By on November 21, 2007

zoomn.jpgJournalists on this site have complained about how ugly and technologically complex recent BMWs have become. To that list I would also add a jarring ride, an overly aggressive throttle tip-in and jerky transmissions. Don’t get me wrong. In the main, the propeller people’s products still do exactly what it says on the tin: ultimate driving. But these defects make it difficult to drive most Bimmers smoothly, as one can an equivalent Mercedes, Audi or Cadillac (CTS). So when my BMW buddy nagged me to check out the 2008 650i coupe, I wondered: why bother?

The 650i is considerably less aesthetically offensive than its predecessor; Bimmer’s booted bling for a more brand faithful return to understated elegance. They’ve enhanced the 6-Series’ strongest feature– its front end– by subtle tweaking the lower front bumper. The air intake is significantly wider than previous, and the borders at the bottom emphasize the car’s extra wide stance. Above, new LED lights form “eyebrows” over the headlamps, ditching Dame Edna’s glasses for a more austere look.

rear.jpgThe biggest improvement lives where the 650i needed it the most: the rear. The “Bangle butt” rear deck has lost some of its mass and rises less steeply from the body. It’s also been slightly sculpted to bring an element of shape and style to what was once a blunt and hideous tail. As a result, the entire car gains coherence and loses affectation. It’s less stunt and floss and more Stirling Moss.

I’ve always appreciated the 6-Series’ curvilinear dash, which envelops the driver like a good cockpit should. BMW now offers an extended leather package (included with the pearl  effect cow hide) that covers the 650i’s dash and console with phenomenally plush leather. As an interior accent, it makes the world’s best seating material. The chairs still have annoying limitations to their range of adjustments, but the aforementioned leather and new active headrests helps make them incredibly comfortable. 

interior.jpgBMW added a lot of bright work for 2008, with chrome accents on the steering wheel and transmission. Combined with Chateau red seats and carpets, the overall effect is twenty first century bordello. The audio system is superb, but the costly, non-adjustable heads-up display is set too low in the windscreen for easy viewing. The 650i's steering wheel is still pleasingly plump with shift paddles like those found in the 335.

I don’t know why BMW felt compelled to ruin a perfectly good shift knob design. The new electronic shifter is no goofier than iDrive, but not less either. Thankfully, BMW has rendered the iDrive multi-function wart superfluous except for navigation. You can now use six buttons (wasn’t eliminating buttons the point of iDrive?) to program functions which the wart made tortuous (e.g. changing the radio station). Plus, you can press the main HVAC controller and get into the same menus as iDrive. Can we skip to the bit where the wart evolves into history?

sideish.jpgThe 650i driving experience has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. On the standard setting, the coupe eases away from rest like a limo. Even with the 19” run flats included with the sport package, the 650i’s ride quality is both firm and velvety. Unlike the previous 6– which provided lingering reminders of each and every impact– the refreshed model detects and dismisses road imperfections with casual ease. A new feature called “comfort stop” helps to minimize twitchiness whilst braking. Put it together and the new 6 has finally found its true métier as an interstate-compatible boulevardier.

That said, it still has stones. The “make your passenger’s head bob like a Halloween apple” setting is summoned via sport mode. Push the button and overly aggressive and jerky shifts are yours for as long as you can endure them. The button also summons the full Monty from a 4.8-liter V8 packing 360 ponies and an equal amount of low down grunt, accelerating this 3,800 pound two-door from rest to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds.

profilesidev2.jpgEquipped with the optional active steering system, the 650i’s helm is still somewhat remote, but a lot less clinically detached. Turn-in is more predictable, adhesion limits are high and the learning curve for carving the curves is a lot less steep. That said, one quick bend and you’ll know this heavyweight is meant for long distance love rather than a teenage nervous breakdown. The 650i’s exhaust note signals the car’s sporting character (or lack thereof); it’s authoritative from outside the car and muted and refined from within.

In short, the 2008 BMW 650i is a thoroughly modern GT, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one. There is nothing under $100k which compares, except perhaps the Jaguar XK coupe, which offers less performance and features. The 650i is not just better than been, it’s been transformed into a truly desirable ride. Once again, BMW has proved that evolution trumps expectation

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53 Comments on “BMW 650i Review...”


  • avatar
    slateslate

    happy t-giving. gobble gobble.

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    Honestly, while I like seeing an (overall) positive review on this site once in a while my eyes are still watering from looking at the 6 series. I think it’s a contender for ugliest BMW right now…possibly ugliest car in general. It looks like a road going dung beetle. There are certain cars that when I see them on the street buzzwords about their owners come to mind: “no taste”, “more money then knowledge”, “secretly wants to be a pimp”. The 6 series will always bring to mind “middle aged image conscious wanker who’d buy an ugly stick if it were priced high enough”.

