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BMW 6 series 2008 Review

And another few grand that you’ve just remembered you left in those ski pants you wore to St Moritz.  And, because you’re a bit bored and you’ve already got too many plasma screens, you feel like buying a BMW. Should be simple, right? Sadly not.

These poor rich bastards are faced with a plethora of choices that must make it an almost painful process, the latest of which is the newly upgraded and tweaked 6 Series, a $212,000 executive coupe (or a $228,800 convertible) that leaves this scribbler utterly baffled (those prices are up $6000 on the model they replace, in case that worries you).

Buyers in this rarefied air can, after all, scrape just a bit more money out of the change bowl on top of the fridge and buy an M5, for $231,500.

The M5 is perhaps the most practical supercar on earth, because it has four doors, a boot and genuine seating for four adults, as well as a ground-wobbling, mind-boggling V10 engine under the bonnet which can send all of those four adults into paroxysms of delight, effortlessly. Alternatively, they could spend $157,700 and buy what is arguably an even better, or at least more purely enjoyable, BMW – the M3.

Again, they can thrill their friends and themselves at the same time, because it’s a genuine car as well as a genuine sports car. And with the change they could buy a 1 Series for the wife, or another week’s skiing.

So why would anyone choose the 6 Series? Well, after driving it, that’s a question I still can’t answer.

In isolation, it’s a fine vehicle indeed, powered by a delicious, creamy 4.8-litre V8 that’s good for 270 cultured kilowatts and 490Nm.

It can dash from a standing start to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds, which is down from 5.5 seconds on the model it replaces (5.6 seconds for the convertible, down from 5.8).

It’s also quite phenomenal to drive, for a vehicle that looks, and feels, as hefty as James Packer.

At 1650kg, it’s no lightweight, yet it changes direction and deals with difficult road surfaces with almost arrogant aplomb.

Only when zig-zagging sharply are you aware of all that weight shifting from side to side, but the car is so damned clever, and so perfectly balanced, that it never feels like it’s going to get out of control.

Push it, as hard as you dare, and it will merely stifle a yawn and take everything you throw at it, leaving you with very little sensation of severity in your cloistered cabin.

It also has the kind of steering that BMW is justifiably famous for, with plenty of weight and just the right kind of feedback to keep you involved. And yet… it’s not that fast, or, to be fair, it just doesn’t feel that fast, because everything it does is slightly reserved.

The engine probably could sound fabulous, like the V8 in the M3, but it seems like it’s been swaddled in sound-deadening materials.

There’s also a constant sense that you are in a very big, very wide car – an impression intensified when you get out and look at its slightly disturbing shape.

Impressive and regal from front and side-on, the 6 falls down rather badly at the back, where it looks either like a mastodon with a broken nose or someone with an awful hair lip.

But it certainly has presence, and that seems to be what the 175 buyers who shell out for a 6 Series each year in Australia are after – something different, something that sets them apart from the BMW-buying herds.

It’s fair to say this car is also more of a cruiser than a bruiser, so perhaps it’s aimed at slightly older motorists, who want class and quality and power, but not too much excitement, thanks very much.

It’s certainly easy to see why they might enjoy the convertible, which is a boulevard stroller par excellence.

The windscreen is just the right height that the wind lightly tousles your hair, like an affectionate uncle, rather than ruffling it and the heated seats are so good that we enjoyed top-down motoring, even on a 13-degree day.

It’s also one of those new breed of convertibles that makes you wonder whether scuttle shake is just an old blokes’ tale.

The changes to this 6 Series are quite difficult to see, unless you’re a complete trainspotter, but they include new “sportive” side skirts, new headlights and blinkers, new materials for the uber posh interior and – the admittedly very cool and Buck Rogers-looking – new gearknob. There’s a new gearbox of tricks attached to that, of course, which allows the vehicle to change cogs almost imperceptibly, and apparently faster than ever before.

Push the sport button and the changes get even faster, and the gearbox won’t even touch sixth gear, just to keep you charging hard.

The interior also gets the new iDrive “favourite” buttons, which aren’t, we’re told, and admission that iDrive is too difficult to use. Just as the “fairness test” wasn’t an admission that WorkChoices was too onerous.

There are also plenty of groovy options, like Heads-Up Display, which works brilliantly, and night-vision, which doesn’t.

For $1200 you can even have a “lane departure warning” system, which vibrates the steering wheel to wake you up if you dozily drift.

This is effectively paying $1200 to admit to people that you’re a crap, inattentive driver. But if you are one, please do get the system, it might save the rest of us.

Another $4500 will get you the Active Cruise Control system, which is a way of saying that you’re such a lazy, dozy driver, you’d prefer the car to do everything for you. It could be, in fact, the first nail in the death-of-driving coffin.

Of course, if you option it up with all these things your 6 Series will now cost as much as an M5, which you should have bought in the first place.


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Range and Specs

650CI 4.8L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $32,400 – 42,460 2008 BMW 6 Series 2008 650CI Pricing and Specs
650CI 4.8L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $30,600 – 40,040 2008 BMW 6 Series 2008 650CI Pricing and Specs
Stephen Corby
Contributing Journalist


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