That's exactly how I found myself dressed to the nines and behind the wheel of the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, a $135,375 (as-tested) rocket ship, en route to a rare multi-wedding weekend to celebrate with two pairs of my closest friends on the biggest day of their lives (a very special congratulations to Kara and Zach, and Laura and Andrew). Continuing with our nuptial theme, the M mechanicals and the 6 Series Gran Coupe body are a match made in heaven.
I will happily go on record as saying the 6 Series Gran Coupe is the best-looking vehicle to wear the BMW roundel since some stylistic genius decided to slap a pair of Angel Eyes on a titanium grey, E39 5 Series (though you're obviously welcome to argue the point). The M treatment only improves the Gran Coupe's looks, with massive, gaping front air intakes forming a menacing smile. Even in Sakhir Orange, which is far from the most flattering color on the palette, this is a car with presence. The meaty wheel arches up front and wide haunches of the back add to this aggressive look, while traditional M cues, like the carbon-fiber roof, quad-tipped exhausts and not-so-subtle side grilles further differentiate the M6 from lesser Gran Coupes.
With a starting price of $115,000, it should come as no surprise that the cabin of the M6 Gran Coupe is a nice place to spend time. Our tester was outfitted with the $3,500 Merino leather option, which wraps the dash in the same sumptuous hides that cover the M sport seats. The headliner is a mix of leather and Alcantara suede, with a thick strip of hide bisecting the roof of the M6 Gran Coupe. It's a simple touch, but the coachbuilt feel is the kind of thing that adds specialness to a car. Carbon fiber replaces wood, and is essentially everywhere that isn't covered in cow.
Being a BMW M car, the cabin shouldn't just be a great thing to look at, it should be an excellent driving environment, as well. While the M6 Gran Coupe is no exception to this rule, it doesn't pass with flying colors. The low, coupe-like roofline makes this car genuinely difficult to get in and out of. Even with the driver's seat at its lowest level, I bumped my head occasionally, while lady passengers in dresses were warned beforehand to be conscious getting out of the orange M, lest they pull a Britney. Once hunkered into the low, snug cabin, though, things come together well.
The M treatment only improves the Gran Coupe's looks.
If the last M car you drove was the outgoing M3, this steering wheel's large diameter and long, thin spokes will seem a world apart from that sled's tiller. It feels fine to the touch, while placement of the right-sized paddles makes working the dual-clutch transmission a literal and figurative snap (really, tugging a paddle elicits a lovely, mechanical click). The seats are snug, and offer the generous range of adjustments expected at this price point. Sight lines were an issue in the M6, though, as the small rear window of the Gran Coupe body and that long hood force drivers to rely on the car's three cameras and fore- and aft-mounted parking sensors. It's a rather large car, and unless you want to go all Batman Begins and adjust your seat for different driving situations, it's tough to maneuver in tight confines.
The beating heart of this adventurous coupe-like sedan is BMW's 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8. This is an engine that's grown on us, despite lacking the charisma of the 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 from Mercedes-Benz (more on that in a minute). The 4.4 comes to the party with 552 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque, all of which is available from 1,500 to 5,750 rpm. With that kind of thrust, it's only natural that a quick-shifting, dual-clutch transmission with seven gears dispatches power to the M6 Gran Coupe's rear tires. When used to full effect, the M6 GC can scamper to 60 miles per hour in a manufacturer-estimated 4.1 seconds (it feels quite a bit quicker than that), and on to a limited top speed of 155 mph.
BMW passed on including its Driving Experience Control (a toggle switch located to the left of the shifter that gives drivers a range of preset modes for the vehicle's systems, usually including Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+) in favor of independently adjusting everything – shift speeds, damper firmness, engine power and steering can all be manually tweaked at the press of a button. The driver can also save his or her favorite combination of settings in the iDrive system and rapidly switch between them via a pair of steering-wheel-mounted M buttons. For example, I had the M1 setting programed to go all out, with the quickest shift speed, sharpest throttle response, firmest damper settings, least aggressive stability control and the weightiest steering, while M2 set the engine to BMW's Eco Pro mode, and detuned the suspension, transmission and steering for maximum comfort.
Before we get to the really rosy stuff, let's talk about the M6 Gran Coupe's steering. BMW kept it old school with a hydraulic rack, yet somehow managed to suck most of the goodness out of it. In a world where electrical steering systems are rapidly becoming the norm thanks to their fuel-saving qualities, hydraulic steering systems and their electro-hydraulic brethren are supposed to be the talkative, weighty deals that make a car feel substantial to handle. At low speeds, the M6 Gran Coupe's steering feels vague and overboosted, two traits that are particularly rare on a BMW. Things are better at speed, as the weight levels out and starts to feel snappier and more direct, although feedback is still perplexingly limited.
The beating heart of this adventurous coupe-like sedan is BMW's 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8.
Fed by two turbochargers, the M6 has no real turbo lag to speak of. Set to its most aggressive setting, the throttle is quick to respond. At the same time, BMW's less sporting modes are perfectly livable in everything from bumper-to-bumper traffic to freeway cruising to driving around town.
