Car reviews - BMW - 6 Series - coupe/convertible range
Performance, dynamics, steering, head-up display
Room for improvement
Cruise control, paddle shift buttons, ride quality
28 Dec 2007
By PHILIP LORD
IN THE rarefied atmosphere of $200,00-plus two-door luxury grand tourers, there are some that are better than others at conveying two (plus a tiny two more) people in a measure of comfort and with speed and grace.
There is no doubt that the 6 Series is one of the more accomplished of such cars, with a fine balance of dynamics and grace. This new one appears to cement that reputation.
The moment you fire up the 6 Series, it is clear that this engine is meant for cooking big batches of kiloWatts and Newton-metres. It is silken-smooth, but you can hear it hunt ever so slightly as if it were a highly-strung athlete fidgeting around, waiting for its opportunity to sprint.
When it comes time to put the foot down, the 6 Series is like that rare occurrence when a diplomatic bouncer has you out the door before you realise you’re gone. When you put your foot down, the 6 Series obliges you with a subtle but forceful push in the back, with the only real way to tell you are accelerating at around the speed of light being the tree canopy turning to a blur.
Ah yes, there is also the magnificent noise from the engine - this V8 has the most mellifluous burble and while it is obvious, it is never an annoying noise.
The downside of high performance is high fuel consumption. While the 6 Series can run on standard unleaded, filling the tank for primarily urban use at the claimed 16.3/17.2L/100km (coupe/convertible respectively) urban fuel consumption rate will be expensive.
Of course, for the well-heeled 6 Series owners, this will not be a consideration, but owning such a thirsty car clearly doesn’t mark one as having a green outlook.
The new transmission does its thing with smooth and subtle gearshifts, with the new Sport mode slightly more aggressive in gearshifts. The new steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles are awkward to use in that you have the choice of upshifting or downshifting from opposing sides of the steering wheel - which you don’t want to become confused about at a crucial downshift moment on a mountain pass.
At least the paddle shifts are on the steering wheel, which is far better than being fixed to the steering column as some are.
There are few cars that can approach two tonnes in weight and still barrel around corners with superb balance the way the 6 Series does. Both coupe and convertible have superb, responsive steering and a bucket load of grip.
Power out of a tight corner with too much eagerness though, and the tail will begin to dance for a second before the traction control steps in to quell the drama.
The 6 Series can feel big and a little nose-heavy on a tight mountain road, but slowing on entry speed and relying on the massive power and grip to accelerate quickly out of a corner and you will be left with a huge grin on your face.
The chassis reacts to sudden direction changes with focus and certainty, and while it inspires confidences, there is always the feeling that its weight would cause plenty of momentum if traction was lost.
While the coupe and convertible both felt solid, the convertible did suffer a quiver of steering column shake over rough roads. Both could offer more supple ride quality over patchy roads too, although damping and spring rates appear to be tuned very well over undulating bumps.
The optional Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go was fitted to the test car and while it appeared to work well in slow moving stop-and-go traffic, when the car ahead stopped, waiting to execute a right-hand turn across traffic, the cruise system seems clunky.
It stopped the car more suddenly than you might expect (or the person driving behind might expect, too) and while the system only had to stop the car momentarily (before the car ahead turned off, leaving an empty road ahead) it took seconds for the system to slowly accelerate the car back up to speed.
It reacts in the slow, conservative way that a 70-year-old grandfather driving an HQ Holden might, not a dynamic 40-something in his BMW coupe. Until this becomes more refined, it’s hard to see it as more than a gimmick and most owners will probably end up letting their feet do the driving.
You may not love BMW’s confusing driver interface, iDrive, but at least you can now come to terms with it. BMW has made some changes so it is not as bafflingly incomprehensible anymore. The eight preset buttons that have become standard are helpful, and the system seems slightly easier to navigate after you have driven the car for a day or so.
The standard Head-Up display, which projects a digital speed readout and navigation functions onto the lower windscreen area in front of the driver, is a very useful system that is not new in the car industry but works very well on the BMW.
The rest of the 6 Series interior is a fine blend of leather and well-matched quality plastics. So you don’t feel short-changed here, although rear-seat passengers will even diminutive adults will find it cramped. The front seats have a multitude of adjustment and are very comfortable and supportive.
Details such as the cup-holder that needs to retrieved from the back of the centre console and clipped in next the front passenger’s knee seems contrived, and there is not much storage space throughout the cabin either. Perhaps the 6 Series owner is a wealthy minimalist.
There are few better ways of enjoying the ripe fruit of success than a 6 Series, and the updates are subtle yet worthwhile.
The new paddle shift arrangement could have been better executed and the optional cruise control could be much more seamless but for a big, comfortable point-to-point tourer the 6 Series is quite a machine.
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