Test Driven: 2014 BMW M6 Convertible (9.5/10)

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

The M6 has been extremely controversial for me, and I have often been quite negative about it in the past. My central issue is the sort of idealistic clash between what the M-badge stands for, and the fact that this new M6 weighs in at a behemoth 4600lbs. As the flagship high performance car for a company who claims to make “The Ultimate Driving Machine” this raises, for me, not only the question of validity, but also the question of integrity.

BMW’s M Division has made some of the greatest driver’s cars of all time, but now I have to question if their name holds the same distinction as it used to. Judging things on paper is always just half the story, though. I really needed to drive a car for myself before I could pass full judgement on it. Luckily, I was recently afforded the opportunity to get behind the wheel of this M6 Convertible. So, it’s time to drop the gavel.

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

To understand my question about M-Division’s integrity with the M6, you first need to understand what an M car is in the proper sense. The whole idea came about back in the 1980s when BMW put the engine from their M1 supercar into the pedestrian-looking 5 Series, creating the BMW M535i — which later became known as the M5. Not long after BMW dropped the same engine into their 6 Series Coupe, which was basically a two door version of the 5 series, to create the M635 CSI, dubbed the “M6” for short.

The whole idea of a “sleeper” became the foundation for an M car. A normal looking car that could keep pace with a Ferrari or Porsche of its day. In addition to a powerful engine these cars had extensively upgraded handling, and phenomenal driving dynamics. M cars became known as practical supercars, and naturally caught on because of that.

Fast forward a few generations, and things have changed for the 6 Series. Whereas the previous generation 6s had all been based on the 5 Series’ chassis, in the current generation of both the 5 and 6 Series are based on a modified version of the 7 Series’ chassis. So the platform on which both previous M6’s were based no longer exists in the BMW lineup. The result of this has been a massive increase in proportional size for the current 5s and 6s, and with more size comes more weight.

On an even more fundamental level, the BMW brand has undergone an identity shift of their own in the last few years. They have gone from a totally driver-focused brand to being more of a posh status symbol. Their current buyers care more about wearing their cars as a fashion accessory than driving them. As a result, some of the emphasis on the dynamic aspects of BMW’s cars has been compromised in my opinion. Enthusiasts like myself can complain about “the yuppies” all we want, but the reality is quite simple. If that is that sort of buyer who is actually purchasing BMW products, then it is that sort of buyer to whom the company must cater to. The M6 is clearly targeted towards a realistic buyer, so let’s see what the car is like hands-on.

Appearance

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

The current 6 Series looks posh as hell in any trim you choose. Its proportions are large, but its design is quite sleek and attractive. This gives it a fairly imposing presence among normal traffic, and it will likely turn a few heads.

That said, the M6 remains tasteful in its style, with no gaudy chrome trim or anything like that. It has a nice clean shape, and that’s all it needs; like a classically beautiful woman who doesn’t need excessive makeup or jewelry to look stunning. Sometimes less is more.

While it does look great, I must admit that there isn’t anything about the M6 that really sets it off visually from the normal 6 Series models. Sure, the styling is a little bit accentuated, but I always find myself needing to look for the dual exhaust tips to distinguish an M6 in traffic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, because an M car is supposed to be a bit of a sleeper, distinguishable by only well trained eyes. That way when some smug dentist in a Porsche Carrera tries to pass you on the highway, you can find amusement in decimating his world.

Inside

2014 BMW M6 Convertible Interior

The interior of the M6 is unmistakably that of a high-end luxury car. M6s have always been solid grand tourers, but the new one has taken the luxury up another notch.

The cabin is extremely well trimmed with leather, carbon fiber trim, metal, and nice-quality plastics. The car I drove was fitted with most of the options available including the Bang & Olufsen sound system, Head-up display, Sat-Nav, and the “Executive Package”. The only thing that seemed to be missing was the techy driving aids, which I find entirely laughable in an M car anyway. I can stay in my own lane all by myself, thank you very much.

