Autos: Split Personality

It may be true that, as a BMW spokesman says, the M6 convertible will appeal to the car enthusiast who really appreciates performance, someone who also is an aficionado of airplanes, watches, and boats. Said person also might be a fan of sleeve tattoos and self-flagellation, for the M6 may be as smooth, powerful, and peaceful as a Caddy XLR in one mode, but in a second configuration, it evokes a bucking, raucous Dodge Viper in need of anger management training.


The M6 is a 650i with a performance makeover from BMW’s Motorsport division. Such alterations usually involve stiffening the suspension and bolting on a supercharger for bonus horsepower.

In the case of the M6, however, the modifications amount to a virtual rebuild that included replacing the standard, 360 hp V-8 with the type of 500 hp V-10 that powers the company’s F/1 cars. The M6 also features a bit of wizardry that enables the driver to change the car’s horsepower at the touch of a button. In the start mode, the engine is set automatically to amble along like any other 400 hp grand tourer. Press the power button (marked Power, should one forget its purpose) and 500 hp kicks in, transforming your lane dawdler into an incredible hulk of muscle car in every coarse, rough-riding, thundering sense of the term.

BMW first unleashed the M6 as an impressive coupe in 2005, and then this past fall, beneath clear, convertible-friendly skies in the south of France, it introduced the $110,000 M6 cabriolet. Although the convertible is as athletic as the coupe, removing a top always comes with a cost. Raising and lowering the three-layer roof is a one-button operation that takes 25 seconds and can be done when the car is moving as fast as 20 mph, but the motors and struts for that roof, plus the body bracing, are heavy. The extra 500 pounds or so increases the weight of an already heavy car to 4,400 pounds. And no matter how one stacks all that vinyl and canvas into the trunk—BMW stuffs the M6’s lid vertically—it consumes baggage space.


The convertible also does not obscure the mild shortcomings of the M6 coupe. The new car proved better suited for long-distance cruising than for horseplay during a test-drive in the hills above Monte Carlo, because it does not offer the handling responses of a smaller, lighter sports car.

However, the M6 convertible does have 500 hp, a presumed top speed—sans electronic control—of 200 mph, and a zero-to-62 mph time of 4.8 seconds. When poked hard, the car is an unmatched amalgam of comfort, racetrack torque, speed, and bellow. 



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