BMW's 6 Series Coupe gets a few welcome updates to stay right on the pace. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
With tidied styling, more generous levels of equipment, a better quality cabin and even more efficiency tweaks to the engines, the BMW 6 Series Coupe has benefited from a number of small but effective improvement to what was already a very good car. There's even a switchable exhaust valve to make the petrol engines sound even sportier. Well, it couldn't all be sensible-shoes stuff could it?
There are some cars that are launched and require almost instant major surgery and then there are others that get facelifted merely for the sake of it. BMW's 6 Series certainly tends towards the latter, although we're certainly not saying that the changes aren't worthwhile. It's just that if you don't know about them in advance, chances are you won't spot them. But before we detail what's up with the latest Six, a bit of backstory. This is now generation 3.5 if you will. The original shark-nosed 6 Series, built between 1976 and 1989 was, in effect, a coupe version of the 7 Series saloon. Its controversially-styled successor, although bigger and heavier, was actually spun off the 5 Series saloon and lasted seven years between 2003 and 2010. And then came the third generation model, which debuted in 2011 and has now been given a subtle fettling. It's a little less outre in its approach than before and might just be better for it.
The engine line-up for the 6 Series remains much the same as before albeit with improved efficiency fitted as standard. There are, however, a few little changes to enliven the driving experience. The petrol engines get a sports exhaust with a switchable flap as standard for a more aggressive soundtrack. These engines comprise a turbocharged 3.0-litre six that's good for 320PS in the 640i, a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 with 450PS for the 650i, and the flagship M6 which uses a 560PS version of the turbocharged 4.4-litre unit. Choose diesel and you're delivered the 3.0-litre 313PS 640d. All models get an eight speed ZF automatic gearbox with wheel mounted shift paddles. Well, all but the M6, which drives through a seven-speed twin-clutch system. For the first time, the 6 Series is offered with all-wheel drive, although this has yet to be confirmed for UK release. The xDrive system adds 75kg to the kerb weight of the 650i, bringing it to a big-boned 1855kg but the 0-62mph time dips to 4.4 seconds, shaving 0.2 seconds off the sprint benchmark of its rear-wheel drive counterpart. Should the 4.2 second sprint to 62mph of the M6 seem a tad pedestrian, buyers can specify a Competition Package which adds another 15PS, chamfers 0.1 seconds off the sprint to 62mph, delivers a more focused suspension package, sharper steering and unique 20-inch wheels.
Design and Build
The look of this latest 6 Series Coupe seems to have been designed to have brooked as little controversy as possible. In many ways it looks like a second-generation car that's been out in the sun a bit long, with all of the edge and attitude slightly melted away. It retains the same basic proportions and is a quietly handsome thing, the latest styling tweaks including a reprofiled front bumper with a broader kidney grille, revised headlights featuring an LED main beam, a redesigned rear bumper and different alloy wheels. The six-cylinder models get 17-inch wheels but most owners will upgrade to the eighteen which, incidentally comes as standard on non-M V8 models. BMW copped some minor flak concerning the cabin of the 6 Series, with some commentators and owners feeling that materials' quality wasn't quite where it should be for a car that knocked on the door of six figures. The latest model gets some higher-quality dash finishes and optional two-tone leathers which sounds a bit "German fashion' to us. The coupe still doesn't feature much room in the rear but the boot measures a hefty 460-litres so it's perfect for its Grand Touring remit.
Market and Model
Pricing starts at around £60,000 and the range encompasses SE, M Sport and Sport versions depending on engines, with the M6 at the top of the range. BMW has built a good deal more equipment into the car this time round, with the key item of user technology being ConnectedDrive. This provides full navigation and infotainment facilities, and includes a SIM card that gives the driver access to Concierge Services. This can be tailored to the owner's preferences and includes helpful information such as Real Time Traffic Information, BMW Teleservices and Intelligent Emergency Call. It can even reserve hotel rooms and find flight information, ATM machines and out-of-hours pharmacies. Can you imagine the buyer of an original 6 Series back in the Eighties being told a car could do all that? ConnectedDrive is also linked as standard to the latest version of the BMW Head-Up Display, which projects essential safety and guidance information - from speed limits to navigation instructions - onto the windscreen within the driver's field of vision. In certain circumstances telephone number lists and entertainment information can also be called up. There's the almost obligatory camera and radar tech, in this instance called the Driving Assistant Plus package, incorporating Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Lane Departure Warning and Pedestrian and Collision Warning with Braking.
Cost of Ownership
You tend not to approach the purchase of a big coupe with running costs at the front of your mind, but come on; no one wants to be handing money over to the Chancellor if they don't strictly have to. Therefore the efficiency metrics of the big Six ought to come as a welcome bonus. Whether you choose the TwinPower Turbo six-cylinder or V8 engines, there's the entire suite of BMW EfficientDynamics technologies to save fuel, reduce emissions and help the cars meet EU6 standards. The eight-speed auto has an ultra-high top gear for low-rpm motorway cruising and helps the 640d to emissions as low as 139g/km on the 640d SE, with corresponding 54.3mpg fuel economy. Even the petrol-powered 640i manages a combined 38.2mpg on the combined cycle that seems incredible given the size of the car and the fact that it'll bludgeon its way through 62mph in just 5.3 seconds. The M6 is rated at 28.5mpg and emits 231g/km, but if you can average more than 20mpg from one of these, you've got a lot more restraint than any of us.
So, more of the same then? In many ways, yes. BMW have clearly taken the view that unbroken things don't need a whole lot of fixing and the latest 6 Series Coupe fine tunes a lot of the details. Fettle enough of the small things though and they add up to a noticeable whole, and the 6 Series is looking to convince those who might otherwise choose a Mercedes SL, an Audi S5 or a Porsche 911 that their big coupe delivers the most well-rounded Grand Touring experience this side of £100k. We like the fact that they haven't gone too overboard with change for change's sake. The styling alterations we can take or leave, but the interior materials' quality and the inclusion of ConnectedDrive as standard are tangible improvements that customers in this category will certainly value. The 6 Series isn't so good that it's the default choice, but in improving the car yet again, BMW have made it a crucial bit harder to resist.