During our visit to Portugal to drive the BMW 435i last month, we were also invited to take a few laps of the Estoril circuit in the M5 and M6 with Competition Package. And while we’re not likely to pass up such an opportunity, we weren’t expecting much from the minimal upgrades. After all, when a car boasts 560hp, adding an extra 2.5% didn’t seem like anything to write home about.
Once again, however, BMW’s engineers proved us wrong by turning out a car that’s dynamically superior to the stock version in every way. While the individual parts might not add up to much, the combined total was dazzling on the famous racetrack.
If you’re not familiar with the M division’s Competition Packages, it’s usually a number of suspension changes to make the car more track focused. In this instance, they also added a 15hp increase to make the price more palatable.
Costing an additional $6000 on top of a BMW M6 Gran Coupe (starting at $113000) or $7300 over the M5 ($90900), M6 ($109200) or M6 Convertible ($115500), it amounts to extra bragging rights for most owners. However, a number of drivers will do what BMW Motorsport imagined and track these cars, which is when the ZHP Competition Package comes into its own.
Available since July 2013, the extra 15hp comes from software enhancements and doesn’t involve any mechanical changes. However, the cars get a new sports exhaust with black chrome tailpipes to identify it. The system is fitted with a flap that’s connected to the driving modes, making it noisier in “Sport” when it becomes far more entertaining.
The cars also get new suspension, with 20% stiffer spring and damper rates, 15% stiffer sway bars and 10% quicker steering via the Servotronic assistance. There are also stiffer front bushings but the rear subframe is already bolted to the car and didn’t need further attention.
It’s worth noting that only the M5 is physically lowered 10mm during these upgrades, lowering the center of gravity.
In addition to the faster steering, software tuning is applied to the Active M diff and the M Dynamic Mode application of the stability control.
Competition Package cars can be further identified by 20" 601M wheels. However, the M6 Gran Coupe is fitted with standard 20" wheels so doesn’t get an upgrade, which explains the cheaper Package price.
So after understanding what ZHP entailed, we drove onto the Estoril racetrack to explore its ability. And to be honest, it was phenomenal.
At the wheel of a BMW M6 on what was an admittedly smooth track, the suspension gave incredible control. There was almost no trace of body roll in the tight turns yet it didn’t seem jarringly stiff either.
Inevitably, such a heavy car would understeer but this was easily controlled with the (optional) carbon-ceramic brakes that are amazingly efficient, encouraging a slow-in, fast-out approach. The alternative was to simply enter fast, lift off and power steer out. The revised traction control allowed some lurid oversteer angles without letting you spin into the scenery. This was aided by the quicker steering that allowed you to catch the slide more easily.
Driving more sensibly, you could jump on the power incredibly early out of a turn, propelling you forward with great stability. Power modulation seemed better than the stock car and, of course, it sounded good as well. The cars are also claimed to be 0.1sec faster to 60mph if that’s important to you.
Although many people will opt for the new Competition Package simply because they want the best of everything, its great combination of power, stability and entertainment take the M5 and M6 to another level, creating better track cars in the process.
2014 BMW M6
Layout longitudinal front-mounted engine, RWD
Engine 4395cc S63B44TÜ V8 DOHC direct injection, TwinScroll twin-turbocharged, CP sports exhaust system
Drivetrain seven-speed M-DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission, Active M Differential with CP software (six-speed manual option)
Suspension stiffer springs, dampers and sway bars, new front bushings, revised Servotronic steering software, reprogrammed MDM and DSC (M5 10mm lower)
Brakes optional 16.1" carbon-ceramic rotors, six-piston calipers f, 15.6", single-piston r
Wheels & Tires 20x9.5" f, 20x10.5" r 601M wheels, 265/35 R20 f, 295/30 R20 r
Exterior black chrome tailpipes
MSRP M6 from $109200, Competition Package $7300
Power 575hp at 6000rpm
Torque 500 lb-ft at 1500-5750rpm
Top Speed 155mph
Weight 4255 lb
Economy 15/22/17mpg (city/highway/combined)