So, would you have one over an M5? That’s what you’re asking yourself at the moment, even if you’ll never be able to afford the new 500bhp BMW M6. It’s what people have been asking me since the first press snaps were released last year. It’s what I was asking myself on the flight to Spain and it’s what I’m thinking as a burgundy M6 appears in the distance somewhere in northern Seville where I’m waiting at a bus stop.
Until this point, I’m thinking ‘actually, no. I’ll have my four doors, I’ll take my 500bhp snug in the front of a muscly 5-series because I like the inverse snobbery of saloon cars with 200mph potential. And besides, I prefer the way the Five looks to the Six.’ History plays a part in this decision, too: M saloon cars remain infinitely cooler than their coupé cousins. Apart from the second-generation M3, but that goes without saying. On all matters M, I don’t feel inclined to break with tradition.
And then the M6 draws closer, you see the holes and slats, the buxom jaw-line and reappraise. But nope, mine’s still an M5. Closer still: this time you can hear the burble and see the carbonfibre roof, and as it indicates to turn right you catch a flash of 19-inch alloy and fulsome side-skirt. Seeds of doubt. Just as an old French teacher of mine remarked when he heard me mention that his wife bore a striking resemblance to Bilbo Baggins after reading the Lord of the Rings: she ain’t pretty, but she gets the job done.
It has that air of touch-me-and-I’ll-drill-you-a-third-eye-socket about it, the M6. Now parked at the bus stop, it chinks and ticks with heat and in the morning sun I’m thinking, well… I’ve been a bit hasty here. We’d best nail it down one of Europe’s best driving routes, known only as the Ronda road, and then drift it to oblivion at a private race track before making this particular decision. Fully prepared to suffer the burden of this imminent process, the keys are taken, the V10 is stoked and those waiting for the number 341 bus are left with the unmistakable smell of Pirelli P-Zero Corsa.
At Fives and Sixes
So what’s the main difference between an M5 and an M6? Couple of doors, carbonfibre roof, a pinch of wheelbase and a topping of rear track. Same engine, same gearbox, same many things, but when all’s said and oversteered, they’re quite different bits of kit. That is an important distinction to be heeded by anyone still thinking that Five versus Six is only a question of practicality.
The M boys have tried hard with this car. It is no longer possible to go what Porsche has always called the RS route with a series production car, and that was never the aim of this project. They had to find a method of reducing weight, not compromising on safety or equipment and, crucially, improving every aspect of the driving dynamics: making it feel like a coupé should feel.
Study the detail and it’s clear that BMW’s M-division very quickly ran out of obvious weight-saving options. The usual method of binning sound-deadening materials, the odd airbag, rear seats and every electric seat motor in sight was not available. So they went to extraordinary lengths to gain what is officially just a 45kg advantage over the M5. Actually it’s 50kg.