Cheltenham
The Cheltonian > Articles

BMW 6 Series Convertible

crack

If youíre going to be bold you canít always be beautiful. And if thereís a company executive nodding at that statement it will be one from BMW. Certainly, the German firm hasnít been afraid to push challenging designs in recent years.

One such model that caused a stir was the previous generation 6 Series. Along with the 5 and 7 Series models from the same era, BMWís desire to break away from the safe, conservative design language of old was evident from every angle.

Despite polarising opinion it proved to be a popular car on the world stage. And in convertible form the combination of interior space, drop-top practicality, BMWís trademark driving dynamics and a small but impressive choice of engines did much to boost its appeal.

Second time around and, while the carís profile will be familiar to many, the exterior changes are just enough to soften the carís once controversial nose and tail. The front now has shades of the latest 5 Series, while at the rear thereís a more conventional profile to the boot lid.

Despite the changes, this 6 Series remains a big, imposing car. Thatís no bad thing in what is a hugely competitive, if small, marketplace. If you want to make a statement, the 6 Series Convertible is a good place to start. And donít forget that this car is one of only a few offering four seats. The rear chairs might be modest but, if you have children, it might be the difference between purchasing and going elsewhere.

As before, another tempting feature of the 6 Series Convertible is its engine line-up. At launch it can be had with either a 4.4-litre turbo V8 outputting 407 horsepower or a 3.0-litre turbo motor with 320 horsepower. These petrol units promise improved economy and emissions performance over their respective predecessors, while the 3.0-litre, 640i-badged car boasts engine stop-start and other Efficient Dynamics features.

Itís the 650i-badged V8 thatís going to grab all the headlines for now, though. Its flagship status will be embraced with open arms in the likes of North America - its biggest market - and the Middle East. As such, the carís character is a combination of big car refinement and big engine performance.

On paper that might sound like a compromise but in reality the 650i is one of those rare beasts - a convertible offering the long-legged performance of a premium saloon and the pace of a high power sports coupe.

And in reality thatís exactly what you get. Thanks to the V8 engineís elastic power delivery and generous 442lb/ft torque rating, itís rare that you need to bother the carís eight-speed auto gearbox. When you do, the paddleshifters are a pleasing tactile interface. Manual control or not, itís the engine that dominates the overall experience and its hard-edged growl is never far away.

If thatís not a surprise, the 650iís agility will be to some critics. In traditional Grand Touring style the car is most at home on long straights and gently winding roads. But when asked it will also deliver the goods on a more challenging better Tarmac suited to much smaller cars.

This ability is enhanced by BMWís suite of driver aids. With the firmís Adaptive Drive package, the carís suspension adapts to the changing conditions and is also charged with minimising body roll. An added dimension is the ability to manually select from a comfort, normal and two-stage sport setting. Integral Active Steering further improves the carís agility by boosting steering assistance up front and while adding a subtle rear-steer effect at the back.

Overall, this hi-tech approach to driver entertainment works well. With all those modes at your disposal itís possible to fine tune the car to a variety of situations - town, motorway, press-on driving - in a bid to seek maximum comfort or driving enjoyment.

At the end of the day, though, driving enjoyment in the context of a premium class convertible means one thing - roof down motoring. And with the wind deflector in place, the 6 Series Convertible doesnít disappoint.

You might be in possession of a car with a well-appointed cabin complete with plenty of creature comforts (high-end audio and navigation, plenty of storage space, supportive leather seats) but thatís all secondary when youíve got the roof down and you can maintain a conversation at motorway speeds without shouting.

No question, the 6 Series Convertible is a complex beast. Visually itís not a car for shy, retiring types but neither is it brash. Itís not an out-and-out sports car, either. Power, performance and ability never in question, but the overall package places more emphasis on making swift, refined progress than dislodging your fillings. For many around the world that will be an attractive compromise, and job well done as far as BMW is concerned.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Model: BMW 650i SE Convertible, from £73,430 OTR.

Engine: 4.4-litre petrol unit developing 407bhp.

Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 155mph, 0-62mph 5.0 seconds.

Economy: 26.4mpg.

CO2 Rating: 249g/km.