The more money you spend on your BMW 6-series, the longer it’ll take you to familiarise yourself with all of its active and adaptable chassis systems, its various driving modes and its many driver assistance gadgets. Which is fine, up to a point. Complexity goes hand in hand with sophisticated technology, after all, and sophisticated technology is what you want for your £60-£80k. But if you’ve spent time fiddling with the various software control algorithms for the dampers, anti-roll bars, stability control systems and power steering and are no closer to having a car you’re completely satisfied with… well, then you’ve got a problem.
That’s the situation this BMW puts its driver in. With four chassis modes ranging from Comfort to Sport+, and three gearbox control maps, you’d imagine one combination would allow you to connect with the dynamic character of the car on a cross-country road and explore its handling potential. But whatever mode you select, the 6-series seems to remain frustratingly aloof.
Normal and Comfort modes allow you plenty of compliance for comfortable town and trunk road mileage, but not enough steering precision or body control for more challenging roads. Sport mode makes the car’s dynamic demeanour more accurate and composed, enough for keen back-road driving with lots of grip and commendable roll control. But at times Sport sends an unsettling shudder through the car’s body structure over a sharp-edged bump.
None of the modes dials much natural feel into the electric power steering system, which seems sticky at times and overly heavy at others. None of them really counteracts a mild tendency towards understeer. But worse still, none of them feels like a proper baseline setting in which the 650i offers an ideal blend of control and compliance.
Unfortunately, the same is true of the flagship M6. The complexity of the drivetrain options is upped but still no setting delivers proper feel to the steering or an agreeable dynamic compromise between ride and handling.Bizarrely, given its billing as the most luxurious 6-series, it is the Gran Coupe which provides the most engaging drive. It is balanced, fluid and neutral, and selecting Comfort mode even allows for a cosseting ride.