By on November 11, 2011

Full-size high-end luxury convertibles that don’t have budget origins are not as common as you might think (or like). E-Class Cabrio? Too cheap. A5 Cabrio? Same problem. So if you’ve $90,000+ burning a hole in your pocket for a topless two-door what should you get?  Obviously Astons and Bentleys are out of your price range in this down economy (we all must economize after all), and you have trouble justifying the stretch to the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible’s $132,000 base price, that leaves BMW and Jaguar to battle in this broom-closet sized market. Whatever is the almost-wealthy shopper to do? Let’s find out

On the outside, the old 6-series wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but the new model seems to be a universally good looking car according to my usual band of “Joe six-packs”. Up front the 6 wears BMW’s new corporate pedestrian friendly schnoz easily identified by the dual large grills, and overall high and flat leading surface. Continuing along the side we find sharper lines and new sheet metal give the new 6 a lower, wider look (without actually being much lower than the outgoing model) that is accentuated when the convertible top is lowered. Speaking of that top, the 6-series continues to sport a folding canvas top instead of the trendy folding hard tops. Supposedly the decision was several fold: the canvas top is lighter, changes the weight balance of the car less when it is down, it’s faster to lower/raise and can be done at speeds up to 25MPH (and of course, it’s cheaper). Of course, Jag’s XK convertible looks like sex, so on the looks front despite the BMW being very attractive; my vote is for the XK.

BMW has taken great strides with the new 6-series interior in both style and finish. The cockpit is far more “driver oriented” than the previous generation convertible and the parts all scream high-rent. The new large, high-resolution iDrive screen is the dominant feature on the dash, perched high and just about in your line of sight (in a good way). While other iDrive displays have been positioned in dedicated binacle or well-integrated into the dash, the 6’s iDrive gives the appearance of a pop-up screen without the pop. The look is well executed and makes the dash seem less “bulky” than other BMW products. This reduced bulk is needed as the high belt line and overall large proportions conspire to make average sized men feel small behind the wheel. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually like feeling small. The $1,500 optional stitched dashboard (as our tester was equipped) visually puts the 650i’s interior in the same class as the Jaguar XKR and Aston Martin’s “budget” coupés.

Luxury cars are all about the gizmos, the 6-series continues to wear it’s crown as the reigning gadget king. The aforementioned wide-screen 10.2 inch iDrive display is as close to perfection as I have seen. People complain about iDrive being hard to use, but I find it fairly intuitive. If you are a person familiar with technology at all, you will acclimate to iDrive quickly. If however you’re trading in your old 1970s S-class convertible as part of your new life in a Floridian retirement home, you might want to bring a 14-year old with you when you need to change the AM radio station. For the rest of us, iDrive is far more elegant in look and function than Mercedes COMMAND, more feature rich than Infiniti’s setup, a decade more modern than Lexus’s nav software, more reliable than SYNC, and easier to use than Audi’s MMI. Aston Martin? They’re still stuck in the last century. Jaguar’s system is more agreeable to my tastes than COMMAND, but still a step behind Audi’s MMI and iDrive until Jaguar decides to put the XJ’s new touch screen in the smaller kitty.

New on the scene for iDrive is the new iPhone/smartphone app. I’m not entirely sure why you would need to tweet or Facebook post while you are driving, but iDrive does make it easy to accomplish both, while blasting down the freeway topless. The system will not only read your posts to you, but it will even pull information from iDrive’s phone history, navigation system and even the car’s thermometer to generate slightly personalized canned posts like “It is 65 degrees and I am driving my BMW” or “Headed to 123 Main Street” or “Spoke with Jane Doe on the phone”. While Facebook is a novelty, the web radio app is the feature that makes the $250 option worth considering. The radio app allows you to select from RadioTime.com’s list of streaming internet radio stations (Pandora lovers look elsewhere). The radio streaming worked surprisingly well even over the maligned AT&T network on my iPhone 4. The only complaint I have about the way BMW’s app works is that [on the iPhone at least] the app must be loaded and the active app in order for the car to sync, so while you can Facebook post while driving, you have to leave the app to read your text messages or control anything on the phone. For that last mile, BMW’s app allows you to continue navigating to your destination if you’ve had to park several blocks away and you can glance at your last known fuel level and distance to empty numbers.

