BMW reintroduced the 6 Series to the U.S. market in coupe and convertible forms for 2004. The luxury two-doors compete with sporty offerings like the Jaguar XK, Mercedes-Benz SL and Cadillac XLR. For 2008, changes include minor equipment and option revisions and the dropping of the sequential manual transmission.
Lightweight construction makes ample use of aluminum and composite materials. An electronic stability system is standard. At the touch of a button, the two-level system alters steering and allows the transmission to hold gears longer.
Exhibiting what BMW calls classic proportions, the coupe is long, low and wide, and features a sculptured power dome hood. Set back on the chassis, the passenger compartment has a low roofline. A large, tilting panorama glass roof is standard on coupes.
An all-aluminum suspension minimizes a portion of unsprung weight. Convertibles have a vertical glass rear window that powers up and down and serves as a wind blocker when the top is down. Standard adaptive headlights swivel to illuminate curvy roads.
Park Distance Control, Active Roll Stabilization and 18-inch run-flat tires are standard. Active Steering, which varies the degree to which the front wheels turn, is optional.
New standard equipment includes active head restraints and dynamic cruise control. Up to four occupants can fit inside the 2+2 coupe and the convertible. With BMW's iDrive system, a console knob controls multiple comfort and convenience functions. The iDrive system now includes six "favorite" buttons that can save radio stations, navigation locations or phone numbers. Heated front seats, Sirius Satellite Radio and a Logic7 audio system are optional. All models have an engine start/stop button.
Under the Hood
The 650's 4.8-liter V-8 produces 360 horsepower and 360 pounds-feet of torque. A manual or automatic six-speed transmission is offered. BMW's Sequential Manual Gearbox is no longer offered on the 6 Series. The automatic transmission has also been revised to blip the throttle on downshifts, and it includes paddle shifters.
Active head restraints are newly standard; BMW says they move forward within fractions of a second in a rear-collision situation to help prevent neck injuries. The standard Dynamic Stability Control electronic stability system includes brake-fade compensation, brake standby, brake drying and a start-off assist feature. BMW's Head Protection System in coupes combines inflatable tubular elements with a stabilizing sail for increased protection. Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. Convertibles are fitted with roll bars that deploy in an emergency. There is also a new optional lane-departure-warning system that vibrates the steering wheel to alert drivers if they drift out of their lane.
Like most BMWs, the 6 Series is a serious driver's car. The suspensions are sufficiently taut, and occupants may experience a jittery sensation while traversing certain surfaces. This excess motion doesn't really result in a harsh ride, and it's a small price to pay for such superior control.
The seats are satisfyingly supportive, snugly bolstered and more comfortable than their firm cushions suggest. Backseat space is nearly nonexistent when the front seats are moved rearward. Visibility in the coupe is acceptable, but the mirrors could be larger and the B-pillars and tapered rear quarter glass impose some limits. BMW's iDrive system is technically innovative, yet it's sure to annoy some drivers.