  • avatar
    sk8inkid

    awesome. great review. only thing is i think the chrome interiors look hideously cheap. As nice as BMW interiors are, thers still something that screams cheap, I just can’t place it (iDrive itself perhaps?) A car like this should have a classed up interior, and the chrome trim option just screams acura tl garbage.

  • avatar
    sk8inkid

    beetlebug :
    I think its a great looking car. Aggressive looking yet refined at the same time. I still prefer the looks of the CL, but I think this is def more aggressive looking than a GT.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    As far as the rear goes, it still doesn’t look right; granted, the picture here is fairly small, but the trunk looks grafted on. I’m not sure they’ve got this right yet…the quarter angle gives me a Tiburonesque vibe.

    BTW: What’s w/the gaps on the deck lid? They’re fairly pronounced…especialy for a vehicle like this.

  • avatar
    JJ

    I think the 6-series is probably the best looking Bangle BMW. The design also grows on you. I think the 5-series is the worst one. Maybe that is psychologically influenced by it being the successor to the E39. Which was the benchmark car in almost every way till years after it was launched. I hope BMW knows what it is doing planning to launch a whole range of new models now. It seems the example set by Mercedes is not the best one to follow…

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    Whatever BMW might have done to the looks hasn’t helped enough, IMO.

    Compare the 650s looks, performance and pricing to the Audi S5:

    The Audi has no “contrived” styling elements, and offers GT performance alloyed with quattro and a killer interior, all for $40K less than the Bimmer.

    ’nuff said.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Look like an Acura TL but I love it because it’s a manual

  • avatar
    cyclopticgaze

    I really like the look of the hardtop 6. The ragtop, not so much. Really, my biggest complaint about the exterior is the chrome trim added to the top of each kidney grille. They’re superfluous and distracting. Like a well groomed double mustache that is not endearing.

    Good to hear that iDrive is getting more and more “deprecated”, replaced by proper controls. I think I even see KNOBS on that dash. BMWs has been so button crazy since the mid-90s and it’s always driven me nuts. (E.g.: Why use buttons for “hotter” and “colder” when a knob is clearly called for?) I guess BMW designers are slowly learning that an updated look does not mean better functionality.

  • avatar
    Mj0lnir

    JJ :
    November 21st, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I hope BMW knows what it is doing planning to launch a whole range of new models now.

    The 135i looks like a nice little car, but it’s priced in the mid $30k range, and word on the street is a sport package 135i will be about $36,500.

    Go to BMWUSA.com and price a 335i Coupe with the sport package- $42,675- for a car with the same horsepower, more interior space, and only ~300 pounds more weight.

    I’m not sure BMW knows what it is doing.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    I agree that the 650i is less offensive than the 645i, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good looking car. The sad part is the overall dimensions and shape are there, it’s the details that bring the look of the car down from an 8 or a 9 to a 5 or a 6. Why would anybody think it’s a good idea to have a trunk lid that makes the car look like it’s still carrying camouflages from a spy photo?

    JJ is right that the new 5 is absolutely hideous (especially compared to the classy, understated but still masculine 540i that preceded it) but the 6 is pretty bad too, especially for the price

    “It’s less stunt and floss and more Stirling Moss.” Has to be one of the best sentences I’ve read on this site though

  • avatar

    The 6-series is perhaps the second ugliest of the modern BMWs, right after the Z4. The droopy snout, the trunk that never looks like it is closed, the slightly off proportions of the body.

    The drive is nicer, but I can’t imagine coming out every day to my garage and looking at this lump of metal and feeling anything but disgust, and by that standard the XK is a bargain.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Great review. But I can’t agree with the styling being anything but ugly. Less ugly yes but still ugly. I can’t wait until this Bangle period is over and someone with taste is at the design helm. The proportions are completely retarded and makes your eye take a double take in the wrong way. The front is droopy the back is fat and bulbous. Maybe they should get some styling help from the Japanese because they have been more successful at BMW styling than the Germans of late, before they started copying Bangle’s lead(2008 Accord).

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    If as you say its only competition is the Jaguar XK I will have to say I think the Jaguar won, even if it has fewer features and less performance. Of course BMW’s have never really been a car to win a award for their styling have they? Of course my dream car would be one with Italian or French styling, American comfort and German/Japanese mechanicals. Anyone want to bring back the Dual Ghia?

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Not that it’s the same class of automobile, but this review (and the photos) are making the G37 look more and more attractive (visually and financially).

