The rear-wheel-drive BMW 6 Series is a luxury cruiser available in a choice of body styles. The four-door 6 Series Gran Coupe and two-door Convertible continue unchanged for 2018. The two-door Coupe has been discontinued. There’s also a luxurious Alpina B6 Gran Coupe and a high-performance M6 versions of the Gran Coupe and Convertible.
The 6 Series Grand Coupe and Convertible were facelifted for 2016, but the current generation traces back six years.
A new four-door Gran Turismo joins the 6 Series, but it’s related more closely to the 5 Series than it is to the other 6 Series models.
The 6 Series offers a choice of drivetrains: Base engine in the BMW 640i is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder making 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, enabling it to accelerate from zero to sixty in a quick 5.3 seconds. The engine in the BMW 650i is a 4.4-liter V8 making 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque, enabling it to accelerate from zero to sixty in a super quick 4.3 seconds. Both engines use an 8-speed automatic transmission.
The M6 uses a 4.4-liter twin turbo V8 that can go 186 miles per hour with the Competition Package. A 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is standard, but a six-speed manual gearbox is available. Imagine that. Imagine it in the convertible. Doesn’t get much cooler than that.
All-wheel drive, which BMW calls xDrive, is available. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the 6 Series.
The BMW 640i gets an EPA-rated 21/30 miles per gallon City/Highway, 24 mpg Combined.
The 6 Series hasn’t been crash tested, and won’t be because of the price and low volume; but it’s safe to assume it’s safe. And there’s much available safety equipment, including forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking at city speeds, blind spot monitors, surround-view camera system, lane departure warnings, night vision cameras with pedestrian detection, and active steering assistants.
The 640i Gran Turismo ($69,700), 640i Gran Coupe ($81,400), and 640i Convertible ($86,700) come with the I6. Standard equipment includes leather seats, dark wood trim, 18-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlamps, 10-way power adjustable front seats, keyless ignition, WiFi hotspot capability, rearview camera, and iDrive, an infotainment interface with 10.2-inch touchscreen.
The 650i Gran Coupe ($93,000) and 650i Convertible ($98,300) come with the V8 engine. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination.)
All-wheel drive xDrive is standard in the Gran Turismo ($69,700) and Alpina B6 ($124,300) and available with other models ($3000).
Options include the M Sport package that adds 19-inch wheels and high performance tires, black brake calipers, LED fog lamps, and Alcantara headliner.
M6 Gran Coupe ($119,800) and M6 Convertible ($122,300) feature 560-hp performance.
The 6 Series is evocative. It’s low-slung and wide-shouldered, athletic and confident, yet still somehow understated. The nose creases tightly into the nine-slat kidney grille, flanked by bold headlamps and big air intakes. A taut and finely rendered hood reaches upward over the sleek windshield to the arching roofline. Its elegant curves and flared fenders lower the window line, at least to the eye. The rear is sleek, simple, and modestly tucked.
The powerful M6 is quite subtle in its changes, mostly a body kit and badging. If it were parked beside a 650i you could see a difference, but otherwise you’d pretty much have to look for the badging.
There cabin is business-like, seems almost stark. But it can border on exotic, with white leather and fine woods.. It’s well appointed, both low-key and high-tech, but ruled by order and restraint; rich muted shades of many available materials, textures and colors. The plastics and leather present a visual and tactile sensation. It can be made as bright and plush as the 7 Series.
There’s room to stretch up front, with power seats that adjust in many ways and directions. The M Sport package offers multi-function sport seats with more support in the backrest and thighs.
Even though it’s a four-door, the Gran Coupe is more suited for two people. In the rear, legroom is tight and headroom is low, because of the sloping sensuous roofline. Taller passengers will have to duck to climb in and out, and buckle their knees once they’re seated. For four occupants, the 5 Series or 7 Series is the way to go. Maybe the new Gran Turismo with a stretched interior will change that. We haven’t driven it yet.
The GT might also have more cargo space, although the Gran Coupe’s trunk is big, at 16.2 cubic feet. Convertibles have 12.3 cubic feet the top up and 10.5 with it down.
The Convertible’s back seat is best for kids on a fairly short top-down ride. But it has the best convertible top in the business. The folding fabric top raises or lowers in 20 seconds at 25 mph, and stows under a metal lid. It’s well insulated, and the glass rear window can be opened like the old convertibles that used a zipper around canvas that always shrunk and stuck the zipper. People would drive around with their convertible rear window permanently flopped down, and rainwater would make pools that would slosh into the rear seat if the driver put on the brakes too hard.
These are better days. The BMW convertible top looks way classy. As long as it’s not blue. No hardtop convertible needed.
The 6 Series is quick and sporty. The BMW 640i turbo six-cylinder performs competently in its class. Its 8-speed automatic transmission gets the most from its 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. The engine gets most of its torque down low, at about 1700 rpm, and overcomes any doubt that the 3.0-liter engine might be breathless under acceleration. Actually, if it feels breathless, it’s at the top end. It’s been carrying the 4500 pounds of the car for a while, by then.
The BMW 650i is quicker and sportier. The twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8’s 445 horsepower is impressive, but it’s the 480 pound-feet of torque that makes us swoon. It’s one of our favorite engines. The 650i has a confident gas pedal. The turbochargers are seamless from 2000 rpm all the way up to 7000 rpm redline. The 650i’s linear power and symphonic bellow make winding roads enjoyable.
The 650i already weighs 264 pounds more than the 640i, so adding another 100 pounds for all-wheel drive might not be the best thing. We’re inclined to suggest that if you need all-wheel drive, go for the 640i, because it’s lighter and should be more nimble.
By most measurements now, the 6-Series is the Bavarian grand tourer, not a razor sharp sports car, or brawny muscle machine, and having plenty of passing power is part of the program.
The 6 Series handles with confidence, with steering sharp as a knife but not sharp as a razor. The suspension is firm, but tuned more for comfort than track days. The ride is so smooth that it begs for effortless high speeds. However with Driving Dynamics Control there are Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes to set suspension, steering, throttle and transmission response. The range of adjustments is almost astonishing, changing the 6 Series from cruiser to canyon carver.
But even the 650i is a step or two away from the M6, which turbo-boosts the 4.4-liter V8 to 560 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission handles the burst of thrust that comes on at 1700 rpm. A 6-speed manual gearbox can be ordered for the same price. You’re not likely to find one on a showroom floor. We absolutely love the idea of an M6 convertible with big shift lever coming up out of the floor. Can you get one with a front bench seat?
The M6 uses an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, 20-inch wheels, and firmer suspension settings than the 650i. But it still makes compromises for comfort, and the steering can feel a little numb when canyon carving. So for track days it’s the Competition Package, with a stiffer suspension and quicker steering. It also adds 40 horsepower and 30 mph to the top speed. A BMW driver’s training course comes with it. Excellent idea.
The brakes are plenty strong, but if you do track days, you might consider spending nearly $10,000 more, for ceramic brakes that don’t fade. They can be grabby when cold or around town, and ungodly expensive to service, but hey: if you want to run with the big dogs.
If a BMW 6 is what you want, there’s no reason not to buy one. It will fulfill your expectations. For its different missions, it has the correct highly engineered powertrain. The cabin is perfectly BMW. Its styling is classic elegant. But you must take a look at the Gran Turismo.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.