2012 BMW 650i Convertible Review
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
In the exclusive world of luxury convertibles, a car is like a new suit. It had better have the right label and the right cut or you'll look like you don't belong. The BMW 6-Series convertible has always had the right label, but with an aging design, the cut of its jib, so to speak, hasn't been, well, cutting it in recent years.
For 2012, BMW is remedying that problem by giving the 6 an elegant new design — inside and out — as well as a powerful new engine. Consequently, the 6-Series is at the forefront of automotive fashion once again.
Priced at $90,500, the 2012 BMW 650i convertible comes well equipped. Notable standard equipment includes Nappa leather upholstery, rearview camera, Dynamic Cruise Control, a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic, AM/FM/CD stereo with HD radio, Dynamic Driving Control, Bluetooth connectivity, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, BMW Assist telematics system, xenon adaptive headlights with auto-leveling, and P245/40R19 run-flat tires on alloy wheels.
Options include a Driver Assistance package with automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, side- and top-view cameras, and a heads-up display; a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with a USB port; Integral Active Steering with rear steering; 20-inch wheels with performance tires; Active Roll Stabilization; NightVision with pedestrian detection; and BMW Apps, which can access Facebook, Twitter and Web radio, as well as certified third-party applications.
Under the Hood
The 650i also employs brake-energy regeneration, which disconnects the alternator during acceleration and charges it during deceleration, thus saving fuel. Fuel economy ratings are 15 mpg city/22 highway with the 6-speed manual and 16/24 mpg with the automatic.
When it arrives, the M6 will use the same twin-turbocharged V8 engine that makes 555 horsepower in the current X5 M and X6 M.
Among BMWs, the 6-Series may have the highest-quality interior materials. Soft-touch surfaces abound, the Nappa leather is supple, and the Gray Poplar or aluminum trim add to the appeal. The look and feel is even better with the available $1,500 leather-covered dashboard.
BMW's iDrive control interface is standard, and it comes with a large 10.2-inch dashboard screen. Given the numerous navigation, communications and entertainment possibilities, it eliminates the need for a sea of dashboard buttons. However, the tradeoff is that drivers have to dig into the system's menus to find the right function. A series of buttons surrounding the main rotating control knob make accessing the various controls easier, and we found it fairly easy to use after a bit of a learning curve. Commonly used functions — such as navigation addresses, phone numbers or radio presets — can be even easier to access thanks to eight programmable buttons. The system also includes a 12-gigabyte hard drive that can hold thousands of songs.
The standard soft-top is also of high quality. When up, it shuts out wind and road noise as good as any hardtop we've driven. It's easy to use, too. It lowers in 19 seconds, raises in 24 second, and can be operated at speeds up to 25 mph. Why a soft-top and not a retractable hardtop? A retractable soft-top takes up less trunk space than a hardtop. Even so, the trunk is still on the small side. But it will fit a set of golf clubs. A Cold Weather package adds a rear-seat pass-through with a ski bag, as well as a heated steering wheel and heated seats.
On the Road
Some optional technology can make the sporty handling even more responsive. Active Roll Stabilization firms up the anti-roll bars to make the already flat cornering attitude even flatter. BMW's Integrated Active Steering electronically varies the steering ratio to make it quicker and more responsive at low speeds and slower and more stable at high speeds. It also comes with rear steering, which turns the rear wheels up to three degrees in the opposite direction of the fronts at low speeds to reduce the turning circle and steers the rears with the fronts at speed to increase stability.
With its nearly perfect weight balance, quick steering and inherent agility, the 650i is a fine grand tourer that is just as at home cruising the boulevard as it is carving up twisty canyon roads. While the car is pleasingly solid, there is a bit of cowl shake, especially with the top down.
The twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine makes great sounds and even better power. It vaults the 650i from zero to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds and tops out at an electronically limited 155 mph. We did detect a slight hesitation before power delivery. It's not annoying, but it didn't seem to go away no matter which Driving Dynamics mode we chose.
Although we didn't drive the standard 6-speed manual, we did drive the 8-speed automatic and found it to be smooth and responsive, though occasionally hesitant to downshift without a serious stab at the throttle.
Right for You?
(As part of an automaker-sponsored press event, BMW provided MSN with travel and accommodations tofacilitate this report.)
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.