Why the BMW E63 M6 is the most underrated M Car ever
BMW's forgotten supercar and why you need to buy one before prices soar
As BMW continues to reshape their brand identity into something that feels like a shadow of the former company that gave us cars like the E46 M3 & E39 M5, we are continually seeing cars like this gain substantially in value as enthusiasts attempt to grab themselves a piece of what many would refer to as BMW's "golden era". For many the ship has already sailed on such cars with a good condition example of an E46 M3 with reasonably low mileage fetching upwards of $40k AUD (add an extra $30k to that if it's a manual). Not just early 2000's models are experiencing this increase either. Look for 1M's and the cheapest you'll find sit around $70k. Well looked after E9X M3's with desirable options sit around the same price, and in many cases even higher.
(Picture: European Auto Source)
However, if you're in the market for an older M car that will serve as both an exceptional drivers car and a future investment, there is one that currently stands out more than any other; BMW's forgotten supercar from their F1 engine-building days, the E63 M6. Now, you're probably wondering why the M6 and not the E60 M5 sedan that used the exact same V10 engine? There are a number of justifications for this. Firstly, the M6 is a far rarer car with only 14,152 (9,087 coupes & 5,065 convertibles) being produced compared to the 20,589 M5's that rolled off the Dingolfing production line in Germany. That makes the M6 about as rare as Lamborghini's own V10 model, the Gallardo, yet the BMW's engine actually mustered up more horsepower than the 5.0L motor fitted to first-generation Gallardos.
The second reason to buy an M6 instead of an M5 is the way it drives. Thanks to numerous weight reduction measures such as its carbon-fibre roof, the M6 shaves 145kg from the M5 and also benefits from a lower centre of gravity. Furthermore, the M6 benefitted from a wider rear track than the M5 allowing for greater levels of grip and stability. As you'd imagine, these factors allowed the M6 to offer slightly greater performance than its sedan counterpart, accelerating from 0 to 100km/h a tenth of a second quicker according to BMW .
(Picture: Wikimedia Commons)
Although it will matter more to some than others, arguably the most significant reason that the M6 will be a more desirable future-classic than the M5 is its styling. Sleek and exotic curves give this sharp and dynamic grand-tourer a level of road presence that the M5 couldn't hope to match. While some love the 'sleeper effect' that comes with the fact the M5 looks almost identical to a regular M-Sport 5 Series, there is an allure that comes with the gorgeous coupe styling of the M6 that simply doesn't exist with a sedan. Just like the F13 M6 that succeeded it, the E63 looks genuinely special and a cut above the more 'ordinary' BMW's such as the E60 5 Series.
Moving inside, the M5's interior is not dissimilar to an E90 3 Series, and while functional it looks basic at best. Meanwhile, the M6 feels more akin to an Aston DB9 with things such as suede headlining and a full leather dash paired with a choice of premium interior trim options like carbon-fibre or piano black. Most M6's also feature two-tone leather for the interior which offers a visually striking contrast. This is one of the main areas where the M6's $50k+ retail price premium over the M5 really becomes obvious.
So why are there M6's out there selling for under $50,000 Australian Dollars? You're probably thinking to yourself "duh, reliability", but don't be so fast. While yes, the E60 M5 and E63 M6 have both been known to suffer a few reliability issues, this is absolutely no different from cars like the E46 or E92 M3, E39 or F10 M5, 1 Series M and the list goes on....
You see, the V10 M cars have had their relatively few known issues blown far out of proportion by rumour-spreading and fear mongering individuals, many of whom don't even own the cars themselves but just enjoy speculating in online forums. The issues that are primarily known to occur on the S85 V10 are premature connecting-rod bearing wear (often exacerbated by driving style and incorrect warm-up routine), VANOS high-pressure line leaks, throttle actuator failure and SMG pump failure. What most online forum-fiends fail to disclose is just how easily most of these issues are resolved, or how infrequently they occur. Take throttle actuators for example. The units themselves are very solid, however the plastic gears used inside them are what fail. If you're a capable DIYer you could simply buy new gears and replace them yourself, or there are even companies who specialise in fixing the units and will exchange your old broken units for rebuilt ones. Similarly, SMG pumps themselves rarely fail, what actually goes bad is the far cheaper electronic motor within the pump which can be replaced individually.
The truth is none of these issues are specific to the S85 V10. Connecting-rod bearing failures have been documented in nearly every M engine from the late 90's to early 2010's. The S54 from the E46 M3 and S62 from the E39 M5 were both known to experience premature bearing wear, as was the S65 from the E9X M3. Even S63 twin-turbo V8's are not immune from the problem, not to mention their other shortcomings such as stretched timing chains and bad valve-stem seals. VANOS issues are another thing that every engine mentioned above may experience at some point in its life. "What about SMG issues?" you ask. Both the E36 and E46 M3's used units that were significantly more antiquated than that fitted to the M5 and M6. As well as far slower shift times and clunky automatic shift programs, these 'boxes were more prone to pump and actuator failures and decreased clutch life. While even the SMG III has its flaws, it operates far more smoothly than older iterations and feels much more well-sorted. Its automatic mode does a fantastic job of emulating a standard torque-converter auto when you want it to take care of itself, but turn the shift speed up to six and throw it in manual mode and it'll swap cogs even faster than the E9X M3's DCT can manage.
Above all else, nothing quite compares to the sheer joy of unleashing the 507HP of the breathtaking S85 engine. Revving up to its 8250rpm redline, only the Porsche Carrera GT or Lexus LFA come close to replicating the F1-esque noise it produces. The S85 was the most powerful naturally-aspirated engine ever fitted to a BMW production car. While the S70/2 V12 used in the McLaren F1 was the most powerful NA BMW engine used in a road car, it never found its way into one of the brands own cars. Ten individual throttle bodies, quasi dry sump lubrication and a 12.0:1 compression ratio are just some of the design aspects that make BMW's only V10 one of its most thrilling and emotive engines. As you may know, the S65 V8 found in the E9X M3 was derived from the S85 and is effectively the same engine with two cylinders less. This is just another reason that reliability concerns directed specifically towards the V10 are illogical.
Word (no matter how accurate it may be) spreads fast on the internet, and just like a bad meme that's been over-shared to death, the insidious vilification of the V10 M5 & M6 by view-seeking YouTubers and armchair-expert forum writers has kept the value of these incredible cars far lower than what they should be. It beggars belief that one of BMW's most spectacular vehicles and the only to ever be fitted with a screaming F1 derived V10 can be had for less than a moderately used F15 X5 diesel or a new 320i. As we know all too well, naturally-aspirated engines aren't long for this world and ones such as the S85 V10 are an epic way to remember and celebrate a remarkably special era of the automotive industry when BMW's ambitions knew no bounds.
We're not sure just how long it'll be until collectors and enthusiasts wake up to just how much of a steal these cars are, but we can't imagine it'll be long.