Soon Dubai’s towers are making way for red sand dunes, and it’s at this point our 30-strong convoy starts swapping positions. As one BMW M3 pulls alongside, another powers past, a go-pro of throwaway camera poised precariously out the passenger window. Clearly we’re not the only ones keen to commemorate the drive, and it’s not hard to see why. These events may not be a monthly occurrence – have you tried pulling a group of 30-plus together? – but it’s difficult not to be swept up by the sense of occasion. Surrounded by three generations of BMW saloons, and the enthusiasm that goes with it, I can’t help but crack a wry smile: it’s an awesome sight in my rear-view mirror.
What does prove an unusual issue in the M6 Gran Coupe however are the windows. They off plenty of visibility but thanks to the dramatic slope of the roofline, there’s only limited room for photographer James to squeeze through, the lightweight carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) roof that replaces the sunroof not helping much either. With less swearing than we’d expected, and hearing only the occasional crackle over the radio asking ‘what the hell are they doing back there’, James manages to find a crook in the window to lean against as he shoots the Beemers behind us. Keen to make the most of their time on camera, the BMW Club UAE chaps pause for their shot to be taken before gunning their respective four and six-cylinder units. We’re already at highway cruising speed, which means James – leaning out the window, camera in-hand – is hit in the face by 120kph headwinds for a good half an hour. The two-litre bottles in reserve on the backseat don’t last very long.
Some 90 minutes later our BMW Club UAE convoy is pulling into a petrol station to ensure the thirsty brims are tanked. It’s clear we’ve made an impression on the local 4×4-ers, several of whom descend on our group, iPhones in-hand. It’s not long before performance stats are swapped as one souped up Land Cruiser after another guns it out of the petrol station to prove their worth.
As it turns out, these gentlemen are just the first of several drivers en-route to our Jebel Jais playground. A group of motorbikes whips past swiftly followed by, rather aptly, the MINI Club UAE. We even get to cheer on some passing cyclists, all of whom – having done both the climb and the descent – look appropriately red-faced and knackered.
Go-pros set and game faces on, it’s time for the first wave of five or six Beemers – of which crankandpiston’s M6 Gran Coupe is a member – to hit the mountains. So far we’ve shared the highway with a 6450i cabriolet, an E28 M5, a Mercedes V8 Kompressor (sharing the German love) and even the bread van. Our company up the hill though includes an E36 3 Series convertible, a Porsche Cayman S (again, love) and a second generation 6 Series: there follows mild banter through the windows as to whose 6 looks better. This comes to a swift end as three 135is come haring past, windows down and aviators on, keen not to let the elder BMW saloon brethren steal all the limelight. Soon James and I are dropping back through the crowd to pick up the stragglers.
One of the things that makes the M6 Gran Coupe so elegant is that long nose, which as it turns out can prove a double-edged sword (figuratively, not literally). The distance twixt the grille and driver’s seat takes up a third of the overall 5011mm wheelbase, and the front wheels can feel a little disconnected as a result. Having said that, there’s lashings of grip through the tyres, superbly balanced weight distribution, good hefty feel to the steering and only trace amounts of bodyroll.
Being rear-wheel drive, the rear end on some of the sharper corners can get a little frisky (even despite the Active M Differential, which splits engine power between the rear wheels to optimise traction), bringing with it some of the fun that was perhaps lost with the F10 M5. It’s tempting to let the rear wheels go mental by switching the Dynamic Stability Control off altogether, but there are two good reasons why I don’t. Still under construction, a thin layer of dust covers most corners on Jebel Jais and consequently makes most of them unbelievably slippery: the prospect of slamming a $154,000 luxury saloon/coupe into the wall is one that makes my stomach turn. The other slightly more immediate reason is that for some reason, DSC refuses to switch off, no matter how long we press and hold the button.
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