When BMW re-launched its 6-Series coupe in 2003, the car was not quite fully sorted—some tweaking was in order.
This 650i is the 2012, gen-two model, and the car is now spot-on, a techno tour de force. For one thing, the computer boots up faster. For another, you can flog it like an absolute lunatic down Rte. 100 through the Green Mountains or you can glide along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
You can also drive it from Vermont to California at eye-watering speed and in posh comfort with, theoretically, just six stops along the way for fuel.
Even parking is a breeze, thanks to BMW’s unique sensors and cameras that monitor all sides of the car from above, in full sun or at night. Very cool.
The new interior is much more elegant, but there’s only room for two. Each back seat does, however, neatly cradle a case of champagne. This one is a convertible, with a push-button fabric top that goes up and down in seconds but eats into the trunk. Still, there’s room for the basics—a tuxedo, a sable coat, lingerie, a makeup case, a couple pairs of stiletto heels. A fixed-roof 650i has a bigger trunk and may be slightly stiffer and more responsive, but there’s nothing soggy about the chop-top’s dynamic behavior.
Turbocharged V-8s with 400 horsepower aren’t as remarkable as they used to be (you can get more than that from a Hyundai now) but this one spins like a yo-yo on ball bearings and accelerates the car hard enough to deform your face. It makes a lovely bass thrum, too. There’s no turbo lag and the 8-speed automatic is perfectly programmed to keep the motor on the boil.
If you think you know better than the computer, you can shift manually with the paddles on the steering wheel. I just click the shifter into Sport and let it do its own thing.
Seemingly everything is adjustable, even the driving experience. Suspension stiffness, throttle response and steering can be set for Comfort, Normal, Sport or Sport+.
With each click, the 650i seems to lose 250 pounds of its nearly two tons. So here’s my question: Why not carve off some of these gadgets and make a car that really is half a ton lighter, as well as simpler to drive and to maintain and less dear to buy, in the first place? Including the convertible top button, there are 15 switches on the armrest console alone, plus the 7-way iDrive knob, and there are alerts for everything from traffic in the blind spot to the performance of the driver’s portfolio.
Also a posse of electronic nannies that simply forbid most driving mistakes. But BMW knows how to bake luxury, comfort and performance into a car without resorting to this much electronic trickery. The trophy wives parading around Palm Beach in these things will never, ever touch any of those icky buttons anyway.
OK, I know why not: Because BMW has to sell against similar Playstation refugees from Mercedes, Audi, Lexus and the other big dogs. Mine has more toys than yours!
So if you’re on the ramen-noodle budget, this isn’t for you. But if you’ve ever wondered how the Germans can with a straight face charge a hundred grand for a mass-produced car, the new 650i will enlighten you, and even leave you thinking that might be a fair price.