|1. A twin-turbo 4.4L V8 makes 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque.
2. With an all-new look, the 6 Series is 3-inches longer and 1.5-inches wider than its predecessor.
3. 6 Series Coupe models start from $73,600 with Convertible models from $90,500.
What changed my mind? I like everything about the Bentley, including its unique and almost hovercraft feel as it glides over the road. But the BMW offers the driver enough road feel and feedback to be exciting, and still be well damped enough to provide that executive level of comfort on all road surfaces.
Feeling far lighter than its 4,500 lb curb weight would suggest, helping further improve driver engagement and vehicle capability is an optional $2,000 Active Roll Stabilization system which provides such great roadholding ability it makes it difficult to upset the car, even when trying. Body roll is kept to a comfortable minimum lean. And you’d need some sensitive electronic device to detect any cowl shake, which can’t be said for the Mercedes-Benz SL, SLK and even the SLS.
What really makes the 6 Series such an incredible package, however, is its Driving Dynamics Control system, switching the chassis set-up to suit your mood, with settings for Sport, Normal and Comfort.
The brakes, as one might expect on a BMW, are superb. BMW’s new electric power steering system, while good, still has a few bugs to be worked out. In Sport mode it’s taut, precise and responsive, though it’s a bit numb on center in Sport mode.
HIGH-TORQUE ENGINE THAT STILL LOVES TO BE REVVED
Powering the 650i is BMW’s direct-injection 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. This powerplant makes 400-hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, and always seems to have power in reserve and ready to charge forward at the slightest press on the accelerator, all the way up to the 7000 redline. The responsiveness is aided by BMW’s eight-speed automatic, which offers so many cogs to choose from the driver can always find the right gear to keep the car in the powerband while top gear keeps the revs down for calm highway cruising.
Mileage numbers are a reasonable 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. The latter might be possible droning along on the interstate, but it will be virtually impossible to achieve anything close to 15 mpg on any road other than straight and flat, because the 650i will beg the driver to push it, and keep the revs up. It’s a driver’s car, not a Prius.
AN UNUSUALLY LUXURIOUS BMW
One would expect a car that starts out at 90 grand to have a great interior, and the 650i does not disappoint. It’s a big improvement over the last generation convertible and doesn’t sport the sort of Spartan cabin most Bimmers are known for.
The wrap around dash is finished in charcoal leather with contrasting light brown double stitching that looks like it came from a trophy wife’s handbag. The dark leather follows the lines of the upper front doors and into the rear of the cabin, to contrast with the warm brown color beneath it. Polished wood trims the lower door insets, the center stack and console area. Perhaps the best feature, and the nicest surprise, is that the 20-way adjustable heated and cooled leather seats are very un-BMW-like in that they are both nicely bolstered and wide enough to be all day comfortable.
The Nav screen sits atop the center of the dash and it is a wide screen format, roughly 8-inches wide and 4-inches high. BMW has finally listened to their owners and made their iDrive control knob more user friendly, and returned controls for the HVAC and radio back to the center stack for easy adjustments. The thick leather wrapped steering wheel feels right in the driver’s hands, and has redundant controls for radio and phone. We’re not a fan of dual opening center console, but it’s thickly padded and offers good storage.
The rear seats can accommodate adults for an hour or two, but your golf clubs will complain less. Another two inches of legroom would be welcomed. A particularly novel idea is that the front seat belts retract from the top of the front seatbacks, so there is no seatbelt to climb under. It’s surprisng that more convertibles don’t use this system.
A soft-top, rather than a hard-top like the Mercedes SL, it reduces weight and folds compactly behind the rear seats to still leave a decent size trunk for luggage. Plus it goes up and down in seconds. The rear glass goes down before the top operates, and then can be raised independently to act like a wind screen when the top is down. And as one might expect in a lxury car, the cabin is fairly calm and quiet with the top down, so there’s no shouting required to carry on a conversation. A bit too much outside noise makes it into the cabin with the top up however.
LOOKS TO LONG FOR
As for the styling, it’s sensuous. The car is sleek, low, wide, and aggressive from any angle. There’s a bit of a shark nose look to the front end with cat-eye headlamps, and LED fog lights on the lower fascia. Character lines run from the front fender to the rear wrap around taillights, and also down low near the rocker panels between the wheels. There’s a sculpted look that really pops – much unlike the old model.
The 650i is, however, pricey starting at $90,500. Add $3,900 for the Driver Assist Package which includes Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection, Parking Assist, Side and Top View Cameras, and Auto High Beams. Luxury Seating Package for $1,500 adds the cooled and active front seats. $1,800 buys the Premium Sound Package with iPod and USB adaptor and premium hi-fi system. Opt for 20-inch wheels and performance tires for $1,300, Active Roll Stabilization for $2,000 plus a few other goodies that bring the bottom line to $105,025. Not exactly Bentley money, but this is no 3 Series either.
An outstanding convertible, the 650i Convertible can make the driver feel like he’s in a powerful and nimble two-seat sportscar or a luxury cruiser. It can be useful to carry two passengers, and have room in the trunk for luggage with the top down. It does everything well, with few negatives. It is rock solid and one of the best convertibles we’ve ever driven.
We’ve got our lottery ticket for next Saturday night, and our local BMW dealership on speed dial, just in case.