BMW had enjoyed success beyond its expectations when it introduced the 6 Series a decade ago in 2004 as a Convertible, though it was the recent generation series that commanded better sales with its wider model options.
Almost 80,000 examples of the outgoing model were sold globally, half of which were the longer-wheelbase four-door Gran Coupé. The Malaysian market, however, saw a greater preference for the two-door Coupé.
The sporty stylish classic Coupé theme had obviously found a soft spot among the well-heeled and with the latest generation 6 Series, BMW decided to introduce all the variants at one go in December last year rather than to stagger them; that is, the Coupé, Convertible (both are two-door models) and Gran Coupé.
It is often hard to change an accepted body design formula and the new 6 Series sees no dramatic transformation but portrays a rather gradual honing of its dynamic Coupé profile to reflect the current BMW family styling and theme.
The front is focused on the new design of the BMW kidney grille (now with nine bars from the previous 10 to provide better air flow to cool the engine) and front and rear aprons to accentuate the width of the body; the front apron has a single full-width air intake to support that effect visually.
Complementing the fresh look are the newly-developed LED (light emitting diode) headlights, complete with daytime running lights, while the option here are the adaptive LED headlights with anti-dazzle High Beam Assistant.
Other details include the newly styled door mirrors that contribute to the car’s aerodynamic properties and contain slim horizontal indicator strips, and the 10mm larger chrome tailpipe embellishers for the six-cylinder in-line models to achieve a more powerful stance.
There is also new equipment beneath the “skin” to emphasise its performance personae; one of them is the sports-tuned exhaust system with a switchable valve to reduce exhaust back-pressure, resulting in a sportier note. You can turn it off for a quieter ride after enjoying the deep throated roar for a few kilometres.
Another key factor is the honing of the suspension system to the respective character of the models made available with further personalisation through such options as the electronic Dynamic Damper Control, Adaptive Drive that includes body roll stabilisation, and Integral Active Steering that introduces rear-wheel steer to reduce turning effort while enhancing agility.
The interior now sees the standard dashboard with contrast stitching that was previously an option, except on the M Sport versions, for an enhanced quality and luxury ambience.
The high-gloss black finish of the central console is seen as a contemporary measure to complement the iDrive system; likewise, the multi-functional instrument panel is new and there are now LED lights to illuminate the footwells, door openings and glovebox.
For the international media drive in Lisbon, Portugal, BMW made available the top model 650i with M Sport package in Coupé and Convertible options; we chose the Coupé as it holds greater appeal among BMW customers in the Malaysian market.
As the top model, it comes with the 4.4-litre V8 and TwinPower turbo technology with two turbochargers; power is a cool 450bhp and the maximum torque of 650Nm is available from an early 2,000rpm till 4,000rpm, making it useable for quick drives through winding roads.
To convey all that power and torque to the road via the rear wheels is the eight-speed Steptronic sport transmission with the BMW standard Sport and Sport+ modes for an even more engaging drive.
As with the new generation BMWs, we like the latest Head-Up Display that project all the relevant driving information, including navigation details, onto the windscreen using a full spectrum of colours.
We appreciated the clarity and could glean most of the information at a glance without taking our eyes off the road, especially the information on where to turn and go, and how fast we could legally drive.
Taking the 650i through the winding coastal roads with a spectacular view of the countryside and ocean was breathtaking; interestingly, the driver change point was this beachside café called Boundi, perhaps aspiring for the Bondi charm of Sydney, Australia.
The 650i felt almost as planted on the road as an M3 through the curves with its good dynamic balance, giving us the confidence to explore its optimum traction level.
We were a little conscious of the 6 Series wider dimensions through the narrower sections as the 650i was a wide car at almost 1,900mm, or almost 2m, across.
With the M Sport package, the 650i was running on Michelin 245/40 R19 tyres front and 275/35 R19 rear that provided the grip to complement all that torque coming through to push the Coupé through the corners.
With the twin turbo 4.4-litre engine, getting up to speed was effortless and we could easily make short work of the few open stretches as the 650i simply gobbled up the road.
The driving position was low, being typical of a Coupé, but the BMW designers had provided a good view upfront for easy gauging of its dimensional expanse especially when negotiating the narrow sections.
We had enjoyed the electric power steering (EPS) in other BMWs, including the M3s, earlier and we continued to revel in its accurate response and tyre direction along winding stretches.
For the xDrive versions, BMW continues with the hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering although this wasn’t the case with the new 1 Series. Perhaps, the hydraulic steering was found to function better with the 6 Series’ dynamic balance of a higher kerb weight and sturdier transfer system.
Those who like to drive the 6 Series at a modest pace would find the ECO PRO mode with coasting function an ideal item.
If the 6 Series Coupé, or any of the other two versions, is your cup of tea, BMW Malaysia expects to introduce this high-end model in the early part of the second half of the year.