BMW M6 Convertible

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Our correspondent feels like Inspector Gadget in the new BMW convertible that can do anything...well almost





Late October in Britain, with the roof down in BMW’s astonishing M6 Convertible, squinting into the sun and getting a tan. Global warming can’t be all bad.
If the weather goes on like this, convertibles could be the only cars worth driving, especially if they are as good as the M6, which is just going on sale in the UK. This is a car with more gadgets than Q’s laboratory. And each one of them serves a purpose.

The best aspect of the car by far is a small button on the steering wheel, marked M — the high-performance arm of the BMW empire. The M6 in lope-along, get-you-to-work mode is potent enough, the V10 five-litre engine good for 400bhp. But touch the magic button and instantly another 107bhp is unleashed, which is a bit like bolting the 1.6-litre engine from a Ford Focus to the power available and turning another ignition key.

The M button also adjusts the suspension, so it is firmer and sportier, and speeds up the gear-shifts and throttle response. You can feel the difference. For ordinary driving, 400bhp and the M6 day-to-day suspension is fine. But with the button pushed, the ride verges on the harsh — except that it is having to cope with a 25 per cent increase in power and give the car its genuine sporty character and handling.

Another button allows you to adjust the nature of the gear-shift to suit your tastes, so you can choose, with half a dozen settings, how aggressive or relaxed you want the gear-change to be.

The headlights automatically dip if they detect oncoming traffic at night, the light from the reflector on a bicycle ahead, or street lights.

In this car you will never have an excuse to trip a speed camera, for the head-up display as favoured by jet fighter pilots means that your speed appears to hover about five or six feet in front of your eyes; unobtrusive, but instantly and constantly visible without having to take your eyes off the road to check the dashboard speedometer.

Plus, with the M button pushed, a lovely rainbow of yellow, green and red hovers around the magically projected speed. As you accelerate harder and the revs rise, the colours brighten, then flash to tell you that it is time to change up. Pretty.

The three-layer hood, which goes up or down at the touch of a button and completes the trip in about 25 seconds, tells you that the job is done with the most mellow of ding-dongs, so soothing it could have been played on a wind chime; a noise so far removed from the aggressive snarl of the engine in M mode that the only surprise is that both can be found in the same piece of machinery.

The M6 is seriously fast. You can pootle along with the M button unpushed, driving the car as a full automatic. Or go for manual using the paddle-shifts on the steering wheel, which enable you to whip through the electronic seven-speed gearbox from 0-60mph in less than five seconds, and on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph, where conditions allow. Change down and the electronic gadgetry even gives a quick blipping snarl of revs.

Inside the M6 is sombre, all black, with black leather seats and a carbon-fibre effect dashboard, but it does not give the feeling of being somewhere special that the similarly priced (£80,000ish) Aston Martin V8 Vantage gives you, and the steering wheel, laden with buttons, takes some working out.

It is the car’s price, though — the model I tested is £86,400 — that makes it stand out and which also puts it firmly at the top of the BMW model tree.

Carl Sanderson, the BMW product and marketing general manager, says: “The convertible only started production in September and is starting to arrive in UK dealers now. The M brand is incredibly popular in the UK — only in Germany do we sell more M cars. As a brand it is incredibly important for us. The M6 Convertible is a real halo car for us and one that we believe will also drive sales further down the model range.

“We see it being bought by entrepreneurs, or chief executives of small or medium-sized companies. For example, one of our very first M6 Convertible customers also owns a BMW X5, a Chrysler Voyager and a Porsche 911, so is really adding the M6 Convertible to a stable of cars. I cannot imagine the M6 Convertible will be anyone’s sole means of transport.”

So even for £86,000 you cannot buy a car that can do everything. Yet with the roof down, touring the winding roads of Hertfordshire on a ludicrously warm late October day, the M6 gets pretty close.


Timesonline
 


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