New Car Review: 2005 BMW 6 Series

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2005 BMW 6 Series Turns Heads In Beverly Hills
SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for BMW

SIX degrees of Acceleration

By Nicholas Frankl

Senior Editor

It has been a long time coming, but the new 6 Series is at your dealer and ready to add some civilized excitement to your life. It follows in the tire treads of some distinguished predecessors; the BMW 327, launched in 1937; the 503 of the late

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Fifties; the awesome 3.0CS of the 70’s; the final evolution of the 2500/2800 sedans, the legendary - and still collectable - ‘original 6’ and M6 of the Eighties; the V12 850 and V8 840Ci of the ‘90s. Now with the new 6, BMW is back with a big, design-inspired, ‘sexy’ coupe and cabriolet for the 21st Century. Production of the 8 series ceased in 1997 and since then Mercedes, Jaguar and Lexus have enjoyed the rewards of flogging large amounts of SLs, XKs and SCs to an ever-increasing audience: up from 53,000 sales in 1990 to north of 245,000 in fourteen years.

BMW has enjoyed great success and practical ‘ownership’ of the small coupe and cab market with the sublime 3 series and M3, so why not take on the big coupe market where prices and profits are higher and the all important brand ‘halo’ effect more valuable? For a ‘small’ manufacturer BMW is on both a design and product roll. Already, in the past few months, we’ve seen the all-new 5 series, an X5 update and the new X3. Still to come is the 550bhp

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V10 M5 (yes I think I’ll have one of those, thanks), the 1 series and the 4 series and probably a face-lifted 7 series, too. None of this, however, was bothering my mind as I waded into the historic pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel for a few private laps before evening cocktails, a media presentation and dinner. I must add that if you’re ever in the area and looking for a spot of accommodation, the Beverly Hills will do you very nicely indeed. The Press reception was enhanced by the folks at Harman/Kardon who brought along a surround system that I assume only the likes of Bill Gates might afford – it did sound impressive though – leading me to believe that they were about to drive a car into the room itself. After an excellent dinner with some fine wines, it was off to the Polo Lounge – not exactly a dump you might say – to chew the ears off the development and project team leaders and see if we could get any real gossip on the car before we drove it. They must have a good finishing school at New Jersey base camp for as soon as we inquired about any failings they started discussing the fine weather!

Next morning it was time to get acquainted with the coupe, BMW wisely listening to their media maestro Dave Buchko and leaving the convertibles till after lunch, for some afternoon tanning. The first thing you notice about the new 6 is that it’s sooo much better in person than on paper. This appears typical of recent BMW designs – although not the 7, which is still not right in my mind. This car sits with great presence. Demanding detailed inspection, lined up outside the front of the hotel, it’s the black car (not normally my first choice) shod on optional 19-inch sport wheels that works best with the flowing angles and shut lines. Inside, the black leather and gray dash features are not very charismatic. It works only because it’s a BMW, but I prefer less somber dashboards with lots of polished timber and the CLK500 and Jaguar XKR do it better. It’s purely personal but I’d likely go with the black exterior and light beige leather with light birch inserts. The cabin is light, benefiting from an enormous sunroof, which surprisingly doesn’t open rearwards only upwards about 2 inches. I understand the reasoning – that the roofline is too contoured to allow for a retracting sunroof – but that doesn’t make me like it.

The steering wheel is thick and the instruments bold and simple. And then there’s the I-Drive right in the center of the consul, baiting you to try it and see if you too are one of the chosen few to master the

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technology that we are all to believe is the future. Well, as a small boy, at the London Motor Show, I successfully disassembled and reassembled the Talbot Rancho Mirage rear seats in under 60 seconds – to the total amazement of the attending press corps and PR staff. I also have a total surround system that I wired in my house and consider myself an early adapter of new technology, whether it be Bluetooth for mobile phones or wireless networking. That said, it took my co-driver and me 15 minutes to master the radio ON knob and discover that it has a mute button. Oh well. Whilst on the technology front, it frustrated me that there wasn’t any Bluetooth phone connectivity, nor audio input for an MP3 player, nor keyless go and intelligent cruise control. With all the confusion and criticism surrounding I-Drive the boffins have taken their eye off the ball a bit, although an optional heads-up display is coming in the summer.

Back to the business of driving the ultimate driving machine, if not the ultimate intuitive technology machine. The 6 comes in six different configurations, not counting wheel and package options, which include a six speed manual, six speed Steptronic auto and 6-speed SMG version of the manual with the cool F1 paddle shifters. All these are available in both coupe and convertible. Driving out to Pacific Coast Highway on Sunset is long and twisty and mostly clogged with traffic and, at rush hour speeds, the car certainly turned eyes in this auto fashion Mecca. I even had a couple of 7 series owners all around the car as we sped quickly to the ocean. Weighing in at 3781 for the coupe and 4178 for the convertible it does feel light on its feet. The adaptive steering works well, tightening up securely and allowing you to know what’s going on up front, whilst making parking offensively easy. The exhaust sounds are great, too, thanks to some clever engineering and active exhaust resonator. These days there’s nothing worse than a sexy, sculpted car with bags of presence and nothing to shout about on the oral stimulation front. Listen to an SL 55AMG next to a stock SL and you’ll see what I mean.

