Special Cars, Special Places

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It’s not a bottom-feeder’s car, is it?

“Not at all.”

That’s something it has in common with nearly all high-end cars, regardless of manufacturer. Powerful engines and an abundance of features make for expensive cars when new, and for cars that depreciate rapidly in value but remain expensive to maintain as they age.

Such will be true of our M6 Convertible, as well, which makes Cohen’s 860i look downright simple by comparison. What the E31 8 Series pioneered, the current generation of large BMWs has rendered in almost absurd extravagance, enhancing and elaborating upon nearly every feature and option.

Perhaps even more importantly, features like electronically adjustable suspension, steering feedback and throttle sensitivity are now interconnected and interdependent in ways that were impossible to imagine 20 years ago. In-car infotainment systems have also become far more complicated, encompassing not just sat-nav and CD players but smartphone integration and internet capability. The M6 may be a sports car when you put the hammer down, but BMW hasn’t neglected to equip it with the creature comforts now deemed essential to Grand Touring, including a sumptuous and beautifully designed interior. In its dual-purpose nature, this car straddles both categories.

With a little help from your friends

All of that complicated equipment can give pause to enthusiasts who value reliability as well as connectivity, but here the 8 Series experience offers hope. As complex as it was in its day, the 8 Series has proved to be nearly as owner-maintainable as its far-simpler predecessors, given an appropriately high level of technical sophistication. A strong owner network helps, obviously, in keeping these electronics-heavy cars from veering into obsolescence, and 8-Fest hosts a number of technical seminars to provide owners with helpful tips and tricks.

“To give you an example, the general module, which controls virtually everything, tends to go bad in about 10-12 years, maybe,” Cohen says. “If it does, you just replace the capacitors on the circuit board, and the chances of it becoming live again are quite good.”

Similar fixes will undoubtedly become known to M6 owners 20 years down the line, and those who love these grand automobiles will probably be able to keep them on the road for as long as they wish.

That’s a comforting thought as we head back to the Benbow Inn—the 8-Fest’s historic host hotel—from our run out to the coast. After a swift drive through the sweeping curves of the dairyland east of Victorian-era Ferndale, we’re back amid the giant redwoods on the Avenue of the Giants. We lower the convertible soft-top—a well-insulated piece of equipment that makes a folding hardtop unnecessary—for a better view of the redwoods that stretch hundreds of feet overhead, and the effect is like driving through an open-air cathedral. If you’ve ever stepped inside Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

People come from all over to get a glimpse of these trees, and there’s no better way to see them than while reclining in an M6 Convertible with the top down, gazing up at the distant green foliage that filters out most of the sunlight. It’s a very special experience in a very special car, and it’s something that we can imagine enthusiasts of the current 6 Series BMWs gathering to enjoy ten or 20 years hence, just as 8 Series fans will enjoy it this October.

“These roads and this landscape with all its variety are something that you won’t find very often,” Cohen says. “I want them to love their car, to be able to understand why they’re driving that road. It’s just a special thing.”

Indeed it is, and so are BMW’s coupes and convertibles. The luckiest among us get to treasure them both.

Also from Issue 116

  • MKO's E9-meets-E39 CS M5
  • 2013 F34 3 Series GT first drive
  • 2012 E84 X1 xDrive 28i road test
  • Interview: Sales chief Ian Robertson
  • Buyer’s Guide: 5 Under $5k
  • ESS Tuning's E60 545i
  • Matt Russell's turbo E30 325i
  • Legends of the Autobahn ’12, with M8!
  • Amelia Island auctions: 3.0 CSL & 327 cabrio
  • How-To: 2002 grille installation
  • Paddock Pass: Z4 at Sebring
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