Other than the overtly “techy” gadgets, the list of safety features and optional gadgets on the 6 is extensive. The pricey option list includes goodies like a $2,600 night vision system, $3,700 “Drive Assistance Package” which gives you a plethora of cameras, a new full-color heads up display, lane departure warning and the very trendy self-parallel-parking feature, a $1,500 seat enhancement package that gives you active seats and seat ventilation, $650 to replace the plastic knobs with ceramic, and a whopping $3,700 for the Bang & Olufsen sound system. Strangely enough BMW has not decided to create a side impact airbag system ala Volvo’s C70, a shame when the rich seem usually prepared to spend big on features to save their backside (or brain in this case).

At 400HP and 450 lb-ft, the 650i’s new 4.4L twin-turbo engine is up 40HP and 90 lb-ft compared to the outgoing 4.8L naturally aspirated engine from last year. While there is a hair of turbo lag, thanks to the twin hairdryers torque gets to the boil by 1,750 RPM and stays on strong all the way to 4500 RPM where it tapers off gradually. The new engine sends power to the rear (or all four wheels with the optional AWD) via a new 8-Speed ZF transmission. The combination of the turbos, increased oomph, and extra cogs results in the 0-60 time dropping from a quoted 5.4 to a quoted 4.9 putting the 650i in the same class as a few BMW M products I could mention and 0.4 seconds faster than the 385HP Jaguar XK’s quoted time. Of course with BMW quoted times aren’t worth much and the 650i is no different clocking in a cool 4.69 second 0-60 sprint time after time. Despite a not-insignificant weight gain due to the loss of the aluminum front end the 2011 sported, the new 6 is one seriously fast beast. The only downside to the turbo charged nature of the 650i seems to be the exhaust note, the 650i just doesn’t sound as nice as the Jaguar XK or XKR’s  5.0L V8 and this is likely due to the turbos in the exhaust stream. While the 4.4L turbo is powerful, the 650i seems to lack the urgency of some new Mercedes products with their new twin-turbo V8. Fear not speed lovers, an M6 is on the way which will surely put those fears to rest.

Out on the road the 650i convertible is a heavy car and it shows, not in the handling but the feel. The 650 just doesn’t feel as connected to the road as the Jaguar XK, likely due as much to the electric power steering as the 4,531lb curb weight. While come may complain about this, I can’t say I expect my over-two-ton convertible to be a corner carver, the 6-series is very much a GT and in this role it shines. The optional sport package (as our tester was equipped) includes active suspension, active anti-roll bars, and some seriously wide 275-width rubber out back (the fronts remain 245s). Still despite the added tech, the XKR is still the better driver’s car. The Jag is (and feels) considerably lighter on the road, the 6-speed ZF transmission is far more eager to do your bidding and the steering is far more connected and direct, not to mention the XKR’s 5.0L V8 plays one of the most amazing sound tracks available on our shores. Our readers know I’m an AWD fan and even if the 650i wasn’t loaded with all my favorite gadgets, I’d buy it over an XKR for the AWD’s year round drivability.

When it comes time to buy your fourth car (BMW tells us most 6 series buyers have at least 3-4 cars in their stable), what should you buy? This depends on what you’re after. If you care about modern gadgets and technology in your topless GT, the 650i is the hands-down winner. The 650i also slots neatly between the slightly slower Jaguar XK and the considerably faster XJR in terms of performance and price (depending on options). If however you’re after the a more engaging drive, better exhaust note and exquisite exterior style, the Jaguar XKR is the ride for you, it just won’t tweet your friends about it.

