2014 BMW 6-Series Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2014

No matter whether it's a coupe, convertible, or Gran Coupe, the 2014 BMW 6-Series covers soft and elegant as well as it does sharp and athletic.

The BMW 6-Series family has several different personalities, and it revels in every one. As a convertible, it's an effortless year-round cruiser, with or without all-wheel drive. As a Gran Coupe, it's a somewhat more useful four-door that looks better than any other 6er. And as an M6 (as a Gran Coupe or "regular" coupe), it can tackle Formula 1 tracks with a fierce display of speed.

All those wildly different missions have something in common: they're all more evocative, more finely rendered than the car that came before them. The lumpy, chunky, pre-2012 6-Series is by now, a distant memory. It's immediately apparent that the new 6er lineup has been massaged all over, from the taut, sculpted hood to the stylized flanks. It's a polite but insistent appeal for attention, well underplayed. On the other hand, the new M6 wears a little more urgency on its sleeves--even before you fire the engine up--with its more aggressive aero work, distinctive wheels, flared fenders flush with the wheels, and somewhat wider stance. 

The athletic look is backed up by turbocharged six-cylinder or V-8 engines. In the 640i, it's a 315-horsepower, 3.0-liter six—offering up to 31 mpg on the highway—while the 650i models get a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine making 400 horsepower. That's more than enough to ably motivate the roughly 4,200-pound coupe or convertible or the 4,500-pound Gran Coupe. Mated to BMW's eight-speed transmission, it sends its power to the rear wheels (or to all four wheels in the case of xDrive models) with smooth, even-tempered vigor. The 640i models have a little less of the relaxed muscle-coupe character you get in the 650i, but they're very smooth and strong without needing to be revved.

Carried over as a Coupe and Convertible, and new to the Gran Coupe, is the superbly powerful M6. The former, thirsty V-10's been dumped, and now, like the M5, the M6 propels itself behind a 560-hp twin-turbo V-8, mated to either a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with very fast shifts, or to a six-speed, rev-matching manual transmission. Zero-to-60 mph times are as short as 4.1 seconds. The powertrain's matched to an M-specific chassis, upgraded brakes, special sport seats, and extensive M Drive controls over suspension, steering, powertrain, and stability controls;  It even includes two customizable setting buttons to quickly dial in a different character for a certain kind of driving. It's impossible to dial out the heft of the 6-Series, but the M6 has had some of the zingy, frantic responses zapped from its portfolio of driver-adjustable settings. It's more serene, more calm as it executes 150-20-mph braking runs, triple-gear downshifts, or 15-degree corners--and a much better high-speed tourer as a result.

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All Gran Coupe models feature four doors and what BMW calls 4+1 seating, making egress into the rear seats easier than 6-Series Coupe models. The Gran Coupe retains the driving dynamics of the standard Coupe, but its improved rear accommodations make it more appealing to those who regularly carry more than one passenger. That said, the Gran Coupe isn't a substitute for the 7-Series, or any of BMW's more upright sedans, really, as there's not enough headroom for most adults. 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 and trims are exactly what you'd expect for the premium price. And if you want to customize the 6-Series' look, there's a full set of possibilities through the BMW Individual Composition program. A 10.2-inch wide-screen display and BMW's iDrive system are included on all models, in addition to most other typical luxury-car comforts and conveniences. Noteworthy options dig into leading-edge technology, including night vision; a Bang & Olufsen sound system; top- and side-view cameras; and a parking assistant. You can even simulate the M look without the brutal M power, if anyone would ever want such a thing: an M Sport Package gives the other 6-Series models LED foglamps, special wheels with high-performance tires, an Alcantara headliner, and a higher top-speed limiter.

 



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2014 BMW 6-Series

Styling

Posh and pushy all at once, the 6-Series coupes and convertibles have evolved gracefully--especially as Gran Coupe sedans.

The BMW 6-Series is an expressive family of cars that counts several different body styles--Coupes, Convertibles, and Gran Coupe four-doors. The Coupe and Convertible arrived, fresh from a restyling, in the 2012 model year, while the Gran Coupe was new in 2013, adding its M6 variant this year.