2014 BMW M6 Convertible Interior 2014 BMW M6 Convertible back seat

The seats in the M6 are phenomenal. They seemed to hug me just right, offering both great support and supple comfort. They are also entirely adjustable so you can make them as tight or firm as you want them to be. During the drive, my friend, Ross, sat in the back seat. He’s 6’1”, and he said he was completely comfortable, although I did notice that the BMW rep had his seat pushed up a good ways. I’m sure rear headroom may be a concern in the M6 coupe, but in the convertible there’s nothing to worry about. Also, being based on the 7 Series platform, the new M6 is very wide, giving you loads of room to stretch out.

2014 BMW M6 Convertible paddle shifters 2014 BMW M6 Convertible Interior 2014 BMW M6 Convertible M seat 2014 BMW M6 Convertible Trunk

I know there are gripes about the size of this car in terms of performance, but as a GT car such comfort is important. The M6 excels in the realm of personal comfort on the road. It also manages to keep a decent amount of its trunk space in tact as a convertible, so you can pack your things in it no problem. Grand Touring cars hail from the days when people would take long trips from city to city in Europe. The whole idea is to be able to cross a continent in great comfort, and at great speed. This M6 definitely has the comfort side of that equation down to a science.

On the road

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

I’ve got to hand it to BMW, the execution of this car is fantastic. As far as the driver interface goes, everything is adjustable. Steering sharpness, suspension stiffness, shifting speed, and throttle response, they all can be tailored to your own tastes. As a result, the M6 can feel like both a comfortable cruiser or a sporty GT car. I had things in sport, so the steering was nice and responsive, the ride was firm but not uncomfortable, and the engine responded well to my inputs. The transmission I have a special praise for. It is a dual-clutch gearbox with exceptional versatility. Shifts happen instantly when you pull the steering wheel mounted paddles, and there is a well-finished smoothness to the way it behaves.

As for the handling, I did not get to attack any real corners that hard, but the little bit that I did do yielded a chassis that was well sorted. The M6 will certainly handle well enough for most of its clientele to have fun with on the road. I’m sure many people will say “it drives like a much smaller car”, but I can tell you that it doesn’t. The M6 drives like a big car with a well engineered chassis, one that holds its weight well on the road. It is definitely a car that can hold some pretty high cornering speeds once settled, but when changing directions, you can definitely feel the heft of the car’s mass.

Braking is necessarily strong. Slowing down 4600lbs is no easy job, and despite the good brakes, the size of the car should always be in the back of your mind when driving it fast. The large proportions of the M6 also make it a bit difficult to place on the road with precision, despite the wonderfully accurate steering. Just watch out when apexing this car on back roads because you might take out somebody’s mailbox.

The engine of the M6 is its real party piece, and also most likely the only part of its performance that owners will ever really use to any significant degree. The people who buy this sort of car are usually the ones who will fly past you on the highway, but then hold you up on the offramp because they don’t think they can go faster than 40mph through the curve. Either way the M6 packs a huge punch when you get on the gas pedal.

2014 BMW M6 Convertible 2014 BMW M6 4.4L Twin Turbo V8 Engine

BMW claims its twin turbo 4.4L V8 produces 552hp, but like usual they are lying through their teeth. Real world chassis dyno tests have shown that stock M5s and M6s (same engine) make 500-540hp at the rear wheels. That means that the engine itself has to be putting out 600-650hp, and that is quite a lot.

From the driver seat, I’d believe it. The M6 accelerates like a bat out of hell, and there is effectively no delay when you shift gears thanks to the dual-clutch tranny. This car will gain quite a lot of speed in an alarmingly short space on the highway. Merging is a joyous, but short-lived occasion.

Being turbocharged the effective range of pull in this car is enormous, especially when you consider the substantial amounts of power and torque available. Speed is made easy in the M6, and yes that does make it a lot of fun to play around with. In terms of being an effective grand touring car, the performance is nothing short of phenomenal.

I was actually reminded of the Bentley Continental GT when I was in it. Such refinement and such power, it seems to excel at everything you would want it to do. Compared to the Bentley, the M6 is a little lighter, faster, and firmer handling, while being a little less nicely finished on the inside. That said, I had the same sense of wonder with how the engineers got a car so big to handle and accelerate so well. As a dedicated GT car, praise doesn’t come much higher than this, and given how much cheaper the M6 is, that might just make it the best GT car on the market.

