The motor vehicle truly can be the ultimate fantasy machine. Surround yourself with enough automotive finery, and you can envision yourself as James Bond, a Hollywood star or maybe even a top-notch race driver.
With this in mind, I submit the 2005 BMW 645Ci Convertible.
I certainly enjoyed my week behind the wheel of this technology-laden, performance-loaded, super sporty-looking droptop - one half of the new-for-2005 BMW 6 Series, a designation that returns after a 15-year absence. BMW also makes a 2005 645Ci Coupe.
But I wasn't myself in this BMW convertible. For sure, I was on my best behavior: obeying traffic laws, keeping my eyes on the road and being courteous to fellow motorists. But all the while, I pictured myself as some sort of Donald Trump-Hugh Hefner-Speed Racer hybrid. This car will do that to you. Let me count the ways.
It scoots. A 4.4-liter, 32-valve, four-cam V-8 with variable valve timing puts out 325 horsepower in the finest sports car fashion. Matched with a six-speed gearbox, the 645Ci Convertible can muscle up against just about anything on the road.
Brisk accelerations are a blast, but it's just as much fun to take a sharp corner at high speed and feel the car sit down and dig in. You don't get traction-robbing tire squeal in this BMW, not with standard dynamic stability control, traction control and ventilated disc brakes at all four corners.
The engine even sounds imposing, but its bark was way worse than its bite. The surprisingly good mileage ratings of 18 miles per gallon in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway were spot-on in the tested model.
Naturally, the best mode for this ride is top-down. Even with the soft top tucked safely behind the back seats, wind buffeting is sufficiently restrained so as not to disturb the symphony played by the V-8. BMW has touted its aerodynamic engineering, noting that the 645Ci undercarriage, long hood and high trunklid were specifically designed to smoothly cut through the air.
Styling is as aggressive as it gets for a BMW. The sleek convertible looks like a road warrior, with nice placement of knife-edge angles on the door panels. BMW said that none of its 6 Series exterior body panels is shared by any other BMW model.
You want luxury? It's all part of the 645Ci Convertible package. Standard amenities include a mind-blowing climate control system with humidity monitoring and a charcoal microfilter, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with power tilt/telescoping functions, power exterior mirrors with heat and automatic-dimming function, halogen fog lights, parking-distance control, leather upholstery and auto-leveling headlamps.
An extensive safety package includes air bags all around, run-flat tires and a rollover-protection system that deploys two roll bars behind the rear seats when sensors detect the possibility of a rollover.
Any dislikes in the droptop?
Well, there is the $76,900 starting price. Fantasy Island doesn't come cheap; maybe the reason I never felt like myself in the car is that the sticker didn't align with my real-life budget.
The BMW is set up with a 2-plus-2 configuration, which is no problem for the front seat occupants. As for those two in the back seat, find a way to squeeze in and then hang on. It's not the most enjoyable, nor the most comfortable spot to savor the 645Ci's charms.
And there's iDrive, the BMW-engineered system that enables a driver or front-seat passenger to control communication, entertainment, climate and navigation functions from a single, hockey-puck-sized knob on the center console. Fellow auto reviewers love to gripe about iDrive, but I don't recall having too many problems when I first encountered it on a 2002 BMW 745i sedan.
This time around, however, with no teenage son to handle the chores from the front passenger seat, I struggled mightily with iDrive. It took minutes for me to accomplish even the most basic tasks, usually succeeding on the third try to negotiate the seemingly endless options and menus.
And although iDrive promotes the notion that its ease enables you to keep your eyes on the road, I found myself constantly watching the center dash-mounted navigation screen to see if I was doing iDrive right. Maybe I'm just becoming an old-school, knobs-and-buttons dinosaur, but iDrive got the best of me on this test trip.
Putting aside my iDrive shame, however, the total 645Ci Convertible experience was mostly positive - a fantasy certainly worth revisiting sometime down the road.
2005 BMW 645Ci Convertible at a glance Make/model: 2005 BMW 645Ci Convertible. Vehicle type: Four-passenger, rear-drive, two-door luxury sports convertible.
Base price: $76,900 (as tested, $83,670).
Engine: 4.4-liter V-8 with 325 horsepower at 6,100 revolutions per minute and 330 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm.
EPA fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city; 26 mpg highway.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with clutchless manual-shifting feature.
Steering: Power rack and pinion with speed-sensitive feature.
Brakes: Four-wheel, ventilated discs with anti-lock and other special features.
Suspension: Aluminum, double-pivot, strut-type on front; aluminum, four-link on rear (coil springs front and rear).
Interior volume: 82 cubic feet.
Cargo volume: 12.4 cubic feet.
Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons.
Curb weight: 4,189 pounds.
Track: 61.3 inches on front; 62.7 inches on rear.
Height: 54.1 inches.
Length: 190.2 inches.
Wheelbase: 109.4 inches.
Width: 73 inches.
Tires: P245/45R18 run-flat, all-season tires.
Final assembly point: Dingolfing, Germany.
About the writer: The Bee's Mark Glover can be reached at (916) 321-1184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.