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    The BMW 650ci will appear to be a very good car until you step down and sample a 3 series coupe or Infiniti G37. A back to back drive in a 650 and a 335i (half the price) will leave you thinking that the 650 is one over-priced POS dog of a car.

    To truly judge a car like this you need a benchmark, and if we use a far less expensive car like a G37 we see just how lack-luster this $100,000 thing actually is.

    Another way to judge how good a car in this high-end class is to look at where and with who this things end up with atfer only a short year or so of life. The BMW 650 get to share the “Ghetto Queen” award with the Land Rover Range Rover. These things all seem to end up on the “Hood” luxury used car lots within a year of being driven off the BMW dealer lot. It is the same situation as with the 850ci of 17 years ago, the BMW that real BMW fans just seem to hate with a passion.
    The only people I see driving these things are young pimp looking dudes with corn row braids in their hair.

    Other than the fact that it is a $100,000 BMW there isnt much to admire about this car. For one the interior aluminum and wood applied to the dash looks like it was ordered out of the back section of Car and Driver. The car itself looks like a big phallic symbol. As noted in the review the steering is less than stellar The performance is so so at best for a 100grand car.
    It is no wonder that the majority of tools you see driving around in these things look like they know and care nothing about cars.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    The 6 has the face of an anteater and a Rosie O’Donnell ass.

  • avatar
    Pelle Schultz

    No matter how de-Bangled the 6 series gets, the heinous distinctive pedigree is still apparent. Butt-ugly is no way to go through model life. A shame, really.

  • avatar
    26theone

    Why does BMW continue to screw up the grille on this car with that horizontal chrome piece on the top of the kidneys? It looks awful on the current 3 series sedan as well. Note they have a proper grill on the 3 series coupe and the new M3 sedan as well as the 5 and 7 series. I cant for the life of me figure out why they think that looks good.

  • avatar
    Cardude

    People always criticized the way the BMW 7 serious looks. I remember on top gear they said ever since an american took over the design team it went down hill. On my blog Ten Gears http://www.tengears.com I always talked about this issues before. PS great review

  • avatar

    Welcome back, Jay! That was a great review, even though I couldn’t possibly give this Bimmer a 4 star rating for exterior styling. That said, it sounds like the improvements are a significant step up from the M6 I drove a while back. No SMG, either.

    Ultimate driving machine or not, I’ll still take a slightly used (heavily depreciated) CL 55 AMG over this thing.

  • avatar
    shoes

    Thanks Sajeev. The CL is simply too large a car to be sporting in my book. I always feel like I am driving a 2 door S Class instead of a true coupe. Those 3 words in the BMW option guide were music to my ears: “No SMG available”.

  • avatar

    Very true, Jay. Though I can’t get enjoy the size and 3800lb heft of the 6-series, its still significantly sportier than the CL.

    But does the 650′s sporting middle ground actually work when there’s a real sports coupe (911…hey its got a back seat!) and a real luxo-GT (CL)?

    I’m sure the answer is yes, but I want to throw that out for debate. Its almost Thanksgiving people, gotta have some fun!

  • avatar

    I liked the 60s/70s 2800CS and 3000CS, and I always liked the old 6-series, but the current 6 still bugs me. The styling revisions have toned down some of the more offensive elements, but it remains unattractive. Its size and heft make it far from relevant in the current market, and if I wanted a big coupe, I think a Corvette Z06 seems like a better bet. Maybe not that reliable, but neither is the 6, and at least the ‘Vette is likely to be cheaper when it does break. If I was desperate for German pedigree, which I’m not, there’s always the Cayman and 911.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Yes, the Z4 is ugly. As one of the reviewers here aptly pointed out, it looks like a running shoe.

    I think it’s a contender for ugliest BMW right now…possibly ugliest car in general. It looks like a road going dung beetle.

    What’s not to like? The fact that from the front it looks like some benthic fish waiting for a hapless minnow to swim by, or that fact that from the back it looks like a melted 911?

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Welcome back, Maestro. It’s a pleasure to read your thoughtful reviews on TTAC. Few writers possess the gravitas to submit such authentic automotive evaluations.

  • avatar
    rennf

    For me, the last picture in the review says it all. Butt-ugly, pun intended.

    I believe the overall silhouette would improve tremendously if they surgically removed the superfluous trunk wart, and drew a continuous smooth line flowing from the roofline down to the rear bumper. (reminiscent of Porsche design)

    I imagine this option was rejected to maintain trunk space per the (un?)written “golf club bag” rule. However, in this case, the Product Design Lead allowed one use-case requirement to kill (IMO) the design vision.

