2014 BMW 650 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Superb grand touring coupes, convertibles, sedans.
The BMW 6 Series is a range of stylish, sporty luxury cars in three body styles: two-door 6 Series Convertible, two-door 6 Series Coupe, and four-door 6 Series Gran Coupe. Each offers a choice of two engines, a turbocharged six-cylinder for BMW 640i models, a twin-turbocharged V8 for BMW 650i versions, plus a high-performance V8 for the M6 Convertible, M6 Coupe, M6 Gran Coupe. The BMW 6 Series models are based on rear-wheel drive, and xDrive all-wheel drive is available for BMW 640i and BMW 650i models.
This third-generation 6 Series began with BMW 640i and 650i coupes and convertibles, which launched as 2012 models. Gran Coupes, M6 models, and xDrive versions followed for 2013. For 2014, the BMW M6 Gran Coupe and 640i Gran Coupe xDrive fill out a broad lineup that now covers every combination of engine and body style.
New on all 2014 BMW 6 Series models is iDrive 4.2, the latest version of the system that controls navigation and vehicle functions.
Our test drives have shown all the 6 Series models to be refined, sharp, well-engineered machines, smooth and powerful, enjoyable to drive. We found this to be true of all three body styles, all three engines, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. No lightweights, these are grand touring cars more than they are sports cars. They deliver exceptional performance and handling. Chassis balance is excellent, the car responds as expected, feeling in every situation as if it is on the driver's side. Drive one of these cars too fast into a corner and it does not get flustered.
Driving the three body styles revealed more similarities than differences among them. Gran Coupes are the best for rear-seat passengers, Coupes are the sportiest, Convertibles offer top-down motoring. Longer than the coupes and convertibles, the Gran Coupes offer four doors instead of two, along with more comfortable back seats. We hardly noticed the extra length of a Gran Coupe while driving, though its wheelbase is a significant 4.5 inches longer than that of a 6 Series coupe or convertible.
Choosing among the three engines is a matter of how much power you want versus what you are willing to spend. We found the BMW 640i models deliver plenty of power and are relatively agile due to their lighter weight. BMW 650i models deliver more power and are more responsive at all engine speeds. M6 versions feature raceworthy performance yet suffer surprisingly little in terms of comfort.
BMW 640i Convertible, 640i Coupe, and 640i Gran Coupe come with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. We found the BMW 640i engine brilliant, silky and fast-revving. Its inline-6 uses direct injection and variable valve timing to generate 315 horsepower and 330 foot-pounds of torque from 1400 to 4500 rpm. BMW claims the BMW 640i Coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The 2014 BMW 640i Convertible and Convertible are rated at 20/30 miles per gallon City/Highway by the Environmental Protection Agency, as is the 2014 BMW 640i Gran Coupe. The 2014 BMW 640i Coupe is EPA-rated 22/32 mpg. Premium gasoline is required for all 6 Series.
BMW 650i Convertible, 650i Coupe, 650i Gran Coupe feature a more powerful twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. The 4.4-liter V8 in BMW 650i models produces 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque over a wide powerband, with peak torque available from 1750 to 4500 rpm. Zero to 60 mph comes in 4.9 seconds. Fuel economy ratings for 2014 BMW 650i models regardless of body style are 17/25 mpg.
BMW M6 Convertible, M6 Coupe, M6 Gran Coupe boast a raceworthy 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that serves up a stress-free 560 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 500 foot-pounds of torque from 1500 to 5750 rpm. M6 models offer a choice of 7-speed twin-clutch automated manual transmission or 6-speed manual gearbox, both of which demand a little more from the driver than do the other 6 Series model. EPA fuel economy figures are 15/22 mpg for 2014 BMW M6 Convertible, M6 Coupe, M6 Gran Coupe with 6-speed manual gearbox, 14/20 mpg with 7-speed auto-manual.
All-wheel drive, which BMW calls xDrive, brings winter capability in the form of the BMW 640i xDrive Convertible, 640i xDrive Coupe, 640i xDrive Gran Coupe; 650i xDrive Convertible, 650i xDrive Coupe, 650i xDrive Gran Coupe. Rear-wheel drive is standard.
The BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe competes with the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. The M6 Gran Coupe competes with the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, Jaguar XJR, and Audi RS 7. All four are new for the 2014 model year, and all four are superb.
BMW 640i models are equipped with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. BMW 650i models come with a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. M6 versions feature a high-performance 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8.
The 2014 BMW 640i Coupe ($74,900), 640i Gran Coupe ($77,100), and 640i Convertible ($82,400) come standard with Dakota leather, two-zone automatic climate control with micro-filter ventilation system with replaceable active-charcoal filters, 10-way power front seats with four-way lumbar support, memory system for driver's seat, steering wheel and mirrors, gray poplar wood trim, floor mats, Comfort Access keyless entry, tilting glass panel roof with power sliding roofliner, power tilt and telescope steering wheel with automatic tilt-up, power windows with opening from remote and closing from exterior lock, Park Distance Control, electric park brake, ambiance interior lighting, heated driver's door lock, three-stage heated front seats, universal garage door opener, 205-watt nine-speaker AM/FM/CD MP3 audio with Sirius Satellite Radio and HD Radio, three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, USB, Bluetooth, rearview camera, exterior temperature display, Dynamic Cruise Control, navigation system with 10.2-inch screen, 3-D maps, 200 GB hard drive, advanced Real Time Traffic Information, BMW Online with MyInfo, BMW Apps, BMW TeleService, engine Start/Stop, xenon headlights. Gran Coupe gets split-folding rear seats. Convertible gets a black soft top and Sun-Reflective Technology in the upholstery. The BMW 640i xDrive Coupe ($77,900), 640i xDrive Gran Coupe ($80,100), 640i xDrive Convertible ($85,400) include all-wheel drive.
BMW 650i Coupe ($86,200), 650i xDrive Coupe ($89,200), 650i Gran Coupe ($88,400), 650i xDrive Gran Coupe ($91,400), 650i Convertible ($93,700), 650i xDrive Convertible ($96,700) upgrade further with 20-way multi-contour seats and Active Head Restraints in addition to their V8 engines.
BMW M6 Coupe ($106,100) and Convertible ($113,100) come with Merino leather upholstery, carbon-fiber trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto start-stop function, rearview camera, xenon headlamps with adaptive light control, 19-inch alloy wheels, dynamic damper control, dynamic cruise control, LED foglamps, navigation system, Bluetooth, HD radio. M6 models offer an optional 6-speed manual gearbox (no cost) and M Carbon Ceramic Brakes (expensive).
Safety equipment standard on all 6 Series includes frontal airbags, front-seat side-impact airbags, active knee protection, front safety belts with automatic pretensioners, LATCH child-restraint system, automatic disconnect of fuel pump, starter and alternator in an accident with activation of hazard lights, interior lights and door unlock, BMW Assist eCall with SOS button and automatic collision notification, rearview camera, adaptive brake lights. Coupes and Gran Coupes come with curtain airbags for rollover protection; Convertibles come with rollbars that extend when sensors detect a possible rollover. Active safety features on all models: Dynamic Stability Control, ABS, Dynamic Traction Control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Start-off Assistant, automatic Brake Drying. All-wheel drive is optional. Optional safety features: Active Head Restraints, Night Vision with pedestrian recognition, Lane Departure Warning System, Active Blind Spot Detection are optional. (Note: All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which can change at any time without notice, and do not include $925 destination charge.).
The BMW 6 Series is a lineup of sleek, sporty, elegant convertibles, coupes, and sedans. Their fluid lines and steeply raked windshield suggests an ability and willingness to slip through the air at great speed with big, elegant lines that flow rearward to a muscular rear end.
Up front, the twin-kidney grille is sleekly integrated into the rounded nose flanked by trapezoidal headlamps with LED accent lights above that look like glittery eyebrows. Optional Adaptive LED headlights have LED light rings for the parking lights and flattened daytime running lights with horizontal LED ribs. A gaping intake runs horizontally across the front like the mouth of a shark.
At the rear are LED taillight clusters. The BMW logo on the rear is in fact a small door that opens to let the rearview camera peer out when in Reverse, a nice feature because it keeps the lens from getting dirty. The M6 makes a statement of power with its wide track, fat rear tires and four exhaust tips coming out of the diffuser integrated into the lower rear fascia.
