2004 BMW 645Ci is a real keeper

Usually, when Bugsy's Marauders barnstorm my driveway, it is a good day. One test car going, a new one arriving, all full of fueled promise.

Sometimes, however, I regret the appearance of the Marauders, who supply me most ably with cars, because they have come to take away a great car that I wish was mine. Such was the case with the 2004 6 Series BMW 645Ci, now just a thundering memory in the rear-view mirror of my mind.

First, let's talk about its lines. BMW got whacked hard over the sharp lines and soft, wrap-around rear end of its redesigned 7 Series. Some purists hated it. I thought it a bold experiment.

There should be no such consternation over this beauty, with lines that rise in a soft wedge, flowing from a muscular aluminum hood and retreating to a, yes, wrap-around, strutting tail. It works, and no car I have driven recently has attracted as much attention at the gas pump. This one nearly won as much notice as the BMW Z8 I had a few years back -- and that was a standout among standouts.

It has been 15 years since BMW built a 6 Series Coupe (there's a drop-top, too) and, sitting atop 19-inch wheels encased in low-profile tires, this low-slung, thundering car marks a great return.

It is powered by a 4.4-liter V-8, and, because of judicious use of aluminum and plastic composites, this long, lean car is only 3,781 pounds -- and a good bit of that may be thick, luscious leather.

This engine can handle it, pulling the car from 0-60 in less than six seconds, hauling it easily (I am told) to an electronically limited 155 miles per hour.

I did learn that, even in third gear, a serious stomp of the gas can instigate traction control. In the old days, we called that "getting rubber in third" -- the sure sign of serious scoot.

I drove the six-speed manual and loved almost everything about it: quick, snapping shifts from gear to gear, easy throws, seamless gradations. I say almost because I was able, while shifting into first gear, to mistakenly put the car into reverse. This should not be able to happen. Other tranny options include a six-speed automatic with Steptronic (manual) option, and a six-speed sequential manual featuring paddle shifts on the wheel.

Keeping this power train under control is a whole lot of electronics and aluminum. There are links upfront, control arms and lateral links in the rear. There also are air springs, variable rate shocks, optional variable rate anti-roll bars, traction and skid control, and a soft/sport mode for ride control.

As to the last, the road's smallest imperfections were revealed in the harder, more aggressive, and wonderfully precise sport mode. Add to its nearly flat cornering capabilities the sludge-and-velvet range of active steering (one ratio in parking lots, another at high speeds), and you have a car that seems, at times, to be driving itself. And y es, that means its power and aloofness can get away from you and could result in many, many speeding tickets.

Inside, you can apply two words: commodious and cramped.

The front seats are deep leather buckets that fit like a tight glove beneath a high ceiling. The rear seats -- even allowing for the fact that this is, after all, a coupe -- fit like a glove as well, but hunker beneath a sharply shrinking headliner. And with the front seats pushed back even moderately, leg room gets tight. This car is more than 190 inches long so I'm not sure where the rear room went -- unless it was into the trunk, which easily holds two golf bags with room to spare.

Yet it is a wonderfully styled interior, one where all lines seem to resemble rolling waves, including the scoops in the doors, the hoods over the gauges, and the information screen at center dash. Even the dashboard seems to roll down toward your lap from its crest at the windshield.

The interior fla ? Have I ever mentioned how much I hate iDrive, the computer-control system featuring a do-all knob at center console that takes the place of standard buttons to control climate, navigation, sound, information? It's way too complicated.

Yet that bit of ceaseless whining aside, I love this car. It is sculpted, luxurious, and if you think it looks fast just sitting there, imagine it, say, on a lonely New Hampshire interstate late at night, a dry, empty road stretching out before it.