BimmerFile Review: 2012 BMW 650i Coupe

The 650i is a big car. And big sporty cars aren ‘t meant to be able to hustle around the tight roads in Carmel Valley. They are meant to go long distances at triple digit speed while barely breaking a sweat. Yet I sit here almost breathless from a testosterone laced blast east in the 650i through Carmel Valley Rd. Not unlike the physics bending of the X6 M, the 650i defies your expectations of what a large car can do in almost every sense.    Let ‘s not mince words here. We at BimmerFile didn ‘t care much for the previous 6 Series coupe. It felt large, numb and ill conceived in many ways. And it wasn ‘t immediately attractive – the death-knell for a $100k coupe. The F13 650i coupe on the other hand is almost shockingly attractive in person –especially the first time you see it. The car has an aggression and purpose in its form and design language that hasn ‘t been seen on a large BMW coupe since the E24 6 Series. The creases that run throughout the car add a strict sense of purpose and aggression that might as well be the future recipe for all large German coupes.

Our Alpine White 650i test car came with the highly recommended M Sport package. At $3800 it isn ‘t cheap. But it gives the 6 Series coupe a bit more bite in the overall look. Likewise the optional 20 ” wheels help fill out the arches and manages to give the car an even lower-slung look. The only critic with the M Sport is that it ‘s purely an appearance package. Performance options such as BMW ‘s Active Roll Stabilization system (more on that later) are still standalone options.

Inside the look is continued on with hand-stitched leather dash (optional) and an appropriately large wide screen display for infotainment. The overall layout is similar to the previous 6er but executed with more thought given to usability of the design and quality of materials. This is especially true with the leatherwork, which is among the best I ‘ve ever seen on a car at any price. It ‘s especially impressive if you spend time in a E28 M5 equipped with a leather dash as we had just a few days before. The E28 ‘s stitching looks to be the work of a blind man where the F13 ‘s dash appears as if it was hand crafted by a fine suit maker.   The M Sport package also adds an alcantara headliner that gives the cockpit yet another interesting texture while reducing glare for the driver.    Speaking of glare issues, one area that the interior did disappoint is windshield glare. The culprit was the large silver trim around the infotainment screen on the dash. Don ‘t be surprised to see BMW update this or offer optional black trim in its place.

Motivating the 650i is the well-known 400 hp 4.4L twin turbo V8 found in the 5 and 7 series. The power is nearly immediate and continues strongly through the rev range thanks to twin-scroll turbos, Direct Injection, and four overhead camshafts controlling 32 valves with Double-VANOS variable valve timing.    There are two transmission options; the highly acclaimed 8-speed auto and the surprisingly good 6-speed manual. The no-cost manual is of no benefit in performance or weight (both are identical). The only difference on the spec sheet is efficiency with the auto getting one MPG more on the highway (15/23). So what ‘s the point of the manual? The argument is really down to feel and control. And it makes a compelling case for itself – much more here than in the 550i. The F13 has a revised version of the manual found in the F10 5 Series that has better feel in both the shift mechanism and the clutch. Also of interest: this is BMW ‘s first manual transmission that automatically matches revs as you downshift. We found no mention of it in the official press information but the 6-speed in the press car we drove clearly matched revs (if the driver doesn ‘t) upon downshift. We were so shocked by this that we compared notes with other ‘s who drove the car to verify, they all experienced the same thing.    Yet, it was the 8-speed automatic that impressed us the most. BMW has had two years to hone this transmission and it shows with rev matching and shift times similar to a DCT. In manual mode the 650i test car held onto whatever gear I chose (as if its life depended on it) through some of the tightest corners we could throw at it. And yet, when cruising is in order, this is the most docile and comfortable automatic we ‘ve driven yet. What ‘s not to love other than a lack of a clutch? It pains me to say it, but if I was speccing my own 650i, it would likely only have two pedals.

The result of all this adds up to a brutally fast car when the driver demands it. With just enough feel left in the steering, you have the notion of total control and almost total invincibility. The 650i goes, stops and turns faster than it has a right to. In fact it ‘s faster than almost any car I ‘ve ever driven that doesn’t have the letter M in the name. So impressive is the F13 with the twin-turbo V8, that it just might be faster than the M3 on some tracks and roads.

Further helping the cause is the optional Active Roll Stabilization (ARS) that allows the car to be exceptionally composed no matter what you throw at it. ARS is an “active ” suspension that reduces body roll in corners (improving the vehicle ‘s suspension geometry and in turn handling). It ‘s a seamless system that works behind the scenes to give the car ultimate composure and the driver complete confidence. It ‘s a must have option if you care about the corners.

Unlike the previous 6er, downsides are frankly minimal. An eye watering price is expected with a big luxurious coupe so when our test car (heavily optioned) came to $103,025 we weren ‘t shocked. The biggest offenders on the options list are the $3,700 Driver Assistance Package, $4,400 M Sport package (which is all cosmetic) and the 3,700 B&O Sound System.

Otherwise you could definitely call out the F13 for lacking steering feel and being overly isolated. But at the same time, the feedback is probably well judged given the customer and the segment.

After three days of living with and driving the 650i Coupe I am completely and utterly impressed. Perhaps more than with the convertible, the Coupe has presence and (dare we say it) a soul that so many modern cars lack. There ‘s luxury, style and performance that everyone expects. But there ‘s also a crucial element that could have been left out that thankfully remains – feel.

The 650i driver just got a lot more respect in my book with the F13. While the previous 6er had a stigma of nothing more than a cruiser, this new 650i follows the tradition of BMW ‘s best big coupes (namely the 3.0 CSL and the 80 ‘s M6) and gives the discerning owner a tool that is as versatile as it is stylish. There ‘s not much higher praise for a $103,000 coupe.   Just two days ago I was driving down this same road but in a 1972 3.0 CSL. In many ways the spiritual predecessor to this car. It ‘s easy to compare them and conclude that the 650i doesn ‘t have the immediacy and/or soul of the CSL. But the truth is, the 650i is an exponentially better car. Stepping out of the 3.0 CSL, the 650i feels like a car from a distant and amazing future. It ‘s exponentially faster, smarter and more luxurious than any of the big coupes between it and that ’72 CSL. And it might just be be the best since.  

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  • Anonymous

    I still feel you are overstating the styling. It looks great, but generally conservative. It just does not ring the “aggressive” bell and I keep hearing that thrown around. Perhaps they ought to race it as they did the 70’s era 3.0. Seeing it nose to nose with the Austin Martins may make its aggression more convincing.

    • The 6er Coupe has more presence in person than almost any BMW I can think of from the past few years. In fact I can’t think of another car that my opinion changed as dramatically when seeing it in person.

    • The 6er Coupe has more presence in person than almost any BMW I can think of from the past few years. In fact I can’t think of another car that my opinion changed as dramatically when seeing it in person.

    • The 6er Coupe has more presence in person than almost any BMW I can think of from the past few years. In fact I can’t think of another car that my opinion changed as dramatically when seeing it in person.

    • The 6er Coupe has more presence in person than almost any BMW I can think of from the past few years. In fact I can’t think of another car that my opinion changed as dramatically when seeing it in person.

      • Anonymous

        I can see the change, and I can see design elements from this car showing up in the other new models we are getting glimpses of. And it is more aggressive than the outgoing 6.

  • Bob

    Hmmm – I don’t really see why a car can’t be aggressively as well as conservatively styled.  This car seems both to me.  It’s certainly not over-the-top, I’ll give you that – but it has an unmistakably powerful look, at least to my eye.  Great looking car, IMO.  

    Awfully spendy, though.