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BMW 650i 2012 Review

But if there's something wrong with the 650i it isn't a lack of comfort.

Shakespeare reckoned there are seven ages of man but as far as carmakers are concerned there's one that really counts: the reward-yourself age around 50 when men, and an increasing number of women, have the money and the motivation to buy something that reflects what they have achieved in the world.

No more family cars, SUVs or people-movers. This time it's all about you. You could go for a convertible, but only a few are as good as an equivalent hardtop and they do suggest you're more interested in showing off than driving.

At your age, you should know better. On the other hand, if you go for something too hardcore, you might spend more time at the chiropractor than behind the wheel. It's nice to know you can outrun the cap-backwards mob if you must. But you're above all that now.

What you need is a grand tourer. These are large coupes with ample power and plenty of luxury. Of course they're capable, but unlike full-strength sportscars they don't demand to be driven everywhere Schumacher-style.

VALUE

A budget up to $400,000 puts most of the desirable brands within reach, including Aston Martin (the DB9), Maserati (Granturismo) and Mercedes-Benz (CL). 

With $300,000 or under the choice narrows, although you'll still get an Aston (V8 Vantage), Jaguar (XK) and the car driven here, a BMW 6 Series Coupe. BMW re-entered this segment eight years ago, reviving a model number it discontinued in the 1980s.

It's one of the most expensive Beemers you can buy at $232,300 for the 650i, and there's sure to be an M6 version soon that costs more.

You can get into it for less - the six-cylinder 640i begins at $178,300 - but a coin-counting approach works poorly at this level. That's because whatever number you first think of, you'll end up with something higher thanks to options.

DESIGN

They're big, but careful attention to detail by the designers means the rear seats and boot are far too small to be practical. This is ideal. You don't want a car to run errands. Some strike me as a bit cheeky - the smartphone music interface for $220 should be in there already - but car makers know you'll want you’re Reward-mobile to be just as you like it. They've seen you coming.

Large luxury coupes are not BMW's natural territory and the previous 6 Series began life with a few disadvantages. Chief among them was its looks. It emerged at the peak of the Chris Bangle period, when BMW's evangelical chief designer could seemingly get the board to sign off on anything. The 6 Series he drew was so misshapen I'm surprised anybody bought one at all.

The new car has dodged the ugly stick despite a few reminders of the former era, in particular the strong crease running along the flanks and high rear ``deck''. It doesn't offend but it's not drop-dead gorgeous, either. Brands with a long track record here - Aston and Maserati, in particular - have a better understanding of how to press the lust buttons. What they cannot do as well is match the fit and finish of seriously rigorous German quality control. The 650i interior is beautifully finished with, in this case, lovely black leather with white stitching.

For contrast, the B&O system has metal speaker grilles and for drama the central speaker rises from the centre of the dash. The seats and steering wheel are excellent, and there's little evidence of skimping with, for example, metallic gearshift paddles where others use plastic. An exception is the headliner fabric, which felt down-market.

The rear seats are small, as they should be to discourage more than one fellow traveller, although you can admire the perfect-if-pointless upholstery. As if to reinforce this point, the front seats power-slide forward at such a glacial rate that any prospective child passenger might be oversize by the time they can get in.

In ergonomic terms, this cabin is light years ahead of the dreadful previous effort, but it still has a couple of issues. Thanks to its steep angle, reflections off the dash-top disrupt the view forward, while the huge control screen is not always easy to read.

TECHNOLOGY

Effortless performance is essential for a car like this and the turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 has the goods. It's a relaxed drive thanks to plenty of low-rev torque, with 600Nm available from 1750rpm. But it also piles on speed deceptively, without any histrionics. It can reach 100km/h in 4.9 seconds and has a top speed electronically limited to 250km/h.

The turbochargers, now almost ubiquitous on new engines, mean it lacks a traditional V8 soundtrack. Most of the time it's quiet until you demand maximum thrust, then it emits a pleasing if fairly high-pitched growl. Its companion transmission is an eight-speed automatic that is the benchmark for gearshift smoothness and intelligence among traditional torque converters.

DRIVE

The car I sampled had more than $30,000 worth of options, including an M Sport package, which brings light alloys and lots of performance badging, plus a Bang & Olufsen stereo, digital radio tuner, smart leather dash and more. BMW makes redress with its head-up display, which projects speed and other vital information on to the windscreen just below the driver's line of sight. Every car should have one.

BMW manages the neat trick of engineering a sort of dynamic DNA into its cars that makes them feel similar from behind the wheel. As the cars get larger and more luxurious, however, the drive experience becomes increasingly remote. That's true here. The 650i feels like a Beemer but isn't as engaging as some of its smaller, more focused cars.

It is capable, though, with excellent body control even on the softest of four suspension settings. The engine is set well back in the bay, with some of it positioned behind the front axle, so it doesn't feel nose-heavy. Nevertheless, it is a long, heavy car and electronics cannot dial out everything physics can throw at it.

That's where the shrink-wrapped 20-inch alloys come in with lots of grip. On the downside, they also mean too much tyre roar, rumble-thump and shudders through the car. The result is a somewhat edgy ride, even though overall composure is fine. The 650i feels like a Beemer but isn't as engaging as some of its smaller, more focused cars. It is capable, though, with excellent body control even on the softest of four suspension settings.

VERDICT

But if there's something wrong with the 650i it isn't a lack of comfort. It would be easy to live with on lots of levels. There is something else missing, something indefinable. For all its six appeal, it didn't move me at all.

BMW 650I COUPE

Price: From $232,300 plus on-road costs
Engine: 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 petrol
Outputs: 300kW at 5500rpm and 600Nm at 1750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Economy: 10.6 litres per 100km

Pricing Guides

$52,305
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$33,220
Highest Price
$71,390

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
650i 4.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $47,960 – 55,110 2012 BMW 6 Series 2012 650i Pricing and Specs
650i 4.8L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $52,250 – 60,060 2012 BMW 6 Series 2012 650i Pricing and Specs
650i Gran Coupe 4.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $62,150 – 71,390 2012 BMW 6 Series 2012 650i Gran Coupe Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$44,220

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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