Mercedes-Benz SLS 2011 review
THERE'S an old chestnut about Formula One cars generating so much downforce that they could drive...
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Twin peaks … the M6 coupe and convertible stand at the summit of the BMW range. It may be the race that stops the nation but there is no way the running of the Melbourne Cup this month was going to stall BMW trotting out its all-new M6 coupe and convertible.
The high-performance pair undoubtedly deserve their positions at the head of the BMW field with good looks backed by ground-breaking automotive technology. But are they sprinters or stayers? The answer is both.
On the market at $292,500 for the coupe and $308,500 the convertible, plus on-road costs, the pair appeal to a limited audience, with BMW predicting sales of between 20 and 30 cars before the end of the year.
The features list includes the ubiquitous BMW iDrive, which is linked to a professional satellite navigation system with a 10.2-inch wide-screen set-up. Also included are a plethora of multi-functions found in luxury vehicles these days.
One carp is the odometer positioned low on the instrument cluster, making it difficult for a smaller person to read easily. There’s no such problem with the head-up display of info on the windscreen.
Capping off the extensive crop of ‘fruit’ are features such as park distance control, cruise control with braking function, rear-view camera, high beam assist, lane change and departure warning, surround view with top view and side view, plus optional BMW night vision with pedestrian recognition.
Thanks to BMW efficient dynamics, the M6 coupe is capable of reaching 100 km/h from rest in 4.2 seconds; the convertible is claimed to do the same in 4.3 seconds. As for staying power, despite a 10 per cent increase in engine output to 412 kW and 30 per cent boost in top torque to 680 Nm, fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions have been cut by 30 per cent, compared with the cars they replace.
The latter pair are put at 9.9 litres per 100 km and 232 grams per kilometre on the combined urban/highway cycle for the coupe and 10.3 litres per 100 km and 239 grams per kilometre the convertible. The ‘magic pudding’ recipe turns out to be a blend of a high-revving 4.4-litre V8 engine with M twinpower turbo technology, which all but cuts out turbo lag, connected to a seven-speed M double clutch transmission with BMW’s drivelogic and active M differential.
The double clutch, essentially two gearboxes in one, ensures seamless shifts, producing rapid acceleration. Drivelogic, in full automatic or manual mode, offers three shift programmes – comfort, sport and sport+ – activated at the touch of a button. There’s launch control for optimum acceleration off the mark, low speed assistance and engine start/stop technology for fuel efficiency in town traffic.
Added to the mix are M tuned chassis technology, close to 50:50 weight distribution and high-end aerodynamics. The active M differential, with its variable locking ability between the rear wheels, ensures there’s optimum traction no matter the state of the road and weather conditions, or when accelerating sharply out of corners. Suspension damper forces are variable in three stages to suit driving conditions or wishes of the driver. Servotronic speed sensitive steering can also be set up to one of three settings to suit the driver.
The centre of gravity of the coupe has been lowered compared to its predecessor by means of a carbon fibre roof, which is much lighter than metal version, while the boot lids, and in the case of the convertible, the roof cover are made from glass-fibre composite material.
While four sports-style seats are on offer, the coupe and convertible are basically 2+2s, with limited leg room in the rear. There are no such limitations up front with super supportive seats stabilising occupants during spirited driving.
A meaty M leather steering wheel incorporates multifunction buttons and fixed gearshift paddles, helping the driver maintain complete control of the vehicle. Cabin turbulence in the convertible with the roof down is not intrusive and with the cover closed produces far-from-claustrophobic conditions.
Load capacity of the coupe is put at 460 litres, while the convertible can carry 300 litres of luggage with the roof stowed and an extra 50 litres with it up. The roof can be raised or lowered remotely via a button on the key – 19 seconds to open, 24 seconds to close – or with a button on the centre console.
There’s the suite of active safety features usually found in BMWs, consisting of dynamic stability control which calls on ABS anti-skid braking with cornering brake control, dynamic brake control, brake assist, brake drying function and start-off assist.
The undoubted thoroughbreds were launched in south-east Queensland with the Big Day Out on wheels parading out of Brisbane city centre, through the suburbs, up and around Mount Nebo, through the Samford Valley and on to Lakeside Raceway.
The steep twists and turns of the hilly terrain showed off the pair’s braking ability to its best advantage, the 400 mm ventilated discs up front and 396 mm versions at the rear keeping the big cars – close to two tonnes apiece – on the straight and narrow, so to speak.
On the countless corners during track work at the historic raceway it was a case of brake, point, gun; brake, point, gun, the cars seemingly capable of continuing like this without suffering in performance until darkness fell and we all went home to tea.
On the limit, BMW’s array of active safety features snapped the vehicles sharply to attention . . . the drivers also. If piloting a high-performance vehicle with the unrelenting concentration required can be a pleasant experience, this was one.
As one BMW staff member commented: “Looks count in this class of vehicle.” There’s no argument on that score with the M6 coupe and cabriolet.
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