Return of the Shark: Driving the BMW 650i Cabriolet

Recently, I had the pleasure of celebrating my 30th year of existence and without much fanfare (my personal preference), it was a lovely evening spent with the family and loved ones. According to what most people were telling me, turning 30 does come with some caveats, even the Government felt that my current form of identification needed changing and sent me a letter requesting for a new photograph. (Which reminds me, I need to search for that letter again.)

Some say, it all goes downhill from here. Some say, you stop counting once you hit 30 and every year after that, you can choose to stay 30. Sadly, my waistline has already gone past 30 year after year. As for those late night parties, forget them. I sometimes cannot even keep myself awake to watch the latest episode of Ancient Aliens. Partying is probably not that much fun now that I cannot tell young lasses that I’m still in my trendy twenties either. Oh my, getting on with age does seem to be somewhat dreary. But enough about me, here in the cusp of my hand, are the keys to a brand new BMW 6 Series. The first to carry the “F” chassis moniker in place of the usual “E”s.

If you discount the utterly beautiful sculpture of a car, the gorgeous E9 Coupes. The BMW 6’ers have been with us almost as long as I have. Longer in fact, as the first shark-nosed “E24” 6 was born in 1976. Making the series 6 cars a tidy 35 years of age. It had all the right boxes ticked, fantastic handling, a smooth straight-6 BMW engine, and a great looking body. This shark lasted 12 years and towards the end of it’s life, was given the heart from the might BMW M1 and attained future classic status once production ended.

Fast forward almost 27-years into the future after the last Sharked ‘6 rolled off the production line (and skipping the much maligned 8’s), came the resurrection of the 6. It handled well, and had more then just a straight-6. With the top-of-the-line M-car receiving a V10 powerplant. There was no wanting for power then. The main issue of contempt laid upon the car though was the styling. The slightly bulbous car lacked the elegance of previous generation of big BMW coupes. Most critics saved their volleys for the treatment of the backend and a whole generation of Bangle-butt jokes sprouted over the internets. Depending on who you talked to, the styling was somewhat a hit or miss. Over the course of it’s life, little nips and tucks delicately tidied up the car and the last car was sent off the production line with it’s dignity intact in 2010.

Which was why when the new one came out, I’d reckon what mattered most to everyone, wasn’t how powerful it was going to be, it wasn’t how complicated the suspension system is probably not how much the car will eventually cost. What mattered most, is how the car looks. This lot then probably had all their insides knotted for no reason then as the latest 6, again, ticks the main big boxes that defines a BMW coupe. The handling, the engine, and a great looking body.

Making a comeback after decades are the forward (slightly) angled kidney grilles. The makings of a shark. Although the car has gotten slightly longer, but it is now also lower and wider with an almost identical wheelbase as before. The size of the car does make itself apparent when you stand next to it, but visually, they’ve managed to hide the bulk of the car and the overall effect is very tidy. From the boat-like visuals just aft of the front wheel arches to that lovely cut-line running front the front vents to the rear lights and incorporating the door handles. The design does look like it has gone quite a long thought process to get where it is now. From certain angles, with the scallops on the bonnet, it almost seems as if, a piece of metal cloth was draped over the chassis and slowly pulled and tensioned towards the back-end where a lovely set of tail-lights are positioned.

Inside the car, it is just splendid. Leather all over, lovely stitching and a return to the driver-centric console missing from just one generation before. Everyone know is angled towards you with the biggest screen ever fitted to a car taking center-stage. Black panel technology for the climate and dashboard with a heads-up display for the pilot. By pilot, I do mean big jumbo-jet pilot. Because that is how you feel when you start the car, roll out of the carpark and have a turbo-charged 4.4 V8 nestling just under your right foot. With 610Nm’s of juicy torque on tap (at just 1750rpms), it really does feel like you are about to take flight when you put your foot down. Official figures put the 0-100 time at 5 seconds but it sure feels a lot faster then that. In traffic, in-gear acceleration is even more astounding, unofficial figures means you go from “Wheee” to “Wooowwwo-shHIIHHHIT” once the 8-speed automatic does it transmission dance and drops a couple of cogs down. It really is a matter of brace, put your foot down, and wait for the downshift (how long a wait depending on the mode of attack, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+), Warp Speed ahead.

It can get addictive, a big V8 does that to you. Just to hear that V8 clear it’s lungs is reason enough to plonk the loud pedal down. Which brings me to one big issue I have with this car. For some reason, I just cannot hear it. There is a mighty V8 hidden under the bonnet somewhere but it is just so muffled, and that is a shame. For the price of the car, BMW should have thrown in some trick butterfly valves into the exhaust and allow the car the bellow with Sport modes engaged. It’s nothing an aftermarket tuner can’t cure after so much work BMW put into the car, you wish they’d let loose with the noise on this one.

When the straight roads end and some work is needed with the steering, it is a big car and feels bigger from the inside. The scallops on the bonnet so lovely to look at distracts slightly when judging the width of the car down a windy road. You sort of drive the car believing how wide it is then actually perceiving it with your eyes. Perhaps a longer period of time driving the car would improve my driving and perceptive skills but this was my observation.

With slightly more faith in the car after a few runs, I turned the car into corners and got into a nice rhythm of shifting the car from side to side. For a car this big, there really is no hiding the weight, but avoid pushing too hard into corners and work the car gently, it gives good feedback and excellent body control. The car is very tight and even working the brakes on uneven roads does nothing to unsettle the car. No vibrations nor rattles to be had, and once a clear straight stretch makes itself visible, that 610Nm’s comes into play again.

Driving a car like that is somewhat a silly thing to do though, as clearly, this is primarily a Grand Tourer, made for blitzing through countries and decimating highways. It does this touring bit clearly, very well. Set your adaptive drive to comfort and just enjoy the scenery go by. Everything in the interior is just designed to cocoon you for possible long journeys. Great supportive seats which adjust is each and everyway, a lovely leather bound steering wheel, and a massive audio system.

With BMW opting for the conventional canvas roof option which is much better looking then a folding metal roof, quite a bit of noise does go through. But to be honest, if that bugs you, go for the coupe.

An awesome machine then this new 6. That is without a doubt. But at the current price of SGD$410,000 that is quite a large amount of money. I hope I don’t get stick for this, but if you are in the market for a big BMW coupe/convertible, have a look at the slightly lower down the ladder 640i. I’d reckon you will have as much fun in the 640i as you will in the 650i. With the award winning 3-liter twin-scroll-charged engine inside, I think that is enough for the occasional bout of enthusiastic driving. If you really want to go the whole hog and want a big V8, it’s hard to fault the new 650i, but for slightly less money, you can also pick up a used M6, which although aesthetically challenged, comes with 2 extra cylinders and that trademark V10 wail. Some food for thought there. Which car to choose? A problem I am sure many will love to have.

With 35years of advancement, the BMW 6 series has grown bigger, wider and now needs to drink and eat more. But at the same time, is even faster and more athletic then ever before. Who says you cannot have your cake and eat it at the same time? Unless of course you are me, and after 30 years can now only relate to the first set of traits.

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