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BMW's luxury grand tourer has been given a style refresh and equipment upgrades. We've sampled the most powerful non-M version, the 650i Coupé

What is it?

If you remember the wonderful M1-engined M635CSi from 1984, it’s hard not to have a lingering soft spot for the BMW 6 Series. Indeed, that E24 model, introduced in 1976, was a pretty loveable thing even without the added glamour of a classic straight-six M engine.

The original Six was and remains a handsome devil, and the current version, to these eyes at least, is also an arresting spectacle.

Not resting on its laurels, BMW has decided to tweak it both technically and stylistically for 2015 to produce the facelifted coupé we are driving here, in V8 650i form. 

What's it like?

All the changes to the car’s looks, both inside and out, are gentle rather than dramatic; they’re there to improve the aesthetics, functionality, or both.

For example, along with new bumpers that now feature a full-width air intake at the front, there’s also a new kidney grille that has nine (instead of the previous 10) vertical bars. Each is angled sharply at the top, giving the grille an interesting three-dimensional effect, but the bigger openings are also functional and aid cooling.

Inside, there’s a standard leather-covered dash with contrast stitching and a new high-gloss centre console finisher that surrounds the climate and audio controls. This is an example of simple aesthetic detailing, designed to enhance an interior that needs to appeal to well-heeled buyers, used to high-quality materials and exacting design.

It’s a charming place to sit. As a driver or passenger, you feel ensconced and enveloped by the high dash and swooping centre console, but it’s not cramped and always comfortable, even if you are over 6ft tall.

BMW Connect is now standard. It uses an embedded 4G SIM card to give access to emergency assistance. However, you can add additional apps for live traffic reports, music streaming and, perhaps more fitting in the 6 Series, a concierge service. You can access this throughout Europe and use it for anything from booking a hotel to finding an out-of-hours pharmacy.

LED headlights are standard, but now you can upgrade to adaptive units that can be left on high beam and create dark zones to avoid dazzling other drivers. There’s also Driving Assistant Plus, which will intervene and stop the car from speeds of up to 37mph if it decides you are going to crash.

Of course, all this finery would be nothing without a decent engine. The 650i uses a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 that now transmits 444hp to the rear wheels, via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

It makes a mellifluous eight-cylinder bellow as it exhales through a switchable sports exhaust and provides plenty of thrust; 0-62mph is dispatched in just 4.6sec.

In town, there's a sudden shove of low-down torque that can make it tricky to pull away smoothly. However, point the 650i down a snaking B-road and it will effortlessly maintain pace with just a hint of throttle, or build speed alarmingly quickly if you hoof it.

While it’s amazingly adept on fast sweepers, if the road narrows and tightens you will begin to notice the 650i’s hefty size and weight. Even so, it changes direction well, thanks in part to meaty and accurate steering – although it lacks feedback – and an element of rear-wheel steer.

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Switching the driving mode to Sport firms up the damping to keep the body better tied down. However, inevitably, the more acute the apexes become, the more apparent the 650i’s generous proportions and 1870kg weight become, too.

The ride has a basic firmness that isn't out of place on a sporting coupé. However, find a deeply recessed manhole cover or similar and it will send a shudder through the car’s body and yours – a problem made worse if you step up the wheel size to 20in.

Should I buy one?

It becomes apparent after just a short while in the company of the 650i that it’s elegant, classy, beautifully built and, in this guise, has a pearl of an engine. 

Several hours gliding the 650i along fabulous Portuguese coastal roads bore out these fine qualities, but it also threw up a paradox: how to define it?

It’s a little too unwieldy to match the sportiness of a Porsche 911, nor does it possess the comfort of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé. And then there’s the competition from within its own range, in the form of the 640d Coupé, which is cheaper to buy and run but still jolly rapid.

On the right road, the 650i delivers moments of joy, sure, but logically, it's hard to recommend it over its best rivals.

BMW 650i Coupé

Location Lisbon; On sale Now; Price £72,385; Engine V8, 4395cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 444bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 479lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1870kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Economy 32.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 206g/km, 34% 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Jinx59 19 March 2015

Doubt the fuel economy

I'd question the 32mpg. I have a 640i GC, agreed a little heavier than this coupé, but I am at 25mpg average against the 'book value' of 36mpg. I have hit 36mpg - on a 750km motorway trip.

It is nevertheless a wonderful car.

Overdrive 19 March 2015

Autocar wrote:...It’s a

Autocar wrote:

...It’s a little too unwieldy to match the sportiness of a Porsche 911, nor does it possess the comfort of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé...

Or, you could've said, it's more refined, comfortable and spacious than a 911 and sharper and more sporty to drive than an S-Class coupe. So, it really depends on which narrative you are attempting to fit the car to.