The convertible top actually has great multi-layer insulation, which is a welcome touch during the colder months.
Large convertibles are a weakness of mine, especially those with luxury, opulence, and a V8 powertrain that goes like stink. BMW reintroduced the 6-series just over a decade ago, and that first-generation car didn’t age quite so well. The styling led by Chris Bangle was controversial at first, and now looks about as fresh as a Motorola flip phone. The current car debuted in 2011, but has received a few updates over the past five years. We were provided the keys to something a bit different, a 2016 BMW 650i xDrive Cabriolet, for a week of crisp autumn weather evaluation.
The current 650i is a smart-looking car no matter who looks at it, with conservative enough styling to not evoke hatred. It has also been around for over five years but still looks decently fresh, which leads me to believe that it will age formidably too, although perhaps not as gracefully as the BMWs of the late-90s, easily their peak of styling. The light refresh the car gets gives it standard adaptive LED headlights and a new kidney grille design, but the essentials are still the same. BMW has also added a few new touches to the interior, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
We had this convertible back to back with the new Porsche 718 Boxster (reviewed here), so in comparison, the retractable top movement is quite slow. The process involves a cover on the trunklid lifting, the top pulling itself up, folding and dropping before the cover comes back down. It’s approximately a forty-second process, but a cool touch that BMW offers that nobody else does is a glass rear window that drops down independently of the convertible top. This improves overall air circulation and makes the car feel notably better on hot days with the top up – definitely something other manufacturers should pick up on.
On the inside, the full Merino leather on our car, in Opal White (a unique BMW Individual touch), is inviting and great to look at. The front Comfort Seats are power adjustable, heated, ventilated, and offer the Active Seat function. Combined with the power-adjustable steering wheel, it’s very easy to find an excellent driving position. The switchgear itself is all standard-issue BMW, with the new ConnectedDrive and iDrive system we experienced in the X4 M40i (reviewed here), but the ceramic controls on the iDrive controller, shift lever, and climate control knobs add a more luxurious touch – definitely a must-have for potential buyers.
Connectivity and ease of use is at an all-time high here, with the new iDrive system maintaining its position on the podium as one of the best. The menus are changed significantly, so those familiar with last year’s models will need a refresher course. Even still, it only took me minutes to acquaint myself, and I was soon whipping through menus like a pro. Bluetooth audio streaming is great, and there is perfect clarity on the Harman/Kardon sound system. Something I’m not a huge fan of is that they moved the “Tone” settings to deep within the labyrinth that is iDrive – turning down the bass after Jay-Z’s “Holy Grail” ends is now a far lengthier process than it needs to be.
As with other BMW models, the “50i” designation has nothing to do with a 5.0L engine. In fact, all 650i models are powered by BMW’s beastly 4.4L twin-turbocharged V8 with an all-aluminum block and direct injection. This fire-breather pushes 445 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 480 lb-ft of torque, peaking at 2,000RPM. Naturally, no manual transmission is available, though until next year, the M6 (reviewed here) can still be had with three pedals and 115 more horsepower. This 4.4L is so smooth that it’s effortless right throughout the powerband. Any gear, any speed, you just give it some throttle and the 650 pulls hard.
BMW claims 4.6 seconds for a 0-100 run for the 650i, which is totally respectable. The added weight of the convertible top doesn’t affect performance much, as the power delivery is very smooth and quiet. The V8 makes a great sound, almost visceral while remaining understated. Ride quality is okay, though the 20” wheels on low profile tires are a bit much for most people. Despite its xDrive all-wheel-drive system, most buyers will likely opt to winter store their convertible, meaning the chosen wheels would remain the full-time choice. I personally would opt for a 18 or 19” wheel for better ride quality.
The 70L fuel tank on the 650i drains itself rather quickly, unless the car is driven exclusively in Eco-Pro mode with a very light foot. Doing a good chunk of city driving on my daily run, I wasn’t able to manage any better than 13.5L/100km. One extended highway trip to take a colleague to the airport, as early as 4:00am, netted 10.5L/100km. With the sound emitting from the exhaust of this 650i though, it’s hard to find arguments against its overall personality – fuel mileage be damned. The car should only be run on 91-octane premium fuel.
Larger BMW models get a Comfort Plus setting on the drive mode select, which, according to the iDrive display, puts the car in an “extra comfortable driving mode”. I made considerable use of this mode during my test week, and the 650i becomes a refined and quiet cruiser. All of the effort was taken out of commuting and the car just became more sedate and all business in character. Any passengers and myself were able to sink into the Active Seat with slow and ergonomic massaging, and let our surroundings essentially disappear. Unfortunately, our car was not equipped with adaptive cruise control, which is a bit strange considering the asking price.
Pricing for the 650i xDrive starts at $111,500, which is an $11,000 premium over the base coupé. Our test vehicle was the M-Sport Edition, which, for $8,400, adds a whole plethora of options. This includes the M-Sport aerodynamics and styling, inside and out, ventilated seats, soft close doors, ceramic interior controls, wireless charging, Harman-Kardon sound, premium seats, driver assistance group, and Nappa extended leather. Add on the individual paint (Tanzanite Blue) and the full Merino leather ($5,900), and you’re at the sticker of our tester, which was $126,800.
A very obvious competitor for the 6-series is the Mercedes-Benz SL (reviewed here), which only has two seats. The Porsche 911 Carrera (reviewed here) is a spectacular choice, but again, the rear seats might as well not exist. We tried to put full-sized adults in the back of the 650i, and it’s doable for shorter runs, but not ideal under any circumstances. The power seats fold forward and allow easy access, but legroom is just not there, though headroom even with the top up is surprisingly good. An interesting feature is a full power sliding rear window, à la Toyota 4Runner. This is a one-touch window and can operate either together or independently from the other four windows.
The 2016 BMW 650i xDrive Cabriolet is an executive cruiser that has versatility extending past that. It may look like a one-trick pony, but the presence of all-wheel-drive means it can be a faithful companion through the winter. The convertible top actually has great multi-layer insulation, which is a welcome touch during the colder months up here in Canada. I’d prefer the coupé for its added rigidity, or better yet, the 650i Gran Coupé (reviewed here) for its usable rear seats and sexy styling, but that’s just me. Many buyers want a proper convertible, and this one will do the job nicely.