FAST CLUB #2015
We get behind the wheel of the face-lifted M135i and M6 Convertible and also have a go in the X6 M. We drive the face-lifted M135i and M6 Cab plus the X6 M for good measure because… well, why wouldn’t you? Words: Elizabeth de Latour/ Photos: #BMW
Say what you will about the second generation 1 Series’ fishy/froggy face (I like it, but then again I’ve got one) but you can’t argue with the fact that it has been a roaring sales success and, more importantly, introduced the world to the M135i – arguably one of the greatest performance bargains of all time and one of the hottest of hot hatches. Now the time has come for the F2x 1 Series’ LCI (Life Cycle Impulse), BMW’s term for a midlife face-lift, and the end result is a car that is a little easier on the eye and will likely be even more popular.
There’s a more attractive front end with slightly more conventionally-styled headlights though we’re of the opinion that the rear revisions aren’t quite as successful but the overall effect is a success and it’s a good-looking hatch. The interior revisions are minor, with a boost in standard spec (all cars now get climate control, for example) and swish new monochrome graphics for the heating controls. As far as face-lift packages go, it’s a success.
Of course, the M135i is all about going fast and BMW has seen fit to up the power… by 6hp. That does at least bring it in line with the M235i at 326hp and ensures you won’t be at a disadvantage owning an M135i come pub power figure bragging time. Unsurprisingly, an additional 6hp has made no difference to the car’s performance, that is to say that it still feels absolutely ballistic out on the road. We’ve never experienced a car that is so easy to drive quickly and without even trying. At one point during a B-road blast I was casually wondering about what to have for dinner that evening whilst chucking the M135i through the corners with careless abandon. That’s not to say that you feel detached from the driving experience, far from it, the M135 is an engaging and communicative steer but there’s so little drama to proceedings you really do just get in and drive it really, really fast. Turn off the traction control and you can have all the drama you want, the E-diff making a fine fist of emulating a mechanical LSD and you can get the tail out with no effort or lay down some fat 11s if the mood takes you. It sounds awesome, too, ignoring the fact that the speakers do play a part in channelling the engine noise to the occupants, but experienced from the outside, away from the electronic audio frivolity, it still sounds rude and as fruity as you’d want and hope it would.
If it was my money, auto takes preference over manual (more gears, better fuel economy, faster), especially as the shifts are so quick and crisp it makes you wonder what the point of M DCT is. And while the standard suspension is good, EDC is better, allowing you to go harder or softer and it feels like less of a compromise and makes the car more capable. If you want a small, fast, practical do-it-all hot hatch, aim your £30k at the M135 and pull the trigger, you won’t regret it.
ENGINE: 3.0-litre straight-six #N55B30
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, optional eight-speed Sport Auto #ZF8HP
WEIGHT (EU): 1505kg (1520)
MAX POWER: 326hp @ 5800-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 332lb ft @ 1300-4500rpm
0-62MPH: 5.1 (4.9)
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
EMISSIONS (CO²): 188g/km (175)
FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 35.3 (37.7)
PRICE (OTR): £31,325 (five-door £33,345)
Figures in brackets are for Sport Auto
Would we buy an M6 Convertible? If we were in the market for a big, fast, comfortable drop-top, the answer would be a resounding yes because the M6 delivers everything you might want from a car like this. For its LCI treatment, BMW has dumped a whole lot more standard equipment into the big Six (over £10kworth in fact) and cleaned up the already elegant lines for a bit more aggression and road presence. It’s a delicate beauty treatment but when you’re starting with what is arguably a pretty good-looking car in the first place, you’d have to have fists made from ham to mess it up.
