How do you deal with an unbearable heaviness of being?
– Cleveland, Ohio
BMW usually gets noticed for its countless high-performance machines – the ones festooned with M badges. I actually prefer the garden-variety BMWs that aren’t Car and Driver cover models or taking center stage at an international auto show. When done right, these mass market Roundels tend to be a little bit good at everything: ride, handling, style, ergonomics. They’re the substance behind BMW’s famous “Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline because they can do it all. When done wrong, you get something like the BMW 650i: a decent car of which just too much is being asked.
- Lots of cars offer multiple drive modes. I was just in an Audi that offered three: Dynamic, Auto, and Comfort. None of them felt just right. This BMW offers six drive modes: Sport+, Sport, Comfort, Comfort+, and EcoPro. More choices is good because it means there’s a better chance you’ll have the right mode when you want it. Plus, all six feel distinctly different. It’s like having six cars in one, or one car with a crazy multiple personality disorder.
- My favorite mode is Comfort+ because the 6 Series is, at its core, a luxury car. Despite the 650i being powered by a biturbo V8 making 445 horsepower, and despite there being a stupid powerful 560-hp M6 version, and despite BMW having pressed this car into service as an actual GT race car, the 6 Series is simply better at cosseting than cornering. That’s its nature, no matter how hard BMW tries to redefine it. The ride is actually fantastically comfortable, laying the road out like two-inch-thick plush carpet despite the car’s 20-inch wheels and lower-profile tires.
- Guess what? iDrive got good! Being one of the first full-featured infotainment systems on the market (can you believe it’s 15 years old?), iDrive suffered a few extra years of lambasting before Darwin’s theory of evolution kicked in and created a slicker, quicker, prettier organism. What we have today is a giant 10.2-inch, high-resolution widescreen display; a satisfyingly tactile rotary controller with touchpad for quick and easy inputs; and an interface and menu structure that’s surprisingly intuitive to navigate after spending just some brief time with it. It’s every bit as good as similar systems from Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
- Wikipedia says a Grand Tourer is “a performance and luxury automobile capable of high speed and spirited long-distance driving.” That definition doesn’t say anything about handling, which is where the 650i falls down. It’s just a big, heavy, lumbering coupe that can’t beat the physical laws of the universe. Even in Sport+ mode, the 6 suffers from noticeable body roll, and remembering you’re about to drive the equivalent weight of two Miatas through a corner kind of takes the fun out of it. It also never feels like the car’s electronics are willing to let physics go completely unchecked, probably because BMW knows that’d be dangerous with this much car. Thus, it never feels like you can experience all the 650i’s engine has to offer. Even the exhaust sounds like a dog that’s leashed.
- The exterior of the 6 Series is the least appealing BMW design currently on sale. When I asked my wife what she thought of it, she said, “It looks like the Alero you had when we got married.” Ouch. And now I can’t unsee that amorphous coupe from my past when I look at the 650i. It’s a better design than the 6 Series from the Chris Bangle era, but I’d rather stare at the original E24 in my driveway than either of the two modern ones.
- I debated whether to include the interior of the 650i on my list of cons because there’s really nothing wrong with it, but that’s coming up short in a car costing over $90,000. For one, the “Fineline Brown wood trim” looks as convincing as it did when Buick used it in the ‘90s. Also, while the controls are logically laid out and feel appropriately premium, they’re the same as they’ve been in every BMW for years. If you’re trading up from a prior lease, the cabin will feel intimately familiar to a fault. And while BMW tried to be forward thinking with an all-digital gauge cluster, it’s been instantly eclipsed by Audi’s Virtual Cockpit experience that floats a pair of gauges over a gaze-filling view of Google Maps. Back to the drawing board, BMW.
|2016 BMW 650i COUPE|
|ENGINE||Biturbocharged 4.4L V8|
|OUTPUT||445 Horsepower / 480 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||4.3 Seconds|
|TOP SPEED||155 MPH|
|EPA FUEL ECONOMY||17 City / 25 Highway / 20 Combined|
Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com