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First look: BMW's 6 of the best

BMW bends: The styling revolution continues at BMW with the reveal of the 6 Series coupe.

The reborn 6 Series propels BMW back into the luxury sports market

14 Jul 2003

BMW has issued the first official images of its reborn 6 Series coupe, which will make its in-the-metal debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

The car will then go on sale in Europe at the end of 2003 and be in Australia by April or May of 2004.

The exciting news Down Under is that BMW Australia is hoping to have both the 2+2 coupe and convertible versions on sale simultaneously "That is what we are working on but it is yet to be confirmed," said BMW Australia spokesman John Kananghinis. "That is what we would like to achieve." The cloth-roofed convertible is yet to break cover and is unlikely to be unveiled before the Geneva motor show in March, 2004.

While there is plenty of specification yet to be sorted out, BMW Australia is already warning of pricing in the realm of the 7 Series saloon, which starts at $175,000, and limited supply with no more than 150 6 Series coupes and convertibles expected next year. The convertible will command a price premium over the coupe.

"The USA is probably going to get two-thirds of production, so the rest of the world tends to fight it out for what else is available," said Mr Kanaghinis.

"But that's not necessarily a bad thing either because ultimately it maintains the exclusivity of the product as well." BMW Australia will offer a single engine choice in the 21st century 6 Series, the 245kW 4.4-litre Valvetronic V8 first seen in the 7 Series and also due to appear here in the E60 5 Series early in 2004. The coupe will be called the 645 Ci.

Top speed is limited to 250km/h with a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 5.6 seconds.

While inline six-cylinder engines are synonymous with the old 6, which went off sale in 1989, there appear to be no plans for a repeat here, even though a 3.6-litre six is reported to be part of the line-up overseas.

Further down the track there should be another interesting engine choice - a 5.5-litre V10 engine which will grace the high performance M6 version. To be shared with the M5 sports sedan, the new engine is said to produce 375kW. It should be on sale in 2005.

Transmission choices for 645 Ci are expected to be a six-speed manual or automatic transmission with Steptronic semi-manual change. SMG is available in Europe, but again not an option here.

Underpinning the 6 is the platform from the just launched E60 5 Series although BMW says it has been modified, while the sheetmetal is the latest iteration of BMW chief designer Chris Bangle's new-wave design, complete with power dome on the bonnet, low roof line and contoured front and side panels.

The 6 is 4820mm long, 1855mm wide, 1373mm high and weighs in around 1600kg. That relatively light weight comes courtesy of the extensive use of aluminium and plastic, as well as steel.

Inside the car the controversial iDrive control system is included, although it is still unclear whether the 6 gets an identical system to the 5 or if it evolves further.

There's plenty more sophisticated technology on offer, courtesy of both 5 and 7:
  • Driving Dynamic Control: Similar to M5/M3 sport system, it sharpens up throttle response, makes steering feel more direct and lifts rpm gear change points in auto models
  • Dynamic Drive: Electronically adjusts sway bars to compensate for roll in corners
  • Active Steering: Electronically controlled to provide a more direct steering ratio at low speeds, together with more indirect steering at high speeds
  • Head-up display: Presents information directly in the driver's line of vision on the windscreen
  • Adaptive headlights: Swivel from side-to-side for improved illumination when cornering
  • Active cruise control: Keeps a pre-programmed distant to cars in front
  • The DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) and DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) handling aids
  • flat tyres.

BMW Australia's intention is to fit as much standard equipment as possible, which means virtually all of the above should be standard. More likely to be optional is a glass panorama roof, with an electrically sliding inner roofliner.

BMW says the 6 will offer rear seat passengers "ample freedom of movement" but does not actually say if it is talking about children or adults. The boot can take two golf bags and a suitcase.


ty of the 6 Series that its rivals will not just be the obvious Mercedes-Benz and Jaguars, but cars in other categories as well as boats and houses.

"There are a number of different cars in that very exclusive luxury coupe and convertible category that could be considered rivals or competitors," Mr Kanaghinis said.

"But traditionally when customers are looking at this level of the market some peculiar comparisons tend to occur.

"Very often we find out that they are also looking at a completely different type of cars as well - they may be looking at a luxury top-of-the-line four-wheel drive, or indeed a 7 Series or a future M5.

"I guess it is indicative that these are not cars that are bought out of need to provide daily transport. They are cars that are bought as a personal reward and luxury purchase. They even get considered against a boat or another holiday home." The 6 will not only have the current crop of rivals to contend against like the Jag XK and Benz CL and CLK, but also the forthcoming Nuvolari concept-based Audi and Benz's four-dooor coupe, the CLE.

The pricing pitch of the 6 Series up around the $200,000 mark might sound a step upmarket compared to the previous generation, but back in 1988 the iconic 635 CSi was priced at $117,500 and sat between the base model 735i and the 735i Executive.

And it's certainly in the mix compared to BMW's last luxury coupe contender, the 840Ci, which was priced at $207,990 when it was discontinued in June, 2000.

But the 6 has a significant advantage over the unsuccessful 8 - heritage, particularly in Australia where it was raced successfully at the highest level by Jim Richards and others, the Kiwi claiming the Australian Touring Car Championship in a CSi in 1985.

"It does have some heritage and resonance which this car naturally manages to draw from," Mr Kananghinis said.

"It was an extremely successful model not only overseas but here in Australia. It was very well received and considered a major collectible, and there are still beautiful examples around." * BMW Group estimates it will end 2003 selling a record 14,000-plus cars in Australia, on the back of a 9.4 per cent growth in sales compared to the first half of 2002.

That total includes Mini, which is up 50 per cent in sales on 2002, but at least in part because the reborn brick only went on sale in Australia in March of that year.

Stars for BMW include the X5, which is up 40 per cent with the added impetus of the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel model, while the 3 Series continues to hold up with a 24 per cent share of the prestige market.

The BMW Group expects a bevy of new models to keep the sales momentum going, most noticeably courtesy of the E60 5 Series.

Z4 - On sale now
John Cooper Works Mini - July
M3 CSL - September/October
530i - October
X5 update - First quarter, 2004
525i/545i - First quarter, 2004
X3 - Mid-2004

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