2012 BMW 6-Series Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
February 28, 2012

Elegant, stylish, comfortable, and quick, the 2012 BMW 6-Series is one of the top choices for a grand-touring coupe or convertible--as long as your budget can handle it.

As BMW's lineup of cars and SUVs grows, the 6-Series continues to find new ways to express its potential. The 2012 model brings a fresh dash of technology and style to both its convertible and coupe variants.

Style is number one with the 2012 BMW 6-Series, and that's immediately apparent: from the taut, sculpted hood to the stylized flanks and the sweeping roofline (in the case of the coupe) the new 6-Series screams, "look at me!" in the most civilized, urbane way possible. The all-new design for 2012 is still eminently BMW, and instantly recognizable as a 6-Series, but it's aggressively posh in a way its predecessor wasn't.

Under the hood lurks a pair of engines to back up its fast looks. In the 650i, a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine provides 400 horsepower. That's more than enough to ably motivate the roughly 4,200-pound coupe or convertible. Mated to BMW's eight-speed transmission, it sends its power to the rear wheels (or to all four wheels in the case of the 650i xDrive model) with smooth, even-tempered vigor. The 300-horsepower 640i model replaces the brawny V-8 with BMW's familiar turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder for yet more smooth acceleration and surprisingly solid gas mileage: up to 31 mpg on the highway.

Review continues below

Both the Coupe and the Convertible handle well for large grand tourers; neither is as nimble as a true sports car, but both are ready and willing partners on a curving canyon road. Unlike their sportier alternatives, however, the 6-Series duo demolish highway miles with comfort and grace.

That comfort comes courtesy of some very well-designed and roomy front seats. The rear seats in either Convertible or Coupe are best-suited to small children or luggage, though they can hold adults, particularly with the top down in the convertible, for shorter distances. Materials, design, and layout are all top-notch: precisely what you'd expect from BMW, particularly in the $73,000-$85,000-plus range the 2012 6-Series inhabits. A wide range of appearance and equipment packages are available, allowing the buyer to customize the look, feel, and function of the 2012 6-Series to a very high degree of personalization.

Technology also features prominently in the new 6-Series. A Bang & Olufsen audio system delivers audiophile-grade entertainment and a touch of classy looks thanks to its drilled-metal speaker covers. BWM's Apps platform is also on display through the iDrive infotainment system, with custom-built integration and compatibility with an ever-increasing number of social, entertainment, and media apps. As you'd expect, the 2012 6-Series is also chock full of high-tech driving aids, including monitors to sense sleep deprivation, guide lane-keeping, aid in parking and reversing, and maintain distance from traffic in cruise control mode.

Safety is no afterthought here either; BMW designed the Coupe and Convertible separately from the ground up to maximize rigidity and crash-worthiness as well as weight and sporting capability. Standard stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, a full complement of airbags, and the aforementioned driving aids all roll into a very high-tech safety profile. Due to their very recent release, none of the 2012 6-Series models have yet been crash tested by the NHTSA or IIHS.

8

2012 BMW 6-Series

Styling

The new 6-Series looks confident at speed; it's still a bulky, hulky luxury cruiser.

More athletic, wider, lower, and all-new for 2012, the latest BMW 6-Series is striking at rest or in motion. The overall look is one of confident, luxurious speed, though the details may not please every eye.

The new hood is one of the most prominent features, with a series of creases converging toward the nose, giving the surface character while also slightly slimming the broad nose's shape. Lower, wider, and longer than the previous 6-Series, the 2012 model looks decidedly more hunkered-down and ready for action, without looking at all cramped or compact.

BMW's now-characteristic modern take on the kidney grille is present up front, as are sculpted intakes to access the "shark nose" form. At the sides, the surfaces are kept simple, with mildly flared fenders and the coupe profile the dominant details. Large alloy wheels look at home in the large coupe's scale.

Inside, the 2012 BMW 6-Series continues its sport-inflected luxury theme, with a driver-oriented layout to controls and instrumentation. Styled in typical contemporary BMW fashion, the 6-Series' interior is orderly, restrained, and generally low-key, though unlike the somber experiences of some BMW cabins, the 6-Series comes off a bit warmer and more inviting.

9

2012 BMW 6-Series

Performance

The 6-Series devours pavement, less concerned with ultimate grip than something like a Z4.

As BMW's sporty grand touring coupe, the 6-Series isn't as concerned with maximum lateral grip or race-track lap times as it is with comfortably and briskly devouring long stretches of interstate--or autobahn, as the case may be. It does this exceedingly well.

Available with a choice of two engines, the 2012 6-Series Coupe and Convertible come in either 640i or 650i trim. The numbers denote the virtual engine sizes: the 640i uses a 3.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged six-cylinder engine rated at 315 horsepower; the 650i gets a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine rated at 400 horsepower. Both engines comes standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and seamlessly, and rises to the task of more aggressive driving surprisingly well. A six-speed manual transmission is available on rear-drive V-8 models.

