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Thursday, May 31, 2018

2018 BMW 6-Series Review

2018 BMW 6-Series Review

One of the ultimate grand-tourers, the BMW 6-Series stands ready to eat up miles, buyers' budgets, and premium unleaded.

The 2018 BMW 6-Series is the German automaker's luxury cruiser; it's more at home whittling away miles on an open stretch of freeway than on a race track and it's available as either a seductive two-door convertible with a power-folding fabric roof, a shapely four-door called the Gran Coupe, and a wagon-esque Gran Turismo that's a bit of an outlier in the range—but more on that soon. 



In our testing, it rates a 6.8 out of a possible 10 overall, reflecting its beautiful style and solid performance—but also its predictably sky-high price tag. 

For 2018, the 6 lineup is largely carried over, except for the deletion of the slow-selling two-door coupe. Other variants remain available with both 6- and 8-cylinder power and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. But the Gran Coupe and the 6-Series convertible march into 2018 with the same wide range of available powertrains and few other changes.

A new 2018 BMW 6-Series Gran Turismo is actually closer to the 5-Series than it is the Gran Coupe or convertible. (Yeah, we know.) The new 2018 640i GT gets the same turbo-6 from the 540i and a stretched interior for more space. It's the closest we may get to a wagon here stateside, but we haven't yet driven it. Stay tuned.

Styling and performance
The 6-Series received a minor facelift just two years ago and it largely stands pat for 2018. Back in 2016, it gained a sharper nose as well as revitalized air intakes and a cleaner tail end that continues to work well. The Gran Coupe adds a little length thanks to a 4.5-inch longer wheelbase that helps accommodate its second pair of doors. The Gran Coupe isn't quite a luxury sedan thanks to its arching roofline that hints at its sporty moves, but it does have decent second row room.

The 640i comes as standard with a 3.0-liter inline-6 with a turbocharger rated at 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It may be the gateway into the brand, but it scoots to 60 mph in a hair over 5 seconds. That's hardly "base." Opt for the 650i and you'll spend more, but you'll also get a twin-turbo v-8 with 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque that slices a second from its 0-60 sprint. Its power runs deep, with thrust available from even a gentle tap at the throttle. All models are fitted with an 8-speed automatic gearbox and rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive (branded as xDrive) is on the options list for those who simply must have everything or want to head to the ski slopes. 

There's also an M6 version of each on offer, which we cover separately. Those models feature far more power—560 hp—and a more buttoned-down suspension. 

Quality, safety, and features
Droptop variants of the BMW 6 suited best for two adults with plenty of stretch-out space for long rides. There's more rear seat space here than in a Porsche 911, but row two is best for short jaunts with the kids—or, more realistically, a briefcase or purse. The Gran Coupe's longer wheelbase delivers more legroom but remains compromised in favor of styling over head room.

Neither the federal government nor the independent IIHS have crash-tested the BMW 6-Series; given its low volume and hefty price tag, it probably won't attract much scrutiny. But all models are available with high-tech safety features like automatic emergency braking and lane change assist. The 6-Series doesn't offer near the level of near-autonomous driving found in many high-end cars, which reflects its relative age.

A base 640i stickers for about $80,000 and it's well-outfitted from the get-go with acres of leather and wood, power everything you might touch, a backup camera, navigation, and BMW's iDrive infotainment system with a 10.2-inch screen. 

From there, the sky's nearly the limit; high-spec models crest the six figure mark with little difficulty.

Fuel economy isn't the BMW 6-Series' primary selling point, but the 640i rear-wheel drive is surprisingly gentle on fuel. Base versions are the thriftiest: 20 mpg city, 29 highway, 23 combined, but the figures go down from there.

Styling
Subtle but appreciable, the 6-Series looks best as the Gran Coupe.

A tale of three cars, the 6-Series lineup can be had as a tall-riding four door, a convertible, or even a low-roof four-door. They're confident and luxurious on all levels, if a little subtle for some tastes. 

We've marked it up two points for its gorgeous exterior and have awarded it another point for its sophisticated interior, bringing this luxo-laden BMW to an 8 out of 10.

Squat and planted, the 6-Series has tremendous presence even without any of the styling packs BMW will gladly charge buyers more to order. Along its sides, its flared fenders offer up a low beltline look that's exacerbated by a a roofline that's snug regardless of body. The Gran Coupe is our favorite for the way it takes the two-door's sexiness but adds in a modicum of real-world practicality. It'll turn just as many heads as the regular coupe, but it's far more livable on a daily basis with its rear doors constantly coming in handy. 