The Convertible is the most eye-catching, with the top down or even with the soft top raised sporting its flying buttress architecture. The standard black soft top looks best on black cars. The top can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 25 mph. Or you can trigger it with the key fob before you get in or after you get out. It takes 19 seconds to open, 24 seconds to close. The heated glass rear window retracts with the top up.
From the side, the four-door Gran Coupe is clearly distinguishable from the Coupe thanks to its rear doors and 4.45-inch longer wheelbase. The Gran Coupe's features a stretched silhouette with low roofline flowing smoothly into the rear, the shoulder line, which takes in the door openers, and side windows extending well into the C-pillars.
M6 models look athletic, with a wider track and minor styling differences dictated by cooling-air requirements, aerodynamics and other functional considerations. Some of the aerodymamic aids on the M6 versions border on boy racer. The front wheels fill wide flared arches, while the fascia is filled by big black egg crate intakes, rimmed by fins and flaps to flow cooling air into them. On the sides, functional gills that could look distinctive are instead heavily chrome-plated, a design touch worthy of a Buick. High-gloss Shadow Line trim is used for accent. From the rear, a wide track, wide rear tires and four exhaust tips coming out of the carbon fiber rear diffuser give M6 an aggressive look. We're not crazy about the wheels, whether 19-inch or 20-inch, touched in black with wide spaces to expose the 15.6-inch rotors and six-piston calipers painted blue metallic or black. M6 versions feature a carbon fiber composite roof panel and trunk lid for reduced weight and a lower center of gravity. The rear diffuser on the M6 Gran Coupe eliminates the need for a rear spoiler.
BMW 6 Series models have upscale, businesslike cabins loaded with features.
The standard Dakota leather has a rich feeling. Nappa and Merino leather are optional. Merino leather upholstery comes standard on M6 models.
Seats are comfortable and luxurious. The seats are fairly broad and firm, although with many adjustments they can be made to fit any body size. Front seats provide a blend of comfort, snug fit and firm lateral support for hard driving. Cooled and heated seats work quickly and effectively and provide welcome relief from extreme temperatures. The optional Luxury Seating Package adds ventilated, active, multi-contour seats, sunshades on the rear side and rear windows, and a four-zone climate control system with additional controls located between the rear seats. M6 seats adjust every way imaginable, including lumbar and thigh support and adjustable headrest. They have added bolstering, but still not enough for the level of cornering that the M6 is capable of handling. BMW boasts that the M6 is ready and popular for track days, but some seat-sliding happens.
The instrumentation is clean and beautiful, with silver-rimmed analog gauges befitting of a high-performance car. The 200-mph speedometer is optimistic only in the sense that top speed is electronically limited to 155. Coincidentally or not, 100 mph is located on top, so your eye can watch the red needle at high noon. A Head-up Display is optional, which we found useful for monitoring speed while keeping our eyes on the road; it includes a shift light.
The center stack is relatively tidy, with some controls angled toward the driver. he handsomely stitched dashboard leather surrounds silver-rimmed analog gauges that are clean and beautiful, with white numbers by day and clear orange at night. There's a small horizontal window under the speedo and tach that's easy to read and scroll through to access travel information. We love the thick leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, with controls for audio, phone and cruise control.
Navigation maps are displayed on a wonderfully wide 10.2-inch screen with a big eave so it can be read in the sunlight. BMW's display brilliantly uses color, and it's excellent for the navigation directions that can be displayed. Navigation information is displayed clearly, and there's enough room on the screen for audio info to be displayed at the same time. The screen in the convertible has a special reflective treatment so it can be seen in sunlight; we tried during our test of the M6 convertible, and it really works.
BMW Connected app, which allows drivers to access Facebook, Twitter, Pandora and paid music subscription service MOG accounts through a late-model iPhone or iPod Touch on the iDrive display. Blackberry and Android smartphones are out of luck. BMW Apps includes a track data recorder that can store information gathered from your lapping sessions. It records the same sort of information used by onboard computers at top professional racing schools. Drivers can compare data so you can see where you can improve. For example, you can see how someone comes out of a corner faster by braking later or earlier, getting on the gas sooner, etc. It's compelling information.
