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BMW 650Ci review

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    The new BMW 6 Series Convertible isn't going to change the world, but it does make it a much nicer place to be.

Glenn Butler road tests and reviews the BMW 650Ci convertible.

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  • Sophisticated styling
  • V8 and transmission
  • Cabin unruffled with roof down
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  • Small boot
  • Rear headroom

This week it seems everything has royal connotations, BMW anointing the 6 Series Convertible the "jewel in our crown". The second-generation 6 Series Convertible is more powerful and more economical, more luxurious and safer than before. It's also more expensive, but BMW believes the new models have the goods to justify the price hike. Two models make up the range: the 640Ci, powered by a bi-turbo 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine, and the 650Ci which packs a bi-turbo V8.

A turbodiesel 640d is available overseas, however BMW believes its appeal would be limited in Australia. A high-performance V10-powered M6 was available in the first generation. The new M6, if BMW gives it the green light, won't appear before 2013. The 6 Series is 74mm longer and 39mm wider, which does liberate more legroom in the rear seats, but it's far from capacious. Rear headroom is in short supply with the roof up. The 6 Series is 80kg heavier than before despite having a plastic bootlid and front quarter panels, unusual at a time when weight reduction is common.

VALUE

BMW is claiming the value-for-money high ground, trumpeting that the 640Ci - a new addition this time around - as the only luxury 2+2 under $200,000, but that's still plenty of coin by any measure. Its only direct rival is the Mercedes-Benz SL350 ($217,800). The 650Ci packs a 300kW twin-turbocharged V8 that puts its up against a broader range of powerful rivals. The Jaguar XK may only have 283kW, but its $224,114 price is well under the BMW's. Mercedes-Benz's V8-powered SL500 has 285kW and costs a whopping $327,000 - and it's only a two-seater. The Maserati Gran Cabrio, arguably the sexiest soft-top going around, is a 2+2 like the BMW, and has more power (323kW), but charges $338,800 for a ticket to drive.

TECHNOLOGY

BMW has replaced the 650Ci's 4.8-litre V8 with a new 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 from the 5 Series sedan. It brings 300kW (up 30kW) and an eight speed automatic transmission, propelling the rear-drive 650Ci from rest to 100km/h in 5.0seconds flat - 0.8 seconds faster. Despite this step up in performance, the 650Ci's fuel economy is two percent better than the outgoing model, 10.7 litres/100km.

The 640Ci employs a bi-turbo 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine with 235kW, also mated to BMW's smooth eight-speeder. It's no slouch, either; its 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds is faster than the old V8.

A low fuel economy rating of 7.9L/100km is possible thanks to the auto stop/start system, and makes this almost guilt-free performance. Both models come with Heads-up Display standard, now in full colour and incorporating satnav instructions, lane-departure and night-vision warnings where fitted. Both models come with bluetooth audio streaming, parking sensors, radar cruise control, leather upholstery and 19inch alloy wheels. BMW's auto parking system is optional, as is lane departure warning and Night Vision.

DESIGN

It's easy to pick the second generation of BMW's flagship 2+2 convertible. It wears a smoother, less controversial skin, though still with distinctive BMW cues like the sharknose and kidney grille up front, and protruding bootlid at the rear. The interior has been given a major workover, but is still immediately familiar. The instrument cluster is clean and easy to read. A new dashboard and centre stack are topped by a bigger 10-inch colour screen that is no longer integrated into the dash.

SAFETY

The 6 Series has a full complement of airbags, and the electronic chassis control systems are extensive. The 650Ci comes standard with Surround View, two cameras in the wing mirrors to show the road on either side, making kerb-side parking easier. A rear-view camera, hidden behind the badge protrudes like a James Bond missile-launcher when reverse is selected. Only the rear-  view camera is standard on the 640Ci.

DRIVING

It's a fair bet that when BMW chose Queensland to host the launch, it wasn't expecting leaden skies and pouring rain. That didn't stop us sneaking every opportunity to drop the top - which can be done in just 19 seconds - when the rain eased. We were just lucky the cloth roof closes almost as quickly, and on the move (at speeds below 40km/h), because the rain seldom abated for long.

There's no denying the 650Ci is a big car, measuring almost five metres long. It's also heavy (1940kg). But the powerful V8 and its quick-thinking eight-speed transmission combine to disguise that bulk on the go. Add to that the 650Ci's active dampers and the 650Ci is one seriously capable convertible brimming with sporting character and verve.

It stays remarkably flat in corners and barrels eagerly forward when unleashed. Its 65mm longer wheelbase and wider rear track make the 650i more surefooted than before, and able to exploit the biturbo V8's prodigious torque. The engine's crispness is equally impressive because there's hardly a skerrick of turbo lag or fuzziness about its responses. Same can't be said of the steering, though. It may be light and consistent, but doesn't have the same catlike reflexes or tactile nature as the engine. That's to be expected in a car weighing two-tonnes (with a driver).

The 650Ci is more than happy to wind its way up a mountain with alacrity, yet it's even more at home boulevarde cruising. With the multi-setting suspension on Comfort, it soaks most bumps and wafts regally. And it doesn't half turn heads, either. But then, if you'd just spent a quarter of a million, you'd want people to notice, too.

VERDICT

Luxurious and leisurely, yet more than capable of turning up the wick. The 650Ci the consummate Grand Tourer.

BMW 650Ci

Price: from $248,300
Warranty: 3yr / unlimited km
Service interval: 12 months
Safety equipment: six airbags, TCS, ESC, CBC, EBD, EBA
Engine: 4.4-litre 300kW/600Nm bi-turbo V8
Transmission: eight speed automatic
Body: two-door soft-top convertible
Weight: 1940kg
Thirst: 10.7 L/100km, 95RON, 249g/km

RIVALS

ImageJAGUAR XK
Price: $224,114
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 283kW/515Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Body: Two-door soft-top convertible
Thirst: 11.2L/100km, 95RON, CO2 264g/km

 

 

ImageMASERATI GRAN CABRIO- compare this car
Price: $327,000
Engine: 4.7-litre V8 323kW/490Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Body: Two-door soft-top convertible
Thirst: 15.4L/100km, 95RON, CO2 360g/km

 

 

ImageMERCEDES-BENZ SL500- compare this car
Price: $327,000
Engine: 5.5-litre V8 285kW/530Nm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Body: Two-door hard-top convertible
Thirst: 12.0L/100km, 95RON, CO2 286g/km

 

 

 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 3 comments

  • Poor Aussies,what’s the use of having a strong currency when it is that much ?? Must be some ridiculous cringeworthy snobs downunder driving some quite average cars !

    Robert of Tokyo Posted on 10 May 2011 7:06pm
  • The nation thanks those who buy these cars for the $100K+ in tax they pay on every purchase. Even if I had $250,000 to spend on a car, I just couldn’t do it for that very reason. Not the best looking car out of the group it’s compared to, but that engine sounds like it’s a mechanical dream. 8 Speed transmissions!, very useful with a speed limit of 110 in Aus. An engine with that much torque could probably get away with a 4 speed in Aus.

    Ross Posted on 03 May 2011 1:08pm
  • It’s a third of the price in the UK and the US…

    daniel Posted on 29 April 2011 11:01am

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