When reborn in the mid 2000s, the 6 Series featured a controversial, avant garde design, along with agile handling, a composed ride, strong engines and a well-crafted cabin. The current car now boasts more traditional styling and slightly beefed-up proportions, but its many dynamic virtues have largely been maintained or enhanced.
Be it new or used, the BMW 6 Series coupe and convertible are among the more interesting luxury two-doors on the market. They have faults, to be sure, and several very compelling competitors are definitely worth consideration, but then having to decide between high-end luxury coupes and convertibles is hardly a situation where you can really go wrong.Current BMW 6 Series
The current BMW 6 Series was completely redesigned for 2012. An all-new, aluminum-intensive structure based on that of BMW’s 5 and 7 Series sedans lends greater structural rigidity and keeps weight down. It keeps it light, but not svelte, as this new 6 Series also grew in size. The biggest changes are to the styling (which is toned down to be less adventurous) and to the engines. The new twin-turbo V8 is now almost as quick as the old V10-powered M6.
As before, the 6 Series is available as a coupe and soft-top convertible in a single trim level known as the 650i. The convertible is significant for its clever soft-top roof design, which features a separately controlled rear window. Lower it with the roof up for added ventilation, or raise it with the roof down for use a wind deflector.
Under the hood is a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. Every 6 Series is rear-wheel drive and comes standard with an eight-speed automatic, though a six-speed manual is still available.
Behind the wheel, no one will mistake the 2012 BMW 650i for a 3 Series. The 650i makes few sporting pretensions, and while we wouldn’t call it athletic, it’s also not at all wayward or uncoordinated. We frankly prefer the old car’s hydraulic power steering to the new 6’s electric setup, but it’s still precise enough to make the big 6 Series feel reasonably spry.
Despite its increased size, the 6 Series is really best suited for two front passengers. The rear is more welcoming than the cramped confines of Jaguar’s XK, but adults will only tolerate being cooped up in back for short trips. On the plus side, however, those up front will be treated to first-class accommodations with top-notch materials and high-tech gizmos aplenty. Furthermore, the trunk is absolutely huge for a sport coupe at 12.3 cubic feet. Even the convertible’s trunk is a decently sized 10.6 cubic feet with the top lowered. By comparison, retractable-hardtop convertibles can barely fit a pizza box with their roofs stowed away.
In total, the BMW 6 Series is a compelling luxury car that’ll make the daily slog or a road trip far more elegant and memorable.
Used BMW 6 Series Models
The previous, second-generation BMW 6 Series coupe and convertible was produced from 2004-’10. It was a bit smaller than the current car and featured more avant garde styling.
Originally, this 6 Series came equipped with a 4.4-liter V8 rated at 325 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque and was known as the 645Ci. For 2006, the name changed to 650i (minus the “C”) and its engine was updated to a 4.8-liter V8 that produced 360 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. Driving characteristics between the 645Ci and 650i are very similar: The smaller V8 shared the 4.8-liter’s athletic character but had a slightly less vigorous power band. If you find a well-kept 645Ci on the used market, you won’t find it lacking from a performance standpoint.
Prior to 2008, there were three six-speed transmissions available: a traditional manual, a traditional automatic and BMW’s SMG, which used an electronically controlled clutch to provide both the responsiveness of a manual and the forget-about-it friendliness of an automatic. Sounds good, but in reality, we’d steer clear of this transmission, as its herky-jerky performance makes everyday driving a pain in the neck. Most 6 Series from this time were equipped with the traditional automatic, but it didn’t become standard until 2010. The manual became an option at that point.
In reviews of this BMW 6 Series, we found that the ride was supple and quiet, the brakes were powerful, and despite nearly 2 tons of weight, handling limits remained high thanks to aggressive tires and a well-balanced rear-drive chassis. However, the 6 Series experience largely depended on how you chose to equip the car. Adding the Sport package firmed up the ride and increased cornering grip via a set of 19-inch wheels and tires, while the variable-ratio active steering quickened low-speed turning response.
As with any luxury touring coupe or convertible, the specific mission of this BMW 6 Series was to cover lots of road in a hurry while making its occupants look and feel great — the front ones, anyway. Unfortunately, the 6 Series offered precious little of the rear seat space found in its contemporary 5 Series sedan counterpart despite similar midsize dimensions. The 6’s swoopier body lines were the reason for this, but even with the heightened focus on appearances, neither the 650i coupe nor the convertible could be considered the pinnacle of style.
Buyers of a used 6 Series should note that beyond the powertrain changes, in-car electronics were also upgraded over the years. Early models feature older versions of BMW’s iDrive system, which was still in its nascent stages and quite frustrating to use. Gradual improvements were made, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the system became fully worthwhile.
Not counting the BMW 8 Series of 1990s vintage, the only true predecessor to BMW’s big coupe is the 6 Series that spanned from 1977-’89. All models used an inline six-cylinder engine ranging from 3.2 to 3.5 liters, tuned to varying degrees of power. Even the most potent version could only accelerate to 60 mph in the low 6-second range and grip the road in the upper 0.70g range — modest by today’s standards — while the car’s semi-trailing arm rear suspension never did the best job of keeping the car planted to the road. Still, it was an engaging car to drive in its day and, for that reason, the original BMW 6 Series coupe retains an important place in BMW history.