Each one has a confident, luxurious swagger. The overall shape is wider, lower, and more athletic look than BMW's former 6er coupes and convertibles wore, and as a collection, it's a striking set. In profile, the 6-Series cars look hunkered-down and ready for action, but the front and rear end styling can leave you with very different impressions. A tightly creased hood converges into the broad nose, and a version of BMW's distinctive kidney grille gives the 6-Series models a furrowed brow. At the same time, that hood has a slimming effect on the front end.

At the sides, the surfaces are kept simple, with mildly flared fenders and the coupe profile the dominant details, but there's definitely some play between convex and concave sheetmetal, and helps the beltline look low from the few paces back. Large alloy wheels look at home in the Coupe and Gran Coupe models especially. The M6 versions call themselves out in one keen way: the center recess in the roof that calls out its carbon-fiber construction.

Whether you go for the Coupe, Convertible, or Gran Coupe, you get the same hunkered-down look from the back--where the 6-Series models look most like a grand-touring sports car. It can be amped up on non-M cars with the new M Sport edition; for about $5,000, it adds 19-inch wheels, black brake calipers and other dark trim.

Inside, the layout is sport-inflected, but those seeking the intimate, stark, and down-to-business interior of a performance coupe may be surprised to find out that the 6-Series cabin feels like that of a richly appointed luxury car first and foremost. Controls and instrumentation follow a very driver-focused layout, surely, but it's orderly, restrained, and generally low-key in design, with the same more horizontal look that BMW's instrument panels have taken in recent years, with a center console running back. Warm and inviting trims make the cabin feel every bit as plush as a 7-Series in most ways. 

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2014 BMW 6-Series

Performance

Far from a lightweight, the BMW 6-Series relies on massive power and adaptive electronics to generate near-supercar performance.

Most of the BMW 6-Series lineup isn't seeking recognition as a purebred sports car, or record lap times; as a rather large, hefty touring Coupe or Convertible, its specialty is devouring long stretches of interstate--or autobahn--while staying limber enough to take on mountain roads without breaking a sweat.

Throughout the 6-Series lineup, and whether you're talking Coupe or Convertible, there are two non-M models: 640i and 650i. At a time when BMW names correspond to virtual, not actual engine size, and turbochargers are part and parcel to the lineup, the 640i uses a 3.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged six-cylinder engine rated at 315 horsepower, while the 650i gets a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine rated at 400 horsepower.

Both engines are willing performers, but we do tend to think that the larger, more laid-back character of the V-8, and its easy, smooth power, better suits the 6-Series' own personality. Handling is confident, and the 6-Series models track well, and while they steer and maneuver as lighter cars we do wish that the steering had a more natural feel, or some feedback. These are cars that can cruise effortlessly at well above 100 mph, so you'll need to take some extra measures if you're already a chronic speeder.

In either the 640i or 650i models, you get 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 that had been a no-cost option, offered only on rear-wheel-drive V-8 models, has been deleted. You can get xDrive (all-wheel drive) on Coupe, Gran Coupe, and Convertible models, making them one of the few drop-tops with AWD.

All of these models are highly adjustable and customizable, through a system called Driving Dynamics Control. Through Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes available at the press of a console-mounted button, you can change throttle response, transmission behavior, and suspension settings, to best suit the type of road you're on, or the kind of company you have in the passenger seat. The range of performance can be astounding: steering goes from light and very quick to incredibly hefty, transmission shifts become rapid-fire or slow down to a mellow pace, ride quality makes road imperfections disappear or it seizes control with a steely grip but still without harshness, something BMW's done well in its transition to electronically controlled performance. The 6-Series' bulk and its hulking demeanor have even lightened up in this generation; it's noticeably less bunker-like, more involved with the road.

