BRIAN BASSETT cruises in the BMW 650i Auto convertible, despite lacking an island home
THE Chris Bangle era at BMW resulted in a number of contentious designs, which provoked argument amongst fans of the brand and the 6- series did not escape lightly.
It had what came to be known as the “Bangle Butt” and Jeremy Clarkson once commented that, if you visited friends with a 6- series, you should reverse out of their driveway to prevent them from seeing what he called the car’s divisive rear end.
The new 6- series launched in 2014 has however had its problems sorted out by the new design director Adrian van Hooydonk and has resulted in a flash car which tells everyone that you have a second home in Mauritius.
We express our thanks to Anthony Ellis, dealer principal at SMG Pietermaritzburg, for allowing us to spend a few days with the car.
Many cars are distinctive, but only a few can be described as beautiful. The flowing, dynamic lines of the 650 convertible make it one of the few.
The car has a sharp- nosed front end with the usual kidney grille, flanked by Adaptive Xenon headlights with high beam assist and fog lights flanking an air scoop at the base of the front end.
All lines sweep towards the rear, giving the car’s design a feeling of power and dynamism. LED repeater lights are integrated into the side gills, adding character to the vehicle.
The doors are of the soft close automatic variety and the car hunkers down on its 19- inch, light alloy wheels with runflat tyres.
The “Bangle Butt” has made way for a sophisticated rear end and the rear tail light cluster is typically BMW, with a flashing function so those behind can tell the difference between a light tap on the brake and a hard stop.
The roof is robust and drops in 19 seconds, while closing in 24 seconds.
The interior is a nice place to be. With the roof up it is quiet and cozy. With the roof down the ride is almost quiet, if you have the optional wind deflector.
The typically- BMW instruments are angled a few degrees towards the driver and the centre console has an intriguing twist, which is Teutonically perfect in execution and makes the controls much easier to use.
There is also a heads- up display, which provides a wide variety of information and makes driving safer.
The central stack is topped off by a screen, which reflects the audio, telephone, navigation, reversing camera and computer systems, although I was a little disappointed that this did not fold away, as in the Z4.
The leather finishes are superbly done and the entire interior radiates quality and care. Ac- cess to the rear seats is easy, even for an old man like me, and the degree of rear comfort offered is acceptable.
The ragtop takes little space and even with the roof down you will be able to fit equipment for two golfers into the large boot, while with the roof up the space available is considerable.
The interior also has BMW’s Sun Reflective Technology, which prevents over heating of the seats and fading of the interior. What I really liked about the interior was the unflustered feeling it communicated to passengers and the consequent relaxed driving experience.
Safety and security
The 6- series is a safe vehicle with six airbags protecting various parts of the body, as well as the usual seatbelts and ISOFIX child seat attachments.
There is ABS with EBD, a reinforced body shell, as well as Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, a Roll- over protection system, Active Headrests, a runflat indicator and safety battery terminal. The car has central locking and an alarm system, but it is better never to leave the car with the roof down.
Performance and handling
The 650 is a big car, but once you get moving you forget all about its size.
The eight- cylinder, 4,4 litre 330 kW/ 650 Nm, twin- turbo petrol engine is a cross between blunt grunt and day- to- day efficiency. The adaptive chassis settings make for light steering and the buttery- smooth eight- speed gearbox is impressive in terms of shift quality and speed, while its breadth and ability are really satisfying.
Top speed is governed to 250 km/ h and 0- 100 km/ h comes up in around 5,6 seconds.
Fuel consumption will be in the region of 12,9 l per 100 km, but put your foot down, as you will be tempted to do in this powerful car and your fuel consumption will rise.
I drove the 650 in Durban during rush hour and in the quieter centre of Pietermaritzburg and found that the car handles beautifully. Park assist sorts out your parallel parking problems and the GPS tells you where to go.
On bad roads in the Midlands the car is stable because of the active damping and will really move when prodded. On the open road it comes into its own and is the arch high speed cruiser.
Costs and the competition
The 650i, auto convertible will cost you around R1,6 million new, but there are ways to lower that price, like one- or two- yearolds and demo models.
The car comes with BMW’s iconic, extendable, fiveyear/ 100 000 km motorplan, which covers everything but tyres and fuel. Also look at Mercedes Benz CLS, Porsche 911 Cabriolet, Maserati GT Grand Cabrio, and Jaguar XJ, amongst others.
The ‘ Bangle Butt’ has made way for a sophisticated rear end and the rear tail light cluster is typically BMW.