What Does This Button Do?

High-performance luxury cars like the 2012 BMW M6 never disappoint when it comes to providing a multitude of modes that manifest in perplexing buttons. But there are two curious buttons on the BMW M6’s steering wheel named M1 and M2 that appear to have some essential function because automakers don’t typically put useless buttons on the steering wheel — typically.

Someone at BMW might have been a Dr. Seuss fan when coming up with the buttons' names; they remind me of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from "The Cat in the Hat." Like the book characters, these buttons are useful. In this case, they help drivers when it comes to piloting this 560-horsepower luxury car.

Without them, the insane amount of adjustability of the M6’s dynamic systems is overwhelming.

Called M Drive, the M Drive 1 and M Drive 2 buttons save the various suspension, engine, steering and stability control system settings in two specific configurations that can be chosen with one button press for instant driving characteristic changes. Each system has up to three modes for suspension firmness, steering-wheel force, throttle sensitivity and stability control looseness; all of which have individual buttons for each function.

The M Drive buttons on the steering wheel keep things simple by saving favorite combinations into M1 and M2. For example, M1 can be programed with all modes in their least aggressive comfort and efficient modes for a leisurely cruise. When it’s time to hammer down, M2 can be programmed with the most aggressive Sport Plus setting for the suspension, engine and steering systems as well as a little looser stability mode — M Dynamic Mode  — to wring the most from the M6. Or maybe you're a guy who wants all the extremes on M1 and all the extremes but a softer suspension on M2. Hit a bumpy road, bam, push M2.

Set up like I did, the difference in driving the M6 in M1 versus M2 modes is a night-and-day difference. The two buttons proved extremely useful and convenient with their steering-wheel placement instead of fumbling around the console area for a sport button and stability button. I guarantee I used the steering-wheel-mounted M Drive buttons more than the steering-wheel  audio controls.

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