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Road test: BMW 650i

2008-05-07 07:03
BMW 650i
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model 650i
Engine 4.8-litre
Power 270 kW @ 6 300 r/min
Torque 490 Nm @ 3 400 r/min
Transmission 6-speed Sport Auto
Zero To Hundred 5.6 seconds
Top Speed 250 km/h
Fuel Consumption 12.9 (Combined)
Price From R952 000

Wilmer Muller

For some it is a design masterpiece, while others find it just plain ugly. However, there is no doubt that the BMW 6 Series is a head-twister and it doesn't go unnoticed... We tested it in 650i convertible guise.

The 6 Series, which is a genuine four-seater, is sleek with chubby lines, giving it a distinctive appearance ensuring that it looks unlike anything else. The car also now looks neater after the mildest of facelifts.

The styling update recently introduced extends to the GT and convertible models, but is hardly eye-catching until you look closer and notice the changes.

It has new front and rear bumpers. At the front there are stylish new "daytime" headlights and a new bonnet, while the rear gets a new spoiler incorporating a third brake light. The detail changes might be minor, but it gives the 6 Series a sharper and tighter look.

As a convertible the 6 Series comes with a traditional fabric roof with an electric drop-down rear glass screen that gives the car a classic look.


The 650i's interior is a pleasant place to be as the quality of the fit and finish is really impressive. All of the surfaces and materials have a top-quality look and feel.

The convertible also gets BMW's sun-reflective technology for the leather upholstery. Not only does this keep the leather's temperature down when it's been allowed to bake for a while, but it also prevents it from fading. Naturally there is no shortage of comfort features or optional state-of-the-art toys.

Although front passenger space is good, it is a different story at the back. Travelling for rear passengers is a cramped affair that could make long distance journeys quite gruelling. Interior stowage space is also limited, but boot capacity, even with the roof down, is reasonable.

Cruising with the top down is a pleasure with wind play being not too intrusive. A wind deflector that one fits over the rear passenger seat also helps to limit this.

Under the skin

Naturally the 6 has a traditional rear-wheel drive platform and the updated range is basically mechanically unchanged. The 650i's familiar 4.8-litre V8 thrusts out a thunderous 270 kW at 6 500 r/min. This model also bridges the gap between the six-cylinder 630i and 373 kW-M6.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but our test 650i came with BMW's six-speed Sport Automatic Transmission. You can choose automatic mode for precise automatic gearshifts, or switch to manual mode for sportier gear changes.

There are also paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. A Sports button makes the entire shift process even more dynamic as it boosts throttle input.

The 650i is also available with BMW's Active Steering and Dynamic Drive systems, with the latter incorporating active roll bars to enhance body control. Other new features include active headrests and a lane departure warning system where the steering wheel vibrates when the car exits a lane.

Driving it

Press the start-stop button, and the 650i's refined V8 roars into life. This engine is quite amazing and gives impressive acceleration no matter the gear or speed

The 650i is quick with excellent refinement at speed. BMW claims a 5.6-second 0-100km/h sprint time for the automatic model with the top speed of course limited to 250km/h. It is clear that the 650i's power train is gutsy and at any speed it provides strong pace in an effortless manner.

This model is arguably also the best in the 6 Series range. It's not quite as wild as the M6, but the V8 is a showcase of performance, comfort and just old-fashioned driving fun.

Furthermore it is really entertaining to be behind the wheel of the 6, especially if it is specced with the hi-tech Dynamic Drive which enhances high-speed stability. Superb dynamics, sharp handling and strong brakes are part of the mix too.

Its tried-and-tested rear-drive handling gives the 6 Series agile handling and excellent road grip.

Yes, the 6 is big car but it isn't intimidating. In fact, once on the move you instantly forget about its size. The chassis is well-balanced, while safety and other high-tech gizmos provide further assistance.

The auto 'box is very effective too and the electronically-controlled gearshifts are quick and precise.

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.


From every perspective the 650i is remarkable. It's an engineering masterpiece, solid and well-designed - all of these attributes make it feel exclusive. Naturally it doesn't come cheap; the convertible's base price is just below R1-million.

It is hard to fault the 6 Series and although there are some that won't like the styling and describe the car as vulgar and over-the-top, you have to admit it isn't dull at all. The 6 Series also just to stimulates all your senses?


  • Engineering
  • Driving pleasure
  • Build quality


  • Cramped rear


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