There's a small horizontal window under the speedo and tach, that's easy to read and scroll through. It provides great information, including feedback from all the drive and chassis settings that the driver can select.
BMW's iDrive, now in its fourth generation, is no longer an obstacle to the driver. Now it's actually easy, including operation of the navigation system, and tuning the satellite radio without dangerous distraction and confusion. The iDrive dial on the console controls many functions and is displayed on the display screen. BMW's has simplified and improved iDrive, though there's a learning curve to master it. It's so easy when you know how, not as easy when you don't. In the audio mode, it displays artist and song title.
Some of the technology can be annoying until you learn how to use it. At times, we found the shift lever uncooperative, the audible Park Distance Warning tone irritating, the Start button confusing, the navigation confounding.
The Bang&Olufsen sound system includes a speaker system designed exclusively for the unique shape and space of the 6 Series coupe. We found the sound quality impressive, but it's an expensive option.
Inside the Gran Coupe, it becomes more apparent that it is a sedan, not a coupe. We see the Gran Coupe as a four-seat car. A fifth person can conceivably sit in the rear center but there is no legroom due to the center console. If you need a five-seater, a Jaguar XJR may be more suitable.
The doors on the Coupe are wide, improving access to the rear seats, but it's a long reach for the driver to close the door, and the grip is small.
Rear-seat room in the Coupe is limited. A Fiat 500 offers more rear legroom. The 6 Series Coupe is a long car, but that length is more about style and driving dynamics than rear-seat passenger space. In the rear, legroom is adequate for average-sized adults, although taller passengers will feel cramped, especially in the coupe, which offers less headroom than the convertible with the top up.
Rear legroom in the 6 Series Coupe of 35 inches is adequate for average-sized adults, although taller passengers will feel cramped, especially in the low-slung Coupe, which offers less headroom than the Convertible.
The wide rear door aids getting into the back seats of a 6 Series Gran Coupe, but you have to turn your feet to clear the B-pillar that separates the front and rear windows. And the roof will whack your head if you're not careful. Once in, it's pretty comfortable. It's easier to get in and out of the rear seats of a BMW 7 Series and roomier once you're in, but the 6 Series Gran Coupe models have rear seats that are good for daily use. Rear legroom in the Gran Coupe is 35.3 inches, which is fine for a quick ride to a restaurant. The Mercedes-Benz CLS has just 35.0 inches of rear legroom, but the Audi S7 offers 37.0 inches while the Jaguar XJR provides 38.9 inches. The Jaguar XJR Long Wheelbase has 44.1 inches of rear-seat legroom, but it's nearly 10 inches longer than a 6 Series Gran Coupe.
Trunk space measures 13.0 cubic feet in the Coupe and Gran Coupe, 10.6 cubic feet in the Convertible (if allowing for the top to drop). By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has 15.9 cubic feet, Jaguar XJ 15.2. Audi A7 boasts a spacious 24.5 cubic feet thanks to its fastback five-door design. BMW 6 Series Coupe and Convertible have pass-through openings into the trunk for long items such as skis. We found the trunk lid heavy to pull down.
BMW 6 Series models are easy to drive and easy to drive fast. The ride quality is firm but it is not harsh when motoring around the neighborhood. All of these cars boast sharp handling with little unwanted leaning, diving or squatting. Three engines are available. Choice of driveline (engine, transmission, rear-wheel drive vs. all-wheel drive) affects the character somewhat but all have the above characteristics, with M6s predictably firmer but impressively civilized.
BMW 640i models are very sweet to drive and offer the strongest value. The turbocharged six-cylinder engine is incredibly smooth, a benefit of the inline-6 design, and it sounds nice, a heavily subdued if not sedated scream when at full song. The inline-6 in the BMW 640i is rated at 315 horsepower. More notable is its 330 foot-pounds of torque available from 1400 to 4500 rpm, which is a lot of power across a wide power band. Torque is that force that propels the car up hills and away from a standstill at intersections. Broad, powerful torque means the BMW 640i versions feel responsive when motoring around. Push down on the throttle at any time at any engine speed and the car responds immediately and easily, accelerating as much or as little as you'd like based on how hard you push down on the gas pedal. Our impressions have been that the 640i models feel lighter and more agile than their 650i counterparts.
