EXPERT REVIEW

AZCentral.com's view


When it comes to building a tight, fast and agile sports coupe or sedan, it’s hard to beat BMW.

The 650i is a brilliant case in point. Here’s a pricey but splendid piece of machinery with the power and refinement to uphold BMW’s reputation. There are some controversial elements here, but once you strip away the layers of techno -fluff and styling excess, you’re left with a hard-charging machine without compromise.

This mid-size coupe goes like a rocket, a torque monster at any rpm, that takes off with a high-performance roar on a quick trip into illegal territory. The handling and maneuverability feel almost supernatural, and the brakes are so powerful that it takes some practice to stop smoothly.

The 650i, also available as a convertible, has been around since 2004, offering its blend of grand-touring splendor and spirited performance.

This is the real deal, and I can see why wealthy drivers pony up scads of cash to own one. Still, the more than $16,000 worth of options that pushed the test car to nearly $92,000 made me wonder. The 650i already comes loaded with high-tech goodies to enhance performance and luxury, so it seems wacky to add all these extras.

Then there’s the standard iDrive knob-controlled interface for navigation, climate control, audio and communications. Much as I’ve tried to get comfortable with this system in past BMWs, it always seems unnecessarily complex and cumbersome. For a high-performance car such as //the// 650i, it too often requires the driver to look away from the road and at the video screen. Other luxury automakers are doing it better.

The latest styling looks sleek and clean until you get to the backside, where 650i has a protuberant rump that seems like it was grafted on. Sure, the trunk is roomy, but the look is lame.

BMW 650i

Vehicle type: Four-passenger two-door coupe, rear-wheel drive.

Engine: 4.8-liter V-8, 360 horsepower at 6,300 rpm, 360 pound-feet //of// torque at 3,600 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Wheelbase: 109.4 inches.

Overall length: 190.2 inches.

Curb weight: 3,814 pounds.

EPA rating: 15 city, 22 highway.

HIGHS: Roaring engine, supernatural handling, mighty brakes.

LOWS: Clunky rump, iDrive woes, pricey with options.

PERFORMANCE: The 4.8-liter V-8 feels stronger than its 360 horsepower, no doubt with variable valve timing allowing 360 pound-feet of maximum torque to come on at just 3,400 rpm. The result is an engine that is ready to romp at any speed.

The new six-speed automatic is an excellent unit that seems almost telepathic. Paddle shifters add to the fun, with throttle blips to match up with downshifts.

Fuel mileage is not too great.

DRIVABILITY: This car feels like a willing participant in cornering and braking, highly responsive with uncanny balance and stability. The taut suspension includes light-weight aluminum components and such technology as active roll stabilization and dynamic stability control.

As noted, the electronically enhanced brakes are amazingly effective.

The 650i has so many technological performance and safety tweaks that I can’t list them all. Their combined presence make the coupe feel highly competent and reassuring.

STYLING: If not for that lumpish rump, I’d love the looks of this classically proportioned coupe.

INTERIOR: Comfortable and accommodating, with plenty of gizmos to play with. Some of these controls, though, are just a bit too much. Simplify, please.

The seats are very supportive, and the audio system is awesome. The backseat is pretty tight.

BOTTOM LINE: A lot of car for a lot of money, 650i is a driver’s car of the first order, though a bit thick with the gadgetry.

Base price: $75,600.

Price as tested: $91,870.

OPTIONS

Leather interior, $2,400.

Active cruise control, $2,400.

Night vision, $2,200.

Sport package, $2,100.

Premium sound package, $2,000.

Head-up display, $1,200.

Comfort access system, $1,000.

Cold-weather package, $750.

Satellite radio, $595.

Shipping, $775.

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