What to say about a car whose presentation and ride seems perfect, but overall is not much fun?
That's the case with today's test car, the 2007 BMW 650i convertible. Make no mistake, this is a world-class touring car and I could imagine it ripping up the Autobahn in Germany or twisting through the Alps at high speeds.
Heck, even the previously confounding I-Drive controls (picture a computer mouse between the seats and a screen at center dash that tells you how you are doing) were relatively manageable in this model.
Yet, it lacked the sporty feel I have come to expect from BMW. The ride was relatively soft, and even the sport mode, with its noticeable uptick in revs, could not convince me I was ready to rock.
There was a sense of vague steering, a trait appreciated by drivers of a certain age who liked their cars to handle like a wood-hulled Chris-Craft on Lake Winnipesaukee.
The car is definitely not lacking in power -- its 4.8-liter V-8 engine produces 360 horsepower and 360 lb.-ft. of torque. Were the 650i not a rear-wheel-drive beast, I could imagine plowing snow with this car (and a BMW with a plow would make a statement in my New Hampshire surroundings).
The engine has about 35 more horsepower than previous BMWs in this series, but it seems like a subtle tweak. You can easily move beyond all prudence and law, but a lot of cars in today's high-horsepower market can do that.
In trying to get a grip on what this car is all about, I think big American steel. Its electronics, engine, and interior design are far superior to most of what American companies have ever built (though Cadillac and, yes, Saturn are moving the blocks). Still, it felt bulky and bodacious in a boring sort of way. That is hard to say about a car that, as tested, costs more than $90,000.
Don't get me wrong, if plush leather, ample leg room for four, and the chance to drop your top on a weekend cruise to Kennebunkport are your thing, this is a smart choice. And that 360 horsepower can feel like 400 when you pull away after depositing your money at the Hampton tollbooths.
Despite the slightly soft ride, the car does hold flat in hard corners (with some body roll), and accelerates from highway entrance ramp to passing lane with ease.
Stability and traction control are standard, as are antilock brakes, roll stabilization, and front side air bags.
A cold-weather package that includes heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and ski bag adds $750 to the base price of about $81,000. Toss in a sport package with sport seats, exterior trim, 19-inch alloy wheels, and performance run-flat tires and you add another $1,800. Head-up display and night vision (see white bodies on your windshield before you see them in the flesh) add an additional $3,200. An upgraded sound system will cost $1,200 more, something that seems odd in a car that is already so expensive.
In reviewing the 650i convertible I feel like a guy who just won $35 million in the lottery, but complains about the hit he's taking from the IRS. I was paid to drive a $90,000 BMW -- should I have even a hint of dissatisfaction?
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