Sand-strewn pavement, straggly bushes and a stunted, half-dead palm tree lay in the light of our car's HID bi-xenons. Photographer Simpson and I sit motionless in the middle of the street, consulting the BMW navigation system.
There's no danger of impeding traffic. No traffic to speak of. Since crossing Highway 86 an hour ago and entering Salton City, California, we haven't passed a single moving vehicle. Miles in the distance, we see the lights from big rigs snaking along the highway route. None have Salton City as a destination.
As remote as this place feels, we're not so far from civilization-Palm Springs, that Mecca of celebrity and affluent retirees, is just on the other side of the mountain. But we may as well be at the edge of the Earth.
Looking at the navigation screen, at the spaghetti sprawl of named streets and property grids at the edge of a blue expanse of water, you could believe you're in the middle of an established coastal resort town. Then you look out the window and see... pretty much nothing. It seems Salton City's planners put all their energy into zoning, grading, and palm trees, then overlooked the whole construction thing.
We've driven this M6 from our Orange County HQ for no better reason than taking pictures in a remote location-and to skip a day at the office. Most of the time has been spent burning irresponsible quantities of petrol through the mountains west of our present location.
The car is a study in excess, an automotive aberration that confounds the analytical mind. It's a two-plus-two sport coupe that measures 16 feet long, almost a foot and a half longer than the two-plus-two 911 and only six inches shorter than a GMC Yukon. It weighs close to 3800 pounds, fully as much as a big commuter sedan. But with 500 bhp and seven forward gears, there's little doubt this car is built for insanely quick commutes. Perhaps the 10-cylinder M6 couldn't be classified as a true supercar-it weighs almost 700 pounds more than the V10, 520-hp Lamborghini Gallardo-but it eats the road with a hypnotic, predatory ferocity.
And there are the control interfaces. Just getting in and setting off can be a daunting experience. One staffer was blunt in his assessment: "How the hell do you drive this thing?" Engine output adjustments, Drivelogic, Electronic Damper Control settings, paddle shifters (mediating the seven gears), multi-function steering wheel and heads-up projection display. It's definitely a system that rewards reading of owner's manual and has been criticized as such. I remain indifferent.
We arrive at the Salton Sea's west shore as the sun slides into the western horizon. A side street called Yacht Club dumps us onto a promontory overlooking the water. Ravaged palms stand at calculated intervals, but if a yacht clubhouse once stood here, there's nothing left but a cracked foundation.
The desert sunset casts warm gold and cool violet across the car and water. At this moment, a wildfire rages in the mountains to our northwest. Haze obscures the distance and every breath is filled with the sere aroma of burning brush and a fainter, sweeter smell like carrion. Gazing over the water to an invisible horizon, it's like standing on the banks of the River Styx.
Darkness accelerates and, after the final photo, we're left scrambling to find a place to stay the night. The BMW's interior is inviting on re-entry. BMW sport seats are perennially great: comfortable, snug and supportive, infinitely adjustable. Manually adjustable BMW seats always confound me-I can never figure out which lever moves what-but of course this M model features full power adjustment. The Olive Ash wood trim isn't for everyone (I'd skin those sections in carbon fiber), but it is flash.