The “But”….

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

This is where the conundrum begins for me, especially now after actually experiencing the car for myself. You see, while BMW has made an exquisite grand touring car, they have made it exquisite in the wrong sense for a car that wears an M badge.

For me there are two types of grand touring cars, those which give priority to performance and driving dynamics, and those which put luxury above all else. The Bentley GT is the quintessential example of a luxury-focused GT car, and that is what I feel the M6 has matched.

In essence I would say that what BMW has effectively made here is either a 660i, or more accurately, a car that should be designated as an 8 Series. If you look at this M6 as a current-age 850csi, then everything seems to make perfect sense. Both are based on the 7 Series of their day, and both feature superb luxury mixed with more than a healthy dose of performance. However, both are also quite heavy, and neither can really claim handling and driving dynamics to be their main priority. This is all fine and good when it comes to the package of a good luxury GT car, but the M badge is out of place here.

As fast as the M6 is, the whole time I was driving it, I couldn’t help but think about how much better everything would be if it lost 600lbs. If they could just get the weight of this car down to around where the previous generation M6 was, it would be a huge improvement. This is a case of standards for me, because nothing in an M car should be a liability to the performance. With a few hundred pounds removed, the M6 would be even faster, handle better, and it would be able to go further on a tank of gas if you were out grand touring.

2014 BMW M6 Convertible 2014 BMW M6 Convertible

Look, I am not one of these crazy BMW purists who wants every new BMW to be a reincarnation of the 1974 E9 3.0 CSL. That said, there does come a point where the weight has gone too far, and drastic corrective measures need to be taken. To put things in perspective, my Dad’s Volkswagen Touareg, a big SUV, weighs 4900lbs. You are one fat driver away from matching that in an M6, which I remind you, is a two door convertible.

I felt a sense of a “this is good enough” attitude in the car, especially after sampling a 650i later on. Plainly, the the M felt a little too similar to the normal 6 Series. I can understand how this car “will work fine” for most of BMW’s clientele, and how it was probably smarter cost-wise to just make a faster 650i and call it an M6. But that also means the integrity of the M brand has been compromised here. Brand identity is a huge thing, and an M badge used to mean something substantial.

Another related issue I need to address is the fake engine sound that plays through the speakers as you drive along. I have to admit, BMW has done a good job with it, and it’s good enough to fool people who don’t have prior knowledge of the system. I heard the car accelerate the next day while standing on the sidewalk, and it was barely audible at all. The M6 is very quiet, and I think I know what happened while it was being developed….

“How about we make the M6’s engine quiet and play loud engine noises through the car’s stereo system. That way the driver can feel like he’s in a grand prix, but he won’t wake up the neighbors!”…. Great idea, right? Wrong…

A high performance car without a satisfying, loud engine is like a birthday cake without icing. BMW knew that, so they tried to fake it, however the result is extremely tacky and unbefitting of a car at this level. Imagine what it will be like, seven years from now, when those speakers are starting to crackle and go bad; it’ll probably sound like a riced-out Honda.

2014 BMW M6 Convertible Wheels 2014 BMW M6 Convertible exhaust

Even more than that, you cannot possibly mimic the effect of a vicious engine through a speaker, especially not in a convertible like this. When I drove the Jaguar XKR, one of the M6’s competitors, a few months back, it the exhaust note made the experience. It wasn’t just the sound of the engine revving, it was the vibration of the exhaust pipes that I could feel through the floor, the loud pop of a random backfire on an aggressive down shift, and most of all, the echo I got off of trees and buildings as I flew by. All of that is what sent tingles down my spine, and all of that is was quite noticeably missing from the M6.

I understand that turbos do quiet down a car’s exhaust note, but all the more reason to let as much of it play through as possible. One thing the previous generation M6 had was an incredible engine, a screaming 5.0L V10. Sure the power and torque from this new twin turbo V8 are leagues better, but what is the point of going fast quietly? A true M car should never need such artificial gimmicks to make it entertaining.

Making a powerful car loud is quite simple because such engines naturally make a racket. It’s making a powerful engine quiet that is difficult, and that is what bothers me the most about all of this — BMW’s people actually spent time and effort making the M6 quiet, which is just fundamentally wrong.

