BMW’s stylish 6 Series coupe and convertible models are redesigned for model-year 2012 with added flair and finesse. This remains a more-expressive alternative to a sports sedan for owners who can afford to live without a useable back seat.It’s larger and more accommodating than a hard-core sports car like a Chevrolet Corvette or Porsche 911, and is thus well suited for its middle-aged target audience. That’s not a knock against the 6 Series, however, as it’s a powerful, lively and stylish ride in its own right.
The 2012 650i is about three inches longer in overall length and wheelbase and is around an inch and a half wider than the versions it replaces. This translates into a slightly larger passenger cabin than before, with added rear legroom, though for all practical purposes both coupe and convertible renditions remain two-passenger rides.
Styling changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary. There’s a more pronounced nose at the front end with angular headlamps that wrap up and into the front fenders, with a wide and deep fascia residing beneath BMW’s traditional kidney-shaped grille. Diagonal lines sweep rearward along its long hood and along the side of the vehicle more deeply than before and run to a high deck lid trunk that’s less angular than with the previous version. As before, the 6 Series’ aerodynamic profile should translate into low wind resistance at speed to help maintain reasonable – though still far from economical – fuel efficiency and a quiet cabin.
The convertible comes with a fully lined retractable cloth top in what the automaker calls a flying buttress design that features a nearly vertical rear window to maintain a coupe-like top-up look.
The redesigned 6 Series packs a new turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine that generates a pleasing 400-horsepower and a launch-happy 450 pound-feet of torque that BMW says is good for a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds. A quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission is standard, and remains the gearbox of choice for automotive enthusiasts. However, more 6 Series buyers traditionally tend to favor convenience over fundamental control, and will ultimately choose the available sophisticated eight-speed automatic that includes manual shift capability.
Handling is sufficiently sporty, with the 650i exhibiting crisper cornering abilities than the 5 Series sedan upon which its based, though this comes at the expense of a somewhat stiffer (though not unduly severe) ride. The car’s Driving Dynamics Control system allows more-enthusiastic drivers to engage a sport mode for quicker throttle response and reduced steering boost, as well as more aggressive shifts from the automatic transmission.
The 650i includes an array of advanced chassis control systems to help the car maintain its poise through even the most demanding handling circumstances. As in other BMW models, the car’s Dynamic Stability Control system incorporates a number of novel braking functions, including Brake Standby (which anticipates a panic stop and automatically engages the brake pads against the rotors when the driver suddenly lifts his or her foot off of the accelerator) and Start-Off Assistant (which applies the brakes on an incline to prevent the car from rolling backwards), among others.
An Active Roll Stabilization system helps keep the car from leaning unduly through the sharpest curves. BMW’s variable-ratio Active Steering system newly includes subtle rear-wheel steering, and while it does quicken the 650i’s steering, particularly at lower speeds, it also delivers a certain disconnect to the road, at least from a purist’s point of view. It’s best suited for those who do a lot of around-town driving and want to make it as effortless and entertaining as possible.
As is the case with other BMW models, the 605i’s interior is tastefully trimmed in rich leather and wood finishes, with understatement being the order of business. The 650i’s 20-way adjustable front seats afford adequate comfort and support, and can be both heated and cooled. While the cabin isn’t particularly voluminous (especially given that it’s a fairly large car), it’s not that tight a fit, with ingress and egress that’s certainly easier than the typical low-slung sports car. Rear-seat room, however, is virtually nonexistent. The standard iDrive multimedia control system makes what should be simple functions unnecessarily difficult, though added programmable “favorites” buttons makes the latest rendition easier to operate than in past generations.
Already coming well equipped, a sizeable list of high-tech features are optional, though piling them on can raise the cost of this already-pricey ride dramatically. An available Lane Departure Warning System alerts an inattentive driver when the vehicle is inadvertently drifting across highway lane markers, while the optional blind-spot detection system alerts the driver to vehicles or other obstructions to the side and rear of the vehicle that he or she might not otherwise be able to locate in the side-view mirrors. Also on the options list is an Active Cruise Control system that not only maintains both a set speed and distance from the traffic ahead, but incorporates a Stop-and-Go function which brings the 6 Series one step closer to being a vehicle that drives itself.
As if that’s not enough technology, the car can be fitted with small video cameras that provide a top-down view of what’s coming from the side of the car to make pulling into traffic from a sight-obstructed alley or driveway safer. An optional head-up display projects the car’s speed, navigation instructions and other information onto the windshield in the driver’s line of sight to help keep his or her eyes on the road, while an available Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection system uses an infrared camera to display an otherworldly negative-image view of what’s beyond the car’s headlamps. And of course, a voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic information is available for the directionally challenged.
In all, the 6 Series remains an attractive personal luxury car with sporting pretentions, and is a worthy alternative to a less accommodating – not to mention costlier – exotic sports car for well-heeled empty nesters. And for those looking for added capabilities, the higher-performance M6 coupe and convertible will return to the line later during calendar year 2012.
BMW 6 Series Quick Facts
Engine: 4.8 Liter V8
Horsepower: 400 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 450 @ 1,750 rpm
City/Highway: MPG NA
Transmission 6-Spd Manual, 8-Spd Automatic
Wheelbase: 112.4 in
Overall Length: 192.7 in
Width: 74.6 in
Height: 53.7 in
Curb Weight: 4,531 lbs
MSRP: $84,000 – $90,500 (est.)
Did You Know?
The 6 Series coupe and convertible models were added to the line for the 2004 model year, slotted between the 5 and 7 Series sedans. The cars were overdue replacements for the former 8 Series coupes, which were last sold in the U.S. in 1997. Ironically, the 8 Series name could be resurrected for model year 2013 and applied to a new large and sporty “four-door coupe” to compete with models like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7.