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2013 BMW M6 Convertible First Drive

Perhaps one of the best contradictions on the road today

What It Is
It's one of the world's most practical supercars.
Best Thing
It doesn't make any compromises in delivering a four-seater convertible and extreme driving machine in one package.
Worst Thing
It's too stupid-fast to really use on a public road, and too addicting to drive to stay off the gas pedal.
Snap Judgment
An expensive bargain.


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Five speeding tickets in less than a day. Let that number sink it for a minute.

That's an unusually high number for auto journalists to cumulatively earn during a press introduction drive for a new car. But the 2013 BMW M6 convertible is no ordinary car, so it would seem the lot of us went out of our way to give Santa Barbara County one of its best revenue weeks in a long time. For what it's worth, I wasn't among those who were slowed down by Johnny Law.

Realistically, a car like the M6 shouldn't exist anymore, not with sky-high gas prices, 99-percenters, imploding economies, and the simple idea of 500-plus horsepower grand tourer seeming a bit gauche these days. And in most cases, it's hard to objectively look at a car that starts at $113,995 and say, "You know what, that's a really good deal." But the 2013 BMW M6 is a heckuva bargain, in its own way.

How?

Exclusivity, for starters. Every year, BMW sells a scant 7,000 M cars in the U.S., about three percent of total sales on this continent. The automaker says many of them are from repeat customers -- the sort who hang BMW Motorsports' colors in their garages, and talk in a language of chassis and engine codes the casual driver wouldn't understand. Yet that sliver of BMW M customers serve as ambassadors for the BMW brand as a whole.

The price also gets you plenty of under-the-sheetmetal modifications. Launching this summer as a convertible and then as a coupe in the fall, the BMW M6 doesn't look much different than the relatively pedestrian $81,995 BMW 640i convertible or V-8-powered 650i convertible that carries a $91,395 cost of entry. But as with every other M car, what makes the M6 special is in the details. And the M6 has lots of details, starting with minor exterior changes, but mostly making its case with its unique racecar-inspired suspension setup; more programmable suspension, engine, and transmission setups than you'll know what to do with; and a twin-turbo V-8 engine with 560 horsepower. BMW says it's one of the most-differentiated M cars ever made, and after driving it back-to-back with a lesser car based on the same platform, we're inclined to agree.

Walkaround

The 2013 BMW M6 convertible looks like other 6 Series, cars that were designed for driving coastal highways in places you'd see in a National Geographic magazine. It's a large, low car, and not the kind you expect has the potential for supercar-like performance. And only subtle details give away the fact it packs more than 100 horsepower over the next-best 6 Series. But they are there if you know what you're looking at.

Take, for example, the redesigned active air ducts on its front fenders, the widemouth front bumper to scarf down as much cool air as possible, the four exhaust pipes sticking out of a redesigned rear end, and upsized 19- or 20-inch wheels exposing massive brakes with deep blue brake calipers. Opting for the newly available carbon ceramic brakes will give the car yellow calipers and the 20-inch wheels. None of it is simply for aesthetics; everything has been changed to make the car a more thrilling, visceral experience.

Except for on the grille. There, BMW has decided to bring back the front-mounted M6 badge, a nod to the first M6 that left the U.S. after the 1988 model year. Excusing BMW's "frozen" matte paint colors or outrageous hues like Sakhir Orange Metallic, the 2013 BMW M6 convertible does little to attract attention. That's a good thing, because the M6 can attract plenty of unwanted attention with its abilities using very little effort at all.

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Sitting Down

When you get inside the 2013 BMW M6, perhaps the first thing -- and best thing -- you'll notice about it is its familiarity. If you've driven any modern BMW, it's pretty much a matter of getting in and going, with the exception of the M-DCT transmission controls that carry a small learning curve. The M6 offers up deep, supportive front bucket seats that grab your back without pinching it. They're comfortable for everyday driving, but they're also plenty supportive enough for taking corners at speed without sliding around. The 2013 BMW M6's interior uses plenty of plastic buttons shared with other lower-priced BMWs. But they all feel like they belong in a car of this weight class.

Additionally, BMW replaces its wood interior accents with carbon fiber in the M6's interior and equips drivers with a fat three-spoke M steering wheel. On its left-hand spoke are two buttons -- M1 and M2 -- that act as programmable memory settings for engine, suspension, transmission, and stability control settings. Each function can be preset in three modes, giving drivers dozens of ways to set up the car. For us, M2 was programmed to turn on M Dynamic Mode, limiting stability control, cutting traction control altogether, and put the engine and suspension in their most aggressive settings. Instantly, it might drop the car's seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission from seventh to fifth, thus pushing revs well into the car's torquey, turbocharged powerband.