In fact, a BMW 640i Coupe weighs 4001 pounds compared to 4275 pounds for a BMW 650i Coupe. An all-wheel-drive BMW 640i xDrive Coupe weighs 4190 pounds; a 640i Gran Coupe weighs 4191 pounds. The 640i Convertible is the heavyweight at 4586 pounds. A BMW 640i Coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, according to BMW, and that's quick. A BMW 640i Gran Coupe clocks in at 5.4 seconds, while it takes the BMW 640i Convertible 5.5 seconds.
Fuel economy for the 2014 BMW 640i Coupe is an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg City/Highway; Gran Coupe is EPA-estimated at 20/30 mpg City/Highway (or 24 mpg EPA Combined city and highway); 640i Convertible is 20/30 mpg; 640i xDrive Grand Coupe is 20/29 mpg. All BMW 640i models require Premium gasoline.
The 650i versions are all about power. The turbocharged V8 is rated at 445 horsepower peaking from 5500-6000 rpm and 480 foot-pounds of torque peaking at a low and broad 2000-4500 rpm. The V8 is more of a point-and-shoot kind of car, while the 640i, even with the longer wheelbase in the Gran Coupe, wants to caress the driver in the corners. A BMW 650i Coupe, Gran Coupe, and Convertible can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, which is substantially quicker than their 640i counterparts. The weight difference is slightly less, with the 4430-pound 650i Gran Coupe weighing 155 pounds more than the 650i Coupe, compared with a 190-pound difference for the respective 640i versions; and perhaps the torque from the V8 engine reduces the weight factor a little. In everyday driving, the 650i more easily responds to throttle inputs so it's even more pleasant to drive around town or in busy freeway traffic. The 650i Coupe, Gran Coupe, and Convertible are EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway.
The 8-speed ZF manual automatic transmission with paddle shifters works well in the 640i and 650i models. The top two gears are serious overdrives, with long-legged ratios of 0.839:1 and 0.667:1, so the freeway rpm's are way low. Driving casually in automatic mode, the upshifts are seamless, and kickdowns are relatively infrequent; the transmission is programmed to use the engine's torque. In effect, it's a close-ratio 6-speed, and, using the paddles, you can play with it like that. It will respond sharply and obediently. It will deliver hard downshifts, and will short-shift upward when you want it to. It upshifts at 5800 rpm by itself in manual mode, so you don't need to watch the tach; importantly, it upshifts at the same rpm every time, it doesn't second-guess the driver. We rarely are able to make those statements about automatic transmissions, not even the sportiest of them.
There are five driving modes: Comfort, Comfort Plus, Sport, Sport Plus, and Eco Pro. The driver can tune throttle response, power steering boost assistance, shock absorbers, automatic transmission shift characteristics, roll stabilization, and Integral Active Steering, to more than 250 combinations. If you're not overwhelmed, you can look at it two ways: perfection exists in there somewhere, or you'll go crazy trying to find it.
We've tried all five dynamic modes and could feel the difference between Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport, but not Comfort and Comfort Plus, or Sport and Sport Plus. Perhaps long drives would reveal the benefits of tuning the suspension this precisely. We noted that the ride in Sport mode was not harsh, and the transmission shifts came more quickly while the throttle response was sharper, so Sport a good mode to drive around in when you're not feeling lazy. Also the steering is quicker.
In Comfort mode, the steering is slower, and the transmission upshifts when you let off the gas. That's fine around town. We read one review that said Comfort Plus is mushy, but sometimes mushy feels good.
The Eco Pro mode is for saving fuel, as much as 20 percent, says BMW. It changes the accelerator mapping so that the same pedal travel delivers less power than in other modes, and the transmission upshifts sooner and downshifts later. Special displays in the instrument cluster let the driver know how much the driving range is being extended.
The brakes use lightweight floating calipers and vented discs, and they too get the full technology treatment, with Dynamic Traction Control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Start-off Assistant for hills, Brake Drying function and Brake Fade Compensation. We used them ruthlessly on a curvy downhill road in the mountains, and they didn't fade.
