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2006 BMW 6 Series review

December 24, 2005 09:27 PM EST | BMW , Convertibles , Coupes , Luxury Brands | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageThe 6 Series may not have the sleek, sexy sheet metal of its Mercedes-Benz rivals, but its satisfying combination of performance, luxury and technology will put you on top of the world.

Pros
Nimble handling, smooth and quiet ride, endless power from ultrasmooth V8, elegant interior design, supportive seats, large trunk in coupe.

Cons
Fussy iDrive control requires practice to operate, small backseat.

What's New for 2006
The 6 Series receives an engine upgrade in 2006 and now boasts a 4.8-liter V8 with 360 horsepower. As a result, nomenclature changes slightly, and the car is referred to as the 650i.

Introduction:
Big coupes have always occupied an awkward place in most manufacturers' lineups. As expensive as their sedan counterparts yet considerably less practical, luxury coupes target the narrow range of buyers who are willing to forego functional concerns to get a leg up in the style department. BMW has had mixed success with this formula. Its original 6 Series coupe that ran from 1977 to 1989 was known for its distinctive shape and was one of the few high-end coupes of that time to effectively blend high-performance and conspicuous luxury. But its successor, the technologically advanced but flabby 8 Series coupe, was a disappointment. Since 2004, BMW has been at it again with its latest 6 Series coupe.

The 650i's underpinnings are similar to those of BMW's 5 Series midsize luxury sedan, and it's powered by the same 360-horsepower, 4.8-liter V8 used in the 550i. Unlike most other luxury coupes, however, the 6 Series offers more than just your average automatic transmission. For those who truly enjoy maximum involvement, a six-speed manual and a Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) are also offered.

More than just raw power, the 6 Series incorporates numerous high-tech materials to keep its weight down. A composite trunk, aluminum suspension components, aluminum doors and thermoplastic front fenders all contribute to the effort, while the remaining bulk is perfectly balanced 50/50 front to rear. In addition, the 650i offers BMW's revolutionary Active Steering system that can adjust the steering ratio for maximum maneuverability whether you're at speed on the highway or inching into a parking space. Along with Active Steering, the 6 Series also incorporates Active Roll Stabilization, which helps suppress body roll during aggressive cornering.

Inside the 6 Series, BMW's improved but still challenging iDrive system controls the car's various functions while classic analog gauges provide the more pertinent information. All 6 Series coupes have a standard panorama glass roof that gives the car a more open-air feeling, while true sun worshippers can opt for the full-fledged convertible version. Thanks to its generous dimensions (it's bigger all around than a Mercedes CLK coupe), the 6 Series is spacious for two but like most coupes, it's very tight for four. The convertible's top drops in just under 30 seconds. With the side windows down, the 650i convertible remains placid at up to 50 mph. Power up the side windows and that placidity remains at speeds above 75 mph. For those seeking a "sunroof effect" from their convertible, BMW allows the 650's rear glass to rise, even with the top tucked away.

Overall, BMW's latest luxury coupe and convertible have impressed us. They may not be the high-dollar coupe and drop top on the market, but get behind the wheel and either one will make you feel on top of the world. All the while, you'll get to enjoy a luxurious cockpit that conveniently doesn't have much room in back for annoying friends or co-workers. And if you like technology, the 6 Series has plenty of it, but for the most part, it doesn't get in the way of the most important activity of all: Driving.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
Available as a two-door coupe or a convertible, the 650i comes standard with items like 18-inch wheels with run-flat tires, premium leather upholstery, wood trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, an MP3-compatible CD player, Bluetooth wireless capability, a full set of one-touch power windows, heated power mirrors and a power top for the convertible. The front seats feature multiple power adjustments, driver memory and electric heaters for a perfect fit and a warm backside. The iDrive vehicle management system is integrated into the console, while a DVD-based navigation system with voice command and park distance control also comes standard. Active cruise control is optional. On the audio side, buyers can opt for a glovebox-mounted CD changer, as well as a premium-grade Harman Kardon Logic 7 sound system. An optional sport package adds BMW's unique Active Steering system along with sport seats and larger wheel and tires.

Powertrains and Performance:
All 6 Series coupes and convertibles come with a 4.8-liter V8 rated to produce 360 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. Shared with the 5 and 7 Series sedans, the eight-cylinder uses the latest in engine technology to produce a broad band of power while remaining remarkably smooth and silent. Three different transmissions allow you to choose varying levels of performance and driving effort. There's a six-speed manual for do-it-yourself enthusiasts, a six-speed automatic for those who don't really care how the shifts get done and a six-speed paddle-shifted Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) that offers a combination of both.

Safety:
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes fortified with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution are standard along with stability and traction control (BMW's DSC). Run-flat tires are optional along with adaptive headlights for better visibility. Other safety features include front side-impact in both cars, full-length side curtain airbags (coupe only) and a rollover protection system (convertible only).

Interior Design and Special Features:
Utilization of BMW's iDrive control system reduces button clutter to a minimum, making for a clean dash design but confusing operation of some controls. BMW's trademark analog gauges stare out from behind the steering wheel, while an optional head-up display offers to project pertinent vehicle info onto the windshield for less distraction. Thanks to its generous dimensions and standard panorama roof (coupes only) the 6 Series is spacious for two, but four adults make for a tight fit.

Driving Impressions:
Although it's not quite as nimble as BMW's smaller 3 Series coupe, the 650i is a very capable performer when driven hard. Its combination of modest weight and ample power make for quick acceleration from any speed. The Active Roll Stabilization system keeps the big coupe flat around corners, and the lightweight suspension does its part to maintain traction and soak up the bumps. The wide range of transmissions allows you to tailor the 6 Series to your particular driving style, so consider the options carefully.

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