Deal’s Gap, N.C.—“Tail of the Dragon.” It sounds so mythical. So macho. Can you tame the dragon? Oooooh, now there’s a challenge.
Mazda MX-5 and lived to tell the tale of the Tail. If the weather’s good – hell, even if it’s not good – somebody’s going to crash. A few people die every year. The local police have a special web page warning of its dangers.Tens of thousands of riders and drivers come down here every year to take it on – to prove themselves against the most legendary road in the Smoky Mountains. Editor Yarkowny (sic) came here last year with a
So I climbed into a BMW M6 with my friend Peter, a weekend Porsche racer visiting from the U.K., and made the 1,300-kilometre drive south from Toronto to find out the appeal.
Admittedly, the Bimmer wasn’t my first choice. I drove the Dragon a few years ago and remember it as really tight and twisting – 318 curves in 18 kilometres, apparently – so my first choice was a Porsche 911 GTS. Mmmm. The nice guy from Porsche offered to lend me a car. Hell yeah! Then at the last minute, I remembered to mention Peter was coming along, and he wouldn’t let Peter drive it. He didn’t know Peter, and the 911 is worth more than a hundred grand after all.
He was probably smart. Two days before coming over here, Peter set fire to his 968 at Brands Hatch, leaving a trail of fiery smoke all the way from Druids down the Cooper Straight. The oil filter gasket blew. Oops. Bad karma.
With just a few days before leaving, I called BMW and asked for “something appropriate.” This is where the choices get difficult. Sure, the Dragon is best with a small car for its tight turns, but there’s a very long day on the interstate to get there first. Sportbike riders trailer their bikes down to save their wrists and rear tires. A Mini Cooper S or JCW would be perfect, but Peter and I didn’t want to sit that close to each other for hour after hour, all poor coffee, bad breath and flatulence. BMW offered the $125,000 M6 and we grabbed it.
Another flavour of M6: Test Drive: 2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe
It was a good choice. Peter was very impressed. It came with the Ultimate package, an extra $25,000, which means ventilated, massaging seats in Full Merino leather, a fabulous Bang & Olufsen sound system, a titanium exhaust and, most important, the Competition Package. This boosts the power of the engine from an already-huge 560 hp (up from 445 hp in the regular 6 Series) to a fire-breathing 600 hp, found by raising the boost pressure of the twin-scroll turbos in their upper revs.
Actually, being a public road and all, the Dragon-taming was going to come more from the tighter steering and specially tuned suspension. The M6 offers individual settings for Normal, “Efficiency” and Sport in each of its steering, throttle and active suspension adjustments. We set everything to Efficiency, headed down to Detroit on the 401, then turned left for the mountains.