The tested M6, an all-new creation for the 2006 model year, came with a 500-horsepower, 40-valve, high-compression V-10 with variable valve timing. That translates to a relentless temptation to nail the accelerator and let the M6 rip along at a pace it enjoys most -- 80 miles per hour and up, by my count.
Of course, in the metropolitan Sacramento area, odds are that cruising along at a minimum 80 mph will eventually catch up with you, causing authorities to confiscate your driving license and perhaps your M6 along with it. The thing is, the M6 -- wearing a gaudy sticker of $106,690 on the tester -- all but begs you to drive it fast. This car hates going 35 mph, clunking and stumbling along. Blame that in part on its seven-speed sequential manual gearbox, the most complex transmission I've ever experienced.
OK, there's no clutch. A computer chip and an electrohydraulic mechanism handle that. That's good, because everything else associated with the drivetrain keeps you really busy.
The gearbox, featuring a center console-mounted shifter looking every bit like that on a pedal clutch-equipped sports car, can be dialed up for sequential shifts. Just remember to push the shifter forward for downshifts, and pull back for upshifts.
Got that? Good, now hang on.
Aggressive accelerations will mash you into the seat like the meaty hand of a schoolyard bully. The noise from the V-10 at such moments is decidedly competition-caliber. From a standing start, it takes just an eye-blink over 4 seconds to hit 60 mph.
And like other high-performance autos -- the Porsche 911 and AMG-tuned Mercedes-Benz coupes come to mind -- taking your foot off the gas creates instant, significant deceleration -- a feeling like that same bully sneaked up and slapped you in the back of the head.
You can also shift gears with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters -- downshifts with the left hand and upshifts with the right.
Smack the console gear shifter to the right two times, and you're in full-automatic mode ... and I use that term loosely. This is not the automatic glide you get in a Toyota Camry.
Instead, applying steady pressure to the accelerator in the M6 creates the kind of lurches and spurts one expects from a manual gearbox. Even though there's no foot clutch, the M6 will edge backward on an incline if you don't have sufficient pressure on the gas pedal.
Simple, you say? Wait, we're just getting started.
Did I mention the center console buttons that can activate/deactivate/adjust engine power, stability control and electronic damping? Or the console button that allows the driver to choose among five distinct driving modes (cool comfort to high performance) for each transmission setting? Or the individual throttles for each cylinder in the engine?
Yes, I'm serious! That's 10 electronically controlled throttles.
What the M6 buyer really needs is a free week with NASCAR star Jeff Gordon just to learn all the driving options on the car.
Essentially, the M6 is a near-race car with velvet touches. Those include generous wood trim, wall-to-wall leather surfaces, a roadside-assistance system anchored by Bluetooth wireless technology, aluminum suspension components, a kicking Logic 7 surround-sound audio system, a navigation system, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic parking-distance sensors, quad chrome exhaust pipes, state-of-the-art air bags and huge, four-wheel, ventilated disc brakes.
The race-car fantasy is further enhanced by the coupe's sleek profile, wrap-around body-colored bumpers and a wide stance that looks racetrack-ready. On the tester, carbon fiber black trim on the dash and spanning the roof made me feel like I should be in radio communication with my pit crew on the drive home.
Things not to like? Here they are:
* 12 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway, topped off with a $3,000 gas guzzler tax and premium fuel requirement.
* BMW's still-confusing iDrive system, where you manipulate a knob to control the navigation system, in-car climate, communication and entertainment systems.
* The is-my-turn-signal-on-or-not switch. I have yet to master the touch of this overly sensitive system.
* Two rear seats with no regard for humans with legs.
The suspension is a mixed bag: It holds high-speed corners like a monorail, but it is teeth-chattering stiff in all conditions.
Given all this, you might conclude that I didn't like the M6. You'd be wrong: I thought it was an amazing example of contemporary automotive technology and style.
But since I want to keep my driver's license and routinely transport multiple passengers who insist on old-school-sedan comfort, it's never going to darken my driveway. (And, of course, there's that $100,000-plus sticker.)
Now, if I won the lottery and had access to a racetrack where I could rent some time alone with my M6, well, that would be a different story.
BMW M6 at a glance Make/model: 2006 BMW M6 Coupe Vehicle type: Four-passenger, two-door, luxury sports coupe Base price: $96,100 (as tested, $106,690) Engine: 5-liter V-10 with 500 horsepower at 7,750 revolutions per minute and 383 foot-pounds of torque at 6,100 rpm EPA fuel economy: 12 miles per gallon city; 18 mpg highway (premium required) Transmission: Seven-speed sequential manual gearbox with full-automatic option and other special features Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion with special features Brakes: Power-assisted, four-wheel ventilated discs, with anti-lock and other braking-enhancement features Suspension: Independent, aluminum double-pivot, strut-type on front; independent, aluminum multi-link on rear Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons Passenger volume: 81 cubic feet Cargo volume: 13 cubic feet Curb weight: 4,012 pounds Height: 54 inches Length: 191.8 inches Wheelbase: 109.5 inches Width: 80.4 inches Track: 61.7 inches on front; 62.4 inches on rear Tires: P255/40ZR19 performance radials on front; P285/35ZR19 performance radials on rear Final assembly point: Dingolfing, Germany
The Bee's Mark Glover can be reached at (916) 321-1184 or email@example.com.