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One Week With: 2016 BMW 640i Convertible

Looking this good comes at a price

Arthur St. Antoinewriter, photographer

The 2016 BMW 640i Convertible is the quintessential "see and be seen"-mobile. Long, low, and lovely, it's a dramatic piece that radiates money and style. You could roll down Rodeo Drive in this rig wearing a wife-beater tank top and still look good. The cockpit is even more attractive, full of creamy leather, natty contrasting trim, and succulent Fineline wood veneer. It's truly gorgeous. But you'll pay for such sartorial splendor: Out-the-door sticker, including the $400 cold-weather option and $4,900 M Sport package, is a dizzying $90,995. Yeah, you could buy two 4-Series convertibles for that much.

So what does $91K actually get you? In short, you're paying mostly for all that looking-good stuff, plus the exclusivity and prestige of driving a premium, limited-production model from the renowned blue-propeller marque. And, really, there aren't many other open-air GTs like the 640i in this price range. The Mercedes SL doesn't have the BMW's rear seats (though they're strictly for kids; no normal-sized adult could fit back there), while the Audi S5 is more exhilarating to drive but far less of a scene stealer.

That brings us to the driving experience: It's polished but not thrilling. Under the hood lies a twin-turbo, direct-injection 3.0-liter six good for 315 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque; the mill mates to a standard eight-speed automatic with manual paddle-shift mode. The engine is impressively smooth and strong, and the torque floods in to its peak at just 1,400 rpm, so the 640i moves with an easy, relaxed gait. BMW claims a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.4 seconds, but the car feels quicker than that. With the M Sport option, top speed rises to 150 mph (it's normally limited to 130 mph). These are good numbers, true, but the 640i doesn't possess any of the liveliness or spark that's such a hallmark of the BMW brand. For one thing, it's just too heavy—checking in at more than 4,200 pounds. And it's big; that long, luscious hood is suddenly an impediment when you're on an apex-strafing run. Despite the sporting pretensions of the M Sport package's 19-inch alloy wheels and aero kit, the 640i would rather glide around than hustle. All that said, the 640i does have one gratifying surprise up its sleeve: 31 mpg highway. That's mighty impressive for a car this big and potent. During my week with the car, mostly city driving, I managed a still-respectable 25 mpg.

The M Sport suspension, which includes dynamic damping control, feels unsuitably stiff for a car with the 640i's genteel character. Yes, clicking into Comfort+ mode helps, but there's still undue impact harshness over freeway imperfections. That might be acceptable if the car was a "Dancing With The Stars" winner, but this one would probably get axed in an early round. So if it's not a handler, shouldn't the ride be creamier than crème brûlée? It's curious, because BMW's chassis department is full of magicians, producing some of the finest-handling cars in the world. Then again, 2-plus tons is tricky to manage no matter who is pulling the rabbits out of the hat. And I must say, the M Sport add-ons do look fabulous.

As a convertible, the 640i shines. The softtop drops at the push of a button in under 20 seconds, and once it's down the cabin is nicely isolated from wind intrusions. The structure is tight and completely free of shimmy or squeaks. And, top down, the car just looks the business, the roof folding completely away under a short rear deck set off in an eye-catching Shadowline black frame. Now you know what you paid for.

Don't lift a finger, because every nicety you could want is aboard: heated and ventilated front seats, rear-view camera, soft-close automatic doors, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, and more. Fit and finish are simply superb all around. This is one of those rides that immediately prompts new passengers to exclaim, "Wow! Nice car!" When I told one of my friends how much the 640i costs, he smiled and nodded: "Feels like it."

So, would I recommend the 640i Convertible to a shopper looking to extract the most from his or her premium-GT dollar? Nope. But if someone told me they'd just bought one and love it, I'd say, "I'm not surprised at all."

2016 BMW 640i Convertible Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $85,795/$90,995 (base/as-tested)
Engine: 3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6/315 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 332 lb-ft @ 1,400 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Layout: 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible
EPA Mileage: 20/31 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 192.8 x 74.6 x 53.7 in
Wheelbase: 112.4 in
Weight: 4,250 lb
0-60 MPH: 5.4 sec
Top Speed: 150 mph