Dollars and sense

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

The M6 Convertible I sampled ran around $130,000. That is a lot of money, but this is quite a lot of car. My gripes with it are all concerns that only car nerds will understand. Call it M6, or call it something else, as a vehicle for the price this car delivers the goods big time.

Speed is one thing, but because of this car’s size and focus on luxury, it is only fair to directly compare it with other grand touring cars. Sure, an Audi R8 and Porsche GT3 can be had for the same money, but they appeal to an entirely different sort of buyer. If you like the M6’s package a lot, but want something a little smaller and more nimble, go for a Porsche 991 Carrera S/4S because it offers similar appointments with a more sporting focus.

If we are strictly talking GT cars, then the M6 is probably one of the strongest purchases out there. As I said earlier, I liked it as much as the Bentley GT, and in my opinion, that is the best Grand Touring car out there.

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

In terms of speed, the M6 will blow a Maserati Granturismo and an Aston Martin DB9 out of the water for less money. Compared to the Jaguar XKR, the M6 is faster, more engaging to drive (having that DCT gearbox makes all the difference), and more comfortable. The Jag offers more emotional excitement with its epic sounding engine, but otherwise, it’s beaten. If you are comparing the M6 with the exclusive Jaguar XKR-S, the division is pretty clear: The Jag is very rare and not not all that comfortable, and the M6 is far more common, extremely comfortable, and maybe a bit faster.

If you are legally blind, and are considering the Mercedes SL63 AMG (hideous car), you will find the performance between the two cars is closely matched. However, being legally blind you won’t be able to drive, so why bother? Those of you with functioning eyesight should automatically opt for the BMW, and if not, then I’d recommend a trip to the eye doctor before you purchase a car.

All in all, for the money the BMW M6 is a fantastic purchase for those wanting a proper GT car. All things considered, the car feels like it is worth $130 grand, and it outdoes many similar cars that will run you a lot more.

Sum up

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

I feel I have found a solution for my conundrum after experiencing the BMW M6 for myself. The problem is not the car at all, but rather BMW’s marketing executives and product developers. I learned during my summer in Detroit that the American auto industry is run more by people who aren’t gearheads than who are, and I think BMW probably suffers from the same issue.

These are the people who come up with idiotic ideas like playing engine noises through the stereo system. Gearheads need to be at the helm of the car industry, and when someone brings up an idea like that during a meeting regarding an M car, they need to be fired on the spot… with real fire.

Look, I am all for appealing to the new BMW clientele, but BMW and M-Division have both compromised their own identity here. If you want to know how to cater to yuppies properly, look at Porsche: they make the Cayenne and Panamera V6 models, and they use the revenue to make cars like the 997 GT2 RS and 997 GT3 RS 4.0. It is entirely okay to broaden your appeal, but you should never compromise your bread and butter. BMW has been compromising big time in recent years, and I know their standing with genuine car enthusiasts has fallen a lot because of it.

2014 BMW M6 Convertible

So I am caught between opinions here. Functionally the M6 is a fantastic car on all fronts, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking in the range. However, it isn’t really a true M car in the proper context because its priorities have been mixed up. It is a phenomenal grand tourer, though, and a really impressive automobile overall. The M6 performance is quite staggering, but with 600hp+ on tap it had better be.

If BMW wants to rectify their current identity issues, they should do a mid-cycle refresh of the car. Even just fitting a proper loud exhaust to it would make a big difference. Then they can really make an effort on weight savings in the design of the next 6 Series, and I think it could once again wear that M badge proudly.

For now, it’s best just to look at the M6 as a modern, high performance version of the BMW 8 Series. The 8 was a ridiculously cool car back in its day, and I think the current 6 has much of the same appeal. So while the M6 does have a bit of an identity crisis, underneath all of that, it is also one of the most solid cars on the market. When it comes to spending actual money on a car, I guess that is all that really matters in the end.

WoM Score: 2014 BMW M6 Convertible

Primary Function: Performance: 1.5…… too heavy
Secondary Functions: Luxury(2) Practicality(2) MPG(1): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2

Final Score: 9.5/10

-Nick Walker

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