from previous 6 Series convertibles include the roll-down rear window and flying buttress trailing edges of the soft convertible top itself.
The top seals perfectly with the push of a single button, but don't expect to see much out of the car when it's up. Those flying buttresses look as good here as they did on the '68 Dodge Charger hardtop, but they limit rearward vision. And the rear window itself isn't much more than a short slit, like a west-facing machine gun bunker on Normandy Beach in 1944.
So the M6 is casual, easygoing sexy with the top down and dangerous, devilish sexy with the top up. It's almost like having two different cars. But add in all the other adjustments available to the driver and the new M6 drives like about 16 different cars.
Sexy Is Expensive
There are plenty of six-figure, high-profile convertibles out there if all you want is something that looks good on Rodeo Drive. Hey, BMW would be happy to sell you an $81,995 640i Convertible if cruising is all that you're after.
But the $113,995 base price M6 Convertible is about crushing performance — it does everything the lesser 6 Series does, and then adds the potential for Millennium Falcon trips through the known universe.
And there's nothing sexier than that.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.