New again this year is the M6. It was introduced as a Convertible late in the 2012 model year, in 2013 as a Coupe, and this year it adds its ultimate expression in the form of the M6 Gran Coupe. Just as the latest M5 did, the M6 dumps the thirsty former V-10 in favor of a 560-hp BMW M twin-turbo V-8 with 500 pound-feet of torque. The transmission choices are either a special seven-speed M Double Clutch gearbox--it offers automatic and manual driving modes with three settings each, a launch-control function, and exceptionally fast shifts--or new this year, a six-speed manual transmission with three driving modes, rev-matching and a light pedal effort. The manual's shift modes--Efficiency, Sport, and Sport+--govern gear changes in the dual-clutch gearbox, and rev-matching in the manual, with Sport+ in the manual dropping the rev-matching entirely for complete human control.

With either transmission, the power's shifted between the rear wheels with an active differential that's in cahoots with the throttle and stability control, so that power can be used passive-aggressively, to tighten corners or to lower slip. And no matter which gearbox or bod gets the nod, the M6 is a rear-drive rocket ride: even in the long-wheelbase Gran Coupe, the M6 can shoot to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and charge up to a limited 155-mph top speed.

The M drivetrain is matched with an M-specific chassis with lighter construction, upgraded brakes (carbon-ceramics are a new option), special sport seats, and extensive M Drive controls over suspension, steering, powertrain, and stability controls--graded in Comfort, Sport, and Sports Plus settings. The M6 even includes two customizable setting buttons to quickly dial in a different character for a certain kind of driving, accessible like radio-station "favorites" with a simple tap.

That tap needs to be simple, and quick. The M6 builds speed with incredible swiftness, and most owners will want to exercise it any time even a small window opens in the road ahead. The range of driving feel has only grown since the previous M6, and BMW's gotten better at synthesizing more natural driving responses out of its electronically controlled systems. Steering responses are more progressive, still without feedback until you've dialed out almost all of the assist in Sports Plus; only in the same notch will the taut ride turn too tight for even the BMW diehards. The plush curb weights, even with the Gran Coupe, don't detract as much as they once did from the M6, and the frantic steering and throttle responses have calmed down, too.




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2014 BMW 6-Series

Comfort & Quality

Back-seat space is slim, even in the Gran Coupe, but the 6-Series has supple, elegant interiors with some of BMW's finest materials.

Performance ranges from strong to epic, but the BMW 6-Series still cashes in its chips as a comfortable, quiet grand-touring car. The cabin is snug no matter which one you pick, but it's also universally well-appointed, bordering on exotic.

When it was redesigned in 2012, the 6-Series lost much of the chunky, clunky feel of its former cabin. The current lineup sports a more intriguing design, one with a stronger orientation of controls toward the driver, and much finer sense of coordination of materials, textures, and colors. The center console cants toward the left, and the control surfaces are made of plastics and leathers that look and feel premium. The overall effect is exuberantly rich, even before some of the rarer trims are applied--white leather? Sure, we're in.

If you're taller, you might need to tuck your head a bit when getting in and out, but once you're inside that lowish roofline is no longer an issue in the Coupe. The front seats offer great back and thigh support, as in most of their lineup, while there should be enough headroom for nearly everyone. Thanks to a plethora of adjustments and comfort-enhancers in the front powered buckets, there should be no problem finding a supportive. With M cars, special multifunction sport seats are lighter but built with more support in the backrest and thighs.

The interior space grew with the recent revamp, but in Coupe and Convertible models, the 6-Series really doesn't offer a back seat that's useful for adults. Moving the front seats forward is no solution, either. They're destined to be perches for small children or small handbags.

The 6-Series Gran Coupe adds 4.5 inches between the wheels, along with its pair of small rear doors and what BMW calls 4+1 seating. Entry and exit to the rear seats is a little easier, true, but the Gran Coupe still isn't a substitute for the 7-Series, or any of BMW's more upright sedans. Leg room is okay, but there's still not enough head room for most adults.