    Much as others have noted, in a similar price range I’d go for a Jag XK in a heartbeat. If the finances were there, upgrade to an Aston. Or, save yourself considerable cash and get the 335i coupe.

    But that trunk wart… Hated it on the 1st gen, still hating it for the 2nd.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I would imagine that the main advantage of this car lies in its ability to cruise at 130mph for 8 hours or so. Probably, it’s much more relaxing for that task than the G37 or the 335i.

    So, if you are a northern European or Polish quasipotentate and don’t want to rely on airlines to get to your Swiss chalet, it’s pretty darn useful.

    But what else is it good for?

  • avatar

    I don’t understand the need for detailed description of the appearance in and out. Just show us photos. I’m more interested in reading about how the thing drives, and any practical considerations. That said, this is a plain vanilla BMW. The styling is inoffensive–except for the afore-mentioned Dame Edna’s glasses (excellent!)–but the car is just another boring wedge. I like the Bangle-ized bimmers better, except for the eyes. Besides those, I like most of the Acuras, and most everything else, except for Porsches, Audi TT, and a few other standouts ranges from inoffensive to ugly.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    shoes-I’ve never understood the concept of large coupes. What is the point of having a large car if it’s still a pain in the butt to get into the rear seats (plus the doors end up being freaking huge)? Unless it’s pure style over substance, I don’t get it.

    Large cars should have four doors. Heck, even a midsized coupe is pushing it. A coupe means “the backseat is for decoration only”.

  • avatar
    s mike

    A perfumed pig but a pig still none the less.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    I am actually in the market for a car like this, but even with the revised styling I cannot put up with the way this thing looks. It has good proportions, but nearly every place you look, it has overwrought details.

    My choices are now down to the Merc CL550, the M6 Coupe, or the Maserati GS/GT. If it weren’t for the Bangle crap, the M6 would be a contender – as it stands, I think this dog is out.

    I am not sure about the Maserati’s reliability – does anyone have data? Just earlier today around noon, I saw one parked on the shoulder of the freeway (Hwy 85 Southbound, near the Saratoga Ave exit) – had to do a double take as I passed, it was a dark Maser coupe.

    Unless I find some reliability data about the Maserati, I think the boys from Stuttgart are going to get my money.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    the Porsche 928 was still better (i loved that car – the german mustang)

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    I’ll take a CL550 over this car all day. Superior ride, beautiful interior, and a plethora of available toys. Not to mention a smooth 382 horsepower V8 hooked up to a silky 7 speed transmission.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    This thing is still very, very, very ugly. Am am with Drifter on this one. It still goes for the bling factor. This is a car that will be in the garage of one too many rapper, soccer and lottery winner around the world.

    BMW designers should be quarantined for at least one year at Aston Martin before being allowed back into the drawing board.

  • avatar
    mkeenly

    This car is ugly, ugly, ugly. I don’t care how
    good the car supposedly is, it is ugly. Did I
    say it is ugly? :)

  • avatar
    karkidd

    I’m confused–I looked at dozens of pictures of the “old” BMW 6-series and I see *no* difference between the trunks of the previous models and this 2008 model.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    bmw 6-series visual analysis.
    flaws.
    # A car costing over 70k should have better gap tolerances between bumpers and fenders, and between front bumper, hood and headlights. otherwise all korean 12k cars have narrower gaps between panels.
    # trunk lid looks amateur because the way it visualy connects to the fenders makes it look as it was tyorn off some other car and stamped on this bmw. the long side line is breaking angle in place where it opens to fender.
    # power door switches have different angle than hte plastic panel`s edge where it is located.
    # there is a stylistical mismatch of round shapes like the kettle lid on the steering wheel, with agressively edged ones like the radio console.
    # the panel under cd-slot is flat 2-dimensional and looks like jigsawed from a plaque.
    # A/C controls look cheap, under-korean cheap. the car looks empty of gizmos. A/c should always have buttons and a seperate screen for A/C to make more gizmo-looks( for premium cars)even if a sports car should be easy readable and not overstuffed. (learn from Honda NSX)
    # speakers in doors are not submersed and have too thick rims, looks custom, not factory.
    # using light materials on interior door panels you should have a perfect fit between doors and dashboard front panel, otherwise white materials make the gaps look enormous.
    # the grey button next to cd slot for releasing a cd looks primitive. and what is this thin polished line between central vents and a/c supposed to mean? were trying to hide gaps with an aluminum wire?
    # the small luggage net besides the front passenger left leg looks so german, and so ugly.
    etc, etc…….

