Reviews

2012 BMW 650i Walk Around

The BMW 6 Series is one of the more elegant big cars BMW has penned. Much of the car's previous styling, attributed to former head of BMW design Chris Bangle, has been replaced with fluid lines. The raked windshield, so steep as to be slightly in the way climbing on board, communicates a willingness to rush through the air at great speed. The nose's twin kidney grilles are sleekly integrated into an almost round nose, while a gaping intake running across the nose portrays shark-like aggressiveness, validated by its powerful drivetrain.

Gone is the enormous, shelf-like rear-end. The new LED taillight clusters are like two eyes-peeled squints across the bluff rear face. And demonstrating that BMW's sense of humor is alive and well, the little BMW logo on the trunk is in fact a small peek-a-boo door, opening to let the rearview camera peer out when you're in reverse.

Interior

Cockpit design and layout on the 2012 BMW 6 Series is much improved over the previous generation, and materials and finish are top-notch. The handsomely stitched dashboard cover surrounds BMW instrumentation of traditionally businesslike placement and conciseness. The extra-large analog tachometer and speedometer keep the focus on the business at hand. The premium steering wheel is thick, leather-wrapped, and provides 12 fingertip adjustments for audio, phone and adaptive cruise control.

As with other BMW interiors, all functions are angled ever-so-slightly toward the driver. Even the controls next to the gearshift, for the parking brake, roof operation and selectable driving modes, are mounted on a recessed surface in the driver's side of the console, discouraging mutinous decisions. The large central display screen has effective technology that makes it visible in bright sun, which is especially useful on convertibles.

The new 6 Series employs the fourth-generation iDrive control system. Unlike earlier iterations, it is no longer a mindlessly complex obstacle to the driver. To the contrary, this system has at last become the driver's ally. Also available to the driver are controls regulating the car's ride motions and steering feel, the latter's adjustability made possible thanks to the 650i's advanced steer-by-wire electronic guidance. Our test car was also outfitted with the BMW Connected app, which allows drivers to access Facebook, Twitter, Pandora and paid music subscription service MOG accounts through a late-model iPhone or iPod Touch on the iDrive display. Blackberry and Android smartphones are out of luck.

The Bang&Olufsen sound system includes a speaker system designed exclusively for the unique shape and space of the 6 Series coupe. We found the sound quality impressive, but it seemed like an expensive option to us.

Front seats provide a blend of comfort, snug fit and firm lateral support, crucial in sporty driving. Cooled and heated seats work quickly and effectively and provide welcome relief from extreme temperatures. In the rear, legroom is adequate for average-sized adults, although taller passengers will feel cramped, especially in the coupe, which offers less headroom than the convertible with the top up. On the latter model, lowering the soft top takes about 20 seconds, and raising it takes a tad longer.

Trunk space measures 16.2 cubic feet in the coupe and a surprisingly roomy 12.3 cubic feet in the convertible (10.6 with the top down). Both versions have pass-through openings for long items.

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