The introduction of the new BMW M6 is the latest development in the growth of BMW's 'M' (for motorsport) sub-brand that puts powerful high-revving engines into special M variants produced from within BMW's main model ranges.

The company's niche volume and highly aspirational M cars are seen as a vital part of BMW's overall branding strategy, as well as serving a segment of the market which is of growing significance.

BMW estimates that the global market for high-revving premium performance cars that is served by its M brand will grow to exceed 100,000 units a year by 2010, which compares with an estimated 12,000 units in 1996.

"The key to our approach with the M sub-brand is to deliver unbeatable driver appeal and sports performance in a high-tech package, but to also combine those attributes with a degree of practicality for the customer - as the M cars are based on our highly successful model ranges, until now the 3 Series and 5 Series," Bernhard Gobmeier (BMW M Director, Process Management and Strategy, Vehicle Integration) told just-auto.

"The M6 continues that philosophy - it comes off the same production line as other 6 Series cars - while taking the M sub-brand into a slightly different section of the market," he added.

The new BMW M6 Grand Tourer class 2+2 showcases the company's latest technology innovations, as other cars in the M series do.

The 5.0-litre normally aspirated V10 engine, shared with the BMW M5, utilises BMW's double-VANOS variable timing, can spin up to 8250 rpm and can generate 507 hp. It also meets the upcoming Euro 4 engine emissions standard.

The car has a top speed (unlimited) of 'over' 200 mph and goes from 0-62mph on 4.6 seconds making it the fastest BMW coupe ever built.

BMW says that much of the inspiration for the car's electronics and engine design was drawn from the company's F1 experience. At 8,000 rpm each piston covers 20 metres a second. At 18,000 rpm the pistons of the F1 engine move at 25 metres a second.  The difference, BMW notes, is that the M engine must last for a 'lifetime' while the F1 engine only has to travel 500 miles or so.

Electronic management of the engine is achieved through BMW's 'MS S65' engine management system that BMW says draws heavily on F1 know-how. Made up of more than 1,000 individual components, it coordinates and controls all engine and gearbox functions by using three 32-bit processors that can perform 200 million individual calculations each second.  This, the company says, represents a performance increase by a factor of eight when compared with the M3 unit launched just four years ago.

The engine is mated to the latest version of BMW's seven-speed sequential-manual gearbox (SMG III) which has eleven driving modes ('Drivelogic'). Each programme differs from the others in gear change time - the higher the programme selected the shorter are the shift times. SMG Drivelogic includes a 'launch control' system that gives an F1-style start from zero to maximum speed (highly exhilarating but not recommended for public road use and BMW points out that launch control use comes with rapidly accelerated clutch wear).

The M6 also employs a number of weight-saving innovations too, including a high-tech carbon fibre roof and the use of aluminium (for example on chassis sub-frames). Other lightweight materials and weight-saving techniques are employed throughout the engine and the car.

The car also includes driver Head-up Display (HUD) as standard. The HUD provides driving information directly in the driver's line of sight - i.e. it appears to be at the end of the bonnet. The driver can choose to have the normal HUD display, including navigation information, or specific M information.

The BMW M6 is built at the company's Dingolfing plant in Germany, the largest facility within BMW's network of 23 production plants. The Dingolfing plant employs some 23,000 workers and builds some 1,300 BMW 5, 6, and 7 Series cars every day.

The body-in-white of the new M6 is built on the same lines and facilities that also produce the bodyshells of the BMW 6 Series Coupé and Convertible in the regular production process. 

Just one per cent of 6 Series models are expected to receive the M badge each day.

The USA, Germany and the UK are expected to be the biggest markets for the M6, in that order, with around 400 cars available to the UK in 2006, just over ten per cent of the Dingolfing Plant's M6 production plans for the year.

Most owners will be senior managers, entrepreneurs or successful self-employed businessmen with a passion for technology, BMW says.

The new BMW M6 goes on sale at BMW's UK dealers in November 2005 priced at £80,755 on-the-road.