Texas loves its mythology, but it's not always supported by cold facts. "Everything's bigger here" fits on a bumper sticker. Austin's a hub for Smart cars. DFW could fit snugly inside Beijing's Capital Airport with room to spare. Bubble burst.
Texas does have one of the biggest new race tracks in the world, though. Improbably, it's carved out specifically for Formula 1, and by all accounts, it's been a huge success in its inaugural outings. So much so, the world's automakers have made Austin the new San Diego, launching so many new vehicles at the Circuit of the Americas, its iconic red tower now doubles as a control tower to sequence them for safety.
Gotcha. Almost. It's not quite that popular yet, but we've carted at least a handful of times to COTA already, riding sidesaddle in an F1-formula demo car and in Grand Cherokee SRT, and it's only been open since last fall. There's every reason: the 3.4-mile-long circuit is a vast, beautifully executed, exceptionally safe piece of road with, well, Texas-sized run-offs, and Texas-sized runs at top speeds.
It's an ideal place to show off your wares, if you're BMW, and you have a new M6 Gran Coupe that'll ping 150 mph on the back straight, without throwing a disc.
The latest add to the 2014 BMW 6-Series lineup, the M6 Gran Coupe finishes off the family with a flourish. It's exactly what the name implies: a hair-raising M6 drivetrain stuffed into the taut Gran Coupe body, keyed with a carbon-fiber roof and flush with other M details to screw it down to the surface while it claws its way around COTA in rising 92-degree heat.
More on that in a bit, once we flash-card through the specs again. BMW refreshed the 6-Series for 2012, and brought the M6 back for 2013 as a coupe (with some late 2012 convertibles in the mix). The blown-mind V-10 slipped away, replaced by an ironman-strong 560-hp BMW M twin-turbo V-8 with 500 pound-feet of torque. The seven-speed M Double Clutch gearbox came with the coupe and convertible, and gets its due in the Gran Coupe, too. It has both automatic and manual driving modes with three settings each, a launch-control function, and exceptionally fast shifts.
Hand-foot-coordination fetishists will only have eyes for this year's revival of the manual six-speed, though. It has three driving modes of its own, sports rev-matching and shifts with a light pedal effort and BMW's typical semi-rubbery touch at the lever. The manual's shift modes--Efficiency, Sport, and Sport+--govern rev-matching, with Sport+ dropping it entirely for complete human control. With either transmission, the power's shifted between the rear wheels with an active multi-plate clutch differential that's in cahoots with the throttle and stability control, so that power can be used passive-aggressively, to tighten corners or to lower slip.
No matter which gearbox gets the nod, the chunky, 4,500-pound M6 Gran Coupe is a screamer. Zero to 60 mph happens in 4.1 seconds, and it'll charge up to a limited 155-mph top speed without fail or favor.
The M drivetrain is matched with an M-specific chassis with lighter construction, upgraded brakes (carbon-ceramics are a new option), special sport seats, and the usual M Drive controls over suspension, steering, powertrain, and stability controls--graded in Comfort, Sport, and Sports Plus settings, accessible through two "favorites" buttons, like radio stations.
It's a Borg of a luxury sport sedan, this M6 Gran Coupe. A two-door, fitted with two more, rewired with beyond-human performance, still wrapped in its fleshy, character-actor body. How does it all work on a track designed to torture the most capable cars on the planet?