Added performance, hi-tech chassis and other changes make the second-generation 6-series cabriolet a much more complete and desirable car than its predecessor

What is it?

BMW has made it tradition to introduce coupe versions of new models prior to its cabriolet siblings, the time gap between the two usually running to around six months depending on production capacity. The new 6-series curiously dispenses with this habit.

It’s a smart move, providing the new 6-series with a distinct kick start to sales. Not that BMW is relying solely on seasonal weather to generate showroom traffic. It’s also given its new open top a heady dash of style as part of a complete re-engineering job that sees it adopt a new rear-wheel drive platform, more contemporary engines created under BMW’s EfficientDynamics banner and a whole host of electronic chassis components included in the company’s recent Dynamic Drive initiative.

What’s it like?

Gone is the bullish and bloated look of the old model, replaced by a much more elegant and cohesive lineage. Not surprisingly, given it is based on the same underpinnings as the latest generation 5-series, the new 6-series cabriolet has grown in length and width, putting on 74mm and 39mm respectively, although height is down by a scant 8mm – all of which serves to give it a longer and more lithe profile together with a more confident and athletic stance.

As with the exterior, the interior has also been thoroughly reworked, with a unique dashboard and centre console – the latter now angled slightly towards the driver for a more cosseting feel than that of the old 6-series cabriolet. The perception of quality has also received a welcome lift thanks to the inclusion of higher grade materials and added attention to detail.

The increased dimensions provide front seat occupants with plenty of accommodation, although entry is impeded somewhat by the heavily raked nature of the windscreen despite the generous length of the doors, which like the bonnet are fashioned from aluminium in a bid to trim weight. The individual rear seats, like those up front, are generous in size but, for a car measuring almost five metres in length, lack for any real legroom and are not at all easy to climb into with the roof up.

As with the first-generation 6-series cabriolet launched in 2004, this new one uses a fabric hood that can be operated at speeds up to 40km/h. The vertical rear window, which can be automatically lowered into the rear bulk head via a switch on the driver’s door, is brought over from the old model.

When the new 6-series cabriolet reaches the UK in March, buyers will get to choose between two petrol engine options. They include a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with 316bhp and 332lb ft of torque in the 640i as well as a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 packing 401bhp and strapping 442lb ft in the 650i driven here.

Although it weighs a good deal more than the in-line six-cylinder the V8 delivers truly heady levels of performance along with extraordinary levels of refinement.

Despite lacking the automatic stop/start system that will be standard on the 640i cabriolet here in the UK, BMW claims the new 650i cabriolet’s engine records a slight two per cent reduction in fuel consumption over the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 it replaces in the 650i cabriolet at a combined 26.4mpg.

On light to moderate throttle loads even with the roof down there is an almost complete lack of mechanical intrusion into the cabin, making the new BMW a serene boulevard cruiser. Bury your foot, though, and there’s an alluring burble back through the exhaust.

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Out on the open road, the new 6-series cabriolet feels terrifically solid with very little scuttle shake even over nasty ruts, and, crucially, is a good deal more entertaining than its predecessor. It changes direction with added eagerness and, despite its vast array of electronic driving aids, can be relied upon to adjust its line mid-corner.

BMW says overall stiffness has been improved by a remarkable 50 per cent, both for dynamic and ride characteristics, along with a more direct action for the front steering and, in a first for the up-market open top ranks, the addition of the BMW’s Integral Active Steering.

As far as driving characteristics are concerned, it is really a matter of what chassis setting you choose. As with high end versions of the new 5-series and the larger 7-series, BMW’s Dynamic Drive system allows you to select between three different modes: comfort, normal and sport. A further setting, sport plus, also delays the intervention of the stability and traction control systems to give you a further dimension.

Normal is the mode of choice for everyday running, providing an excellent blend between ride quality, body control and overall response. It better suits the new car’s athletic character than comfort mode, which unnecessarily softens up the suspension, introduces added body roll and takes the sharpness out of the steering.

For more spirited driving, sport mode is definitely the way to go. At first it feels overly aggressive owing mainly to the increased turn in qualities provided by the rear wheel steering. But find an empty back road and you quickly come to appreciate the added directness, which provides this nearly two tonne open top with the sort of agility usually associated with a much lighter and more focused performance car.

Should I buy one?

The new 6-series cabriolet is clearly a more complete car than the one it replaces. From the added elegance inherent in its styling, through the improved quality of its interior, increased performance potential, reduced consumption and more entertaining on-road qualities, it’s a positive step forward and a much more worthy rival to the likes of the Jaguar XK cabriolet and Mercedes-Benz E-class coupe.

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It certainly bodes well for the upcoming 6-series coupe, which by way of an even more rigid bodyshell promises to be an even more exciting proposition.

BMW 650i Convertible

Price: £73,430; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 5.0secs; Economy: 26.4mpg; CO2: 249g/km; Kerb weight: 1940kg; Engine: V8, 4395cc, twin-turbocharged petrol; Installation: front, longitudinal, RWD; Power: 401bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 442lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 8-speed automatic

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Lupe 26 January 2011

Re: BMW 650i Convertible

gaco1 wrote:
BOOORING!!. EVO say that its structure is based on the 7 series, AUTOCAR says its the 5 series. OR is the new 5 also based on the 7 series???

Ah, Yeah!!

gaco1 24 January 2011

Re: BMW 650i Convertible

BOOORING!!. EVO say that its structure is based on the 7 series, AUTOCAR says its the 5 series. OR is the new 5 also based on the 7 series???

Anyway would much rather have an XKR, or Ferrari 456, 550 etc.

manicm 24 January 2011

Re: BMW 650i Convertible

Just another RUC - Rich Uncle's Car. Yawn.