Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Ultimate Coupe

A few weeks ago I posted my thoughts about a 2014 BMW M6 Grand Coupe that eCarOne let me drive over a weekend.  That car, in my opinion, was probably one of the most complete cars I had ever driven.  It has power, beauty, finesse, and the practicality of four doors.  I enjoyed it so much that sadly I was not looking forward to getting back to my beloved Maserati Quattroporte (which is by far my favorite of all 35+ cars I've owned).

After driving the Bimmer, I really didn't think I'd find anything else that compares in terms of overall driving experience.  But then I started to think about that for a minute and realized that "complete" really depends on what you're looking for.  From my perspective, completeness comes in the combination of power, handling, and practicality.  However, for many others that are not in my situation (family of five), practicality may just take on the form of having a back seat or a decent trunk to put the golf bag.  Handling may not mean taking 30-degree banks at 80mph, and power does not have to be tire shredding power in order to be noticed.  I guess what I'm saying is that completeness comes in many different forms and always depends on the driver's perception.

This leads me to talk a little about the car I had over the last weekend from eCarOne.  As usual, I took my toddler son with me to eCarOne to see what car to blog next.  As soon as we walked into the showroom, my son notices a beautiful white Bentley Continental GT Coupe parked on the floor.  He immediately runs to it and starts inspecting it!  As I'm talking to one of the owners, I realize that I have not yet blogged about a Bentley.  The owner greets my boy and asks him... what car do you want dad to drive today?  My son fearlessly says "the Bentley!"  My friend smiles and looks at me.... and I say, hey you asked him... So, 20 minutes later we're off in a 2008 Bentley Continental GT Coupe.  To be perfectly honest, I was a bit nervous and I'm sure I was not the only one.  This was not a run of the mill GT Coupe that can be had for $70k used... it was a gorgeous fully optioned Coupe with the exclusive Mulliner package.  Although eCarOne priced this car below the Bimmer I had the weekend before, I was still more nervous than ever.  I guess it's because I had never driven a Bentley and didn't know what to expect.

So, I placed my boy's car seat in the back seat and I buckled myself in.  Without any expectations, I started the car (love the left-hand side ignition location... very Porsche).  When the engine came to life, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful roar... did not expect that.  I then remembered that his is a twin turbo 6.0L V12 engine... this is not a tame cruiser; it's a beast dressed as a princess.  I like to take my son with me to pick up any car from eCarOne because having him with me forces me to take it easy and this is very helpful in getting to know the car first.  During the 20 minute drive home, I can take my time to understand all the features of the car and more importantly to learn about how the car behaves.  I did just that with the Bentley and after putting the car in sport mode and punching the gas a bit, I couldn't wait to get home and drop off my son so that I can take it for a good test drive.

Later that evening, I had a chance to get a little time behind the wheel on my own.  I have to say that this car is really not what I expected.  I figured it would drive like a big Jag, Merc, Bimmer, or Audi but it does not drive like any of those.  First of all, the suspension is so refined and so smooth that it's unlike any other driving experience.  It's sporty but supple at the same time. I really don't know how to explain it, except it's like riding on compressed air.  On the highway, all dips, bumps and uneven surfaces are completely absorbed and go almost unnoticed.  In the corners, the car hunkers down and grips very well through the entire curve, all with very good confidence.  As for steering feel, it's light as you'd expect from a Bentley but not loose.  The cabin is whisper quiet, except when you rev the engine... you hear a subtle yet very throaty exhaust note.  And it's not all show and no go... this thing moves!  There is no shortage of power or torque at any part of the rpm range... it's like a freight train; and why wouldn't it feel that way... it's powered by a monster 6.0L V12 Twin Turbo which makes nearly 500 lb-ft of torque at only 1,600 rpm.  In layman terms, this Bentley generates as much pulling power as TWO Ford F-150 trucks!  And it generates this power as soon as you hit the gas!  Yeah, I like it!

There really is nothing to dislike about this car.  If I said I'd like the steering to be a bit tighter, I would be out of place... because the typical Bentley buyer would love the steering feel just the way it is.  If I said I'd like more rear legroom, then I'd be an idiot... it's a coupe; not a sedan.  Overall, this car is beautiful to look it, beautiful to drive, and at just over $100k from eCarOne, it's attainable at nearly half its MSRP.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Car that Woke me Up!

Last blog I posted was January this year so you could say I’ve been hibernating for most of 2013.  Life has been very hectic to say the least and finding the time has been a bit of a challenge, but when my buddy from eCarOne told me at dinner Friday night that he just got a 2014 BMW M6 Grand Coupe, I felt a rush of adrenaline and all the sudden my hibernation was over!  Every man could you a spark in his life and this is the spark I needed to jump start my blogging engine again.

