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Six education from fast ladies

2011-05-27 07:47

EVERYTHING THAT OPENS AND SHUTS: BMW's 2011 6 Series convertible not only looks good, it's also easy to enter and exit and the boot takes four medium suitcases. Watch the video.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model 6 Series Convertible - 640i / 650i
Engine 2979cc / 4395cc
Power 235kW / 300kW
Torque 600Nm / 450Nm
Transmission Eight-speed a/t
Zero To Hundred 5.7sec / 5.0sec
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Tank 70 litres
Fuel Consumption About 12 litres/100km (real world)
Boot Size 300-250 litres
Steering Electric
Airbags Lots
Tyres Various rim/tyre combinations
Front Suspension Double track control arm with separate lower track arm level, aluminium, small steering roll radius, anti-dive
Rear Suspension Integral-V multi-arm axle, aluminium, with steering function, anti-squat and anti-dive, double acoustic separation
Service Intervals Computer indicated
Price R914 558 / R1 178 530 (inc. emissions tax)
Rivals Jaguar XK, Porsche 911 Carrera, Mercedes SL


“Masterpieces on wheels” would be a fair description of BMW’s latest 6 Series Convertibles, the straight-six 235kW 640i and V8 300kW 650i, launched in South Africa this week.

The cars were first shown and the Detroit auto show in January 2011 and their customer presentation in South Africa is running until May 28 at Montecasino in northern Johannesburg.

BMW SA chose the suitably upmarket Fancourt golf estate in George for the launch base and the high and serpentine passes and fast, straight back roads of the Outeniqua mountains to show off their power and handling.

Each twin-turbo engine generates more power than its predecessor, both are more fuel-efficient – the V8 especially so in this green-intolerant world thanks to the Bavarians’ EfficientDynamics with an (optional) auto stop/go function saving a few teaspoons of unleaded at every traffic light.


BMW claims 7.9 and 10.7 litres/100km respectively; achievable only under European test conditions, of course, but hard real-world driving over two days returned figures closer to the truth – around 12 litres/100km but still remarkable for engines displacing 2979 and 4395cc and developing 450Nm from 1300-4500rpm and 600Nm from 1750-4500rpm.

The fuel tank holds 70 litres so you should easily see 600km a fill.

The three-litre reaches 100km/h in 5.7sec, the 4.4 needs only five seconds while flipping seamlessly through the eight-speed autobox. Each model is electronically limited to 250km/h.

The front accommodation is luxuriously spacious, the seats multi-way power-adjustable, but those two rear seats will only take a couple of youngsters – or, more likely, two petite female admirers. The cars are quiet, even with the cloth top retracted into the capacious boot (the electrickery takes 19 seconds to open and 24 seconds to close and can do it at up to 40km/h, so you don’t need to pull over should a sudden shower spoil the fresh-air fun).


BMW describes the pointy bits each side of the back window as ‘fin architecture’. I think it looks more like Batman’s helmet... but whatever.

The boot volume is 350 litres with the top in place, 300 with it folded, and the car measures 4.894m long, 1.894m wide and 1.365m high.

But please, no poseurs! These high-performance sports machines deserve to be owned by people who have not only “made it” but also regard driving as a carefully acquired skill to be used and enjoyed as they would with any other piece of top-class sports equipment.

EARLY START FROM FANCOURT:The 6 Series Convertibles line up for launch with the X5 escort/emergency crew in the background. Image gallery

For anybody else a 6 Series Convertible would merely be an extravagant show of excess, wasted on somebody who cannot revel in the thrill of a tightening country curve taken “just so” or feel the satisfaction of being in the exact gear (there are eight in the auto/manual sequential sports ’box, each just begging to be used) to suit the circumstances and generate maximum exit acceleration.

Anybody who does not aspire to be an excellent driver, who has not taken the time to be trained as such by experts, just doesn’t deserve to be in the driving seat.

Owning such a car demands pride beyond that of simply being rich enough to buy one. If you can’t control it to limits that instil a frisson of fear then this Six should not be yours – you haven’t earned it. Leave its limited numbers to those who can; to those who will regard the purchase as much a privilege – like owning an art masterpiece – for that is surely what these two cars are.

