This is the new BMW M6 Gran Coupe, a four-door coupe/saloon that slots between the M6 coupe and M5 saloon. It gives Munich a direct rival to the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG (£82k) and forthcoming Audi RS7, and an excuse to add £24k to the M5's sticker price – it'll cost £97,490 when it goes on sale in May. The M6 coupe retails at £93k.
Is the Gran Coupe an M6 with four doors or an M5 with a rakish roof?
The M5 and M6 share a drivetrain and the platforms are obviously closely related, but the Gran Coupe is an M5 underneath – the two share the same wheelbase. But whereas the M5 shares its basic architecture with a 520d, the M6 Gran Coupe's lowliest sibling is the far posher 640i Gran Coupe, and that means the body and interior feel more special, more M6-like. The M6 Gran Coupe also continues the theme started by the original M6, with a lightweight carbon roof helping to lower the centre of gravity. You won't find that on an M5.
As with all M5 and M6 models, the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 sends the same whopping 552bhp and 502lb ft to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and active limited-slip differential.
What comes as standard?
20-inch wheels, M Sport seats and an extended leather pack – extra portions of the door cards and dashboard are hide-trimmed, as well as the seats – are all part of the package. Elsewhere there's a head-up display plus parking sensors, heated seats, automatically dimming rear-view and exterior mirrors, and BMW Professional multimedia/sat-nav.
Options include multi-function seats, carbon ceramic brakes, keyless entry, heated steering wheel, soft-close doors, electric sun blinds, a Bang & Olufsen stereo, a rear-view camera and the usual array of beeps and bongs to try to prevent you from straying out of your lane/driving into pedestrians/blinding people with full beam.
So it feels just like an M5, then?
Not quite. M Division boss Friedrich Nitschke describes the M6 Gran Coupe as 'standing for luxury like no other M car in the past', and the tuning of the various chassis parameters reflects that: Albert Biermann, vice president of engineering, says the damper settings are slightly softer in the Gran Coupe's Comfort mode, though there's less difference as you progress through Sport and Sport Plus.
The steering, throttle maps and DSC calibrations are also subtly revised.
Does it feel like an M5 for, erm, your gran?
Well, we drove the Gran Coupe on smoother German roads, but the Comfort setting certainly seemed to be more compliant and settled than the M5's, which can feel a bit agitated and lumpy at times. So the Gran Coupe is a bit softer, yes, but it also feels happier with itself, more positively resolved. For me, that's a good thing, and if you really want a stiff ride, you can still scroll up to Sport Plus and experience uncomfortable sportiness.
The steering also feels a little different, Biermann admitting that they've tweaked it both on the Gran Coupe and in later-build M5s. Revised elastokinematics – bushings to you and me – have played a large part in a bid to create more feedback and precision from the front end. We'd say the steering still feels a little remote, but the weighting is more pronounced around top-dead centre in a way that, yes, does create more definition. As before you can choose from Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus settings for the steering, but the sporty modes just ladle on daft amounts of weight – Comfort is perfect.
Tell me about the V8 and seven-speed gearbox
The 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 has very eager response, pulls from low and serves up a massively flexible wodge of torque, but it'll also pull to beyond 7000rpm and sound utterly mad as it does it, a tremulous trumpeting that's a world away from the farty trills and burpy rumblings of the mid-range. Combine this with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox in its fastest setting (there are three to choose from) and you end up firing along on a manic wave of speed punctuated by the split-second thumps that signal a gearchange. It's beserk, no question, a posh Nissan GT-R in the best possible sense.
A torque converter would be smoother – particularly at parking speeds – but the intensity of the dual-clutcher more than makes up for it, and it's perfectly capable of being civil.
There are three settings for the throttle response: Efficient feels a bit flabby, Sport feels nice and urgent and responsive, while Sport Plus is incredibly precise for a turbo motor, but it does introduce an element of shuntiness as you back in and out of the throttle on twistier roads. I don't remember that in my long-term M5, so where I'd previously gone for Sport Plus in the M5, I found myself preferring Sport in the M6 Gran Coupe.
Is the Gran Coupe practical?
There isn't an abundance of head- and kneeroom for four six footers, but there's enough, and while it is really a four-seater, the part-time seat in the middle of the rear does have its own seatbelt. You'll get five in there when you need to, but don't expect to make a habit of it.
Other than that, you'll notice that the boot is also 60 litres down on capacity at 460 litres versus the M5, and that the more rakish A-pillars and plunging bonnet do make the M6 Gran Coupe harder to place on the road than its saloon-based sibling. Not a big deal, but noticeable all the same.
The M6 is a great car and, in nearly every way, preferable to the M5. Crucially, though, the M5's extra roominess and far cheaper price tag mean it'll still be the number one choice for many buyers.
On this evidence, the suspension changes seem to be an improvement over the M5 but we'd want to drive it on twistier, more poorly surfaced, drier – it lashed it down on our test – UK roads to definitively say if it was just as engaging, or even more so.
And here's the thing: like the M5, the M6 is relatively aloof, a car that doesn't really let on how special it is until you really explore its vast reserves of performance. Do that and you're doing silly speeds. The M6 Gran Coupe is a big, fast car, one that demolishes B-roads rather than interacts keenly with them – a CLS 63 AMG better communicates its specialness in more everyday circumstances.
But I like it. I like the devastating performance, the looks, the cabin and the 24/7 usability, but if you're looking for tactility and engagement, you might want to save yourself a stack of cash and buy a Jaguar XFR – it comes with that rakish roofline as standard.