First Drive: 2012 BMW 650i Convertible

The redesigned BMW 6-Series is still bold, and finally beautiful.


In the 1970s and ‘80s, BMW’s large CS and CSI coupes became cult classics because they offered reserved panache, contemporary, elegant design in a nondescript era. With the new 2012 6-Series, BMW issues another elegant coupe and convertible worthy of those ’70s and ’80s models.

The 650i’s front and hindquarters adroitly straddle the pretty/masculine fence. The low-profile nose houses BMW’s signature twin-kidney grilles and glass-covered headlamps, evoking the short-lived but striking 8-Series coupes of the ’90s. Meanwhile, the rear end is wide yet elegant, with a sculptural feel, and tail lamps that are more complementary than those on the outgoing 6-Series.

The 4.4-liter turbocharged V-8 makes 400 horsepower and at times, feels even healthier. It’s eager to please; mash the gas pedal and it becomes a big playful dog. At rest, it’s more of a docile house hound. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph takes just 4.9 seconds amid a muted growl, yet when trundling slowly, the V-8 is silent. An eight-speed, manually actuated automatic makes the most of the engine’s power with normal, sport and manual shift modes.

The 650i deftly carves up the blacktop, and does so while providing plenty of comfort. BMW uses a smorgasbord of suspension settings that provide firm reflexes or soft ride qualities when you want them. However, somewhere between all four wheels steering (the rear wheels steer, too), the hyper-adjustability and the electrons powering it all, someone (or something) neglected to focus on high-speed, straight-line stability. On some of Mexico’s mediocre road surfaces I found the car wandering side-to-side slightly, which required constant correction even with the steering wheel aimed straight. However, this is the lone drivability flaw we found with the car.

BMW’s ConnectedDrive package combines automatic high-beam headlights, a lane departure warning that vibrates the steering wheel when you’re about to mow down a row of mailboxes (we did not test this system), blind spot detection and a heads-up display that projects speed, lane departure festivities and GPS notes on the windshield like a hologram. This data is projected closer to the road and horizon so that your eyes don’t need to refocus on it. Smart stuff. 

BMW uses a traditional soft top, which takes up less would-be trunk space than a folding hardtop. The power top descends in 19 seconds while taking 24 seconds to erect, and is operable at speeds up to 25 mph. Above that, the wind caught by the sail you’re effectively hoisting will cause damage to the top itself, your warranty and your wallet.

The price for all this speed and style is not low. On sale now, the 650i convertible starts at $91,375 including destination charge (the coupe follows in October) and our test model with a variety of options topped $103,000.

Grand Touring with a Bavarian accent? More like a worldly convertible that fits in just about anywhere.

Editorial Disclosure: In the making of this article, the writer attended a media event in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for which the manufacturer provided transportation, hotel accommodations, and meals.