Reviews

2018 BMW 6 Series Driving Impressions

The 6 Series is quick and sporty. The BMW 640i turbo six-cylinder performs competently in its class. Its 8-speed automatic transmission gets the most from its 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. The engine gets most of its torque down low, at about 1700 rpm, and overcomes any doubt that the 3.0-liter engine might be breathless under acceleration. Actually, if it feels breathless, it’s at the top end. It’s been carrying the 4500 pounds of the car for a while, by then.

The BMW 650i is quicker and sportier. The twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8’s 445 horsepower is impressive, but it’s the 480 pound-feet of torque that makes us swoon. It’s one of our favorite engines. The 650i has a confident gas pedal. The turbochargers are seamless from 2000 rpm all the way up to 7000 rpm redline. The 650i’s linear power and symphonic bellow make winding roads enjoyable.

The 650i already weighs 264 pounds more than the 640i, so adding another 100 pounds for all-wheel drive might not be the best thing. We’re inclined to suggest that if you need all-wheel drive, go for the 640i, because it’s lighter and should be more nimble.

By most measurements now, the 6-Series is the Bavarian grand tourer, not a razor sharp sports car, or brawny muscle machine, and having plenty of passing power is part of the program.

The 6 Series handles with confidence, with steering sharp as a knife but not sharp as a razor. The suspension is firm, but tuned more for comfort than track days. The ride is so smooth that it begs for effortless high speeds. However with Driving Dynamics Control there are Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes to set suspension, steering, throttle and transmission response. The range of adjustments is almost astonishing, changing the 6 Series from cruiser to canyon carver.

But even the 650i is a step or two away from the M6, which turbo-boosts the 4.4-liter V8 to 560 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission handles the burst of thrust that comes on at 1700 rpm. A 6-speed manual gearbox can be ordered for the same price. You’re not likely to find one on a showroom floor. We absolutely love the idea of an M6 convertible with big shift lever coming up out of the floor. Can you get one with a front bench seat?

The M6 uses an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, 20-inch wheels, and firmer suspension settings than the 650i. But it still makes compromises for comfort, and the steering can feel a little numb when canyon carving. So for track days it’s the Competition Package, with a stiffer suspension and quicker steering. It also adds 40 horsepower and 30 mph to the top speed. A BMW driver’s training course comes with it. Excellent idea.

The brakes are plenty strong, but if you do track days, you might consider spending nearly $10,000 more, for ceramic brakes that don’t fade. They can be grabby when cold or around town, and ungodly expensive to service, but hey: if you want to run with the big dogs.

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