The 6-Series Convertible eschews the fashionable folding hardtop for a fabric roof. We think it's a smart choice for packaging and convenience. It closes or opens in just under 20 seconds, even while rolling along at up to 25 mph, and 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--which frees up more cargo space. The 6-Series Convertible still has 10.6 cubic feet of space in the trunk with the top down. And for more ventilation, the glass window in the Convertible is a separate piece that can be opened, even with the top up.
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2014 BMW 6-Series

Safety

Advanced safety technology rules the 6-Series cabin, but no crash tests have been performed.

Whether you go for the 640i or 650i models in Coupe, Convertible, or Gran Sport styles, or if you get the M6, the BMW 6-Series promises lots of intervention before and during an accident.

Its essentials include advanced dynamic stability control and traction control; anti-lock brakes; cornering brake control; dynamic brake control; start-off assistance; and automatic brake drying function.

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 are all among the many extras for those wanting to splurge a little more on top technology that might also improve safety.

However, the 6-Series family hasn't been crash-tested, in any of its body styles, by the NHTSA or by the IIHS. But with many of the same safety-oriented accident avoidance features that are offered in BMW's sedans, the 6-Series models are secure picks. 

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2014 BMW 6-Series

Features

The 6-Series takes a lesson from the BMW 7-Series--actually, it nearly mirrors its luxe list of features and accessories.

Like other vehicles sold by BMW, the 6-Series comes well-equipped, with a spiraling list of options and features that creates a vast gulf between a $70,000 640i Coupe and the $135,000 versions of the M6 Gran Coupe we've driven. It's only rated below 10 here because of the iffy ease of use of its ever-present infotainment controller.

Every 6-Series, regardless of powertrain, presence of a roof, or number of doors, comes with a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors; power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; leather upholstery; and 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.

IDrive has been updated this year with new graphics and new functions in the 6-Series, as it has been in other models. Sharper displays incorporate real-time traffic information, points of interest can be explored via the split-screen display, and 3D mapping gives drivers an improved view of urban areas. Voice commands can be used for more functions, and can be translated and sent as text messages and emails as well.

Even on the 640i and 650i models, it's possible to dress this BMW with thousands of dollars' worth in luxury gear, from trim and upholstery, to safety and infotainment. The more pricey additions include a Bang & Olufsen sound system; a night-vision system with pedestrian detection; active cruise control; top- and side-view cameras; a head-up display; and a Driver Assistance Package (lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, multiple camera views, and a parking assistant).

An M Sport Package is now offered on the non-M models. It gets LED foglamps; special 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires; an Alcantara headliner; and a raised top-speed limiter. BMW's Individual Composition program also lets buyers customize their 6-Series with a range of interior and exterior aesthetics, from Sakhir Orange paint to white Merino leather.

The new M6 comes with a long list of additional performance and appearance equipment, including Dynamic Damper Control, the M Double-clutch Transmission, and special M wheels. Packages in the M6 are consolidated into a Driver Assistance Package, an Executive Package (heated steering wheel, soft door closing, active front seats, full LED lighting, a head-up display, satellite radio, and BMW Apps), and a list of standalone items.

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2014 BMW 6-Series

Fuel Economy

The 6-Series is heavy and supremely powerful, but gas mileage isn't as low as you might think.

The blistering, low-volume M6 editions aside, BMW's 6-Series earns decent fuel-economy ratings, thanks to an efficient turbocharged entry-level engine and eight-speed automatic transmissions.

None of the powertrain choices can truly be called green, but the turbo in-line six in the 640i Coupe is rated at 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. The EPA pegs the convertible at 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, the same as the 640i Gran Coupe. The two-door 640i coupe or convertible, with all-wheel drive, is rated at 20/29 mpg, as is the Gran Coupe.

With the V-8 found in 650i versions, the rear-drive body styles all get 17/25-mpg ratings, while all-wheel-drive versions are rated at 16/24 mpg.

Those M6 editions still are impressive, though only on a relative scale, compared to their V-10 predecessors. Today's M6 Gran Coupe, Convertible, and Coupe models are rated at 14/20 mpg with the automatic, 15/22 mpg with the manual, which is some 23 percent higher than in the previous-generation coupe and convertible (the Gran Coupe being a new addition to the lineup).

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Styling 8.0
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