Muscle and maximum performance from the luxury car line

In the BMW lexicon, “M” is not the supervisor of James Bond; rather, it’s the letter affixed to BMW’s super-massaged cars.

Initially, only the smallest of the series imported to the U.S. – the 3 – received the M work over. Over time, however, the “M” magic has been bestowed on the 5-series sedan and now the 6-series coupe and convertible.

In the current mode, the 3-series M has a V-8 pumping out 414 horsepower. With the 5-series four-door and the series 6, the engine gains two more cylinders (a V-10) for a total displacement of 5 liters with 100 horsepower per liter, for a grand total of 500 horsepower.

In keeping the BMW tradition of somewhat understating the performance formula on the M models, the changes on the exterior are there but do not shout out with large wings, flares and other overdone statements. Sure there are the M badges, a greater number of exhaust pipes and clearly bigger wheels, tires and brake rotors. But the real performance comes from behind the wheel, not the decorations.

As expected in BMW’s higher models, the interior is laid out in leather with many luxury features. But the performance motif is not forgotten. The front seats are huggers with high side bolsters and 18 adjustments, including adjustable seatback side bolsters, headrests, four-way lumbar and two-way thigh support, and three settings of driver’s seat memory.

And you’d better adjust that driver’s seat to hold you in. In an interesting twist, if you want a true 6-speed manual transmission, that is an option. Standard is a dual clutch Formula One-type standard/automatic designed to maximize performance from the super engine. With no clutch pedal to push, the transmission will either shift the seven speeds for you, or you can control the action by tapping the gearshift lever or use the plus and minus paddles behind the steering wheel.

BMW also has added to the equation by letting the driver decide how quickly the gears will change by simply pushing a button. Want your grandmother to drive? Set the time gaps wide, and she will think this is a nice automatic transmission. Want to shift faster than any Grand Prix race driver can manually shift? Then narrow the gaps.

Another choice to consider is the button that summons an extra 100 horsepower. If you want to cruise around with a mere 400 horses, keep your finger away from that button. But if you want the full monty, push it! And when you do, watch this coupe rocket head out with an instant whoosh, propelling you and any guests back into their respective seats. Zero-to-60 time is roughly 4.5 seconds.

And BWM did not leave out the road-grabbing cornering. With 19-inch tires and various electronic dampering and stability buttons, one can dial up a comfy ride or a racecar mode. But even with the latter motif, the ride is not buckboard by any means.

Interior room is not cramped. With no more difficulty than any other coupe, rear seat occupation is not complex. The trunk room is downright huge and can easily swallow a couple of golf bags.

The bottom line for this M model is you can pick your poison. In a restrained way, the M6 says “performance” without screaming it, but this M clearly delivers maximum performance with a flick of a button or two.