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2012 BMW 650i xDrive Coupe (BMW/BMW)
2012 BMW 650i xDrive Coupe (BMW/BMW)

BMW 650i

BMW 650i: A great white shark on wheels Add to ...

Let’s define the 650i xDrive coupe first by stating clearly what it is not – it is not a rival to a Porsche 911 Carrera, even though the reinvented 2012 Porsche has morphed into something running dangerously close to the Gran Turismo that is the 650i.

The 650i is a fast and powerful and sleek and quick and responsively delicious touring car, but no sports car. Rather, it is a $101,500 (base) touring car with a twin turbo V-8 engine that puts out 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

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BMW says the fully dressed version has a top speed of 250 km/h and will do 0-100 km/h in less than five seconds. So we are not looking at a sedate or subdued ride here. No, this has strong legs.

And it has a 2-plus-2 seating configuration. The back seat is more eye candy than a serviceable place for comforting two adults. But there is a back seat, though I didn’t bother with the contortions needed to get back. I just threw my gym bag into the space.

The 650i xDrive (for all-wheel-drive) is for the owner who has arrived and wants the world to know it, but not in an utterly gauche way. This is a car for the rich and powerful, but not so much the newly rich and newly powerful. The 6 is as subtle as a low, long-nosed coupe can be – one which at 1,990 kg is big and heavy as a bank vault. Or an all-wheel-drive, V-8 powered Chrysler 300C with four doors.

It is a lovely automobile. The ride is so quiet and composed, well, you find yourself cruising at 110 km/h in a blink and with no hint of the speed at hand, other than the trees and such flying past. Quiet? Of course. Composed? Absolutely. Controlled? Without question? A speeding ticket waiting to happen? Alas, yes. Especially in Canada where traffic cops double as revenue collectors.

This 650i is also interesting as a renewed venture at BMW. This coupe and its convertible sibling ($106,800 in rear-drive, $109,900 for xDrive) were redesigned for 2012. The plan seems to have been to revisit in a modernized way the 6-Series look of the late 1970s through the 1980s.

The apparently wave-inspired sheet metal – the wave bit comes from BMW, not me – sits atop a platform shared with the 7-Series and 5-Series sedans. Platform sharing is commonplace in the auto industry now and BMW, in particular, enjoys taking the concept to extremes. That is, the new 6 will later this year be joined by the new 6-Series Gran Coupe, a four-door to compete against the Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS.

Obviously a 6 riding on the mechanicals of a bigger 7 is not going to behave like a 911. Rather, the 650i drives very much like you’d expect a two-door 7-Series to perform.

Not a bad thing, that. But not sprightly, either. The 650i is cold efficiency on wheels. It does the job of going fast and cornering flat in an almost brutish sort of way. In terms of road manners, the 6 is a roaring lion to the 911’s sleeker lioness.

As for the design, the 6 is a great white shark on wheels, one with large twin-kidney grille leading the charge and air inlets that would do nicely on a Harrier jump jet. The design does not so much stun you with its beauty as overwhelms you with its presence.

The cabin is just the same – rich and impressive. My tester came with cream-coloured leather upholstery and front buckets that adjust in every way imaginable. I particularly liked the ability to extend the under-thigh support; very nice for long rides.

The 650i’s centre console has a large iDrive-driven screen to manage navigation, audio and vehicle data. After a decade of iDrive, I’ve learned deal with this less-than-elegant solution, but I am no fan. Surely there is a better way to deal with electronic features.

Ah, features. The standard fare is impressive, but you can add to the 6. The M Package ($3,900) adds LED fog lights, an M steering wheel, sport exhaust, various M signatures such as a metal foot-rest and door-sill finishers and special 20-inch wheels.

More? The Technology Package is $4,000, Night Vision is $2,500 and the BMW Apps feature is $2,500, to name a few. It’s not hard to turn a $101,500 car into a nearly $120,000 ride with a few checkmarks here and there. At least, the freight charge is a relatively manageable $885.

The great takeaway is not the six-figure price tag, but the flood of power unleashed when you plant your right foot. It’s more breathtaking than the way the 650’s chassis manages the corners of the most challenging of roads. A good deal of electronic wizardry goes into the unflappable 6, too much to detail here.

It’s not a sports car, just a stunning Gran Turismo.

jcato@globeandmail.com

Tech specs

2012 BMW 650i xDrive coupe

Type: Luxurious grand touring coupe

Base Price: $101,500 (freight $885)

Engine: 4.4-litre V-8, turbocharged

Horsepower/torque: 400 hp/450 lb-ft

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.5 city/8.3 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Aston Martin DB9, Mercedes-Benz CL-Class

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