Both engines are willing performers, but the larger, more laid-back character of the 6-Series is best suited by the V-8, in our estimation. Easy, smooth power complements the ride quality and handling, making it truly effortless to cruise along well above 100 mph--though you'll want to pay attention to that tendency if you're not a fan of large speeding tickets.

A Driving Dynamics Control system offers adjustability to the car's performance character, with driver-selectable Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes available at the press of a console-mounted button. Tweaking throttle response, transmission behavior, and suspension settings, the DDC is a handy tool to smooth out rough roads or firm up the ride for a more spirited bit of road.

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2012 BMW 6-Series

Comfort & Quality

The 6-Series' thick shape doesn't net much rear-seat room.

Even though the 2012 BMW 6-Series sticks with a fabric roof in Convertible form while its rivals all go folding hard-top, it's not a sign of laziness or cost-cutting on BMW's part at all; in fact, it's a smart choice.

Closing or opening in just under 20 seconds, even while rolling along at up to 25 mph, the soft roof is remarkably sturdy, quiet, and well-constructed. It's also lighter, and stows in a smaller space, than a typical folding hardtop--the 6-Series Convertible still has 10.6 cubic feet of space in the trunk with theĀ  down down. The glass window in the convertible is even a separate piece that can be opened even with the top up for even more ventilation.

The Coupe doesn't have the trick top to deal with, but like the Convertible, it gets an all-new interior for 2012, replacing the previous 6-Series' somewhat clunky space with a well-built, comfortable, and intriguingly designed cabin. The driver-focused controls sees the center console canted toward the left, and the control surfaces are made of classy, premium-looking and -feeling plastics and leathers.

The lowish roofline can make entry and exit a bit tight for taller occupants--though not really a big deal--but the front seats are roomy, with great shoulder and hip room as well as leg and head room. Supportive, firm, but not harsh seats and a plethora of adjustments and comfort-enhancers are found on the powered buckets up front.

The rear seats are less spacious, however, despite a wide cross section; leg room, even with the extra three inches of wheelbase in the 2012 model, simply isn't abundant. It's not just a matter of having a tall driver or front passenger, either; even with the front seats adjusted for shorter folk, the rear seats are best left to small kids and packages.

A smooth ride, quiet cabin, and excellent attention to detail make the 2012 6-Series a standout even in the competitive ranks of luxury grand tourers.

9

2012 BMW 6-Series

Safety

No crash-test results are available, but the 6-Series has extensive safety offerings.

As is common with expensive luxury cars, the 2012 BMW 6-Series hasn't been crash tested by either of the major agencies. Nevertheless, it is outfitted with some of BMW's best technology, as well as its proven design and construction.

Standard safety equipment on the 2012 6-Series includes advanced dynamic stability control and traction control; anti-lock brakes; cornering brake control; dynamic brake control; start-off assistance; and automatic brake drying function. Optional high-tech extras that can enhance safety and visibility include: a heads-up display; adaptive LED headlights; rear-view, top-view, and side-view cameras; integral active steering,and night-view cameras with pedestrian detection.

9

2012 BMW 6-Series

Features

Night vision and 180-degree cameras are just two of the 6er's high-tech features.

Like any BMW, the 2012 6-Series offers an impressive standard specification plus the ability to add lots of high-tech goodies--for a price.

Some of the highlights of the 6-Series' standard equipment list include the iDrive infotainment and control system, which uses a console-mounted knob and 10.2-inch widescreen display to enable multi-function access and control of the car's systems; rearview camera plus front/rear parking sensors; and the BMW Assist telematics and help line service (four year contract).

Of course there are abundant options to upgrade the already very nice standard equipment at almost every turn; from upholstery to trim, stereo to navigation, the list of what you can get is longer than the list of what you can't.

Some of the best upgrades available for the new 6er include a night-vision system with pedestrian detection; Bang & Olufsen sound system; active cruise control; top- and side-view cameras; heads-up display; and customized interior and exterior aesthetics via BMW's Individual program.

Of course, you'll not just end up with a very nice, very loaded 2012 6-Series if you tick all of these boxes; you'll also end up with a very expensive one.

6

2012 BMW 6-Series

Fuel Economy

The 6-Series' gas mileage is somewhat astonishing for such a heavy high-performance vehicle.

With a choice of engines, the 2012 BMW 6-Series lets buyers choose whether they prefer power and speed or more power and speed--there's no truly green choice between them, though the six-cylinder's gas mileage is somewhat better.

The 2012 BMW 640i (six-cylinder turbocharged) rates 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway in Coupe form, according to the EPA; the convertible scores 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

Stepping up to the V-8 engine in the 650i, the hardtops get 15/23 mpg ratings with the eight-speed automatic, while the six-speed manual scores 15/22 mpg. Soft-top models score identical numbers.

Finally, there's the xDrive all-wheel-drive version of the new 6-Series Coupe, which pays a penalty of just 2 mpg on the highway in comparison to rear-drive V-8 models, at 15/20 mpg.

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