GT That Loved Me Jens
Trulsson eloped to Portofino
with one of BMWs
Coupes... And discovered that
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do...
GT GRAND TOURER; GRAN TURISMO… The word itself conjures up
images of sleek lines, powerful engines and beautiful couples sporting the right
sunglasses with matching luggage driving along shady tree-lined roads somewhere
in France or Italy. Their tranquil journey is punctuated by stops at chic hotels
with names like La Réserve, Villa d'Este and Royal Riviera: days spent
lounging by the pool; nights at cocktail parties.
It is a perfect mix of the opening scene from the cult UK heist movie, the original
Italian Job, with its great On
Days Like These soundtrack and the adventures of Londino
a trans-national treasure hunt conducted in very fast, very smart cars between
London and Portofino.
On our way to Geneva from Munich, we have to pass through Switzerland, a country
known for three things banking secrecy, chocolate and their hatred of
cars. There are cameras everywhere and the traffic rhythm is sometimes so slow
that I could get out of the car and run alongside it. That is when I notice
I actually like the look of the M6. When Chris Bangle first presented his BMW
designs, I really didn't like them. I now love them, particularly the 6-series
and will gladly admit to having been mistaken.
The real journey begins in Geneva. Our 'mission' is to drive along Lake Léman
via Lausanne and Montreux, down through the Alps and the Simplon Pass to Lake
Maggiore and Stresa and from there, take Autostrada del Trafori down to Portofino.
The FIA's (Féderation Internationale de l'Automobile) definition of a GT is,
and I quote: "An open or closed automobile which has no more than one door on
each side and a minimum of two seats situated one on each side of the longitudinal
centre line of the car; these two seats must be crossed by the same transversal
plane. This car must be able to be used perfectly legally on the open road,
and adapted for racing on circuits or closed courses."
The BMW M6 is a typical Grand Tourer, albeit on the sportier side. I have been
trying to find an equal for this car, one that could be compared on all levels
to the BMW and have come up with just one rival the Ferrari
612 Scaglietti. All others are either not sporty
enough or lack that crucial '+2' feature.
The remarkable ingenuity of BMW makes for much joy for driver and passenger
in the M6. The iDrive system is notoriously complicated to handle for the driver,
but it is a dream for the passenger. There is so much information on hand that,
whatever trip you take, you will benefit greatly from it. To be alone with the
computer while driving is not something to be recommended because you'll need
all your concentration when manhandling this 500bhp beast at speed. But it doesn't
have to be this way. At any point the driver can return to the M6's default
'P400' mode (which withholds the last twenty-five per cent of the maximum 500bhp)
and which is more than sufficient for ninety per cent of your journeys
having 'just' 400bhp is still enough to leave a lot of other drivers eating
Then there is the M-button in this case; 'M' for magic. This innocuous
little button will transform the M6 from 'Daniel Craig-James Bond aggressive'
to 'pit bull ferocious'. Push it, and all of a sudden the car reacts like a
tiger stalking its prey; all of the M6's senses come alive, putting you in direct
touch with the car on a truly primeval level. The M6's full 500bhp is now completely
at you disposal; the suspension is taut in Sport mode and the DSC is turned
off. To fully enjoy (and exploit) the capabilities of this wonderful machine,
one would need to take the M6 to a track because open roads are just not enough
the M6 will reach illegal speeds even before you need to shift to fourth
gear. And there are seven of them!
Whichever way you look at it 500bhp or 507hp in a standard sports
coupé is a sobering figure. Especially when one recalls other cars renowned
for their performance from earlier times. Back in 1976 and the first-ever Golf
GTi had 110bhp a lot back then enabling Volkswagen's sporty little
hot-hatch to reach a top speed of 113mph. Porsche's 959, a dream car of the
Eighties and at that time the most technologically-advanced car ever
built had 438bhp and took a mere 3.7 seconds to hit 62mph [for the record,
that's the same 0-62mph time as the 612bhp Ferrari 599 GTB we recently tested
The previous M6, albeit not an official M6, was the M635CSi with 286bhp. It
was, and still is, a fast car by any standards. BMW's wonderfully sonorous 5.0-litre
V10 that powers today's M6 is magical on higher revs, yet very discreet and
rather low on torque in the lower range (maximum torque of 384lb ft is at 6,100rpm).
Not that it ever bothered me as shifting with the paddle-shift SMG 'box is more
than enjoyable. Every downshift is accompanied with some throttle action to
give the gears that precise revs to balance the change with the added bonus
of making you feel like a true racer for mastering that heel-toe manoeuvre without
ever taking your foot off the accelerator.
After a spot of lunch in Stresa overlooking the beautiful Lake Maggiore, there's
still another 160 miles to go before we catch sight of Portofino. The M6 we're
driving has German plates and apparently that still attracts some resentment
from our fellow motorists. I love the Italians for their machismo but when in
the M6, it's almost painful to watch. You're doing 70mph in the BMW on the winding
A8 to Genoa, going with the flow at a very comfortable pace but soon
enough you will have a small Fiat on your tail, flashing its headlights wanting
to get past. If I let him by, he's going to have to brake in the next bend and
interrupt my rhythm so what to do? Easy I press the magical M-button;
shift down to third and floor it. The distance I put between him and me in four
seconds is enough to let me coast leisurely the rest of the way. Who says that
The M6 offers three settings for the suspension, three settings for the DSC
and five settings for the shift speed of the Sequential Manual Gearbox. On the
whole, the M6 gives you so many choices of everything it would sometimes be
easier if the M department had already made the choice for you. But here's the
tricky thing: in today's market, they can't because BMW is trying to
cover all the bases and attract as many buyers as possible without alienating
a single one because there aren't enough choices. My M6 even has the head-up
display the most crucial information is projected onto the windscreen
in front of the driver, just like on a fighter jet.
Autostradas in Italy are not like motorways elsewhere in Europe. Especially
along the coast of Liguria, where it carves its way through the mountainside
revealing little villages and displaying scenery so beautiful it almost makes
me wish I was in the passenger seat. Almost. The destination is Portofino and
the ultra-luxurious Hotel Splendido,
which is perched on the side of the mountain above the harbour. The yachts moored
in the little cove below us are magnificent; and the view from where we're standing
even more so. We drink Bellinis (still one of Italy's most popular cocktails)
with the hotel manager and dream of August when it's time to return here again.
Beauty in all of its shapes and forms is the reward of owning a real GT. There
should be no doubt that this is a luxury for the lucky few who have not just
the time but also the money to spend on long travels with their masterpiece
automobile, stay in five-star hotels and simply enjoy. I know, I did.