These are from the second incarnation of the 6 Series Coupe and Convertible. The previous range was launched back in 2004 and ceased production in 2010 after, worldwide, the Coupe found 63 000 owners and the Convertible a further 55 000.

STRETCH OUT: Huge space up front in the 2011 BMW 6 Series Convertible and the fascia is packed with comfort and driving features.

As BMW SA’s group automotive communications manager Edward Makwana explained during his detailed launch function presentation at the Fancourt golf estate in George this week: “Top-down motoring hasn’t gone out of fashion for more than 70 years. Customers will pay for innovation and elegance, for a masterpiece.

“The 6 Series Convertible will be a leader in its segment.”

Next to come, perhaps in September 2011, will be the slightly longer four-door coupe for which no specs are yet officially available. And for those of you with a bent for sports sedans, the next M5 will arrive in November.

Makwana reckons the 6 Series Convertible’s main competitors will be Mercedes’ SL Roadsters (R1 549 000 to R2 415 300), the Porsche 911 Carrera (R1 059 000 to R1 250 000) and Jaguar’s XK (from R1 154 300) “but you have to compare prices and power”.

Which, pricewise, I will do: the 640i costs R914 558 and the 650i R1 178 530 (both figures including CO2 exhaust emissions tax at 185g/km and 249g/km respectively).

Much of the fuel-saving comes from the eight-speed Sports automatic and BMW EfficientDynamics. BMW says the unit’s comfort and efficiency are unmatched in its segment with the wide spread of gearing allowing ample performance at minimal engine revs. The driver can also change gear manually using shift paddles on the steering wheel.

FULL-HOUSE PACKAGE: An eight-speed auto box is standard on both the 640i and 650i Six; there's just about every other extra available, too.

EfficientDynamics also contributes to reducing fuel consumption and emissions: brake energy regeneration, electric power steering, “need-based” operation of ancillary components, lightweight construction and low rolling-resistance tyres are included. The 640i also has an automatic active air flap control and auto start/stop which cuts the engine whenever the car is stationary – such as at a red light.

As soon as the driver releases the brake the engine fires-up again.

Drive Dynamic Control and (optional) adaptive drive, chosen from a switch set on the centre console, gives a choice of suspension/throttle settings – Normal, Comfort, Sport and Sport+, the last to be selected at your peril because all traction and stability systems are disabled.

The choices also affect shock-absorber settings, gear-shift patterns, stability control responses.

The range of standard safety equipment includes front and head-thorax side air bags in the seat frames, three-point automatic belts for all seats, belt force limiters and front belt tensioners, IsoFix child-seat mounts in the rear and a pyrotechnic roll-over protection system that lifts two aluminium bars behind the rear head restraints.

A wide range of BMW ConnectedDrive features is available, including lane deviation and departure warnings, speed-limit warnings, night-vision assistance, rear-view camera, “Surround View’ (a bird’s-eye view of the car when reversing) and integrating sockets for Apple and other smartphones and Internet access displayed on the fascia’s wide info screen.

SECURITY CONSCIOUS:The centre-console boxes are lockable on the convertible (for obvious reasons!); centre is the auto/manual sequential gearshifter, to its right the ride selector and to its left the iDrive rotary selector.

Satnav is, of course, part of the package and the newest windscreen-projected, full-colour “head-up” information display is also available.

And finally, the car’s looks... I think it’s more attractive with the folding roof in place. It flows with the car’s rather angular lines and long bonnet; the car is 74mm longer than its predecessor, 39mm wider and a thumbnail’s width lower.

BMW says “the outward projecting lines and the harmonious convex and concave contours take their cue from the movement of waves as a powerboat slices through the water”. No doubt somebody was paid a lot for dreaming that up, so you’ve got it in full.

And, talking of water, day two of the launch was spent with the Six’s kidney grille “slicing” through a lot of it, including on the slalom down the Outeniqua pass back into George. It was dumped by a cold front imported directly from Cape Town, weather that demonstrates just how good modern traction and stability systems are.

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