Optional Active Roll Stabilization reduces body roll in corners and transition. Sensors calculate the degree of body roll and trigger hydraulic rotary actuators in the front and rear anti-roll bars, for flatter cornering.
Integral Active Steering combines the Active Steering system for the front suspension with a steerable rear suspension. Precisely harmonized steering movements of the front and rear wheels create a virtual lengthening or shortening of the vehicle's wheelbase, which improves high-speed stability and enhances maneuverability for both parking and city use. It's magic, invisible technology.
All-wheel drive improves winter capability for the 6 Series. Fuel economy drops ever so slightly with all-wheel drive, mostly on the highway, to 20/29 mpg City/Highway for the BMW 640i xDrive Convertible, 640i xDrive Coupe, and 640i xDrive Grand Coupe. BMW 650i xDrive Convertible, 650i xDrive Coupe, 650i xDrive Gran Coupe are each rated at 16/24 mpg. Premium gasoline is required on all BMW 6 Series.
The M6 versions are comfortable when a luxury car is needed, sporty when a enjoying a winding road, racy when driven on a racing circuit.
An M6 Gran Coupe with the optional ceramic brakes is a fine machine for weekend track events. A BMW representative told us an M6 Gran Coupe is faster than an M3 on many racing circuits, an impressive performance for the larger, heavier sedan. Based on our experience and conversations with BMW, any advantage the two-door M6 coupe has over the longer, four-door M6 Gran Coupe is negligible: the M6 Gran Coupe and M6 Coupe deliver nearly identical performance and handling.
Take off your helmet and the M6 Gran Coupe is ready for an evening of fine dining for four. With the click of a knob, the suspension can be adjusted from track-ready to smooth and comfortable. It's an impressive transformation. In just a few seconds, the driver can easily adjust suspension, throttle, transmission, steering and traction settings to suit the road, driving conditions or mood. It is this duality, this ability to switch from Dr. Jekyll's luxury sedan to Mr. Hyde's track car and back again that makes the M6 Gran Coupe special.
BMW says the M6 Gran Coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, making it as quick as a Porsche 911 Carrera S with PDK and putting it in the top echelon of high-performance cars. The turbocharged BMW 4.4-liter V8 engine is fitted with a cross-bank exhaust manifold that looks like a work of art and helps it deliver 500 foot-pounds of torque across a wide power band, starting at just 1500 rpm and rocketing the car to its rev limiter. With no discernable turbo lag, the M6 accelerates like a powerful normally aspirated car does. With the optional Competition Package, the M6 boasts 575 horsepower.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the M6 Gran Coupe gets 14/20 mpg City/Highway with the automatic, 15/22 mpg with the manual transmission.
At the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas, we found the M6 Gran Coupe powerful yet easy to drive. Hammering the throttle to the floor while exiting any of COTA's 20 turns induced massive acceleration, while the well-tuned suspension and drivetrain ensured excellent handling stability. The M6 Gran Coupe inspires confidence. With little experience in the car and no experience on the track, we were hitting 150 mph on the back straight within a few laps. Improving upon that was simply a thinking-man's (or thinking woman's) game of taking the previous corner perfectly for a higher exit speed and braking later for the next corner to extend the straightaway. There was no apprehension about the speed, no worries of going off the track with such an easily managed machine. It was like driving an autocross: it has your attention but you're not fearing for your life. Driving an M6 on a race track quickly becomes just driver and track. The car is so good it doesn't draw much attention to itself.
Ceramic brakes hauled the M6 Gran Coupe down to the appropriate velocity to turn in to the next corner lap after lap after lap, in searing, triple-digit summer heat before stopping in pit lane long enough to heat-soak before immediately starting another pounding session. An expensive option, the ceramic brakes were flawless all day and never faded in spite of this brutal treatment. Not many sedans can do that. If you're planning to take your M6 to a race track, spring for the ceramic brakes. If you know you're not, save yourself the money.
M6 versions are quite a bit different from the other 6 Series in the terms of engineering details. To make an M6, BMW starts with a rigid body-in-white, the key to sharp handling and a vibration-free ride. M6 models use no rubber bushings in the suspension. The racecar rigidity of this setup allows bigger tires. M6 models also benefit from an active rear differential that helps them put their power down without resorting to all-wheel drive.