Under the bonnet it’s business as usual, which is a slightly rude way of saying it’s still got a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 (remember when something like that was just a schoolboy’s dream and now it’s an everyday reality?) making 560hp and 502lb ft of torque. That means 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 155mph but lots more if you take the limiter off. A big capacity V8 plus twin-turbos means that torque peak is spread thickly across most of the rev range, like butter on freshly sliced bread. It’s equally delicious, unless you have a gluten allergy, but at least that won’t affect your enjoyment of the S63 V8 and it’s a monster of a motor. Prod the throttle at pretty much any revs, any speed and the M6 surges forward on a wave of torque and that means it’s very easy to go very fast indeed without noticing and that means you could get in a lot of trouble very quickly. It makes driving a much more relaxing experience, having so much performance on tap, as there’s pretty much no situation that you can’t drive your way out of. If you get stuck behind slower traffic you don’t have to wait for an overtaking opportunity, it happens almost without you realising it; you think ‘I could probably overtake this car if I… oh, I’ve already done it’. On rough and damp surfaces traction is at a premium but for the most part it manages to put down its power pretty well and you can deploy a healthy dose of throttle without too much concern.
The only thing that really hampers the driving experience is the size of the M6 because it is most definitely a big car; wide and long, it feels like it takes up a lot of space on the road. On A-roads it’s fine but funnel it onto a B-road and it feels big and a bit out of its comfort zone. The ride is also pretty harsh and we also noticed what seemed like some scuttle shake over rough surfaces, a slight shimmy through the dash and steering wheel. But aside from this there’s little to moan about here, really, and it remains a hugely impressive car. Yes, it is expensive but it’s priced in line with its rivals, and is actually cheaper than a good few of them, so that’s a moot point really. If you happen to have £100k burning a hole in your pocket and an overwhelming desire for a fast convertible, we can’t imagine you’d be disappointed with the M6.
ENGINE: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 #S63B44
TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed #M-DCT
WEIGHT (EU): 1925kg
MAX POWER: 560hp @ 6000-7000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 502lb ft @ 1500-5750rpm
0-62MPH: 4.3 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
EMISSIONS (CO²): 239g/km
FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 27.4
PRICE (OTR): £97,300
If you like cars that make you laugh out loud then the X6 M is the car for you. It may go against everything that M once stood for (a 4WD auto 4x4 with an M badge?!) and it may get plenty of environmentalist sorts raging, but that cannot take away from the fact that it’s actually a massively impressive machine. The X6 M looks big on the outside and feels big on the inside but the most surprising thing about it is that it’s actually surprisingly easy to pilot with confidence, despite taking up most of most of the roads you’ll find yourself driving down. The elevated driving position offers a good view of your surroundings and the massive mirrors give you a good idea of whereabouts you are in the road, making the X6 M quite easy to place.
The most amusing aspect of the whole driving experience is that it drives nothing like how you might expect. It doesn’t feel heavy – it is most definitely a heavy car at 2340kg – but it doesn’t feel like it’s carting around anywhere near that sort of mass. The fact that it’s so powerful is a massive help, obviously, and while the M5 and M6 have to make do with 560hp in standard form, the X6 (and X5) M models now boast 575hp, 20hp up on what they started with when first launched, which means it feels absolutely ballistic. 0-62mph comes up in a scarcely believable 4.2 seconds, which puts it quite literally a fraction behind the DCTequipped M3 and M4, seriously impressive when you consider that it weighs over 700kg more. The drive-by-wire throttle is amusingly light, which means that it feels even faster than you expect, especially compared to the M6, whose pedal requires a lot more effort to get it moving, and it’s very easy to pile on the speed without even trying. The steering is light and while it’s not the last word in communication and feel, it’s fine and allows you to drive briskly with confidence, while the brakes are suitably powerful though after a brisk drive involving few hard stops the pedal travel increased and braking required a little more commitment, though that’s not too surprising considering they’re trying to cope with over two tonnes of rampaging X6. But, overall, it’s a surprisingly positive experience behind the wheel.
The X6 M definitely won’t appeal to everyone but we can appreciate why it’s so popular and those that love it are truly enamoured. It’s not for us, even if our numbers came up, but we doubt you’ll find another car that makes you giggle quite like the X6 M.
ENGINE: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 S63B44
TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed M DCT
WEIGHT (EU): 2340kg
MAX POWER: 575hp @ 6000-6500rpm
MAX TORQUE: 553lb ft @ 2200-5000rpm
0-62MPH: 4.2 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
EMISSIONS (CO²): 258g/km
FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 25.4
PRICE (OTR): £93,080