Based the the appearance of the BMW 6 Series Coupe Concept at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, one could have easily predicted the automaker was on the cusp of launching the all-new 6 Series Coupe. BMW, however, decided to switch things up, and roll out the drop-top variant -- the 2012 650i Convertible -- before it sends the fixed-roof model into production.
Starting with a redesigned chassis, the new 6 is 2.9 inches longer both overall and in wheelbase, 1.5 inches wider, and less than half-an-inch shorter in height. Weight change information hasn't been released, but several steps have been taken to lighten the big tourer. The front fenders, roof cover, and trunk lid are composite, while the doors, hood, and front shock towers all are constructed from aluminum. All those body panels represent what BMW calls "athletic elegance and natural sportiness." The lines that start at the hood and flow backward are inspired by the waves pushing off the bow of a motorboat. Whatever the inspiration, the new 6 has a more classic look that should age much more gracefully than the previous flame-surfaced design.
Technology is going to be the real party trick that sells the new 6. It's loaded to the gills with electronics like Driving Dynamic Control, which allows the driver to dial in how the car responds with throttle mapping, steering assist, damping, stability, and traction control. It will also be equipped with BMW's new ConnectedDrive, which boasts features like Auto High Beam control, lane departure warning system, auto blindspot detection, rear and top view cameras for parking assistance, proximity sensors, night vision, 3-D heads-up display and even active cruise control with start/stop capability. All this technology could be a signal of just how close we're getting to a self-driving car.
The 6 doesn't fall behind on old-fashioned go-fast tech, either. It is powered by BMW's new twin-turbo 4.4-liter direct injection V8. The star of its new line of forced induction engines, it produces 400 horsepower from 5500 to 6400 rpm. While it is impressive that peak power is maintained for 900 rpm, the even more impressive feet may be sustaining the peak torque of 450 pound-feet from a lowly 1750 rpm all the way up 4500 rpm. This means the 6 will pull from anywhere in the power band --could this super tractable engine make the new 8-speed automatic transmission redundant? For those three-pedal enthusiasts, a real manual will also be available, but you will have to settle for just 6 forward gears. Equipped with either the manual or the torque-converter automatic, the 6 is rated with a 0-to-60 time of 4.9 seconds and limited top speed of 155 mph.
To make sure the car lives up to BMW's historic handling pedigree, the 6 is equipped with an A-arm suspension in front and a multi-link setup in the rear. BMW says the suspension components are predominantly aluminum, although we aren't sure what percentage constitutes "predominantly." We hope almost all of it would be, for a car in this price range. Engineering fundamentals are again backed up by electronics. An active roll-control system uses hydraulic actuators on the anti-roll bars to change roll rates and handling, and ride can be further altered by varying both compression and rebound damping rates. New for this year is the Integral Active Steering, which combines the active steering previously available with new active rear wheel steering. The rear steer will give the car greater stability at high speeds and allow tighter turning radii in low speed maneuvers.
EPA data is not yet available, but BMW claims the new 650 will be considerably more efficient than the previous model. New features like brake energy regeneration, on-demand ancillary devices, and improved aerodynamics will make for class-leading green performance.
As usual, BMW is going all out with the flagship model. We suspect the 650i will have similar performance to the outgoing M6 while offering more comfort and efficiency. The engineers at the M-Division could really have their work cut out for them this time.