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Future models - BMW - 6 Series

LA show: BMW lobs road-ready 6 Series drop-top

Soft top: The roof of the 6 Series convertible can be lowered in 19 seconds and raised in 24, even while driving at up to 40km/h.

BMW unveils new 6 Series convertible, confirms Gran Coupe-based 6 Series sedan

BMW logo19 Nov 2010

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

OFFICIALLY marking an end to the worst excesses of the Bangle era, BMW this week unveiled its all-new production-ready 6 Series Convertible at the Los Angeles motor show, while also confirming to GoAuto that the four-door Gran Coupe concept will also wear 6 Series badges in showrooms by 2012.

Unusually for BMW and indeed most manufacturers, the coupe version – also on display at LA in pre-production form after being unveiled in September at Paris as a concept – will be launched internationally several months after the convertible in July or August 2011, and is likely to make its public debut at the Detroit show in January.

This back-to-front launch schedule could be a subtle way of BMW hitting back at criticism of its convertibles losing some handling finesse compared to that of the coupes on which they are based – by insinuating that the new Six was designed first and foremost as a convertible, thereby setting the benchmark for top-end open-top sportscars.

14 center imageBelow: BMW Gran Coupe concept.

The new 6 Series convertible is due to go on sale Down Under late in the second quarter of next year, with first deliveries of the coupe following before the end of 2011.

BMW Group Australia told GoAuto that there has been a lot of customer interest in the new car and that it has already received numerous expressions of interest.

Pricing is yet to be confirmed, but Australian-delivered cars will come “very highly specified” as standard, in response to Australian BMW buyers’ appetite for ticking boxes on the options list.

BMW Oz also confirmed to GoAuto that the Gran Coupe concept from April’s Beijing motor show will make production and that, rather than reviving BMW’s 8 Series model name, it will join the 6 Series range - badged as the 6 Series Gran Coupe when it is released late next year or in early 2012.

The four-door 6 Series Gran Coupe will be BMW’s first direct rival for the likes of Maserati’s Quattroporte, which will be renewed next year, as well as the second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi’s all-new A7, both of which will go on sale here early next year.

The 6 Series convertible will launch with a choice of two Euro 5-compliant twin-turbo, direct-injected petrol powerplants, feeding power to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters.

The flagship will be the 4.4-litre V8-engined 650i, delivering 300kW and 600Nm – enough to slingshot the two-tonne convertible to 100km/h in five seconds dead.

Not far behind with a 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds is the entry-level 640i with a 3.0-litre straight-six, tailored specifically for the 6 Series and packing 235kW of power with 450Nm of torque.

Thanks to EfficientDynamics kit including idle-stop, brake energy recuperation and on-demand ancillaries, it is capable of returning fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km and 185g/km of CO2 emissions.

A red-hot M6, likely to be powered by a 400kW-plus 4.8-litre twin-turbo V8, is expected to follow, along with diesel-powered variants.

In contrast to the polarising styling of the previous-generation 6 Series, the new car is instantly good looking, with a style that is classical, elegant and timeless without resorting to retro and displays little of the overt aggression that has typified BMW design since the mid-1990s.

Bigger than its predecessor by 74mm in length (with the wheelbase extending by the same amount) and 39mm in width but 9mm lower, the new Six is more spacious - even in terms of headroom, thanks to an increased height adjustment range for the front seats.

BMW says rear-seat passengers gain legroom compared to the old model and the angle of the rear backrests has also been improved.

A popular feature of the old car that has been carried over is the canvas roof’s ‘flying buttress’ design that provides the convertible with a coupe-like silhouette when the soft-top is up and adds a bit of glamour and drama to the car when viewed from behind.

BMW has reworked the roof, available in three different colours including a shimmery dark silver effect, to improve noise and temperature insulation.

The roof can be lowered in 19 seconds and raised in 24, with roof operation possible while driving at up to 40km/h. With the Comfort Access option pack fitted, the driver can also operate the roof and windows remotely from outside the car.

The rear window, which does not make up part of the roof structure, can be lowered independently to provide ventilation and doubles as wind deflector to reduce air turbulence for rear passengers when driving with the roof down. Separating the rear glass from the roof structure also helps to save boot space when the roof is folded away.

True to form, BMW has packed the new 6 Series with a host of standard and optional technology, including its pioneering ConnectedDrive in-car internet information system with mobile device integration, a head-up display capable of projecting full-colour, three-dimensional graphics and a suite of safety-oriented driver aids such as parking assist, speed limit information, lane departure warning, lane change warning and night vision with pedestrian detection.

The ConnectedDrive system enables BlackBerry users to access their emails via Bluetooth and display them on the in-dash screen or, using text-to-speech technology, read them aloud through the car’s audio system.

It can also display album artwork while streaming music from MP3 players or mobile phones connected via USB or Bluetooth.

A sophisticated system of cameras and computers which BMW calls Surround View uses the rear-view camera, parking sensors and cameras located in the door mirrors to construct a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle and its surroundings, thus helping the driver perform precise manoeuvres in tight spaces.

The use of high technology also extends to optimising the BMW’s chassis dynamics. From a mechanical point of view, the front and rear suspension components are made mostly of lightweight aluminium, with innovative “elastokinematic” suspension mountings that minimise noise and vibration. In addition, BMW’s Dynamic Drive Control enables the driver to select from various suspension and drivetrain pre-sets.

The optional Adaptive Drive system works to reduce bodyroll and offers the driver yet more suspension settings – including a comfort mode – and continuously monitors road and driving conditions so it can adjust the suspension damping accordingly.

A further option, Active Steering, aids low-speed manoeuvring by altering the steering’s gearing. It also includes rear-wheel steering, which enables the rear wheels to turn by up to 2.5 degrees.

At low speeds (up to 60km/h) the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels for nimbleness around town, with the side-effect of reducing the car’s turning circle by 0.5 metres. At higher speeds, the rear wheels follow the direction of the front wheels to help the rear stay planted and increase precision through bends.

The arrival of the new 6 Series will be timely for BMW, which has sold only 40 examples in Australia so far this year, significantly down from a peak of 228 for the whole of 2006, when the previous-generation model received a mid-life facelift.

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