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2012 BMW 6 Series
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Meandering along Sunset Boulevard through Beverly Hills, swank California home to movie stars and media moguls, we're ensconced in a GT-style machine that presents a tightly sculpted body and muscular fender bulges rippling around enormous low-profile tires with a sensuous arch of a roof drawn over the cockpit.
And beneath the exaggerated prow there's a powerful engine primed with enough horsepower to spin those rear rollers till the rubber rubs off.
Folks in Germany at Bayerische Motoren Werke -- that's BMW to you and me -- classify the new product with an alphanumeric label as the 650i.
We slot it into the prestige luxury sports segment, one of those beautiful but rare supercars that seats only two plus maybe two more in the lap of luxury while fully capable of hurling all into warp-speed nirvana.
Built upon a super rigid chassis with a stretched 112.4-inch wheelbase, the 2012 650i scores a big new twin-turbo-charged 4.4-liter V8 engine plus a truckload of sophisticated vehicle control hardware and it conforms to two styles as a hardtop coupe or fully-automated canvas-top convertible.
A big and powerful GT -- two doors and four seats in 'gran turismo' fashion -- has been a favorite marque in decades past at BMW. There was the pricy 8-Series CSi super coupe appearing from 1989 to 1995 and the 6 Series CSi available in 1976 through 1989. The previous generation of 6 Series coupes and convertibles ran from 2004 to 2011.
But BMW forges all-new 6 Series models for 2012.
They measure longer and broader than previous versions, and body styling is even more streamlined.
The 2012 BMW 6 Series models segment by two different engines which define trim levels (640i and 650i) and both are offered in coupe and convertible formats.
Package styling begins up front with the distinctive signature of BMW's twin-kidney grille centered on the long prow in a simple design ringed in chrome with smooth body-colored bumpers below housing a gaping horizontal air intake and LED foglamps.
Multi-lens headlamp clusters wrap around the front corners with xenon high intensity discharge lamps that operate with BMW's adaptive light control (ALC) system where a pair of unique swivel lamps -- keyed to the angle of the steering wheel -- rotate during turning maneuvers to keep a light shining on the vehicle's forward path.
Flanks flare over the exaggerated wheelwells like muscular shoulders accentuating chiseled character lines while the radically raked windshield flows into the arching roofline above blacked-out pillars that blend with tinted glass in rear side windows to emphasize the sleek style of a sporty coupe.
Tail treatment is simple with new LED taillight clusters and the hint of power from twin pipes set low and tipped in chrome.
The body consists of a combination of materials -- aluminum and steel plus lightweight composites. Also light in weight is the front-end structure, as it's composed of aluminum with suspension equipment also cast from aluminum, which pares the overall unsprung mass.
The suspension, coupled to big wheels and speed-rated tires, enable the pavement-hugging BMW to romp in an agile manner across a winding road as rack and pinion steering gears with Servotronic vehicle-speed-sensitive power assistance carves out the curves in effortless fashion.
Another high-tech suspension element -- the optional active roll stabilization (ARS) -- works aggressively yet transparently to reduce body roll when the car rips around those corners.
Brakes amount to a key factor for control, and the 6 Series coupe and convertible use ventilated discs linked to aluminum calipers. Everything's tied to electronic controls, with brake proportioning and dynamic control, anti-lock action and a stability control system to stem skidding and slipping.
Turbo-charged engines motivated 6 Series cars.
The 640i employs a 3.0-liter in-line-six turbo-charged plant with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and variable valve timing (VVT). It develops 315 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque.
The 650i stocks the new DOHC 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with direct injection and VVT. This muscle plant pumps out 400 hp at 5500 rpm plus torque climbing to 450 lb-ft.
For fans of automatic transmissions, BMW offers an electronic automatic with eight forward gears and Steptronic mode for clutch-less manual shifting.
For sport drivers who prefer to do the shift work, there's a six-speed manual available on the V8.
And for sure-grip tire traction at all posts, the 650i lists an optional electronically controlled all-wheel-drive (AWD) mechanism that BMW calls xDrive.
Standard equipment on the 650i ranges from 19-inch alloy wheels and adaptive xenon headlights to LED foglights, power-folding mirrors, leather seat upholstery with 16-way power controls for front seats, twin-zone automatic climate system, cruise control, rearview camera, iDrive controller, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation system with voice controls and an audio kit with CD player and nine speakers.
Premium prices go with premium cars: MSRP for the 640i is $73,600 (coupe) and $81,000 (convertible); the 650i tallies to $83,000 (coupe) and $91,375 (convertible).
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