It's oftentimes an overstatement to say a vehicle's computer modes make dramatic differences in its character, but not with this car.

When we weren't pushing the car near its 7,200 rpm engine redline, though, the car felt much more relaxed, letting us sit back and enjoy its 10.2-inch color display, which showed engine and transmission functions, as well as letting us check on the navigation system, stereo settings, among other things. Despite having a tight rear seat, it's still big enough to take two friends along for a ride, as well as a weekend's worth of suitcases in the car's compact 10.6-cubic-foot trunk.

Driving

When leisurely cruising California's mountainous backroads, the car felt like any other BMW: buttoned down, with no drama. But this isn't any other BMW. And cruising at a leisurely pace in this car is wasting the talents and time of the engineers who designed a 4,400-pound car to defy physics and logic.

The 2013 BMW M6 isn't just another boulevard-dancing convertible for Beverly Hills badge snobs. It's a legitimately world-class open-top supercar. Even without a hardtop, the 2013 BMW M6 stays solid in hairy, high-speed situations. It's confidence-inspiring, but in the same way peer pressure was in high school. Because, while you might have gotten a few detentions for it, sneaking out to smoke in the bathroom with friends only to accidentally light a trash can on fire when you went to put it out seemed like a good idea at the time. And the stories you got out of it more than made up for the punishment. The M6 is the same way, egging its driver on to keep pushing it harder, going faster next time around than the one that preceded it. As evidenced from the speeding tickets some people in our group got, the punishment was well worth the experience.

The M6's greatest strengths are also its greatest downfalls, though. From a standstill and without using the car's trick launch control settings, the M6 can hit 60 mph from standstill in just over four seconds. It doesn't feel nearly as dramatic as you'd think. Sixty miles per hour in the M6 feels like 25. Getting up to highway speeds in this car simply isn't that exciting. In fact, 100 mph in the M6 isn't that exciting. As a purpose-built tool made for speed, the M6 is a car that's best-suited for a long stretch of desert highway, or autobahn. Or a race track.

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Summary

Let's get this out of the way first: The 2013 BMW M6 is a fantastic car -- a car even those shopping for purist sports cars like Porsche 911s and Nissan GT-Rs have no reason to take out of contention based on its performance merits alone. The big question with the M6 is whether it's worth the $113,995 price of admission. It is. Even completely loaded up over $130,000 with every option, it's still a pretty solid deal. Sharing territory with the M6 convertible is the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Audi R8 4.2 Spyder, or Mercedes-Benz SL550. The Aston Martin and Audi may look a little more exotic, but neither has the everyday utility of the BMW, much less the performance.

Then there are the BMW M6's most natural competitors, the Maserati GranTurismo convertible and Jaguar XKR-S convertible, which start at $140,800 and $138,875, respectively. They each make the BMW seem like a bargain if ever there was one.

When you sift through all the M6's competitors, feature by feature and number by number, the M6 comes out looking like it's punching above its weight and doing some damage. BMW didn't spend too much money on differentiating the standard 6 Series' looks from the M6's -- looks were never a problem for the car. Instead it dumped a bunch of development into a completely new trick rear suspension, high-strength differential for the rear axle to channel 560 horsepower to the ground, and a host of racecar-tech improvements that could go on for several pages. Only a BMW M-phile or your typical details-oriented German would really appreciate it, so I'll sum it up this way for the rest of us: They all make the car utterly comfortable and elegant, yet, when you flick a few switches, can transform it into an exhilarating vessel of velocity. A 4,400-pound convertible shouldn't be able to perform as well as this one does.

At its heart, the M6 is a supercar, wanting its driver to have a little fun with the gas pedal. It's a car that if you're not pushing your luck, you're not driving it properly. The fact that it can get up to speed so effortlessly and with so little drama makes it all the more impressive, although we do wish it did so with a little more bravado along the way to remind you you're about to do something stupid at a high rate of speed. The M6, it's a car that's easy to dismiss because of its heft and refinement, but it's hard to ignore when you drive it with some gusto.

And best of all, it's a car that you can't help but want to keep going faster in, speeding tickets be damned.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Basic Specs

4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, 560-hp, $113,995, fuel economy not yet rated

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