The convertible stands out in particular for its fabric roof, which stows away behind a hard cover in just a few seconds. It's a nice contrast available in several shades that we like a lot more than the awkward proportions delivered by most folding metal hardtops. Anyway, most fabric roofs filter out road rumble nearly as well as steel these days, and the 6-Series is no exception. 

Just two years ago, the 6 received a minor nip-and-tuck with a few creases added to its snout and new tail lamps. It's hard to spot the differences, which is a boon for those who want to save a few bucks by picking up a couple year old example. All models now have full-LED headlamps with BMW's "halo" design and frosted effect present and accounted for. 

Inside, things are business-like and stark, but still rich and rewarding from every angle. It's very Teutonic inside the 6, but a new high-gloss piano black trim last year livens things up a bit. But fear not: buyers can spend hours pouring over the numerous interior design packages available for an extra cost.  

Performance
All 6s scoot, but only the 2018 BMW 650i truly excels.

Four combinations are on offer for the 2018 BMW 6-Series and each bestows these luxury cars with a unique personality. 

Our favorite is the V-8; it's not as frugal as the 6-cylinder, but it fits this vehicle's mission in life so well. And if you're looking to spend the better part of $100,000 on a luxury vehicle, the extra $10,000 for the 650i over the 640i seems like money well spent. 

We've boosted the 6-Series two points above average for its slick-shifting automatic gearbox and its stellar engine lineup. 
There's also a high-po M6 available in all three bodies with 560 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque teamed with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic or a 6-speed manual, but it warrants its own coverage separately. 

The 640i includes a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 rated at 315 hp and 330 lb-ft. It's hardly a base powertrain, even it's shared with nearly every BMW under the sun. A slick-shifting 8-speed automatic is the only gearbox on offer, but buyers do have the choice between rear- and all-wheel drive. 

The inline-6 makes most of its torque low in the rev range (at about 1,700 rpm), which makes it immensely usable around town. But, compared to the 650i, it runs out of steam when passing on the highway when it reveals its mass and relatively weak 315 hp. 

Opt for the 650i and you'll net a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 with 446 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque that slice a second off of the 640i's 0-60 sprint. But it's not just about drag racing, of course. The V-8 is far stronger from any speed and is among our favorite engines ever made. 

Most 6s sold are equipped with xDrive, BMW's all-wheel drive system, which makes them suitable all-season vehicles. Fit winter tires and even the convertible will gleefully bound its way up a snowy driveway. But there's nothing wrong with the base rear-wheel drive setup, which works well with the 6's confident handling and suspension that can handle more forceful driving. That said, no 6 is exactly a razor-sharp sporty car, with reflexes blunted by its curb weight and its steering that's surprisingly lazy. Base models are more comfort-oriented, but even the M package doesn't turn this big coupe into a corner-carver. 

Underneath, the 6's suspension is adjustable to Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings. Each varies the suspension's behavior, the steering's heft, and throttle and transmission response. It's a successful setup that truly changes the 6's personality from boulevardier to almost sports car. 

Comfort & Quality
You're treated to first-class details everywhere you look, as long as you're up front.

Quality? It's just about all here. Comfort? Well, for two the BMW 6-Series excels. Just don't sit in the back seat. 

We've given the BMW 6-Series a mark above average for the way it coddles front seat passengers, but we can't quite award more because it stops slightly short of feeling as special inside as some rivals. 

Convertibles and four-door versions deliver plenty of space up front for just about anyone. There's a plethora of seating adjustments even on base models (with way more adjustability a mere option package away) and the M package's sports seats are lighter but more supportive for corner carving. 

Predictably, the rear seat in two-doors is tight, but what might surprise first time drivers and passengers is just how much they need to duck their heads to slide aboard. The BMW 6-Series' roofline is dramatic, which also means that it's quite low. The same holds true for the Gran Coupe; it mirrors the two-doors up front.

Where the Gran Coupe stands apart, however, is in the way it comforts rear-seat passengers. There's not an excess of space, but average size adults sitting in the mandatory outboard positions have decent leg, hip and shoulder room—but again not a lot of head space. Then again, most buyers should know what they're getting into with these cars; after all, the 6-Series is rarely the only car in an owner's household. There's probably something far more practical available when such needs arise and perhaps we should be happy that there's more day-to-day usefulness for passengers and their gear here than in a Porsche 911.

