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2012 BMW M6 Convertible - First Drive

Open-air motoring with 560hp under your right foot.

Greg Emmerson
Sep 4, 2012 SHARE
Epcp 1210 01+2012 bmw m6 convertible+cover Photo 1/6   |   2012 BMW M6 Convertible - First Drive

I was never a fan of the previous BMW M6 Coupe and Convertible. Apart from the quirky styling, the ride quality wasn’t exemplary, while the handling and brakes didn’t live up to the promise either.

We visited the Ascari Race Resort in Spain to sample the latest F12 Coupe and spent plenty of time in the new F13 M6 Convertible. Both variants were a quantum leap forward from their predecessors.

Our test route found us on the demanding back roads where innumerable bumps, dips, crests and off-camber turns really tested the Convertible to the limit. We were told torsional stiffness was improved by 18%, and this was immediately obvious on broken asphalt where there was no sign of scuttle shake, even when the front suspension felt close to hitting its bumpstops.

Despite the optional 20" wheels, thanks to a well-judged comfort setting for the active damping, the secondary and tertiary ride quality is good when loping along. Step up the pace and you can feel the rebound damping struggle as the 560hp bi-turbo V8 ramps up the velocity.

Switch to Sport mode and the chassis tightens, without inflicting too much damage to the ride quality. Press on with the M mode selected in the Dynamic Drive system and the firmer settings come together nicely. The DSC intervention also allows a little throttle steering of the back end if you’re smooth with the inputs – it helps that BMW backed off the artificial steering feel that made the M5’s over-heavy and opaque in Sport mode.

Epcp 1210 02+2012 bmw m6 convertible+emblem Photo 2/6   |   2012 BMW M6 Convertible - First Drive

The structural reinforcement makes the M6 Convertible 260 lb heavier than the Coupe, denting the acceleration on paper, although it’s less noticeable on the road.

Thanks to its unique firing order and exhaust design, BMW’s bent-crank V8 creates a distinctive soundtrack. Cylinders one and six fire 360˚ out of phase, with their gases meeting in the collector. This happens with the other three pairs too, the gases being channeled across to the other bank via the common exhaust manifold to balance the exhaust pulses. The result is a continuous, exhaust stream that improves smoothness and means the twin-scroll turbine wheels turn at a constant speed, placing less stress on the turbine blades and giving faster throttle response as a result.

The harmonic pulses create a unique soundtrack unlike any other V8, sounding almost like two four-cylinders firing slightly out of phase.

Combined with good looks, the powerful motor and capable chassis make the new M6 Convertible a desirable car. And it may have the edge against rivals like the Jaguar XKR, Mercedes SL and Maserati GranCabrio.

Second Opinion

Beyond its mad-dog V10 engine, the previous gen M6 was always an enigma. If you gave a child a crayon and asked him to draw a $100k BMW sports coupe with a 500hp V10 engine, would he have come up with that clumsy package? We think not…

However, the new car is far more intriguing. Its swoops, curves and dips catch the light in fascinating ways that change it from every angle, especially when the Frozen Grey or Frozen Silver matte paint is optioned.

Epcp 1210 03+2012 bmw m6 convertible+interior Photo 3/6   |   2012 BMW M6 Convertible - First Drive

The interior is well laid out, although the iDrive is slightly out of convenient reach, but at least it now works as intended, no longer the bane of BMW drivers.

From the leather-bound dash to the carbon-covered console and 10.2" widescreen, it’s a wonderful view from your lightweight seat that provides ample support without excluding the wider girthed driver.

Comfort and support are vital to the success of the M6 because you’ll want to spend a very long time behind the wheel of this 560hp cruiser. One button lowers all the windows, another drops the roof and you’re good to go. Raise the side glass and interior turbulence is reduced but you’ll need to shout to be heard at high speed.

With the sun beating down, you can hustle the big Bimmer with gusto because it’s no longer the rev-hungry V10 that required so much work to fully exploit. This sucker has torque from idle and picks up from any speed. But once you get the stone rolling, it’s the 4500 lb curb weight you need to calculate into your cornering considerations. You entry speed is supersonic but even the huge six-piston front brakes with 15.7" rotors have to summon their courage to intervene.

The adaptive, adjustable suspension copes incredibly well. It hides the bulk and remains composed under most conditions. You can select the ideal setting, but “Comfort” copes with most conditions until you’re really pressing on. However, “Sport Plus” can be too stiff for an uneven road, bouncing the tires in the fenders.

The M6 Convertible has two distinct characters. It’s a swift and elegant GT that will whisk you down the freeway, but has the ability to become a hooligan in the hills, forcing a huge smile as you get slight oversteer on the exit, accompanied by the howling V8. It’s a car for all season and most reasons, which suits us fine.

2012 BMW M6 Convertible

Layout
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine
4.4-liter V8 32v S63Tü M TwinPower bi-turbo, twin-scroll turbos, cross-bank exhaust manifold, individual throttle bodies, Valvetronic variable valve control, Double VANOS valve timing
Transmission
seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission with Drivelogic and Active M differential
Suspension
double wishbone f, multi-link r, rigid rear subframe, Dynamic Damper Control
Brakes
radially bolted six-piston fixed calipers, 15.7" drilled rotors (f), single-piston floating calipers, 15.6" (r)
Wheels & tires
19x9.5", 265/40 (f), 19x10.5", 295/35(r), optional 20x9.5", 265/35 (f), 20x10.5", 295/30
MSRP: from $113995

Performance

Peak Power: 560hp @ 6000rpm
Peak Torque: 500 lb-ft @ 1500-5750rpm
0-60 mph: 4.2sec
Top Speed: 155mph
Curb Weight: 4508 lb
Economy: 14/20/16mpg city/highway/combined

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By Greg Emmerson
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