pushes all the right
buttons both as a
sports car and as
a grand tourer
BMW'S JAUNTY-LOOKING 6 Series convertible is most definitely not a car for the faint-hearted. Another head-turner if you drive one, you'll be on the receiving end of more than your fair share of attention.
The 6 Series offers a choice of two body styles Coupé or Convertible and two powerplants. Tested here is the latest addition to the range, the 630i Convertible, which boasts BMW's newest 3.0-litre straight six. To get behind the wheel of a 630i Coupé will cost you £45,255 but we would definitely spend £50,655 and go for the Convertible. The more brutal 4.4-litre V8-powered 645Ci models will set you back £50,455 and £55,905 for the Coupé and Convertible respectively.
In creating the 6 Series convertible, BMW has dismissed the fashion for folding metal roofs as too heavy, too expensive and, most importantly, they steal too much luggage space from the boot. So, instead, they've chosen to use a fabric construction and cleverly designed it so that, top up, the Convertible mirrors the bodywork of the Coupé. BMW has even managed to incorporate their trademark Hofmeister kink into the unique twin fin-structure soft-top.
BMW's distinctive 'flame-surface' body styling works especially well on the two-door 6 Series. From the front, the 3.0-litre is discernible from the 4.4-litre V8 by nothing more than a dechromed grille. From the rear, circular rather than oval tail pipes identify that it is powered by a straight six. They do, however, share the same roguish snout and distinctive swept back twin headlights, the same arresting curve in the A-pillar and the same powerful visual drama.
At MotorBar we are lucky enough to drive many highly-desirable cars but only once, when we were testing an Aston Martin Volante, has another car parked alongside me in an otherwise almost deserted car park and its attractive blonde driver climbed out smiling warmly to tell me: "I hope you don't mind, but I parked next to you so I could have a look at your fabulous car..." Well, it happened again.
The new 6 Series is, without a doubt, one of the most covetable convertibles around. Desirable to own? No question about that. And even more desirable to drive. Once seated inside the driver-orientated cockpit you will appreciate the excellent build quality that both looks and feels expensive. The first impression is of the generous amount of space in a cabin that looks as if it will withstand years of use.
You sit low in comfortable and supportive sports seats that wrap around you. Powered adjustment is of the every-which-way variety. More impressive is that the headrest and seatbelt are integral to the seat so when you fold the front seat back for rear access there's no loose belt to get in the way. Multi-stage heated seats reach every part of your back. The dark burnished metal trim look superb. And the 6-CD stacked has been thoughtfully fitted into the very back of the glovebox in order to maximise general storage space.
Visibility, with the roof up or down, is good enough to place the 630 accurately even without the wonderfully informative graphic of the car (and the potential hazards around it) that appears on the super-wide 8.8-inch colour screen the moment the parking sensors are activated.
The multi-function steering wheel adjusts electrically for reach and rake, and you should have little trouble finding the ideal driving position. To hand, just behind the gear lever, is the iDrive rotary control for wide-ranging operation of the navigation, climate, audio and telephone systems.
Straight ahead through the top arc of the classically-simple styled and tactile three-spoke wheel are two clear dials with matt silver bezels and white-on-black graphics. To the left, a 160mph speedometer and on the right, a rev-counter red-lined at 7,000rpm. Inset into the lower sector of each instrument are gauges for fuel and temperature. Between the major dials are small individual displays for secondary information such as date, time, exterior temperature, trip, range and average mpg. Beyond, your view continues down the long bonnet, almost to the very end.
The level of standard equipment is everything one should expect from
a £50,000+ luxury sports convertible. Automatic dual-zone air conditioning, auto dimming rear view mirror, electric seats with driver memory, leather upholstery, a tyre puncture warning system, CD player with a 10-speaker sound system, cruise control, bi-xenon headlights, heated windscreen washer jets, metallic paint, 17-inch alloy wheels, rain sensing wipers, Park distance Control and a fully automatic electro-hydraulic soft-top all come as standard.
Highlights of the comprehensive options list are radar cruise control, adaptive cornering headlights, keyless locking, 'massaging' active seats and voice-activated controls a button on the steering wheel allows voice commands to operate 80 per cent of the functions usually selected via the iDrive controller. Also available is a Head-Up instrument display that, in addition to navigation directions, can project up to 300 different warning messages on the windscreen.
Comfort for the driver and passenger is generous and although it's not as roomy in the back, there's still ample space for the 630 to qualify as a four-seater. Travelling in the back is pleasant made better top up by good views out to the side and front although, like most 2+2s, larger adults will be happiest on shortish journeys. The boot can, however, swallow two sets of golf clubs even with the roof folded away. A stylish touch is the boot badge, which doubles as an attractive release handle. Pull it and you'll find a class-leading 350 litres of luggage space with the roof up. Drop the roof and there's still an impressive 300 litres.
Safety can be pretty much taken for granted. The 630i comes well equipped as standard with a battery of clever passive and active safety aids. Key areas such as the A-pillar are made from strengthened steel alloy. Four airbags come as standard and the front airbags are 'intelligent', offering dual stage deployment.
To reduce the potential for an accident, BMW has fitted its advanced Dynamic Stability Control plus Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) which monitors pitch, roll and wheel slip to keep the car composed on the road. The DTC function permits the driver a degree of slip for a sportier driving style. This also allows the ability on a loose or slippery surface to maintain revs to enable you to pull away. In addition to ABS there's also Dynamic Brake control and Electronic Brake force Distribution for intelligently applying maximum braking force during an emergency situation. Finally, in the event of a serious incident, passengers are protected by two pop-up roll over bars.
