10th Place: BMW M6
Bigger Than Better
Unfortunately for the M6, there's no mechanical issue to blame for its standing. Save some significant brake fade on the track, the M6 functioned exactly as it was designed. Assuming, of course, that BMW intended to design a car that is too heavy, too complicated, and unable to put the power down.
Before we go any further, it must be said that the M6 has some very redeeming qualities. Every judge remarked about how much he enjoyed the big, broad powerband and raucous noise from the (officially, but likely underrated) 560-horsepower engine. Praise was likewise heaped on the transmission. "The dual-clutch is the best part of this car," Lago wrote. Shifts were imperceptibly quick and smooth with no interruption of power. "I really enjoyed the drivetrain," Randy said. "The transmission is fantastic."
Like the rest of us, though, Randy had trouble finding other nice things to say about how the M6 drove. "Driving the car fast ends up being a lot of work," he reported. "It's kind of like a feeling of wrestling, and it's not a finely balanced car through the corners. You're using both hands and working it, and it's just not on the level of M cars that I'm used to seeing in terms of handling.
"It was the same report from the road. Judges dinged the M6 for being too heavy and unsettled in corners. Moreover, the car felt numb and isolating, like there was always a barrier between you and the road. Loh described it thus: "The M6 tunes out nearly every chassis response, and then tries to dial it back in to your liking."
Ah, but there's a button for that, isn't there? Actually, there are about a hundred of them. The M6 offers a wide range of options for fine-tuning the car's various computers to dial in performance for any given situation. On its face, this seems like a good thing. In practice, you end up fiddling with settings forever. We calculated 125 possible combinations of throttle, suspension, transmission, and other settings. Somewhere around combination 26, you realize that none of them is really making the car much of a better driver's car, and you're just wasting time.
As an example, take Randy's experience on track. "I tried the car in Sport Mode once to see if it affected the handling, because it had so much oversteer on exit, but it also had a tendency to understeer a lot. Only tried a couple of corners in Sport because it understeered heavily. I put it back in Sport Plus, and all of a sudden it was oversteering." In the end, the M6 was slower around the track than the much less powerful 911.
An inability to use its massive power reserve would plague the M6 everywhere it went. It struggled in instrumented testing, especially on the figure eight. If you can get its nine-step launch control to work, at 4 seconds flat to 60 mph it's nearly as quick as a Corvette in a straight line. Anywhere else, though, the M6 is constantly spinning its tires in frustration. Several editors complained that the stability-control light was flashing constantly during road driving, fighting every single bump. "If you can't go WOT into fourth gear without ESC intervention, you either have too much power or your rear axle isn't setup properly," said Lago. BMW's illustrious M division built its name on cars that were light, nimble, communicative, and begging to be driven as hard as possible. The M6 is the antithesis of that ethos.