The M6 Gran Coupe is also available with two brake options. The standard fitting is a conventional set of 15.7-inch-front and 15.6-inch-rear, vented-and-cross-drilled rotors sandwiched between six-piston calipers. Lucky for us, though, someone at BMW saw fit to tick the box for the $9,250 M-branded carbon-ceramic brakes. The front rotors grow from 15.7 inches to 16.1, and instead of steel, both front and rear rotors are made from a carbon-ceramic composite. Sporting gold calipers that peek out from behind the 20-inch M wheels, the uprated brakes do more than just look good, offering up fade-free performance and serious stopping power while shaving 43 pounds of unsprung weight from this 4,430-pound car.
Even with these aggressive rotors, brake pedal performance is linear and quite easy to modulate. It isn't grabby or excessively aggressive, although we did notice the carbon-ceramics tended to squeal at low speeds until they were properly warmed up, which is a common issue with carbon ceramic brakes.
If you're wondering why someone would spend so much on a set of brakes, then you haven't experienced the epic power that this car's V8 can put to the road.
Leave it to BMW to build a car that only makes sense in Germany.
The M6 is staggeringly quick. The engine's power hits like a hammer, flattening cabin occupants into their leather chairs, only relenting when the driver has the good sense to back off the gas. Power is available low, middle and high in the rev range and can be delivered at virtually any speed and in any gear. Dropping a gear or two for a pass at freeway speeds will easily kick the M6 past 100 mph without hesitation. It's almost too fast for American roads – leave it to BMW to build a car that only makes sense in Germany.
As much praise as we heap on the performance of BMW's engine, there's even more coming for the excellent M DCT seven-speed transmission. It can be as smooth as a traditional automatic, but when set to its fiercest setting will happily deliver upshifts that have a shotgun-like recoil. Multiple tugs of the paddles will drop multiple gears, with the car trusting its driver not to do anything too stupid. Each gear change is accompanied by an aural tickle from the four exhaust pipes, with a loud bark on upshifts and a bass growl on downshifts. We still aren't in love with the physical shifter for the DCT – we want an obvious Park setting, rather than resorting to setting the emergency brake and leaving the car in Neutral.
Like the engine and transmission, the M6's suspension is well suited to a variety of conditions. The M Dynamic Damper Control is there to tweak shock absorber stiffness, allowing the driver to dial up a firmer or softer ride based on the conditions. While there's a clear difference between the softest and firmest modes, the M6's ride was rather hard overall. The separation between this car and other sporing machines with fixed rate suspensions is that the BMW has composure in spades. You feel the bumps in its softest Comfort setting, but they come across as a dull thud. Firmer settings like Sport and Sport+ aren't much worse, surprisingly. While the ride is firmer and bumps and ripples feel commensurately worse, the car itself doesn't feel as though it's going to go to pieces. The few ride issues present here, however, are all well worth it when the right strip of road is found.
The M6 Gran Coupe moves in a way that few four-door vehicles can.
The M6 Gran Coupe moves in a way that few four-door vehicles can, with flat, neutral handling. There's very little roll, and everything seems to happen with a progressiveness that won't catch the driver out. Feedback through the car is reasonably strong, relative to the numb steering. Still there is still a sense of aloofness that makes it difficult to put total trust in the car. Some of the M-ness we want then, but not all of it.
Even with the Dynamic Damper System in its firmest setting, the M6 did a fine job controlling the sound of an impact along with everyday road noise, despite its huge, offset (265/35 fronts and 295/30 rears) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. With this kind of performance on hand, it's easy to forget there's a luxury car underneath and that certain things like a quiet ride are expected. What we also expect is some personality in the exhaust note and engine sound, but were left disappointed here. It's not that the M6 Gran Coupe is too quiet, but relative to something like the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, it sounds generic, uneventful and even a little artificial. Even Audi's new 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 sounds richer and more aggressive.
For its size and power, the M6 returns a reasonable 20 miles per gallon on the freeway and 14 mpg in the city. I managed to net about 15 mpg, despite spending most of my time on the freeway in Eco Pro, switching to a more dynamic mode as the situation dictated.
Predictably, this is not a cheap car. As mentioned earlier, an unoptioned 2014 M6 Gran Coupe starts at $115,000. (The starting price for the 2014 model has inexplicably risen by $2,000 between when our $113,000-base window sticker was printed, and this writing.) Our tester, meanwhile, was very well outfitted. The $1,900 Driver Assistance Package (lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, side and top-view cameras) and $5,500 Executive Package (heated steering wheel, vented seats, full LED headlights, head-up display, massaging front seats and sunshades for the back window and doors) were added, on top of the aforementioned carbon-ceramic brakes and Merino leather packages. Add on $925 in destination charges and the $1,300 gas-guzzler tax, and you've got an as-tested price of $137,375.
Predictably, this is not a cheap car ... an unoptioned 2014 M6 Gran Coupe starts at $115,000.
How did the M6 go over with the wedding crowds? It was an absolute hit. This is the kind of car that attracts a crowd wherever it goes and in whatever situation it finds itself, drawing stares while doing something as effortless as idling through a parking lot. More than that, though, it's a marriage of technology and performance with luxury and comfort, creating a car that is balanced and utterly competent in most any situation. It can just get you home, or tap you on the shoulder when it wants to play. It's not a perfect vehicle (my head still hurts a bit), but is a genuinely good, entertaining performance car, and a solid addition to the rarefied market that is the high-performance, four-door coupe segment.