BMW don't only make 'the ultimate driving machine'. They also make some brilliant engines. The 630i's 3.0-litre straight six powerplant is the world's lightest six-cylinder petrol engine. Weighing just 121kgs, it epitomises how BMW has pushed back the boundaries of six-cylinder petrol engine performance.
This engine marks the first time both BMW's innovative Vanos camshaft control system and Valvetronic variable valve timing technologies have been fitted to a six-cylinder engine. The result is exciting: 258bhp and peak torque of 221lb ft delivered to the rear wheels in a flat curve starting at 2,500rpm and being maintained up to 4,000rpm, with 199lb ft of that being available from a barely idling speed of 1,500rpm. All of which is enough for 85mph in 6th gear where it is allowable at an unstressed 3,000rpm and still a further 4,000 in hand before the red line! Pressing the Sport mode button very noticeably sharpens up throttle response.
Pull away and the 86bhp-per-litre inline six immediately feels right. crisply responsive, it is keen to rev and not short of punch in any of the six well-spaced ratios. And it sounds good, too, emitting a tuneful straight-six howl as the needle sweeps unerringly round to 7,000 revs. Tipping the scales at 1,485kg only makes the 630i's zero to 62mph time of 6.5 seconds the more impressive. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.
The 630i benefits dynamically from its lighter powerplant the V8 under the bonnet of its big brother, the 645, is 130kgs heavier. The weight reduction over the 630i's front axle makes for a more involving and sharper driving experience, with crisper turn-in and a more 'nimble' feel at the helm. The 630i's 'light' front end is not just the result of the magnesium and aluminium alloy engine. With the exception of a handful of parts subjected to high loads, the double joint spring-strut front axle is made entirely from aluminium. In fact, an all-aluminium Sports suspension package is fitted as standard.
The speed-proportional Servotronic rack and pinion steering is more than up to the job, providing very good feedback through the steering wheel. It doesn't take many miles to appreciate the 630i's talented chassis. With a 50:50 weight distribution, its well-judged balance between entertaining handling and a comfortable grand touring ride brings the word 'lithe' immediately to mind.
Our test car was fitted with the optional Dynamic Drive electronically controlled anti roll-bar system, which works brilliantly. Consisting of two active anti-roll bars, a hydraulically-operated swivel motor and an intelligent electronic control unit, Dynamic Drive counteracts the natural lean of a car in a corner by converting the hydraulic pressure generated into a torsional stabilising force than can absorb 80 per cent of body roll at up to 0.6g of lateral acceleration.
Secondary benefits include 15 per cent less steering input during heavy cornering and ironed-out road imperfections. For example unlike a car with solid anti-roll bar the juddering effect of a pothole is not transmitted to the opposing wheel, thus preventing the car from becoming unsettled. Dynamic Drive helps enormously to make the '6' a genuine enthusiast's machine.
Over demanding A and B roads it regularly surprises with the speeds at which it can be safely driven. Make full use of the slick manual 'box to exploit the strong low and mid-range urge and the 630i comes alive, eager to change direction and responsive to both hand and foot. 245/50 run-flat Bridgestone tyres are fitted as standard and their grip can't be faulted. As you would expect, the brakes are efficiently progressive, with the power to haul you down reassuringly and without any drama whenever and as often as you need them.
Fabric roof open or closed, the 630i convertible serves up top drawer cruising quality. The only sounds with the roof down are welcome ones and it's a great excuse to enjoy the sound of the snarly straight six working. The '6' is a large convertible yet we never felt even a hint of scuttle-shake during the two weeks we were driving it over a variety of roads, even over rough surfaces. The 6 Series enjoys immense structural integrity and there's no refinement penalty for going topless.
The all-electric, multi-layered fabric hood really is a beautifully executed piece of work with no visible framework. Top raised, it's so good you could be travelling in the coupé. A clever and very useful feature is the vertical glass rear screen. Controlled by a single switch, it glides up and down whether the top is open or closed. With the roof in place, it adds the further enhancement of a truly pillarless coupé. And with the roof neatly folded out of sight a gentle, one-finger task it can be raised to act as a neat, almost invisible, windbreak. Another useful facility is the option of operating it at up to 20mph a handy face-saver if the traffic lights turn green halfway through raising or lowering the roof.
If you're travelling two-up, there's an additional and larger framed mesh wind deflector that slots into place behind the front seats to prevent draughts and turbulence. Installed, it covers the rear seats but flips down flat if not required. Visibility is not affected, so it can be left in place with the top up as a discreet privacy partition. With the larger wind blocker in place we were surprised by a sudden and quite heavy shower on the motorway and drove through it at the legal limit without feeling a drop of water touch us.
Anybody spending £50K on a car today will not be worried about fuel consumption. However, just for the record, over the course of our hard-driven, 666-mile test we averaged 25.7mpg and can see no reason why drivers shouldn't match or even better BMW's official combined cycle figure of 29.4mpg.
Also well worth mentioning is Service Inclusive, BMW's five years' or 60,000 miles maintenance-free ownership package that costs £1,250 as a one-off charge. In conjunction with BMW's comprehensive three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, the package covers all oil services, replacement air filters, air-conditioning micro filters, spark plugs, brake fluid, front and rear discs and pads, clutch (if worn) and wiper blades. Service Inclusive can also be passed on to second and third owners and represents a significant aid to residual value.
We were fortunate to spend a delightful two weeks driving the 630i Convertible. We liked it a lot. Not only does it provide its driver with a lot of fun on challenging and twisting routes but it will just as effortlessly traverse a country in a day. Whichever style you choose, as the sun goes down you'll find yourself feeling refreshed and eager for more of the same. The more you drive the BMW 630 Convertible, the more attached to it you'll become.
BMW 630i Convertible | £50,655
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 25.7mpg | Power: 258bhp | Torque: 221lb ft
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