Last time around, we had to wait a veritable eternity between BMW 6 Series models — 15 years, to be precise. Those were dark days, akin to waiting for the rapture or that one year the Yankees didn't make the playoffs.
Alas, there shall be no hiatus this time around, as BMW has released information about its next-generation, top-of-the-line two-door. Though the design of the 2012 BMW 6 Series was previewed by the four-door Grand Coupe concept in Beijing and the two-door Coupe concept in Paris, the first version to arrive in production form is the 6 Series convertible.
While similar in theory to the car it replaces, the 2012 6 Series gets many of the same updates — in terms of mechanicals, technology and design — as the recently redesigned 5 and 7 Series with which it shares its platform.
Bigger, yet Slimmer
Though the bodywork of the 2012 BMW 6 Series appears sleeker and more chiseled than its bloated and Bangled predecessor, the new convertible is in fact bigger. There is an additional 2.9 inches of length, 3 inches of wheelbase and 1.5 inches of width, which should aid a cabin that was already pretty spacious as far as 2+2 coupes and convertibles are concerned. A minor reduction in height subtly helps reduce the car's visual bulk.
BMW was conspicuously mum on weight, and given that the related 5 and 7 Series both packed on pounds between generations, it seems unlikely the 2012 6 Series shall tip the scales south of the current convertible's 4,277 pounds.
Yet, handling any extra weight should not be a problem for the (initial) lone 6 Series model, the 650i. It packs BMW's 4.4-liter V8, the one with twin turbochargers and 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. That power is fed to the rear wheels via a standard six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. BMW estimates a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds with either transmission for the 650i convertible, which would be only three-tenths slower than the last-generation M6 coupe.
The double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear setup are fashioned mostly out of aluminum, while electronically controlled dampers adjust compression and rebound settings continuously and independently. As before, buyers can opt for Active Roll Stabilization, which utilizes sensors that calculate the amount of body roll and then counteracts it through hydraulic actuators in the sway bars. The steering is now electric, while the optional Active Steering now adds the prefix "Integral" by way of rear-wheel steering that enhances maneuverability and high-speed stability.
Controlling all this electro-mechanical whiz-bangery is BMW's increasingly ubiquitous Driving Dynamics Control, which alters throttle and steering response, the electrically controlled shocks, stability control intervention and, if so equipped, automatic transmission shift characteristics. As with the 5 and 7 Series, DDC includes four settings: default Normal, Comfort, configurable Sport and Sport+.
Raise (and Lower) the Roof
All of the above is likely to apply to the eventual coupe model as well, but we are talking about the 2012 BMW 6 Series Convertible, so here's the lowdown on the roof design and structural enhancements. As before, the drop-top 6 Series features a unique "flying buttress" roof design with a vertical glass window that operates separately from the multilayered canvas roof. Lower the window and raise the roof and you have a breezy yet sun-free cabin. Raise the window and lower the roof and you have a wind deflector.
Lowering the roof completely takes 19 seconds, while raising it back into place requires 24 seconds. Both can be accomplished at speeds up to 25 mph. Even with the top down, the trunk still has 10.6 cubic feet of space, which BMW says is enough for a pair of golf bags and a briefcase. Roof raised, the trunk expands to 12.3 cubes.
Like almost any new convertible, the 2012 BMW 650i Convertible boasts greater levels of rigidity than its predecessor. BMW says it registers a 50 percent improvement in static torsional rigidity and a mean body strength that is 29 percent greater than before. Both sound quite impressive, although the old 6 hardly elicited comparisons to a '66 Continental.
Gadgets and Gizmos
BMW lists the 6 Series convertible as a 2+2, with standard 20-way multicontour seats up front and deeply sculpted individual rear buckets in back. Rear legroom is up, along with a seat tilt angle that's virtually identical to those of BMW's sedans. The Luxury Seating package adds ventilation to the front seats along with active fatigue reduction.
The cabin design is unique to the 6, featuring a significantly more driver-centric dash and center stack than the previous car. The latest wide iDrive screen is present, along with a color display integrated into the instrument cluster, both of which feature so-called "Transreflective" technology for reduced glare.
BMW's newest head-up display debuts in the 2012 6 Series. The graphics are now in full color, the resolution is improved and there is a three-dimensional quality to the various symbols. Besides basic speed information, this HUD displays navigation directions and warnings from the optional lane departure warning and night vision systems.
The high-tech gizmos don't stop there. Standard features include a rearview camera, adaptive xenon headlamps, LED foglamps and the much-improved iDrive. The options list features BMW's multiangle top and sideview camera systems, automatic high beams, "active" blind-spot warning system, advanced adaptive cruise control and a 12-speaker audio system. The standard system has nine speakers, HD radio and an auxiliary audio jack. USB/iPod connectivity is also available.
Ready for Spring
Not only does the 2012 BMW 6 Series Convertible share much of its DNA with the 5 and 7 Series sedans, it will also roll out of the same production plant in Dingolfing, Germany. It would also seem to share a similar sort of character: bigger and more powerful than the car it replaces, with a greater emphasis on technology and less adventurous styling.
Whether it shares the 5 Series' backward slide in handling is a question that shall be answered another day. Thankfully, Bimmerphiles won't have to wait 15 years to find out, as the 2012 BMW 650i Convertible is scheduled to arrive in dealerships in the spring of 2011.