BMW's light makeover of the 6 Series range heightens the luxury ambience of its interior and subtly strengthens the car's sporting flavor. Always more of a grand tourer than a sports car, these changes leave its character fundamentally unchanged. Those after sharp handling should look elsewhere, but the coupe and convertible are invitingly sumptuous long-distance cruisers with authoritative performance to match.
What Is It?
The 2016 BMW 6 Series is a high-performance luxury GT that sits at the top of the brand's range. It's available as a coupe, convertible or four-door Gran Coupe, but the two-door versions are the only cars discussed here. Both are offered with a choice of two engines, either a 315-horsepower straight-6 or a 445-hp V8. Both engines are turbocharged, use eight-speed automatic transmissions and are available with either rear-wheel drive or xDrive all-wheel drive. High-performance M6 versions of all three body styles are available, and covered in separate reviews. For 2016, the 6 Series range has received a light makeover, identifiable by restyled LED head- and taillights, a reshaped front grille and new bumpers.
What Body Styles and Trim Levels Does It Come in?
The BMW 6 Series is available in three body styles: coupe, convertible and as a longer-wheelbase four-door sedan known as the Gran Coupe, which is covered in a separate review. There are four models for each of the coupe and convertible ranges, with one trim level for each of the 640i and 650i engines.
The 640i could hardly be described as a base model car given that it's available with a 10.2-inch touchscreen with voice control, 10-way memory heated leather front seats, a Bang & Olufsen stereo with Sirius Satellite Radio, a head-up display, dynamic cruise control, night vision assistance, LED headlights, a switchable sports exhaust, 18-inch wheels and active roll stabilization, among other things.
Additional options on the V8-powered 650i include 20-way power seats, a dynamic digital instrument cluster, powered steering column adjustment, a Harman Kardon 600-watt stereo and 19-inch wheels.
How Does It Drive?
This looks like a powerful car, and it sounds like one from the moment you finger the start button. The adjustable sports exhaust certainly helps, as does the larger V8 engine in the 650i tested here. That the 6 Series comes only with an automatic transmission is an early clue to its character. Its multiple modes and paddle shifters can deliver serious performance, but it's not the primary goal here. Slot the overly complicated shifter into "D" and you'll waft off with an easy burble, the car's sophisticated refinement immediately evident. It's bursting with energy, but it's a subtle kind of energy that's more about mile-eating than curve-cutting.
The BMW's ride reinforces this impression, too. If fitted with the optional (and highly recommended) adaptive shocks (Dynamic Damper Control in BMW parlance), their behavior can be altered via BMW's so-called Driving Dynamics Control. This transmission console-mounted rocker toggles through five settings ranging from an economy-oriented Eco Pro mode to Sport +, which alter transmission and throttle responses as well as the optional adaptive dampers. Even in the firm Sport+, (which also raises the intervention threshold of the ESP anti-skid control, incidentally), the 6 Series' ride feels comfortably pliant.
Keen drivers can specify still more hardware dedicated to the art of cornering, including active sway control (Dynamic Drive Control) and Integral Active Steering, which not only alters the gearing to minimize wheel-twirling at parking speeds, but also steers the rear wheels to help the car track more cleanly through curves.
It was a 650i equipped with all these features that we tried, and there's no question that bends, especially the shallower kind, can be sliced at terrific speeds. Considering the 650i's hefty all-you-can-eat 4,275-pound curb weight, it gets through tight turns with decent aplomb, too. And though accurate, the 6's steering is not especially well endowed with feel. On a twisty road, a Porsche 911 will show it the way.
But that's not to say the 650i isn't enjoyable. It's effortlessly and entertainingly fast, especially with its sportier new soundtrack. It also covers big distances in perfect comfort and solitude if that's what you prefer.
How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
The 6 Series is impressive to sit in, its cockpit wide and the high-grade leather seats facing a hide-covered dashboard that looks interestingly busy but well-ordered. Those seats power every which way, as does the steering column, making it easy to get comfortable and see the instruments, which include BMW's excellent head-up display. The zoned climate control is easy to use and unobtrusively effective.
There's plenty of room up front, but anyone banished to the rear will need to be small because legroom is minimal despite this car's length. If you're often carrying four passengers, then it's the four-door 6 Series Gran Coupe that you need.
The 6 Series' new sports exhaust is switchable, turning it noticeably less intrusive in the comfort and Eco Pro modes of the Dynamic Drive Control, the result being a particularly restful cruise at speed. There's faint wind rustle from the door mirrors, but not enough to be bothersome. The ride is generally excellent, but in Comfort+ mode the shocks become lazy enough that the car feels underdamped.
The lightly revamped interior makes this a subtly more luxurious place to sit, the double-stitched leather, piano black, gloss white or fine wood inserts adding a richness that's further heightened by the aluminum décor. You have no doubt that you're sitting in a comfortably expensive car. It's reasonably well-equipped, too, with a potent stereo, a well-designed navigation system and various BMW online services as standard.
What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
The 640i's straight-6 automatic is rated by the EPA to deliver 20 mpg in combined driving (21 city/32 highway), while the V8 650i manages 19 combined (16 city/25 highway).
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The Jaguar F-Type isn't quite as effective as the 911 as a high-adrenaline sports car, but it's at least as stylish as the 6 Series. However, it's effectively a two-seater, and has a small trunk.
The Maserati Gran Turismo will properly seat four adults in some luxury, it looks very glamorous and it makes a great noise. The Gran Turismo's ride and handling lacks a little panache compared with its rivals, but it makes for an unusual choice.
The Porsche 911 offers a more dynamic and engaging driving experience, but is less restful than the 6 Series at speed, and its rear seats are even less usable. There are plenty of versions to choose from.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
The BMW 6 Series coupe is handsome, it has presence and its performance is delivered with entertaining civility. Couple this to secure high-speed cornering, great cruising capability and decent supplies of driver aids, and you have a terrific car for long distances...or some high-speed Sunday morning indulgence.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If it's a highly agile, sharply responsive and invigorating performance coupe that you're after, you'll likely be better satisfied by a Porsche 911 or a Jaguar F-Type. There's always the BMW M6 coupe of course, which is a more muscular version of the 650i, but this, too, lacks knife-edge agility. And if you want to install passengers in the rear without complaint, the 6 Series Gran Coupe is a better choice.
|Year Make Model:||2016 BMW 6 Series 650i 2dr Coupe (4.4L 8cyl Turbo 8A)|
|Vehicle type:||RWD 2dr 4-passenger coupe|
|Configuration:||Longitudinal, front engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Engine type:||Twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V8, gasoline|
|Valvetrain:||Double overhead camshaft|
|Compression ratio (x:1):||10.0|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||445 @ 5,500|
|Torque (lb-ft @ rpm):||480 @ 2,000|
|Fuel type:||Premium unleaded (required)|
|Transmission type:||Eight-speed automatic|
|Suspension, front:||Double wishbone|
|Steering type:||Electric power steering|
|Tire type:||All-season front and rear|
|Wheel size:||19-by-8.5 inches front and rear|
|Brakes, front:||Ventilated disc|
|Brakes, rear:||Ventilated disc|
|Fuel economy, mfr. est. (mpg):||19 combined (16 city/25 highway)|
|Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.):||18.5|
|Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.):||4,275|
|Headroom, front (in.):||40.0|
|Headroom, rear (in.):||35.7|
|Shoulder room, front (in.):||56.9|
|Shoulder room, rear (in.):||49.7|
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.