October 17, 2006

Photo Gallery: 2007 BMW M6 Cabriolet

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Nice, France – BMW chose the aptly named Nice on the French Cote d’Azure as the launch locale for its new $140,500 soft-top version of the M6 uber coupe. Good call. This place makes Yorkville look like Hicksville.

The 2007 M6 Cabriolet, like Nice, is expensive, exclusive, beautiful, loves the sun and attracts wealthy people. Unlike Nice, it will zip you to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds.

If you’re in the market for one of the world’s fastest convertibles, look no further than the M6 Cabriolet. With a five-litre 500-hp M-tuned V10 lurking under the hood, this baby can shear the toupee off the top of your head and have it flitting down the road faster than you can say, “Fraulein! Mein rug!”

The M6 Cab is a highly technical automobile. In their dogged pursuit of high-performance nirvana, the M engineers have thrown everything they’ve got at this car. Techno-phobes, or those prone to option anxiety, will need to take a deep breath and spend some pre-drive time in the cockpit in order to get acquainted with the myriad dynamic choices available.

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The seven-speed Sequential M Gearbox (which can be operated by paddle shifters, the floor mounted shifter, or left in fully auto “D” mode) has six shift-speed settings. The Electronic Damper Control has three firmness levels (soft, normal, sport), the Dynamic Stability Control can operate in two modes (regular and fun-with-oversteer mode) or switched off completely, and finally, there is the all-mighty “Power” button on the console which summons all 500 horses when the default setting of a “mere” 400 just isn’t enough.

Got that? Oh yeah, there’s iDrive too, which, via a large control knob on the console and a centre LCD screen, will take you deep into the sat/nav, communication, entertainment, dynamic and various comfort functions.

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It’s actually not as intimidating as it sounds. On start up, the M6 defaults to its most benign attitude. But here’s the cool bit: by assigning your favourite combo of dynamic settings (via iDrive) to the magic “M” button on the steering wheel, those parameters can be called up at any time.

On this day, BMW had the M button dialling in the most aggressive engine, transmission and damper settings for our inter-coastal mountain blast. DSC was on full alert, however. Danke schoen.

Press the start button, and the lightweight DOHC 40-valve V10 barks to life in a surprisingly course and almost agrarian manner. But don’t be fooled. It’s actually saying, “Let me warm up, give me some revs, and I’ll sing you a song you’ll never forget.”

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Reflecting motorsport technology, each of the 10 cylinders has its own throttle butterfly, which results in freer breathing and right-now throttle response. The stainless steel, equal length headers are pressure formed from the inside, ensuring smooth extraction of the exhaust gasses.

This naturally aspirated V10 with M high-pressure Double VANOS stepless variable valve timing loves to rev. The maximum 500 hp arrives at a very racy 7750 rpm and the 383 lb.-ft. of torque peaks at 6100 rpm. Redline is 8250 rpm.

Most of our day was spent coursing through the spectacular mountainous countryside inland of Nice where the narrow winding roads and switchbacks proved an interesting showcase for the M6’s talents.

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This car is quite wide, and at 1995 kg, is no lightweight either. But with the suspension buttoned down and all 500 horses charging, we were eating up these roads. With a near 50/50 front to rear balance, and massive 19-inch bespoke Continental performance tires (255/40ZR front and 285/35ZR rear) gripping the smooth tarmac, the M6 would dive into a bend and power through with a balanced and confidence-inspiring attitude.

The Servotronic steering felt alive and natural and the massive vented and cross-drilled brakes absolutely melted the speed. And no, I did not deactivate the DSC and try any tail-out heroics on these mountainous tracks featuring little or no guardrails. I wanted to look at the scenery – not be part of it.

We finally reached a plateau with a series of long sweepers, and this is where the M6 and I were happiest, toggling between second, third and fourth gear and settling in to a beautiful rhythm. The M division has done a fine job in disguising this car’s heft. It may not be as lithe and intimate as the upcoming 2007 Jaguar XKR, but the M6 is extremely athletic and has its own brutish charms.

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One of them is the glorious noise blasting forth from the quad tail pipes. I found myself paddling down to first or second gear whenever we entered a tunnel just to hear that F1-type shriek echo off the stone walls. Other numbers in the M6 Cab’s aural repertoire include the automatic throttle-blipping on downshifts, and the deep burble on over-run that my co-driver likened to the sound of distant thunder.

The V10 is very strong, but unlike some of its supercharged or turbocharged competitors, you have to wind it above 4000 rpm to see the real action. No hardship, believe me.

After a few hours of aggressive mountainous driving, the trip computer indicated we had consumed 23.2 L/100 km of very expensive French premium fuel. Gulp.

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Working our way back into Nice, we got stuck in traffic, and this is where the M6 Cabriolet was not very happy. The SMG transmission in D (auto mode) is halting and jerky, and tends to second-guess itself. Selecting the least aggressive shift algorithm seemed to exacerbate the situation. Best to leave it in S and use the paddles. The VW/Audi twin-clutch DSG transmission and Jaguar’s super-quick ZF six-speed auto in the XKR are better all-round systems.

Nevertheless, the M boys feel there is no place for a manual transmission in their technical tour-de-force halo car. Bowing to pressure from the U.S. (M division’s largest market), BMW now offers a six-speed manual in the M5, but Freidbert Holz, M’s spokesman, says no such concessions will be made with the M6.

The M6 Cab comes with all the expected mod-cons (including satellite navigation) and the interior appointments are suitably luxurious in a business-like BMW way. The seats and driving position are spot on and the chunky multi-function steering wheel is pure joy in your hands.

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The fully automatic “fin roof” fabric top stows in 25 seconds. Interestingly, the vertical rear window operates independently of the roof, and can be retracted with the top up for additional airflow, or raised with the top down to act as a wind blocker.

Thanks to the “Bangle Butt” styling, the trunk will hold the all-important two sets of golf clubs, even with the roof retracted.

If the “base” M6 Cabriolet is not exclusive enough, it can be pre-ordered through the BMW Individual program in any colour you like.

Additionally, there are three options that should strike terror into the heart of any bovine. The $4500 Full Merino Leather option covers the rest of the interior in hide, and specially treated SunReflective leather seats, that stay 25% cooler in direct sunlight, are available for those with sensitive backsides. BMW also showed us a prototype of a very chi-chi full leather soft-top.

No pricing yet on the last two items, but really, if you have to ask…

Pricing: 2007 BMW M6 Cabriolet

Base price: $140,500

Destination charge: $1895

AC tax: $100

Price as tested: $142,495

Manufacturer’s web site


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