If you’re reading this, you may assume that eCarOne has not gotten any exciting cars in a while, but that could not be further from the truth.  In fact, in the last several months since I’ve blogged, eCarOne has obtained some phenomenal cars including a handful of Bentleys, two Lamborghinis (one is a Superlaggera), a couple of Ferraris, a couple of Mercedes SLS (a coupe and a roadster), and their usual bevy of awesome AMG Mercedes, M-Power BMWs, and everything else from Porsche to Range Rover.  So, why did this M6 Grand Coupe wake me up?  Well, that’s a good question and I’ll attempt to answer it in the next few paragraphs.

To start, this is a 2014 model with less than 1,000 miles and a $141,000 sticker price (eCarOne is selling it for $18k under MSRP), so this means this car is fully optioned out.  This alone was enough to spark my interest… how did eCarOne get a car that I cannot even find at most BMW dealerships today?  How can I have the opportunity to drive a “brand new” M6 Grand Coupe for a full weekend and pass it up?  I could not even find one at most BMW dealers and if I did, it would be very difficult to arrange for a 15-minute test drive with a nervous salesman riding shotgun telling me to be careful!  No, that’s not my cup of tea… I’ll take this kick-ass 4-door M6 for a weekend and get the full experience (without the nervous salesman riding shotgun!)

So, Saturday morning I took my 3 ½ year old boy (who’s a bigger car nut then I) to eCarOne and dropped off my car to pick up the M6 Grand Coupe.  Finished in a beautiful black sapphire metallic with black leather, I thought it looked really mean (especially with the carbon fiber roof) but then again it looked very understated.  As with most M-Power BMWs, you have to be a bit knowledgeable to be able to tell it’s a special car; otherwise it looks like a 6-series Grand Coupe with the sport package.  The one big hint that it’s not just a 6-series was the huge carbon ceramic brakes finished in bronze... that alone shows this car means business.

So, I opened the rear doors (yes a coupe with rear doors) and secured my boy’s car seat.  He got in with no problem and had plenty of leg-room without my having to push the front passenger seat all the way forward.  In essence, this car is a true four door with actual usable space

So here we go.  It took me a few seconds to figure out all the buttons and options.  Essentially, you have a multitude of driving combinations.  You have three settings each for steering, suspension, and throttle (comfort/efficient, sport, super sport).  Then you have the option of fully automatic throttle or manual transmission with steering mounting paddles.  For automatic, you have three settings which control how aggressively the transmission shifts (more aggressive means the transmission holds the gear longer and shifts closer to redline).  All in all without doing the math, you have more than enough setting combinations to suite any taste and any situation.  This may sound overwhelming, but once you’re set to what you like, you can store it to one of two “M” buttons on the steering wheel (like seat memory or radio station memory… easy).

Since I had my boy with me, I took the 20 minute drive home easy and got to know the car a bit. Then later that afternoon on my own, I went out to see what this thing is all about.  At first, I had everything set to aggressive (super sport and manual) then after driving the car for a while I found the setting that best suited me (super sport throttle & suspension, and sport steering).  I set the car on fully automatic with the shift points set at aggressive.  So all this is nice, but how does this thing feel.  In a nutshell, this car is nothing short of phenomenal.  The car felt like an extension of me (not only my arms, legs, body but also my brain).  It’s like the car knows not only where I’m pointing it but also where I want to go next!  Hitting triple digit speeds requires no effort at all, which makes this car not only ultra fun but also very dangerous for the speeding ticket count…. If I owned this car, I’m sure I’d need to have a few lawyers stored on my iPhone!

In addition to all out raw acceleration and speed (sub 4-sec 0-60 & 8.5 sec 0-100), this car is surprisingly nimble.  Despite its two ton plus weight, this thing is glued to the road at any speed and can take any curve with poise and confidence (0.92g lateral acceleration; on par with Porsche 911).  Again, it’s so effortless that it’s almost dangerous for the novice driver… you end up feeling like Michael Schumacher in this car!

How about all other things that you’d expect with a car priced at well over $100k?  Well, this Grand Coupe was equipped with a Bang & Olufsen sound system that puts most home theater systems to shame.  I didn’t know what I’d rather listen to; the fantastic sound coming out of the speakers or the fantastic sound coming out of the exhaust!  Everything else about this car feels perfect, from the infinitely adjustable and deeply supportive sports seats to the thick sporty steering wheel.  BMW has improved the cabin feel tenfold in just the last few years, including but not limited to an awesome navigation system with a screen bigger than the living room TV I grew up with!

All in all, I think this Grand Coupe is a definite home run.  What did I dislike?  Well, if I had to be picky, I’d say the truck should have been equipped with an automatic closing mechanism and the rear brake calipers should have been finished in a solid piece with a BMW logo like the front calipers (now I’m being really picky).

To sum it up, I was not looking forward to driving my Maserati Quattroporte after returning this car to eCarOne and for the first time, I was actually disappointed to drive my beloved QP! The Bimmer Grand Coupe spoiled me rotten!

I hope I’ve provided you some insight into this car, but do yourself a favor and see it for yourself.  I’m glad to be back in the blogging arena and thank you for reading.

2014 BMW M6 Gran Coupe | EXECUTIVE PKG, CERAMIC BRAKES, NAV, BANG & OLUFSEN in Carrollton, Texas