Excluding the M6 with its 500-hp V10, the V8-powered 650i is BMW’s top-of-the-line coupe. The 6-series returned in 2003, after being absent from the US market since 1989, and BMW enthusiasts couldn’t be happier. It has a 4.8-liter V8, making 360 horsepower and 360 lb.-ft. of torque, and is a worthy successor to BMW’s old supercoupe.
Now, we’ve got to thank BMW for one thing. They offer the 6-series with a choice of three transmissions. But instead of sending us the automatic or their patented Sequential Manual Gearbox, they gave us a genuine six-speed manual. What better way to enjoy the ultimate driving machine than with a pure, fully manual transmission? Using your left foot and having to match revs yourself makes all the difference when it comes to driving excitement, and we’re glad to see it in a market that’s currently obsessed with so-called ‘manumatics.’
Now, despite weighing 3800 lbs, this car’s BMW genes shine through – even if I were blindfolded, I’d know what I was driving. The 650i’s steering is nicely weighted, but nimble – a BMW trademark. Turn-in is astoundingly quick and sure, and there’s never a hint of understeer in anything but the most aggressive situations. This motor is a true work of art – peak torque arrives at just 3400 rpm, so you can drive it normally, but there’s enough power on tap for whenever you want to have a little fun.
The 4.8 is a tremendous motor, and in this car with a true manual gearbox you can really appreciate it. It sounds really beastly when you get on it, but we wish it were just a little louder…a BMW small-block sounds musical if you let it breathe a little bit.
This is a challenging car, as a sports car should be – it’s not exactly easy to figure out. You need to be careful not to break the posted limit, and the iDrive system will take you a couple of days to master. But once you get comfortable, there’s nothing more rewarding than a high-end BMW that you can shift yourself. Everything is about the driver – the controls are simple, unless you want to make them complicated. Even the armrest is adjustable for more comfortable shifting.
This car is a puzzle, in a way. It is technically a luxury coupe, but there really aren’t many distractions in the cabin. You’ve got two cupholders, no hidden compartments, and nothing that really distracts you from the road. It’s as if the Germans decided to build a Mustang Cobra to conquer the world. But in the end, it’s a cross between a luxury coupe, a grand tourer, and a genuine sports car. In short, it can be what its owner wants it to be.
There’s only one thing we’d like to see changed – we love the large sunroof, but all it does is tilt. No sliding action. We suppose that’s an aerodynamic concern, brought about by the 650’s sharply raked profile. The roof panel itself is rather small, so there wouldn’t be enough space to slide this gigantic roof back. We love this car the way it is, but wish there were a way to make a sliding function work.
Our 6-series had an as-tested price of right around $83,000. But for a car that offers this kind of effortless acceleration, boundless aesthetic appeal, and BMW’s unique combination of ride and handling, there’s no price too high. Try as we might, we can’t think of any direct competition for this BMW. It’s more luxurious than a 911, but sportier than a Mercedes-Benz CL. And the base sticker is around $73K, so although it feels strange to say so, we think this car is, well…kind of a bargain.