The V8 engine produces 500 foot-pounds of torque, available from 1500 to 5700 rpm, and on the highway that incredibly broad range reduces the need to downshift. The engine redlines at a sweet and heart-pounding 7200 rpm, and its exhaust note is distinctive. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, achievable by the M6 on a number of tracks around the country, including COTA, such is its amazing acceleration performance.
The M6 is loaded with sophisticated electronic driving features. Unlike other 6 Series BMWs, which use a button to select up to five driving modes, the M6 has three settings each for the shock absorber stiffness and damping, transmission shifting, throttle response, steering quickness and weight, and stability control. So there's little we can say about dynamics, because if the ride is too firm, you can make it softer. If the steering is too slow, make it quicker. And so on. We did note throttle tip-in is overly sensitive when starting away from intersections when in the sport mode.
Fuel economy for the M6 Gran Coupe is an EPA-rated 14/20 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined. The federal government slaps the M6 a gas-guzzler tax. There's an Auto Stop/Start feature, which saves some small amount of gas by turning the engine off every time the car stops moving, and turning it back on when you take your foot off the brake pedal. It's a particularly annoying feature here because it does not operate smoothly. It can be defeated by pressing a button, but it recycles back to on every time the car is started so pressing it becomes something you can do after hitting the Agree button on the navi.
BMW says an M6 Gran Coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, putting it in the top echelon of high-performance cars. Jaguar says its XJR can perform this feat in 4.4 seconds. Mercedes-Benz says its CLS63 AMG can do it in 4.4 seconds. Audi says its S7 can get there in 5.4 seconds, while its RS 7 can be there in just 3.7 seconds. Porsche says its 911 Carrera can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds with the PDK transmission, while the Carrera S can do it in 4.1 seconds.
The M6 transmission is a high-tech high-torque 7-speed double clutch, with paddle shifters. With all the different modes, it will do anything you want it to do, including behave like a sophisticated racecar transmission, or like a docile street automatic. It's linked to a new active differential that optimizes power transfer between the rear wheels. Some of us found it takes some getting used to. Most people like it. Some don't. Changing from Drive to Reverse and back to Drive usually means looking down to see you are in the proper gear; this sort of shifting can usually be done without taking your eyes off the road when using a manual gearbox and with some automatics.
The manual gearbox is more enjoyable, though the wide center console makes shifting awkward. When we drove the M6 Gran Coupes at COTA, a line formed for the manual gearbox while the automatics sat and waited for drivers.
The BMW 6 Series offers a range of models that deliver fine grand touring luxury and performance. The 640i Gran Coupe offers the best value. The 650i Gran Coupe is an excellent choice for the busy executive, delivering fantastic performance. A 650i Convertible features open-air luxury. Sportiest is an M6 Coupe, and optional ceramic brakes make it the best choice for a day of lapping at the race track. Drivers who have longed for a high-performance M version of the 7 Series sedan should check out the M6 Gran Coupe because it works well as a high-performance luxury sedan. The xDrive models bring winter capability with all-wheel drive; be sure to shod them with winter tires.
NewCarTestDrive.com Mitch McCullough reported on the M6 Gran Coupe from the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas; with Sam Moses reporting on the 640i Coupe from Northern California, 640i Gran Coupe from the Pacific Northwest, M6 Convertible from central California; Laura Burstein reporting on the 650i Coupe from Northern California; Ted West reporting on the 650i Convertible from upstate New York.
BMW 640i Coupe ($74,900), 640i Gran Coupe ($77,100), 640i Convertible ($82,400); 640i xDrive Coupe ($77,900), 640i xDrive Gran Coupe ($80,100), 640i xDrive Convertible ($85,400); 650i Coupe ($86,200), 650i xDrive Coupe ($89,200), 650i Gran Coupe ($88,400), 650i xDrive Gran Coupe ($91,400), 650i Convertible ($93,700), 650i xDrive Convertible ($96,700); M6 Coupe ($106,100), M6 Convertible ($113,100).
Options As Tested
BMW 640i Gran Coupe ($76,000).
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