New & Used BMW 6-Series: In Depth
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The BMW 6-Series, originally offered only as a coupe, has grown into a lineup of its own within BMW, including the traditional coupe and convertible and now adding a sleek sedan called Gran Coupe to the mix. All body styles are available with a choice of six- and eight-cylinder engines, including top-flight M6 variants in each shape, and all-wheel drive is available as well. In addition, BMW offers an Alpina version of the Gran Coupe dubbed B6. Because of the depth and breadth of the offerings, the 6-Series can compete with anything from a Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, to a Porsche 911, to the new Mercedes-AMG GT.
MORE: Read our 2015 BMW 6-Series review
From its introduction as a 1976 model to the end of the first generation in 1989, the 6-Series was available only as a coupe. It shared underpinnings with the 5-Series sedans of its time. The first 6er saw many changes over its long run, with its 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine growing to 3.5 liters by the end. There also were incremental improvements to the interior, performance, and of course power over time, and BMW also created the first M6, which offered power and handling upgrades beyond what the standard car could provide.
After a hiatus, the 6-Series returned for its second generation in 2003, taking the spot vacated by the 8-Series. This time around, the 6-Series once again took its basis from the 5-Series' core mechanical underpinnings, but was offered as a coupe and convertible. A 4.4-liter V-8 engine was the standard powerplant, generating a stout 330 horsepower. In 2006, mid-way through the second generation's model run, a new 4.8-liter V-8 was introduced, raising output to 362 horsepower. The M6, debuting in 2005, saw a 500-horsepower V-10 engine paired with the SMG III automated manual gearbox, yielding impressive 0-60 mph acceleration of 4.1 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph--though the M6 itself was capable of 194 mph.
The current generation, which arrived in 2011 as a 2012 model, was initially available in coupe and convertible body styles, with a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbocharged engine in the base 640i model, rated at 320 horsepower. The 650i gets a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 engine rated at 400 horsepower, and the range-topping M6 uses a sharper version of the 4.4-liter twin-turbo engine to generate a massive 560-horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. The Coupe was initially available in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while the Convertible was initially limited to rear-wheel drive.
BMW grew the 6-Series lineup for the 2013 model year with a new body style, the 6-Series Gran Coupe. This slinky sedan is BMW's first entry into the so-called four-door coupe segment pioneered by Mercedes-Benz's CLS-Class. It's a cross between a 5-series sedan and a 6-series coupe, with a wide track and a long hood. The Gran Coupe was initially launched as a 640i with the turbocharged inline-six; V-8 and all-wheel-drive versions were added later.
In the standard 6-Series coupe and convertible, both six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions are available. The M6 can be had with a seven-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission or a no-cost six-speed manual transmission, offered exclusively in the U.S. In advance of the M6 first offered as a Convertible for 2012 and a Convertible for 2013 (with the M6 GranCoupe set to arrive in calendar-year 2014), BMW introduced an M Sport Package for the 2012 6-Series that remains available today.
The current BMW 6-Series also offers a wide range of luxury and technology features, including a 10.2-inch LCD display, fourth-generation iDrive infotainment system, a highly-detailed and sculpted interior design, and 2+2 seating. Twenty-way adjustable power seats, LED headlights, BMW Night Vision with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-change warning, and a high-end Bang & Olufsen sound system are also available options.
An immense array of exterior paint, interior color, upholstery, trim, and other aesthetic options are available to personalize the BMW 6-Series.
For 2013, BMW 650i models received a new twin-turbo V-8 engine, incorporating Valvetronic variable valve timing and making 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. Otherwise, 2013 brought a BMW 6-Series Coupe Frozen Silver Edition--a model distinguished by its Frozen Silver paint, 20-inch M Performance Wheels with contrasting black center caps, and other upgrades like a sport exhaust, Alcantara headliner, and custom door sills.
The 2014 model year brought an optional six-speed manual transmission for M6 models, an updated version of the iDrive infotainment system, and a range of color and equipment updates. A Harman Kardon sound upgrade was introduced for 2015. Also in 2015, the 6-Series lineup upgraded to a Dynamic Digital Instrument Cluster display and enhanced iDrive touch-pad controller; meanwhile 650i and 650i xDrive models gained a standard M Sport exhaust system, and the Sport automatic transmission gained a Launch Control feature. The very-limited-run Alpina B6 xDrive Gran Coupe was added for 2015, powered by a 540-hp twin-turbocharged V-8. The B6 is sort of like a rarer, less-powerful M6 that adds all-wheel drive.
BMW has bestowed a very mild refresh on the 6-Series lineup for 2016. Changes are very subtle on the exterior—and the M6 models actually go without visual updates—and there is also some mild freshening of the interior. The previously optional full-LED headlights are updated and have been made standard on all models.