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Car reviews - BMW - 6 Series - coupe/convertible range

Launch Story

BMW logo28 Dec 2007

By MARTON PETTENDY

BMW has released yet another update for its large luxury 6 Series coupe and convertible, the second since its release here three years ago.

This time, the 6 Series has a new automatic transmission, active head restraints and headlight and cosmetic improvements to account for the $8000 price rise.

The changes are focussed on the 650i Coupe and Convertible, although the M6 Coupe and Convertible also benefit from some of the updates.

The 6 Series belongs to a band of select premium two-door cars, including the Mercedes-Benz SL and Jaguar XK. Since its introduction in 2004, 689 examples have been sold (to the end of November 2007), with the split being 62 per cent coupe and 38 per cent convertible.

BMW expects that the annual sales figure of around 150 units will continue unchanged with the new 2008 model.

The 4.8-litre V8, with outputs of 270kW at 6300rpm and 490Nm at 3400rpm, continues on unchanged from its introduction in early 2006.

The principal change is the transmission, with what BMW now calls a Sport Automatic transmission. This will now be the only gearbox offered for 650i Coupe and Convertible (the M6 continuing with its automated seven-speed SMG manual), superseding both the prior six-speed automatic and manual.

The Sport Automatic is the same unit that was first seen earlier this year in the 2007 5 Series sedan.

The new auto has a Sport button that quickens gearshifts, sharpens throttle mapping and adjusts the assistance to the Servotronic power steering. The changes also net an improvement in 0-100km/h acceleration by a claimed 0.2 seconds for the cnvertible and 0.3 seconds for the coupe. The convertible now does the 0-100km/h sprint in a claimed 5.6 seconds while the coupe can do it in 5.2 seconds.

The automatic now incorporates steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles, which can be activated by selecting sport mode on the gearlever or by using the paddles in Drive to temporarily engage manual mode (after a short period the transmission reverts to fully automatic mode.)

A new safety feature across the 6 Series range is active front head restraints, which reduce the whiplash that can occur as a result of rear-end collisions.

The system receives input from impact sensors also used by the car’s airbags and pyrotechnic seat belts - if more than just a minor shunt is detected, two springs within the upholstered section release and the head restraints move forwards by 60mm and upwards by 40mm to be in the best position to minimise neck injury.

Cruise control with brake function is now standard, as is keyless entry and start, soft-close doors, and a USB/audio interface connector in the centre console. It requires an optional $100 connector to permit the car’s system to be used to control iPod music changes.

A new sound system with 16 speakers and speed-related volume control and equalizing has been fitted.

New options available for the 6 Series include Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function ($4500), Night Vision ($4000) and Lane Change Warning ($1200).

The optional Lane Change Warning system (first fitted to the 2007-model 5 Series) works by using a camera fitted in the front of the interior rear vision mirror, a control unit and a new signalling system.

The system monitors the distance from one or both lines on either side of the road to identify any deviations from the lane of travel. If it senses that the car is veering out of its lane and the indicator has not been activated, the steering wheel vibrates as a warning to the driver. It only operates at speeds above 70km/h.

Another new option for the 6 Series is Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function. Employing radar sensors with an enlarged area of vision, the system gives the driver the choice of four distance settings from traffic ahead, no matter how fast the cruise control is set for.

When cruise control is set, the radar sensors send out signals to the road ahead. When the radar detects another vehicle, the system applies the brakes when that vehicle reaches a set proximity from the front of the 6 Series, and will continue to slow the 6 Series, down to a complete stop if required.

When the vehicle ahead has moved off, this sophisticated cruise control system will, with no driver input, accelerate the 6 Series to the set cruising speed, or at least as fast as it can go behind the vehicle ahead.

The Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go is able to halt the car at a rate of four metres per second squared. If more powerful braking is required to avoid a collision with the vehicle ahead, the system will warning the driver to activate the brakes.

If the car comes to a halt for more than three seconds, it cancels, and requires the driver to accelerate using the throttle, or hit the resume button.

With the exception of the transmission (the V10 and seven-speed SMG drivetrain continues unchanged) the bodykit (M6 has unique body enhancements) and the cruise control with brake function, the BMW M6 also receives the 2008 upgrades.

The 2008 6 Series has new front lights and lower bumper design incorporating new foglights. There are new headlight surrounds for the bi-Xenon headlights and the white LED indicators sitting above.

The sill mounds have been given a more side-skirt appearance and the rear bumper is also new, with a reflector on the apron.

At the rear, the valance-mounted rear reflectors are new, as are the tail-lights, which now feature LED lights. The boot is also new, with a new rear contour design.

Alloy wheels have also been restyled, the standard 18-inch double-spoke wheels fitted with BMW’s controversial run-flat 245/45 R18 tyres at the front and 275/40 R18s at the rear.

A change to the colour charts has resulted the nine existing colours joined by two new colours - Space Grey and Deep Sea Blue (not for M6). Two new interior colours – Saddle Brown and Chateau Exclusive Pearl leather- are complemented by a new interior finish (for centre console and so on) called Ruthenium Metallic, which replaces Galvanic Pearl Gloss.

BMW has added its SunReflective leather to the Convertible as standard (previously it cost $5000 as an option) to prevent the seats from getting too hot when the roof is left down in the sun. The technology reflects the infrared radiation from the sun and the leather on seat and armrests has ‘cool pigments’ which are embedded in the leather. BMW says the result is leather that is up to 20 degrees lower in surface temperature.

Like other BMWs introduced this year such as the X5, 3 Series and 5 Series update, the 6 Series now has eight programmable buttons on the centre stack, for the most frequently visited parts of the iDrive system such as navigation destinations or radio stations.

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