 

BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Statistics as tested

0-30: 1.72 Seconds

0-60: 4.69 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13 Seconds @ 109.8 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 17.2 MPG over 383 miles

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26 Comments on “Review: 2012 BMW 650i Convertible...”


  • avatar
    Steven02

    I really think BMW and Aston Martin make some of the most beautiful cars on the road. This is an example. It even looks good in that color… but I would have to pick something else.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I don’t know if it’s intentional, but that little “upkink” in the side bodywork looks like a subtle homage to the old 502:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f4/BMW_Barockengel.jpg/800px-BMW_Barockengel.jpg

    Come to think of it, those 502 hubcaps would look pretty good on the 6, IMO.

  • avatar
    Tifighter

    4531 lbs. Wow.

  • avatar

    Haven’t driven one yet. But just sitting in the driver’s seat I was surprised by the small size of the windshield. There’s only a little over a vertical foot from the top of the instrument binnacle to the windshield header.

  • avatar
    jcain

    Pandora actually does work with the BMW Apps feature. I have it in my 2011 M3 and it’s pretty well done. You plug your phone into the car, load the normal Pandora app, and the iDrive screen allows you to choose/add stations, add thumbs up/down. etc.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    If I had to guess this car’s 0-60 from the passenger seat, I’d have pegged it for mid-5s. It feels like a big, heavy bruiser, and not particularly fast or agile. Another rolling BMW codpiece.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Sounds like a nice car to drive…

    Can I ask a question about noise? NOT that I am being picky, but this is an expensive car.
    I LIKE the soft top, so I was wondering about it. Is it pretty solid?
    I am presuming Jag’s XK is noisier.
    My friend’s hardtop 3 was horrible around Los Angeles! Creaking and cracking everywhere! And it cost over 62 grand!

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I’m curious about the noise, too. I love everything about my first generation Miata except the noise. Highway speeds are loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage.

      I wonder just how much all the refinement of a car like this manages to reduce that.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Actually the XK and the 650i are about equal on the noise front. The issue is the soft top. Even a VW EOS is quieter out on the road because of the hard top. As far as creaking and groaning, I cannot speak to long term mind you, but neither the XK nor the 650i’s roof made a peep even on very uneven road surfaces or over speed bumps or strange angles (I live off a rough gravel road).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    That’s a well-done HUD.

    Note to, eg, Ford: this is what you need to do; make your fancy ICE complement, rather than obviate controls that work well.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Why would Ford want a 90K plus car with 2 seats?
      Hopefully they can build Lincoln up without making it such an unreachable car.
      This price range is kind of stupid and only for bragging rights at the Cog Hill clubhouse.
      Not really big on the trophy thing.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I am pretty sure he was referring JUST to the connectivity software, comparing iDrive to Sync, or MyTouch, or MyFordTouchesMe, or whatever the heck Ford decided to call it lately…

  • avatar
    steeringwithmyknees

    Shout out to Los Gatos! Sometimes that town gives me nightmares, but it has one of the best italian places ever – tiny place on LGB between the high school from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the winding highway of death. mmmm MMMMM! We spend some summers (probably next) with family up in the redwoods near Summit Road and have more family in downtown LG, but I have to admit, if I go down the hill, it’s usually down the south side to where things are a bit more my summer speed, but not my weather. LG is a fantastic place for car lusting, though.

    The new 6 definitely looks like a big improvement.

  • avatar
    wsn

    “E-Class Cabrio? Too cheap. A5 Cabrio? Same problem. So if you’ve $90,000+ burning a hole in your pocket for a topless two-door what should you get? Obviously Astons and Bentleys are out of your price range in this down economy (we all must economize after all), and you have trouble justifying the stretch to the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible’s $132,000 base price, that leaves BMW and Jaguar to battle in this broom-closet sized market.”

    REALLY? I thought the MB SL class is the benchmark here. The SL has always been my dream car (minus the jelly bean headlights era). It just has unbeatable class.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Very nice car. Some people might not ‘get it’ since it’s a BMW so they expect it to be nimble (well…feel nimble) and sporty through the twisty bits but this is really build to be a GT cruiser.

