BMW 650i 2011 Review

The halo coupe in BMW’s range has been reworked. The controversial looks of the 6 Series that was reborn in the mid-2000s have thankfully gone, and have been replaced by a car whose design is beautiful and sleek, finally matching its contemporaries.

If you are flush enough to be in the market for a car that starts at $236,000, there’s not that much choice – only Porsche, Jaguar, Maserati and Mercedes make serious contenders at this price – and you can’t really go wrong anyway. Your purchase is not a practical one. If it was, you wouldn’t buy the BMW 650i, because the boot size is average, the two back seats have no legroom, and you will spend more money at the petrol station than if you buy the almost as sleek diesel Audi A5 for half the price.

But you have elevated yourself above practicality. The aforementioned foibles are irrelevant as this is a sports tourer, and it’s also unlikely to be your only car. You don’t need function, you need aura combined with power and comfort. The BMW emanates that profusely. With the M design pack (20 inch alloys, M leather steering wheel, M aerodynamics package, etc) this car is a stunner. It’s longer than you expect, and that just adds to its presence, making it look lower and more muscular. In fact, the photos don’t do it justice. I found myself more often than not glancing back at the BMW, admiring it when walking away from it.

Driving it is an experience, too. There are four modes: comfort+, comfort, sports and sports+ (which turns the traction control off). There’s a noticeable change in sports mode, and I love sports modes, but this car is good enough 99.9% of the time to leave it in comfort mode. The electronic steering can feel a little disconnected from the road in sports mode, but the overall ride is absolutely excellent. Despite having substantially wide tyres, the ride is quiet and it doesn’t tramline. You can’t unstick it from the road without acting irresponsibly and it contains all the electronics you’d ever need to rein in its prodigious 300kW and 600Nm of torque and any sideways action that might like to cause.

The brakes, too, are exceptional and, as you can see in the photographs, they fill out the alloys like big silver dinner plates. You’ll need them because despite its bulk it will get to 100kph in less than 5 seconds, but it’s the acceleration from 80kph upwards that’s really exciting. Overtaking anything is achieved with a roar from the twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, and your sternocleidomastoid muscles get a workout. The tuned exhaust system that comes with the M package really makes it howl – it’s a great sound.

As you would expect with a large V8 and significant mass to move around (it weighs 1940kg without the options added to our test model), fuel economy isn’t something you’ll want to concern yourself with, despite it having 8 gears (the top one of which is very tall). This mass is somewhat mitigated by the use of aluminium and plastic where possible, and the overall balance seems neutral. On the inside, though, is where you can start to see the added weight.

Infinitely adjustable seats contain not only motors to move them in every direction, but also fans to blow a cooling breeze on your back when it’s hot. They’ll heat you when it’s cold, too, as will the steering wheel for those of you with poor circulation. Stitched leather adorns the dashboard, and above you there’s a sunroof.

In fact, I could write a book about the features contained within the 650i, but someone has already done that: it’s called the manual. Notable ones for the more technologically minded include the (optional) night vision camera, manoeuvering cameras underneath the wing mirrors so you can see the kerbs to avoid scratching the wheels, internet connectivity (via your phone), lane departure warning system and (installed as an optional extra) the $9900 Bang and Olufsen über audio system.

This car makes we want to be more successful so that I can drive it more. A car like this is designed to make pleasant and quick work of getting you and a passenger to a destination in comfort and style. A car at this level is about how it makes you feel, and in that sense, BMW has achieved its objective.

Pros

  • It’s what a sports tourer should be
  • Aggressive looks, but in a subtle way
  • Sat nav screen is big and useful – no teeny weeny third-party systems here
  • I’m finding it hard to think of any extra gadgets you’d actually need in a car
  • Provides you with lots of talking points for the golf course

Cons

  • Pedal positioning not ideal
  • Minor things omitted – no grab handle for the passenger, no dedicated sunglasses holder

Price: base model $236,700. As tested: $263,920

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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