20 December 2004

BMW’s mighty icon – the M6 – is back with a vengeance. The new model, pictured here officially for the first time, arrives 16 years after the first-generation M635 CSi, pictured right, ceased production.

Due to make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the new coupé is revealed in our gallery, and should go on sale in the UK before the end of 2005 for around £70,000 – £8000 more than the four-door M5 upon which it is heavily based.

Prime targets for the new coupé include the next Maserati Coupé and the Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG. With power coming from the M5’s extraordinary 500bhp 5.0-litre V10 engine, and a series of cutting-edge construction techniques to keep weight down, however, the new BMW may end up setting its sights even higher.

BMW bosses had hinted they were also considering a direct Porsche 911 rival. But Autocar was told that some of the top brass thought the M6 so good there was no need for such a car.

The M6’s 40-valve, 90-degree powerplant, with dual-Vanos variable valve timing and individual throttle butterflies for each cylinder, retains the M5’s 100bhp-per-litre state of tune. This gives Munich’s new performance coupé 500bhp at 7750rpm along with 384lb ft of torque at 6100rpm – 171bhp and 52lb ft more than the existing 6-series flagship, the 4.4-litre V8-powered 645i. By comparison, the new Porsche 911 Carrera S musters 350bhp and 295lb ft.

With drive channelled to the rear wheels through BMW’s seven-speed SMG robotised manual gearbox and electronic M differential, the M6 is claimed to be BMW’s fastest-accelerating road car to date.

Official figures put its 0-62mph acceleration at 4.6sec – 0.1sec faster than the M5. Insiders hint at a theoretical top speed beyond 180mph, although the M6 will be reined in electronically at 155mph. The secret to the performance is a comprehensive weight-saving programme that means the M6 tips the scales 45kg under the M5 at 1710kg, and provides it with a power-to-weight ratio of 292bhp per tonne – 46bhp per tonne more than the 911 Carrera S.

As with the M5, the M6 offers an advanced DSC stability control system with two different settings – one for normal driving and the other offering later intervention for a more dynamic driving style.

The coupé also gets the M5’s ‘Power’ button. Start the engine and you get 400bhp, but pressing a button by the gearlever unleashes the full 500bhp.

Features such as the Dynamic Drive system, which uses hydraulically controlled anti-roll bars to reduce body movements, and Active Steering, which alters the steering ratio dependent on speed, have been rejected on weight grounds. And the run-flat tyres are replaced by conventional rubber.

Together with the coupé, BMW is also developing a convertible version of the M6 for launch in 2006.

And BMW is already looking to go one better. Along with the standard model, BMW is planning a more focused CSL version of the M6 with an even more powerful engine, likely to go on sale in 2007.

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