    Personally I like the coupe a bit better as I usually do (exception; 458 spider) and I would also leave the V8 be and opt for the 640i with the turbocharged I6. The V8 is nice but I keep reading you do feel a bit of turbolag with it, plus it makes the nose a lot heavier (the weight difference between the two is 110 Kg, so I think that’s about about 230 lbs in silly measures).

    As far as the noise goes in Europe as part of the M-package (which judging by the photos is not the same as the Sport Package) you get a more throaty exhaust noise on the 650i that’s quite nice. Yes it’s artificial, but that’s common fare nowadays. Here’s a clip from a Dutch review of the 650i coupe with the M-package, the noise is at 2:57-3:07.

    http://www.autoweek.nl/video/2643/rij-impressie-bmw-650i-coupe

  • avatar

    “Daddy, tell me about cars when you were a kid.”

    “Well son, back in my day we had to roll down our windows with little cranks on the doors, and the doors had to be locked and unlocked with something called a ‘key’. To start the engine you had to use this ‘key’ to turn something called the ‘ignition’. When we wanted to change the radio or adjust the heat, we fiddled with something called ‘buttons’ and ‘switches’. And to drive the car we had to change between gears manually with something called a ‘shifter’, using an extra pedal called the ‘clutch’ every time we changed them. Sometimes we didn’t even have air conditioning, and power steering was optional! Back in those days it was hard to drive with a cup of coffee, you couldn’t even tweet while you were driving like you kids today. You know, you kids have it so easy these da…”

    “That’s cool dad, I’m going to go play XBox now.”

    I’m 25, and I already feel OLD. God damn this generation of electro-assisted witchcraft TO HELL. I learned to drive on a tractor, and graduated to a manually shifted Subaru when I was 16, and I’m glad I did. My generation will be the last to know what a real car was, before they became rolling Apple stores.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      you’re one of the lucky ones…with one exception, none of my nieces or nephews express any interest in driving for enjoyment. At least I managed to corrupt one, who bought a Mazdaspeed3, with a stick no less.

      The other downside to all this tech is long term fixbility. In my line of work I deal with large commercial building management and much of the newer air conditioning equipment is all controlled by proprietary microcontrollers. They work great, they add flexibility, and really help with efficiency. However, when the boards fail, replacements can only be sourced from the manufacturer who charges mightily for them. Worse, they become obsolete in 10 or so years. Now, replacement of the unit becomes the only option. It kills me to throw away a piece of equipment that should be on the job for 30 years because of nonsense like this. With a car like this what happens? Will the staggering cost of upkeep drive this car to a resale price of $9K in 10 years?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        The other downside to all this tech is long term fixbility.

        Which is mitigated by the fact that they are infinitely more reliable and durable.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        With a car like this BMW either you will drain your wallet just getting the thing road-worthy, or sell it.

        “Which is mitigated by the fact that they are infinitely more reliable and durable.”

        Until your steering wheel pops off, and be sure to tell GM that you want all 4 brake pads if you grab a Sonic.

  • avatar
    skor

    I say, “meh” to convertibles. Like Jeremy Clarkson once said, “The only person who ever looked good sitting the back of a convertible was Adolf Hilter.”

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    Looks like an improvement over the last version all the way around, but that’s the very definition of the phrase “damning with faint praise”…

    $90K would also get you an Audi S5 Cabrio, which is (arguably) better-looking, at least as classy, has AWD, and performs on par, while leaving ~$20K in your pocket….

  • avatar
    THE_F0nz

    They brought back the sad, thin, lower lip look….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pontiac_Grand_Prix_SE_sedan.jpg

    I didn’t like it back then and I don’t like it now. Hopefully they evolve like the Pontiac did:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pontiac_Grand_Prix_GT_coupe_–_10-12-2009.jpg


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