After driving the new BMW 6 Series convertible our opinion is that it is a mouth-dropping drop-top in the metal.
Photos don't do this amazing piece of car design any justice at all. You have to see it in the metal to appreciate it and I have to admit that all of sudden BMW's new radical design philosophy starts to make sense.
After experiencing the 645 Ci convertible the design of the 5 Series and the bulky 7 Series seems more acceptable. It is as if the 6 completes the circle...
As with the 5 and 7 the 6 Series also features Chris Bangle's controversial high-booted and broad-shouldered styling, but it seems more acceptable on the 6 Series.
Perhaps it would have been better for BMW to introduce the 6 Series before the 5 and 7. I'm sure it would have made the shock less severe for BMW fans because the 6 is basically an all-new model, where the 5 and 7 were replacements.
The last time we saw a BMW 6 Series was in the late 80s and that car became a motoring icon. Now, almost two decades later, the all-new 6 Series - in coupé and cabriolet guise - is set to become a new cult car.
On the launch in Plettenberg bay in the breathtaking Garden Route, BMW SA's communications manager, Richard Carter, said that the new 6 Series is probably the best car in the company's current model line-up. I can tell you it IS the best Beemer!
I know this is a radical statement to make and there will be readers disagreeing. Yes, most BMWs are exceptional vehicles, but with the 6 Series it just touches all your senses. You can't take your eyes of the car and it is ever more difficult to take you foot of the accelerator!
Under the bonnet of the 645 Ci is a responsive 4.4-ltre eight-cylinder. Equipped with the innovative Valvetronic valve control system this unit produces 245 kW at 6 100 r/min and torque is a useful 450 Nm at 3 600 r/min.
Of course it is a fast mover and it goes from 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds (6.2 seconds for the automatic) and top speed is limited to 250km/h.
There are three six-speed transmission choices: a Steptronic automatic, a sequential-manual gearbox, and a manual.
The car has an aluminium chassis which helps to obtain excellent road holding while BMW's active suspension setup, Dynamic Drive, helps to minimise body roll.
Standard on the 6 Series is the Active Steering system providing optimal level of assistance depending on vehicle speed. Thanks to this system the 6 Series, which is almost five metres long and about two metres wide, is quite a manoeuvrable set of wheels.
The car is packed with a mouthful of standard driving and safety acronyms such as ABS, ASC, DBC, EBD, DSC and CBC.
BMW says that they considered a retractable tin-top for the 6 Series, but the company rather opted for a soft-top to ensure a better weigh distribution.
The 6's finned soft top is of course fully automatic and BMW claims that it sets new standards in terms of noise insulation. In conjuction with a retractable rear window, which can be lowered independent from the roof, it also offers good ventilation.
With the top closed this 2+2 seater has a striking coupé-like silhouette but the car looks even sleeker with top down.
When opened it is stowed in a special compartment the boot. If the roof is closed the soft top compartment can be easily be moved upwards to increase the luggage area.
A wind deflector can also be fitted over the rear seats to reduce drafts and turbulence for front seat passengers. If not in use it can be folded away and stored in the boot.
In terms of safety automatic rollbars are fitted as standard and activated whenever required, regardless of whether the roof is open or closed.
The new Convertible also comes with the most advanced restraint systems such as inertia-reel belts with belt latch tensioners integrated in the seat backrests and intelligently controlled head and side airbags.
The 645Ci convertible is a 2+2 seater and there is no compromise on luxury and comfort for passengers. It is also finished of in the softest leather and wood trim.
Electrical adjustment of the driver's and front passenger's seats is standard, with a triple memory function on the driver's seat.
The rear-seat passengers also enjoy the very best in style and luxury: Although the top is contoured and aerodynamic as on the c oupe, even adults will enjoy ample headroom in the rear.
The two extra-deep, separate leather seats and the contoured backrests offer passengers good side support.
Both rear seats are easy to enter thanks to Easy Access on the driver's and front passenger's seat.
A big advantage is that the seat belts are integrated in the front seats themselves, meaning that the passengers need not fear tripping when getting in or out of the rear seats.
As with the 5 and 7 the controversial iDrive system is also standard. From the third quarter voice entry system will be available enhancing the BMW's iDrive control philosophy.
This system is available in conjunction with the Professional navigation system and the Car Communication Computer (CCC) - both standard on SA-spec 6 Series convertibles.
The key feature of voice entry is the option to select all essential iDrive comfort functions by voice entry while driving, without taking one's eyes off the road even for a split-second.
This allows the driver to activate nearly all display functions through voice alone.
In the last quarter of 2004 Head-Up Display, presenting the most important features to the driver, will be available as an option.
It projects important information directly into the driver's line of vision while driving. This includes the current road speed, navigation instructions, speed limits and feedback from the Check/Control.
The 6 Series convertible is an amazing car to drive and handles like a roadster. Despite its enormous size it is, unlike the 7 Series, not an intimidating car to drive.
Thanks to the well-engineered chassis which is supplemented by driver aids such as Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) the driver will have a safe, but still an exhilarating drive.
On the launch we had ample chance to take the 6 to its limits and to experience its awesome dynamics through a number of tight bends.
The 645Ci is an exciting convertible and the first time you hit the accelerator you are overwhelmed by its power which is instantaneously available. The V8 engine's beat is also raucous to your ears.
Thanks to a good chassis setup and gizmos such as Dynamic Drive uneven surfaces won't upset the 6 Series in the slightest. When you tackle mountain passes and push the 6 to its limits through corners, DSC will kick in countering slight oversteer.
With aggressive cornering this BMW holds on for dear life, while the standard 245/45 R18 tyres offers superb grip.
The 6 Series is light of foot and it feels really alive. Furthermore the car has an almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution and with all the safety features on hand this BMW offers great handling ability.
Despite its cruiser image the 6 Series convertible is a driver's car first and foremost. It offers one of the best rides in the business and gets the adrenaline pumping like few other cars.
The all-new 6 Series is a job well done by BMW and will go down in motoring history as another iconic vehicle. It also has an exclusive appeal and to enhance this image BMW South Africa is limiting imports.
The 6 Series has loads to offer for keen drivers and is one of the hottest set of wheels around.
It is hard to find fault with this car and although there is a chance that some won't like the styling and describe the car as vulgar and over-the-top, you have to admit is has a presence and isn't dull at all.
Like it or not, you have to take notice of it!
The 6 Series, in convertible or coupé form, is a welcome addition to the BMW family and to the world of motoring. It is indeed a fresh breeze for sports car enthusiasts.
Prices: 645Ci Convertible
6-speed manual: R811 000
6-speed automatic: R825 000
6-speed SMG: R824 000