More often than not, convertibles launch after an automaker has introduced a conventional fixed-roof variant, but the 2012 BMW 6-series is a break from that tradition. Instead, the automaker debuted the 2012 650i convertible earlier this year, just in time for it to arrive in the U.S -- where 6-series convertible sales are double that of coupes -- for prime drop-top driving season.
That said, BMW isn’t leaving buyers looking for a large, premium coupe out in the cold. The automaker just released the first official photos of the new 2012 650i coupe, which is scheduled to reach U.S. showrooms by the fall of 2011.
Predictably, the new 650i coupe is a line-for-line clone of its convertible sibling below the beltline. Previewed by the 6-series Concept shown at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the new 6-series coupe’s exterior form is clean, sculpted, and a refreshing change from the previous model. Designers labored to lend the coupe and convertible similar rooflines, although the hardtop does receive slender C-pillars, which incorporate the brand’s distinctive Hofmeister kink.
Despite growing almost three inches in length and 1.5 inches in width, engineers labored to prevent the 650i from simultaneously gaining weight. Finalized specifications have yet to be released, but the new 6 extensively uses lightweight materials. Aluminum is used in coupe’s doors, hood, front shock towers, and a majority of the suspension components, while the front fenders, trunk lid, and outer roof skin are crafted from composite materials.
Although Europeans will be able to opt for a 640i model with a turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6, the 6-series coupe will only be sold in North America as a 650i. The 650i cars make use of BMW’s twin-turbocharged, 4.4-liter V-8, which is rated at 400 horsepower between 5500 and 6400 rpm, and 450 pound-feet of torque from 1750 to 4500 rpm. BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, but a six-speed manual is optional -- and, remarkably, only so on cars bound for North America. Regardless of the gearbox, expect the 650i to be quite quick: BMW says either car is capable of sprinting from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, and is electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph.
Like its four-door relative, the 5-series, the new 650i makes use of BMW’s electronically controlled dampers. Drivers are allowed to dial in ride quality from behind the wheel, selecting from settings ranging from comfort to sport. A new active roll stabilization system is optional, and counteracts lean in corners by adjusting hydraulic actuators in the front and rear anti-roll bars. BMW’s active steering system is once again available, but has been revised to incorporate rear-wheel steering. Unsurprisingly, advanced technology isn’t relegated to the chassis itself. BMW’s ubiquitous iDrive system again appears within the 650i’s cabin, but now incorporates a 10.2-inch high-definition LCD screen. Audiophiles may delight in pairing that infotainment system with a new 16-speaker sound system developed by audio specialist (and longtime Audi partner) Bang &Olufsen. An optional driver assistance package adds lane departure warning and blind spot detection systems, along with a new three-dimensional head-up display. Active cruise control is also available, as is BMW’s night vision system, but those seeking additional nocturnal vision can also opt for new adaptive LED headlamps.
Official pricing won’t be announced until closer to the 650i’s official U.S. launch date, but expect the coupe to carry a manufacturer’s suggested retail price in the low-to-mid $80,000 range -- slightly above the $79,325 asking price for a 2010 model, yet far below the $91,375 base price for a 2012 650i convertible.