In an unusual twist, BMW decided to release the redesigned 650i coupé after the drop-top version we snagged last November. The reason for the coupé’s late arrival is simple; BMW tells us it accounts for only about 30% of 6-series sales. Two-door luxury cars usually drive better than their chop-top sisters, but if you have the cash to burn and care about driving, should you still go topless?
Like it’s convertible twin, the 650i coupé has lost the “Bangle-butt” the previous generation wore , opting for clean, simple lines, a resurrection of chrome accents and more LEDs than the Home Depot lighting isle. While the convertible strikes it’s best poses topless (due to the awkward “buttressed” look caused by the vertical rear window) the coupé looks lean and mean from every angle. Like the 6-series convertible, the 650i coupé can be had with LED headlamps. While they are not notably “better” than HIDs, they sound much cooler when you tell your friends.
BMW may not have Jaguar’s way with style, but the 650’s cabin is exquisitely assembled. From the stitched leather dash (optional, but every 6-series on the lot at my local dealer was so equipped), to the perfect wood trim, the attention to detail is second to none. Gone are the awkward oval shapes from the 2010 650i, and in their place is a tall dashboard dominated by the ginormous, high-resolution, 10.2-inch, widescreen iDrive display. Jumping up from the 640i to the 650i brings BMW’s 24-way front seats (20 of the ways are powered and the last four are manual headrest adjustments) instead of the plebeian 10-way variety. This upgrade also opens the door to ventilated anti-fatigue thrones which use air bladders to cut road-trip butt-fatigue. While they work as advertised, the feeling of having your backside slowly groped takes some getting used to. Should faux-suede and snazzier leather be your thing, BMW would be happy to slather the headliner in acres of Alcantara and broaden your hide palate with an additional 5 colors for the princely sum of $7,700.
iDrive has come a long way since it’s introduction, and while it can still be unintuitive and overly complicated at times, it is quite simply the ultimate in-car attraction for my inner nerd. Rather than taking Jaguar’s performance-minimalism attitude to technology, the 6-series can be had with everything from radar cruise control, lane departure warning, self-parking and pre-collision warning systems that are becoming commonplace to the truly unique full-color heads up display and FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) camera system with pedestrian detection. Unlike Volvo’s system that will stop the car to prevent an impact, the 650i will let you know pedestrians are in the roadway, but it’s up to you to act on the information. I’m still unsure whether I’d rather my car took action to prevent a collision without telling me beforehand, or if I’d like my car to tell me but not take any other action at all. Sound off in the comment section and let us know what you think.
Our 650 tester was equipped with the optional iPhone dock (available for the iPhone 4, 4S and select Blackberry devices) which charges the iPhone as well as allowing an all-new feature to be used: Apple’s “video out”. While this feature is in its infancy, it may allow greater functionality in the future and here’s why: the interface you see in iDrive while in this mode is actually generated by your iPhone, not the car. Sorry Droid fans, because just about every Droid phone is different BMW doesn’t make a dock for your smartphone right now. At the moment while the dock is nice it doesn’t allow the use of your iPhone’s case and instrument cluster display isn’t capable of displaying track and playlist information while in this mode. Checkout the video link below to see “video out” in action.
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. Thanks to the hairdryers, torque gets to the boil by 1,750 RPM and stays on strong all the way to 4500 RPM, which is quite a departure from both the previous 650i and the Jaguar XK8 and their peaky power curves. The benefit of the broad powerband and all-new 8-speed ZF automatic is obvious when you take a look at the 0-60 time, which we clocked at 4.23 seconds. This is not only 0.46 seconds faster than the convertible 650i we tested (it had skinnier tires), but also notably faster than the lighter XK8 and about equal to the 510HP XKR (wheel spin is the XKR’s enemy). 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 Jag’s 5.0L V8. While the new Jaguar XKR-S and BMW M6 will duke out the high-end of the turbo vs supercharger war with their 550 and 560 horsepower engines, the real performance secret is the 650i AWD which ran to 60 in 4.22 seconds due to the enhanced grip, and will post similar numbers rain or shine with very little drama. The M6 on the other hand is likely to behave similarly to the XKR-S (a review of which will be posted in the coming weeks) with 3.8-3.9 second runs to 60 amid severe traction control intervention and only on perfect road surfaces.
The 650i is a heavy car at 4,233lbs and thanks to the electric power steering, it feels like it on the twisties. While not as numb as Mercedes’ CL550 4Matic, the XK8 is by far the driver’s car, due as much to its 500lb lower curb weight as its hydraulic power steering. Despite the lack of feel, the 650i handles very well and is extremely confident in the corners. Performance-enhancing options include a “rear tire bump” from the stock 245-width rubber to 275s, an upgrade worth getting if you’re buying the RWD 650i as the extra rubber helps apply the power. Regardless of the rear tire sizing, the fronts stay 245s and as a result the 650i can occasionally feels like it’s heading for the bushes when pushed hard. The 8-speed transmission is certainly geared more toward economy than sport and the feeling becomes obvious when you slip behind the wheel of an XK with ZF’s 6-speed. Even in sport mode where the 8-speed all but locks out gears 7 and 8, the older 6-speed is far more eager to do your bidding, and Jaguar tunes the ZF transmission for fast, crisp shifts.
Our 650i started with a “reasonable” $83,000 base MSRP (the XK8 starts at $84,500 and the CL at $114,100) to which was added the following: a no-charge “fine line oak” trim, $750 cold weather package (heated seats and steering wheel), $2,900 full-LED package with 20″ wheels, $3,700 “driver assistance” package (heads-up display, blind spot warning, all-around-view cameras, self parking, and lane departure warning), $5,500 Bang & Olufsen sound system (with iPod/USB adapter and satellite radio), $2,600 night vision, $1,750 four-wheel active steering and $1,500 for the leather dashboard. After options, our total out-the-door MSRP ballooned to an eye-popping $102,845. It’s good to be king. While it’s not possible to comparably equip an XK8 due to the lack of gadgetry, de-contenting the 650i reveals a pricing structure roughly in-line with the Jag, and considerably less than the Mercedes CL550 we looked at last September.
It seems that every review of the 6-series I have read bemoans the ever-increasing weight and dimensions of BMW’s premium two-door. This reviewer however sees absolutely no problem with the portly nature of the 6-series. The two-ton-plus curb weight and long wheelbase give the 6-series a compliant ride on even the most broken pavement and the active suspension does an admirable job of adjusting the damping enough for some tail-wagging fun if required. Most importantly however; with the twin-turbo fire-breather under the hood, this nearly 4,300lb whale can dance. For the past 20 years BMW has been gradually becoming the new Mercedes, a transition which I applaud. With enough gadgets to keep Bill Gates happy and an interior that is as perfect as anything this side of Aston Martin, the 650i may just be the ultimate luxury GT, except I would never buy it. Why? Because BMW makes an AWD drop-top 650i.
BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.
Specifications as tested
0-30: 1.81 Seconds
0-60: 4.23 Seconds
0-100: 10.56 Seconds
1/4 mile: 12.7 Seconds @ 110.2MPH