By on June 1, 2004

 The instant you fire-up BMW's new 645Ci, a chime buried deep in the dash rings out. "BLING!" In fact, it does it twice: BLING! BLING! Point taken. From its backlit kick panels, to the chrome "eyelids" over the kidney-shaped grills, to the gigantic wheels and tires filling massive, flared arches, the 645Ci boasts more street style than a Bronx block party. The hard-top 6 seeks a home with BMW's traditional Euro-snob consumers, but the drop-top 6 wants to chill on the driveway of one of MTV's crib-tastic celebs.

And why not? Forget all that wind-in-the-hair BS. Anyone who's actually owned a convertible knows the genre is an open invitation to sunburn, sunstroke, earache, deafness, bad hair and (lest we forget) decapitation. Convertibles are all about posing. A $76k Bimmer cabriolet is, by its very nature, a technological tour de force. But it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that bling.

 Like I said, the 645Ci is all that. A large part of the car's gangsta chic is down to BMW's infamous "flame surfacing": the exterior style currently afflicting the 5 and 7-Series. This time it works. The 645Ci's farrago of bulges, curves, creases, cuts and canvas is so odd, so utterly different depending on the viewing angle, even jaundiced car reviewers find themselves staring in silent wonder. Sure, the design will date faster than a theoretically divorced Brad Pitt. Meanwhile, the 645Ci's eye-candy street cred reigns supreme.

If onlookers somehow manage to miss the point, just press the roof button. Mercedes may have invented the flipping, turning, rotating and stowing tin top routine, but the 645Ci's canvas version is no less impressive, and you get a heated glass window that pops back up to [slightly] deflect unwelcome wind. How dope is that?

 So why is the 645Ci's cabin as austere as a monk's cell? iDrive. The universally reviled mouse controller replaces the ever-mounting array of switches and dials needed to control a luxury car's festival of toys, which leaves… nothing much. BMW's designers have made ample use of this nothing much, spreading it around the cabin evenly, blending it with black plastic, leather and brushed aluminum; to no appreciable effect whatsoever. No props to them, then.

Hopefully, BMW will extend its "Individual" program to the 645Ci. Discerning buyers could then bling-up their convertible Beemer with, say, orange leather seats, a champagne leather dash and piano-finished black interior trim stripes. Given the 654Ci's funereal functionalism and the drop-top driver's need to show off, even the oddest choices are bound to make perfect sense.

 You may have noticed that I haven't said a word about what it's like to drive the 645Ci. So here's the word: numb. Numb steering. Numb gearbox. Numb chassis. Numb brakes.

I've got nothing against numb cars. Mercedes originally earned my affection by building luxury transportation so completely devoid of sensation you felt as if you'd beamed yourself to your destination. But times have changed; even Lexus offers drivers a dose of road feel (albeit highly filtered). You'd hardly expect BMW, self-proclaimed provider of the "ultimate driving machine", to create a car that harkens back to the glory days of brain-dead luxo-barges.

The 645Ci's engine adds to the sense of disappointment– because it's so good. The 4.4-liter V8 is a bit sluggish (numb?) at low revs, but once it inhales a proper hit of gas, it's like rousting a lion with a pointy stick. Thanks to a 'variable-effect resonator' in the exhaust system, the soundtrack switches from contented purr to demented roar, and the 645Ci leaps into action.

Zero to sixty takes six seconds – not bad for a car weighing over two tons. The company claims their all aluminum powerplant gets the job done with just 325hp, but I'd swear The Boys from Bavaria are hiding an extra 50 horses somewhere. Again, you've got to stoke the engine above 3600rpms to gain access to maximum shove (330ft.-lbs. of torque), but once you do, you'll be glad you did.

Until you come to a corner. The weird thing is that the 645Ci actually corners quite well. Its Active Roll Stabilization system tightens-up the big Bimmer's roll bars on the appropriate side to create astounding poise through the curves. But there's no joy in it. Remote control steering, stiff run-flats and a no-motion chassis makes it nearly impossible to judge what the car is up to at any given moment. If you don't switch off the handling nanny, the only indication that fun's out there – somewhere – is a sudden and dramatic loss of engine power.

And there you have it: a posemobile that's sexy, fast and dynamically dull. If you're a wealthy buyer who enjoys "stunting" and "flossing", or are prepared to learn what that means, the 645Ci is your ride. If you like driving, your Porsche awaits.

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