BMW has been without a high-end coupe since the demise of its poorly received 8 Series line, which was dropped in 1997. Well before the 8 Series came along, however, there was the original BMW 6 Series coupe that ran from '77 to '89. Known for its distinctive shape and refined demeanor, the original 6 Series was one of the few high-end coupes of that time to effectively blend high performance and conspicuous luxury.
Like its predecessor, the current BMW 6 Series coupe, introduced in 2004, offers an intriguing combination of high-end features and impressive performance. The 650i's underpinnings are similar to those of BMW's 5 Series midsize luxury sedan, and it's powered by the same 360-horsepower, 4.8-liter V8 used in the 550i. Unlike most other luxury coupes, however, the 6 Series offers more than just your average automatic transmission. For those who truly enjoy maximum involvement, a six-speed manual and a Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) are also offered.
More than just raw power, the BMW 6 Series incorporates numerous high-tech materials to keep its weight down. A composite trunk, aluminum suspension components, aluminum doors and thermoplastic front fenders all contribute to the effort, while the remaining bulk is perfectly balanced 50/50 front to rear. In addition, the 650i offers BMW's revolutionary Active Steering system that can adjust the steering ratio for maximum maneuverability whether you're at speed on the highway or inching into a parking space. Along with Active Steering, the 6 Series also incorporates Active Roll Stabilization, which helps suppress body roll during aggressive cornering.
Inside the 6 Series, BMW's improved but still challenging iDrive system controls the car's various functions while classic analog gauges provide the more pertinent information. All 6 Series coupes have a standard panorama glass roof that gives the car a more open-air feeling, while true sun worshippers can opt for the full-fledged convertible version. Thanks to its generous dimensions (it's bigger all around than a Benz CLK coupe), the BMW 6 Series is spacious for two but like most coupes, it's very tight for four. The convertible's top drops in just under 30 seconds. With the side windows down, the 650i convertible remains placid at up to 50 mph. Power up the side windows and that placidity remains at speeds above 75 mph. For those seeking a "sunroof effect" from their convertible, BMW allows the 650's rear glass to rise, even with the top tucked away.
Overall, BMW's latest luxury coupe and convertible have impressed us. They may not be the high-dollar coupe and drop top on the market, but get behind the wheel and either one will make you feel on top of the world. All the while, you'll get to enjoy a luxurious cockpit that conveniently doesn't have much room in back for annoying friends or co-workers. And if you like technology, the 2006 BMW 6 Series has plenty of it, but for the most part, it doesn't get in the way of the most important activity of all: Driving.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Available in coupe and convertible body styles, the BMW 650i comes standard with items like 18-inch wheels with run-flat tires, premium leather upholstery, wood trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, an MP3-compatible CD player, Bluetooth wireless capability, a full set of one-touch power windows, heated power mirrors and a power top for the convertible. The front seats feature multiple power adjustments, driver memory and electric heaters for a perfect fit and a warm backside. The iDrive vehicle management system is integrated into the console, while a DVD-based navigation system with voice command and park distance control also comes standard. Active cruise control is optional. On the audio side, buyers can opt for a glovebox-mounted CD changer, as well as a premium-grade Harman Kardon Logic 7 sound system. An optional sport package adds BMW's unique Active Steering system along with sport seats and larger wheel and tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
Utilization of BMW's iDrive control system reduces button clutter to a minimum, making for a clean dash design but confusing operation of some controls. BMW's trademark analog gauges stare out from behind the steering wheel, while an optional head-up display offers to project pertinent vehicle info onto the windshield for less distraction. Thanks to its generous dimensions and standard panorama roof (coupes only) the BMW 6 Series is spacious for two, but four adults make for a tight fit.
Although it's not quite as nimble as the smaller 3 Series coupe, the 2006 BMW 650i is a very capable performer when driven hard. Its combination of modest weight and ample power make for quick acceleration from any speed. The Active Roll Stabilization system keeps the big coupe flat around corners, and the lightweight suspension does its part to maintain traction and soak up the bumps. The wide range of transmissions allows you to tailor the BMW 6 Series to your particular driving style, so consider the options carefully.