Blog: Dave LeggettBMW M6 in France

Dave Leggett | 3 November 2005

How can I sum up an afternoon in the south of France earlier this week driving BMW’s M6? I’ll just say that the car has one heck of an engine and transmission system, is a technological and engineering tour de force, goes like the clappers, gives you the driving experience suited to the road conditions or your mood and you can even get the weekly grocery shopping in the boot (yes, it’s practical too).
And this I think is the point of the car. It is everyday and calm (effortless and comfortable motorway cruiser) if you want it to be. But it has another, wilder side. It will do 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds for goodness sake. What’s more, the clever pointy-heads at BMW have set up the sequential manual gearbox with some clever software so that you can have something akin to an F1 start experience and be at the wheel as the car does something like its 0-62 in 4.6 thing.  

It’s called ‘launch control’.

Under launch control the system is honed to ensure that the rear wheels transmit the maximum power to the road without spinning excessively. Press the right buttons and set it up. Floor the accelerator and rev the engine (clutch disengaged at this point) and then when it’s ready – you are off and on your way to top speed as fast as all those clever little chips can get you there. You’ll never be left at the lights again.

It is one heck of a toy. The BMW people were at pains to point out that launch control is not recommended for public roads (cue a positively Churchillian, ‘never’). But if you see one of these cars moving off from a standing start like a bat out of hell, it could just be that the driver is an LCA (Launch Control Addict). I could see how it could happen, especially if, like me, you drive like a wuss. An expensive habit though. The BMW bods seemed to think that you could get away with maybe half a dozen launch control operations and it would be time for a new clutch.

But I wonder how many engineers in other car companies are working on similar stuff and how far it could catch on before the regulators step in...

Nice dinner in the evening at which the conversation ranged widely and I offered assurances to some people that nothing they said would find its way in here, naturally. This was a BMW media event though and there were British journalists present in force. After a few glasses of decent red, the conversation flowing, questions such as how much technology did BMW really get out of Land Rover, start to emerge.

We’ll perhaps never know the full answer to that one. A colleague helpfully pointed out though that AMC was once owned by Renault (not a particularly successful industrial partnership, I believe) and Renault put quite a bit of product development money in there for the Cherokee before AMC was sold on to Chrysler. It happens. Intellectual property is not an exact science and is very difficult to ring-fence. Ask a Chinaman.

By the way, the area around Nimes is great for driving – a variety of different types of road but plenty of gently undulating twisty ones. And the weather at this time of the year seems to be quiet, along with the roads (plenty of people out and about on bicycles). The Gorges de l’Ardeche area with its limestone outcrops and deep cut gorges is pretty spectacular, even if the afternoon sun is low in the sky in November.

Good to get behind the wheel occasionally.

Link to news item that I knocked up is below















FRANCE/UK: BMW M6 introduction reinforces BMW’s ‘M’ sub-brand growth


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