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.
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.