Cruising along PCH and heading for the Malibu canyons, the 6 felt tight and very responsive. Featuring the 4.4-liter V8 pumping out the standard 325bhp / 330Ib-ft.torque, it’s enough to propel the coupe to 60mph at just over 5 seconds, the conv auto at 6 seconds. Acceleration is very smooth right up to redline at 6100, with max torque available at a paltry 3100RPM. Equipped with the optional $2800 sports package - that features active steering, 19in sport wheels and run flat tires (245/40R-19 front and whopping 275/35R-19 rear) - the car is extremely sure footed and, even with the traction control off, sticks to the asphalt in even exuberant maneuvering. Twelve-way electrically adjustable seats keep you comfortable and the steering wheel is also electrically adjustable for both rake and reach, providing a comfort envelope that can suit even the most physically demanding user.

After lunch it was time to head back from Ojai and get mildly bronzed in the 2+2 cabriolet. This

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would certainly be my choice. From the side view it is a very elegant machine, with a strong long hood, short overhangs and aggressive stance. Equipped with automatic, the car felt even better than the manual. This combination is one of the best drives in open top motoring; the car just wafts along, the box is sweet and although heavier, the car feels happier in auto guise than stick. Pushing 120mph – top down – but with the rear window raised, our hair was as composed and stable as the car. As a sports tourer there are few cars that compare at any price. The rear legroom is ample, if not generous, for this size of vehicle, but the roof is a feat of engineering. Although not a hard top, like the Lexus and SL, it folds neatly into a very small space behind the seats and, once raised, allows you to increase the cargo space in the trunk by about 30%. The roof can also be activated whilst moving up to 20mph, a big plus when the showers come and it’s not practical or safe to slam on the brakes. Once up, the cabin is also extremely quiet and for all intents and purposes as good as the hard top.

Back in Beverly Hills, I dropped off my passenger and headed off to get some street reaction. This car had not been seen in on the boulevards of Beverly Hills before so I decided to pick up a friend who writes style columns for both British and American newspapers and certainly knows ‘the scene’. First stop was “The Ivy” on Robertson, home to celebrities who do lunch

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at all hours and on all days of the week. The valet guys nearly fainted. “What is this” they inquired? “Man it’s beautiful” said Eduardo whose broad grin was soon gone as I explained I was just picking up and no he couldn’t have the keys! My friend Beverly Bloom (whose family own some fairly exotic cars themselves) was seriously impressed. Wow, it’s beautiful and it sounds great” she exclaimed. “Oh don’t take it back – let’s go straight to Vegas”!

Unfortunately, for all concerned, (except BMW, of course), I dutifully returned the car after an hour spent cruising on Sunset Blvd, Rodeo Drive and Melrose Av. Throughout that time, it didn’t matter what gearbox ratios the car had, nor that it was equipped with half a dozen intelligent airbags, ARS, ABS, and a Logic 7 audio system. What really mattered was feeling special driving it. And this car has that ingredient aplenty.

MSRP, $69,995 Coupe; $76,995 Convertible; including destination, base models, not including government fees and taxes.

Brakes

Front Type/Size

Ventilated Disc/13.7 in

Rear Type/Size

Ventilated Disc/13.6 in

Dimensions

Length/width/height

190.2/73.0/54.1 in

Wheelbase

109.4 in

Track, front/rear

61.3/62.7 in

Engine

Liter/type

4.4/V-8

Bore/stroke

3.62/3.26 in

Nominal power @ rpm

325 @ 6100 hp

Max torque @ rpm

330 @ 3600 lb-ft

Engine

Compression ratio

10.5 :1

Fuel grade

Unleaded premium

Fuel Consumption3

City/Highway, Manual or SMG 3

17/25 (16/24) mpg

City/Highway, Automatic 3

18/26 mpg

Performance

Acceleration 0 - 601

5.5 [5.7] sec

Top speed2

149 mph

Aerodynamic drag coefficient

0.32 Cd

Transmission

Automatic gear ratios

4.17/2.34/1.52 I/II/III

Automatic gear ratios

1.14/0.87/0.69 IV/V/VI

Reverse

3.4

Final drive ratio

3.46

Manual gear ratios

4.01/2.40/1.58 I/II/III

Manual gear ratios

1.19/1.0/0.87 IV/V/VI

Reverse

3.68

Final drive ratio

3.23

Weight

Unladen

3,781 [3,792] lbs

Weight distribution

51.6/48.4 [51.7/48.3] %

Wheels

Standard tire dimensions

245/45R-18

Standard wheel dimensions

18 x 8.0 in

Material

Light-alloy

Optional tire dimensions4

245/40R-19 front/275/35R-19 rear

Optional wheel dimensions

19 x 8.5 font/19 x 9.0 rear in

Material

Light-alloy

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