With the introduction of the third generation 6 Series BMW set out to create a product that is as much about elegance and luxury as it is about choices and the jet-set life style. On style alone alone it delivers. But what about substance? What about the driving experience? Full review after the jump.
BMW launched both the coupe and convertible in the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, better known as Cabo San Lucas Mexico. Cabo is an interesting place to visit; there are outrageously luxurious resorts with shopping and docked yachts to match. These are the spots that a 6 Series owner likely is familiar with.
Yet outside these protected areas is an entirely different world. A world of meandering dirt roads, cattle and an endless sea of used tires along the roadside (which are only outnumbered by the spiny cacti). Luckily, BMW set a route for us which wandered through Desert Mountains covered in relatively impressive pavement. The twisting road was a real hoot in the biggest convertible of the BMW fleet, the 650i.
The previous generation of the 6er sold well, considering the limited niche it fills in the expansive automobile market place. BMW’s market research and data from previous purchasers indicate buyers considering a 6 Series are more often than not in their 50’s, have 3 other cars currently to go along with copious amounts of disposable income. The split is in favor of the convertible when it comes to outright sales (60/40), and men slightly outweigh women when signing the dotted line of the purchase agreement.
Armed with that data the designers have given the car a bit more aggression with the harder lines. However, in our eyes they’ve also made the car clearly less controversial in some aspects. Specifically, the rear looks a little too close to a Chrysler Sebring at first glance. Unlike most convertibles on the market, BMW did not just chop off the solid roof and replace it with a retractable one. In fact, each version of the 6 has its’ own body in-white and they launched the convertible first so buyers could enjoy the summer months with the top down.
The all-new convertible maintains a traditional cloth top and the flying buttress look of the rear “c” pillar like the prior generation. This unconventional look allows for a separate true glass rear window. This vertical glass pane also plays double duty as a wind screen when the top is down and works surprisingly well. The top is stowed in 19 seconds and donned once again in 24 at up to 25 mph.
The drive train in the 650i convert is sublime- if there is a better combination of engine and switchgear out there we’d be hard-pressed to find it. The twin turbo V8 launches the 4531 lbs of steel, aluminum and CRP to 60 mph in a brisk 4.9 seconds according to BMW’s own numbers. Although truth be told it actually felt quicker thanks to all of the seat compressing torque on tap.
The throttle is responsive with no indication that two turbos force-feed air through the intake valves. The silky smooth ZF 8 speed chooses just the right gear or allows you to choose your own. Gone are the paddles that allow a driver to shift up or down with one hand and hold a latte with the other- both hands on the wheel are now required if you want to manually select gears via the pull-pull paddles. Oh, and you can skip shift with no questions asked. A manual six-speed will be available shortly for those that insist on rowing their own gears. Huge compliments to BMW for even offering a manual in this segment as we are certain the take rate is miniscule. Brakes are firm and communicative, which is of no surprise in a BMW.
The drive and suspension are at the mercy of BMW’s Dynamic Driving Control which is standard on the 6. With just a few presses of a console mounted rocker switch the car goes from its normal mode, to sport, sport plus or comfort. Each mode changes the personality of the car, for better or worse. Throttle mapping, suspension firmness and even exhaust note. In sport and sport + there is an intoxicating burble on shifts and engine over run. It was explained to us that engine timing is retarded and a small amount of fuel is injected to create such a sound purposely; it’s one of the small engineering feats that make us enthusiasts smile.
The car handles surprisingly well for something being so great in dimension and weight. Body roll was minimal and tire squeal non-existent. If there is an area to gripe about it would be the steering. More specifically, the steering in “comfort”, there is little to no feedback at center, almost like there is a sloppy knuckle from era’s gone by. You can turn the wheel several degrees in each direction without any feedback other than the car beginning to move out of lane. In “normal” and “sport” setting this is no longer an issue although sport does introduce some added weight. Some could consider the new found weight to be overly artificial. Outside of comfort, the steering provides feedback that is needed, such as when understeer is present although we believe a bit more road feel would be welcomed by driver’s desiring a bit more sport and less Grand Touring. That said road feel (really noise) doesn’t really provide any additional needed feedback.
When DDC is in the “comfort” setting it softens the suspension up and introduces a floating feeling that in our opinion should never be mentioned in regards to a BMW. The truth is that the 650 in “comfort” feels like a small yacht on a bobbing sea – more like a mid-80s Cadillac than a modern BMW. Add in the issue we noted before about steering and the car is numb and dull when in comfort, but may be just what buyers in this segment want; less typical BMW and more comfy recliner (with the 20 way comfort seats buyers drive in perfect comfort). For the majority of the drive we cycled from Normal to Sport +, the settings that best accentuate the advances in suspension and overall vehicle dynamics compared to the past model. In these modes the car distances itself from its predecessor and deserves some respect when it comes to driving dynamics- its still a GT but can be wrung out a bit without any qualms.
On the inside the standard 10.2″ navigation screen is huge, clear and tweaked seven degrees towards the driver. The materials are top notch, the execution and design are flawless for a luxury cruiser. With the top up the level of noise transmitted to the interior was limited yet surprising consider it is a cloth top. The number of color combinations and available options is extensive already but with BMW Individual coming this fall, unheard of color combinations and further luxury items will be available making choices near limitless.
With a series of individual options and packages designed to add more luxury and personalization the 6 series is a real winner in the Luxury GT landscape. When you are looking at spending this kind of money on a car, you want it to fit your personality. With the ability to choose the car’s driving style and the high quality of the fit and finish, there is little to gripe about with the 650i.
The convertible 6er is now on sale and will be followed by the coupe and xDrive variants this fall. In addition to that look for a six cylinder version of the coupe to come as early as fall or next spring. Endless possibilities aside, it’s the convertible 650i that is effortlessly at home on these Cabo roads. It’s GT credentials mixed with effortless style exude confidence that this segment demands. And the performance certainly meets ours.