We haven't yet driven a 6-Series GT and will report back once we do.

The BMW's snug interior is nearly exotic with an intriguing design and attractive and interesting materials throughout. But it lacks a certain amount of flair and personality, coming across a little staid even after a run through the myriad available trims and decors on the options list. 

But then again, there's no discounting the convertible's appeal. Its fabric roof makes for terrific packaging when it's stowed away. It rises to the occasion or hides away in just 20 seconds at speeds up to 25 mph and its rear glass window opens for more ventilation on extra-hot or slightly too chilly days, a nice touch that's rare on droptops these days.

Safety
Lots of safety tech is optional on the 6-Series, but it's not going to drive itself.

While there's plenty of safety tech standard on the 6-Series—and a pretty comprehensive options set—it has not yet been tested by federal or independent agencies. 

As a result, we can't assign it a score simply because there's no data available—and there probably won't be, given its hefty price tag.

All 6s feature federally mandated features like a full complement of airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction and stability control systems plus a backup camera that's especially high-resolution. On the options list are features becoming increasingly standard on rivals—forward collision warnings with city speed automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitors, a birds-eye camera system, and lane departure warnings. There's also a night vision camera setup that can detect pedestrians and an active steering system that will keep the 6-Series within its lane.

All that tech is a big step toward self-driving cars, but the 6-Series isn't quite on par with some rivals in terms of the way it can kind of motor along without driver intervention. But maybe that's a good thing. 

Features
You're missing little with a 6-Series, but a high-spec model is well into six figures.

Skip all the options and your 2018 BMW 6-Series will still surprise you with its feature set, but we suspect most buyers will add on at least a few things to make their cars feel even more special.

At around $80,000 a zero-option 640i isn't a bad value, but it'll eventually break the bank. We've rated it a 7 out of 10 thanks to its high standard spec, its wide range of options, and its huge infotainment screen. 

The 640i includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, front seats that are 10-way power adjustable and wrapped in leather, wood trim, a proximity key, a wi-fi hotspot, a rearview camera, navigation, and a 10.2-inch infotainment system operated by the brand's iDrive control knob.

That iDrive system is a far cry from what BMW debuted nearly two decades ago (has it really been that long?), but it's still hugely menu-intensive and occasionally frustrating to use. But that's to be expected given its rich feature set; there's enough here to fill a massive manual that owners really should commit a few evenings to reading while out in the garage with their cars. 

650is mainly add the V-8 engine, while all models can be upgraded with high-zoot stereos, advanced driving assistance systems, and downright decadent interior furnishings. 

Most 6s you'll find on dealer lots will probably have the Convenience Package that adds an overhead view camera and blind-spot monitors. Lane departure warnings, forward collision warnings with low speed automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control can all be added to that. 

Drivers who want a little more performance from their 6-Series will be tempted by the M Sport package with its 19-inch wheels and high performance tires, LED fog lights, Alcantara headliner, and higher top speed. The M Sport package adds real carbon fiber for 2018, something previously only offered in the M6. 

An executive package delivers soft-closing doors, ventilated seats up front, and a heads-up display system. A Harman Kardon audio system is standard, but a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen unit is a pricey but worthwhile option for audiophiles.  

Fuel Economy
Considering its heft, the BMW 640i is rather thrifty.

Let's face it: you're not buying a 2018 BMW 6-Series for its efficiency. But if you're looking to reduce your carbon footprint, the base 640i is surprisingly light on consumption.

It's a 6 out of 10 on our scale, although that number applies to the higher-volume 640i and not the thirstier 650i. 

Rear-wheel drive 640i two-door convertibles and four-door Gran Coupes score 20 mpg city, 29 highway, 23 combined, per the EPA test. Opting for all-wheel drive drops those scores across the board by 1 mpg.

The larger, turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 rates at 16/24/19 mpg in all-wheel drive configuration, according to the EPA. The much newer Gran Turismo is rated at 20/28/23 mpg.

In mixed driving, we've seen roughly 22 mpg, which isn't that far off of the EPA figure. More city driving might have helped boost that figure, however, since all models have a stop/start system that cuts out the engine when the 6-Series is at a complete stop. 

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