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BMW 6-series: A car that can drive owners to ecstasy

“I hope by the time you read this I won’t be in jail for hyper-speeding.”

  • Gray modern car closeup on black background.

“I hope by the time you read this I won’t be in jail for hyper-speeding.”

Every week we examine second-hand sedans, hatchbacks, minivans and SUVs, vehicles of utility built for the mundane. The BMW 6-series coupe and convertible are not of their kind.

The comment above was posted by an enthusiastic 6-series owner who was clearly enjoying the Teutonic ’bahn-burner. And there’s more.

“It is a very inspiring driving machine where you, the road and the sky become one,” reads the post, referring to some kind of near-religious experience.

Let’s skip the banal conveyances and take a closer look at this fetching automobile.

CONFIGURATION

Like the cat in that frantic NFB animated short, the 6 came back.

A reincarnation of the original 635CSi two-door coupe, which sold from 1977 to 1989, the new-for-2004 645Ci featured an aluminum, steel and composite body, and a host of high-tech kit, including active roll stabilization, available active steering and heads-up display.

Unlike the Mercedes-Benz coupes that sport pillarless hardtops, the 645 wore its thick black B-pillars proudly, a testament to BMW’s rock-solid construction that won’t compromise handling performance.

The sophisticated suspension was composed of struts braced by two aluminum links in front and thick cast-aluminum lower control arms in back, all mounted to an aluminum cross member.

The cabin was filled with sensual shapes and materials that telegraphed the car’s lofty price of admission. The dreaded iDrive controller assumed its position on the console, an early version that remained hard to master, owners reported.

Rear-seat headroom was challenging for adults, decent for two children, and best for groceries from McEwan.

Some 325 horses emanated from an all-aluminum DOHC 4.4 L V8, dispatched to the rear tires via a German ZF conventional manual, automatic or BMW’s sequential manual gearbox (SMG) — all with six forward gears.

The SMG was a no-clutch-pedal manual transmission operated via stick shift or steering-wheel paddles; it could do an impression of an automatic if required.

A convertible followed on the heels of the coupe, both assembled in Dingolfing, Germany. It featured a power soft-top and heated glass rear window that could be lowered independently for ventilation or raised to deflect top-down drafts.

Equipped with pop-up roll bars, a reinforced windshield frame and chassis, the convertible weighed about 180 kg more than the coupe. To compensate, the ragtop got a shorter 3.46:1 final-drive ratio to help with quicker launches.

The 6-series showed off BMW’s latest electronic goodies, including optional active steering, which altered the steering ratio and power assist, and adaptive cruise control, designed to maintain a set distance from vehicles ahead.

Nothing much changed until 2006, when a 360-hp 4.8 L V8 replaced the smaller mill, necessitating the model designation 650Ci.

The high-performance M6 coupe arrived with the M5’s 507-hp V10 engine and a bunch of chassis upgrades to keep it planted. A new seven-speed SMG was offered as an alternative to the six-speed manual.

ON THE ROAD

For all its aluminum components and go-faster technology, the 645Ci was barely quicker than a Subaru WRX: it accelerated to 96 km/h in 5.3 seconds in automatic form.

Where the big coupe shone was in the twisties; it could cling to asphalt like warm gum and generate 0.94 g on the skid pad. Unfortunately, the active steering rendered steering feel uncommunicative.

Was it a 2+2 coupe with sports car pedigree, or a mere boulevardier? It was, after all, a supremely quiet and comfortable long-distance tourer.

The fact that BMW upped the ante with the 360-hp 650Ci was indicative of the competitive nature of the segment.

The M6 certainly didn’t mince its mission statement: with 507 hp on tap, it was a serious driving instrument that compromised nothing (0-96 km/h in 4.1 seconds).

“Build more roads with curves,” pleaded a 2006 M6 owner in a post.

WHAT OWNERS REPORTED

Drivers adored their 6-series cars for the Picasso styling, sumptuous interior, high-tech gadgetry and high-speed stability. It mimicked a (very) low-altitude corporate jet.

But along with the accolades came the usual complaints about faults with the German electronic gear, often fingering short-lived sensors. For example, the engine may run rough due to failed camshaft position sensors, or the convertible top may not drop because of a bad sensor in the rear window.

Some owners noted that the low-profile tires and wheels were subject to debilitating damage on frost-heaved streets.

“I have replaced two wheels and two tires so far, and I have a problem with the rear left tire now,” posted the driver of a ’06 convertible.

Other gripes focused on a recalcitrant iDrive system that sometimes freezes up, the SMG shifter reportedly lurches uncomfortably in automatic mode, and numerous other electronic bugaboos.

A seasoned BMW owner supplied the post-warranty epilogue: “My advice is have lots of money put aside in a BMW repair fund.”

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Dodge Sprinter, Nissan Sentra and Volkswagen Eos. Email toljagic@ca.inter.net.

BMW 6-series

WHAT’S BEST: Come-hither styling, decadent interior, long-distance jet

WHAT’S WORST: Numb steering, lunging SMG transmission, averse to snow

TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2004 — $35,000; 2006 — $52,000

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