2011 BMW 650i CONVERTIBLE REVIEW
What’s Hot: Incredibly flexible engine, eye-catching design
What’s Not: Interior not as roomy as you'd expect
X-Factor: An intoxicating mixture of power and beauty
Vehicle Style: 2+2 Luxury Convertible
Fuel Economy (claimed): 10.7 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 17.9 l/100km
It's a curious move by BMW Australia to launch its flagship convertible on the cusp of winter. But our first taste of the twin-turbo V8 650i convertible shows that the big drop-top is one hell of a machine – whatever the weather.
- Quality: Materials and build quality are exceptional. Premium leather upholstery is standard, the stitching is fastidious and everything fits together flawlessly.
The optional leather-trimmed dash and ceramic/woodgrain trim fitted to our tester were particularly appealing.
- Comfort: The 10-way electrically adjustable seats offer superb comfort and support, but the swooping design of the dashboard cuts into the front passenger's knee room. Rear headroom is good, but legroom is tight.
- Equipment: A 10.2- inch multifunction display sits atop the centre stack (along with the iDrive controller) and is the primary interface for the standard sat-nav, TV-tuner, internet browser and 12-speaker premium audio system. iPod connectivity and USB/aux inputs are standard, as is Bluetooth phone integration.
There are dual-zone climate control and ventilated front seats, bi-xenon headlamps with high-beam assist, a reversing camera and the standard full-colour heads-up display.
A night vision system is optional, as is a lane departure warning system, blind spot monitor, self-parking system, heated steering wheel, Bluetooth audio streaming and a six-stacker DVD.
- Storage: The boot can hold 350 litres of luggage (or two golf bags) with the roof raised. Roof down that space shrinks to 300 litres, but is still quite usable.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: The 650i's twin-turbocharged 4.4 litre V8 has but the barest hint of turbo lag - throttle response is near-instant.
There's a huge amount of low-down torque – 600Nm is on tap from as low as 1750rpm, and doesn't disappear until 4500rpm – and 300kW is available from 5500rpm to just shy of the 6500rpm redline. Those figures provide a wall of power under the toe; the 650i is seriously fast.
When the driving is more relaxed, the standard eight-speed automatic operates smoothly, but transforms in manual mode with super-quick shifts.
In ‘Sport’, shift-mapping is sharpened appreciably, although we noticed that the transmission won't hold gears against the redline during manual shifts.
- Refinement: The cabin is blissfully quiet save for the engine's well-muffled V8 burble. Extra layers in the fabric roof insulate the interior from outside noises, and refinement is on par with many hard-tops.
Top down and with windows up, there's minimal wind buffet at highway speeds. Windows down, conversations can still be had at 100km/h without shouting yourself hoarse.
- Suspension: The 650i gets active dampers and active rollbars, which automatically adjust to changes in road quality as well as the position of the Dynamic Driving Control.
In Comfort mode the ride is smooth and soft, while Normal and Sport modes are markedly stiffer.
In Sport mode the suspension is too stiff to properly dampen small bumps and corrugations, but body roll is minimal and grip is impressive.
The stability control cuts in before too much wheel slip occurs, but Sport+ mode allows a small amount of lateral slip - letting the back-end step out - for drivers who really want to connect with the drive.
The electric power steering is light and lacking a little in feedback. On the plus side, it feels direct, and, despite its size, the 650i is capable of changing direction very quickly.
- Braking: The 374mm front rotors and 345mm rear rotors are more than capable of shedding speed, and we couldn't get them to fade. An auto-hold function of the electronic parking brake also helps with hill starts.
- ANCAP rating: Not tested.
- Safety features: Dual front and front side airbags (including head airbag), pretensioning front seatbelts, active front headrests, ABS, brake assist, Cornering Brake Control, traction control and stability control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: 3 Years
- Service costs: Servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- Jaguar XK Convertible ($247,415) - The XK scrapes ahead of the 650i on price, but is a lower-tech offering that can't match the BMW's performance, agility or features. (see XK reviews)
- Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster ($274,698) – The Aston is every bit as beautiful as the BMW, and is one-tenth faster to 100km/h thanks to its 313kW V8.
It's more expensive though, and its ageing interior design and lack of rear seats give the 650i the edge. (see V8 Vantage reviews)
- Audi S5 Cabriolet ($144,900) – In lieu of a topless RS5 variant, the S5 Cabriolet is Audi's most direct competitor to the 650i, and despite having fewer cylinders in its supercharged 3.0 litre V6, the S5 still bangs out a respectable 5.6 second 0-100km/h time.
In our view though, it looks plain compared to the gorgeous 650i.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
BMW's new 6 Series is both stunning to look at and a delight to drive. The flexibility of its powertrain makes it adept at both low-rpm city cruising and howling performance driving, while its vast array of electronic aids make it easy to handle and simple to operate.
It's an expensive beast, but comparably quite good value when matched against other drop-top luxury GTs.
If you've got a quarter of a million dollars to spend on a weekender, the 650i is a very good buy indeed.
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