Story by Benjamin Greene
Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/NewsCenter/NewsCenterDetails.aspx?mmysid=4136
“You’ll know when you feel that 4.4-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission!” said Gary Gordon, general manager of Fields BMW of Lakeland, with child-like enthusiasm when asked about why our test car, a 2012 BMW 650i Convertible, stood out among its peers. He had a point. The new 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine and eight-speed transmission are part of the most expansive redesign of the BMW 6-Series since it was first introduced for 2004. The new engine replaces the 4.8-liter V-8 and produces 40 more horsepower while decreasing fuel consumption by nearly nine percent.
We slap the transmission lever to the left to turn on a manual mode with gearshifts via paddles in perfect reach of our fingertips from behind the steering wheel. The engine revs quite quickly, but it’s the car’s lack of hysteria even when being pushed hard that fails to drawn our attention to the impending redline. Luckily, the automatic nature of the transmission pops in to select the next gear. The car’s new 4.4-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission join forces to offer effortless acceleration, accompanied with a slightly muted burble designed to inspire but not intrude.
Longer, lower, and wider, the new car is larger in every dimension than its predecessor except height, where it now sits nearly half an inch closer to the ground. BMW says the increases aid in passenger comfort, specifically rear seat room, but we would still not recommend the backseat for larger adults or for longer stints. Trunk space is also lacking and is only good for a couple bags but not much more. In addition, the increase in dimensions adds approximately 300 pounds to the car’s curb weight despite the use of aluminum for the doors and hood and a glass-fiber composite for the front side panels, roof lid, and trunk. However, according to BMW, the 2012 car is still faster to 60 mph compared to its predecessor, and the car is nearly 50 percent more torsionally rigid.
We always felt the old 6-Series was a little frumpy, so the 2012 car’s new taunt metal makes it look smaller than its antecedent and much more sleek. It also better aligns the 6-Series with the new seductive styling of the BMW sedan lineup. But from behind the wheel, the car’s size is apparent. The car feels big, and its steering is heavy, artificial, and lacking of feedback, but when pushed hard, the whole package tightens up as the 650i reacts like a true sports car.
Gordon talks a great deal how all BMWs are engineered to be superior driving cars, handling the curves and straight-line dashes as well as any sports car, but it’s the brand’s headway with the latest technologies and well-appointed interiors that make it standout in the luxury class. This was apparent the first time we jump in the pair of comfortable chairs, which provide a full-spectrum of adjustments, even allowing for the tweaking of the amount of cushion in the shoulders and offering a flexible head pillow to cradle the cranium. Front and center is a hard-to-miss 10.2-inch display controlled by the infamous iDrive knob just right of the gear selector. We were a little rusty with the various layers to the iDrive system, but picked it up fairly quickly. It is from here that you will gain the most control of the car’s various driver technologies. Some features and options currently offered include Surround View via five well-placed cameras around the car, night vision with pedestrian recognition, parking assist (like Lexus’s parallel-parking feature), blind spot warning, and a warning system for unintentional lane changes. This last item deserves specific attention because it was overly active in our test car, vibrating the steering wheel during slower lane changes and even when entering corners. Luckily, it can be turned off via a switch on the left side of the dashboard. Another noteworthy item is the full-color 3-D graphics portrayed on the windshield via the heads-up display.
The 650i Convertible has always offered a unique convertible mechanism. Its two rear fins help keep the appearance of a coupe by appearing like large C-pillars. It also provides a small rear window that can be raised or lowered independent of the cloth top. This allows the rear window to be down when the top is up to push more air through the cabin or up when the top is down to act as a wind deflector and aid in a quieter cabin. And a quiet cabin it does have. Even at speeds reaching 90 mph, we could still hold a conversation with all the windows up. The soft-top mechanism will even work at speeds up to 25 mph, lowering in 19 seconds and rising in 24 seconds.
Walking away from the BMW 650i Convertible, we were impressed with its hi-tech yet tasteful interior and sporty pedigree that appeared to be built in the very structure of the car. We had mixed feelings about the many technological “advancements,” finding the Surround-View system and 3-D HUD graphics to be a plus while loathing the near constant vibrations from the Lane Departure Warning System. Altogether, we will remember the 2012 650i Convertible as a stylish and superior grand touring vehicle for two.
4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8
400 hp @ 5,500 rpm
450 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
155 mph (limited)
New, better looking, and faster 6-Series Convertible
Bothersome lane change warnings, large size for little space