  • avatar
    ghillie

    Going by the photos I think it looks ok – if a little plain for a car that expensive…… except for that rear. It ugliness dominates any other positive features of the car’s (external) appearance.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    It’s ugly, albeit less ugly than its predecessors.

    It’s pretentious also.

    geeze, what a tasteless mess this car is.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’m surprised that no one has compared this car to the Audi A5. Just came from the LA Auto Show and that Audi is beautiful. If BMW doesn’t get back to basics with its designs, it’s only a matter of time before talk of the buck naked emperor becomes commonplace. Bangle needs to find a new line of design work…. how about Dolce and Gabbana sunglass designer?

    The A5 (and for that matter, all Audi cars) have coherent designs that look right, don’t screw up the proportions (except for the schnoz) and are priced better.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    Car journalists talking about bling, stuntin’, flossin’, etc, should probably stop in their tracks. These are terms that eclipse the knowledge of nearly every automotive journalist around. They are modern, from a different generation than that of those using them in print, and unless you’ve lived it and experienced it, don’t use it.

    The 650i is my favorite in its class, hands down, save the Maserati Gran Turismo.

  • avatar

    It seems pretty amazing that just a “refresh” can transform the car in such drastic manners.
    Good for them.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Ah, if only it were possible to return to the days when BMWs were sedate, purposeful, and restrained, and styling changes were limited to ‘same sausage, different length’.

    All one has to do is compare a pre-Bangle, pre-iDrive 750 E38 series with the E65 monstrosity that came after. I guess the Bangle cars sell well enough but it’s still depressing. *Sigh*.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Juri SB, your eye for detail is exemplary.

    If I was a TV car show producer, I’d do a show called something like “Juri sweats the details”, with you showing what’s wrong with so many contemporary cars, and what’s right with some. I say this without irony.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    “Car journalists talking about bling, stuntin’, flossin’, etc, should probably stop in their tracks. These are terms that eclipse the knowledge of nearly every automotive journalist around. ”

    Actually, no, you’re wrong. Terms like “flossin” or “stuntin” represent a total lack of understanding of good design and willingness to accept anything tacky and ostentatious. If you just won the lottery, got a record deal, or wear a Sean John hoodie to work, you want to drive a car as pimpin as this. In spite of the harsh critisism hurled at this car, the journalists have been way too kind to this car only because it’s a BMW. The reality is that it is hideous. Hopefully the design of the next 6 will return to something smarter looking.

  • avatar
    zenith

    Don’t see the Aztek resemblance myself, though the headlamps are very Buick Rendezvous.

  • avatar
    minion444

    OK, I admit it. I love the way the car looks. But, I miss the original M6 back in the mid 80′s. My wife’s Uncle bought one new and the car was finicky but outrageous. The new 6 is sterile and dare I say boring?

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    “jkross22 :
    November 22nd, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I’m surprised that no one has compared this car to the Audi A5. Just came from the LA Auto Show and that Audi is beautiful.”
    ——————————-
    Uhh, what about this?

    ZCD2.7T :
    November 21st, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Whatever BMW might have done to the looks hasn’t helped enough, IMO.

    Compare the 650s looks, performance and pricing to the Audi S5:

    The Audi has no “contrived” styling elements, and offers GT performance alloyed with quattro and a killer interior, all for $40K less than the Bimmer.

    ’nuff said.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    More seriously, though…

    Funny, Jay, that you compare this car to the Jaguar. I think that this car, in the ’00s, is the replacement for the late 1980′s through mid-1990′s XJS. It seemed to me that that car was driven by “upper-middle-agelings” who were far more interested in the personal luxury of the vehicle than its potential as a driving machine – ultimate or otherwise.

    I just see these 6-Ser cars as being cream-puffed through life and never really driven, as were many an XJS (reliability factors aside) which is a shame. Though it may portend future availability of BMW-Certified, previously gently driven examples. Which is a good thing because it is a great car.

    Bu da still a ugly butt!

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @dgduris:

    You know, you are absolutely right. The people who have the money for these cars and don’t need the rear doors tend to be either young guys with successful car washes (the guy that owns the car wash across the street from a friend’s office) and old folks.

    You might say the same is true for the current Jag XK, as well as the Lexus SC430 and Mercedes SL. It’s sort of funny that these expensive personal lux coupes are often the first recipients of the crazy new technology (iDrive, etc) and their buyers are often the people who are least interested.

  • avatar
    mastermik

    I have to disagree… ugliest BMW goes to the X3. I like the 6… its mean.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    Yeah, the Corvette is such a “straight line” brainless muscle car.


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