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Series makes a comeback

BMW 6

August 13, 2004|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

We've patiently waited for more than a decade and it's finally here.

The new 6 Series is a first-class feast for the eyes and a refreshing treat for fans of those speeding Bavarian beauties with the propeller logo proudly attached to their hoods.

Not that BMW has been sitting around doing nothing all this time. Quite the contrary. Over the past few years we've been treated to a proliferation of more new models - everything from sports cars and sport-utility vehicles to luxury sedans - than you can think of. Everything, of course, except some sweet looking high-end, high-performance two-door stunner to gush over. Sure, the "entry-level" 3-Series includes a hot-looking coupe and convertible, but what if you wanted to crank it up a couple of notches?

There have been only vague memories of the exotic 8 Series coupe that faded to black in 1997, or the previous 6 Series that bowed out way back in 1989.

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Yes, it has been a long wait, but based on first impressions of the 2004 645Ci, BMW has totally redeemed itself. Visually, the new 6 Series more than does justice to the 6/8 branded coupes of old. It's also available in a gorgeous four-place convertible, a first for this series. The coupe version's low-slung fastback roofline appears to have been influenced by the Ferrari 575 Maranello, while the rest of the body, especially the rounded front fascia and none-too-subtle rear deck, takes a page from the the latest 5/7 Series sedans. It sounds like an odd combination, but all the pieces appear to work in harmony. In true BMW fashion, the bulging wheel openings are barely able to contain the car's 18-inch multi-spoke wheels matched with 45-series run-flat sneakers that eliminate the need to carry a spare.

The interior brims with typical BMW attention to detail, including beautifully trimmed leather seats and, of course, every power-operated control you can think of. Also featured is the latest version of iDrive, BMW's single rotary control knob that works in tandem with a video screen to display and operate a variety of onboard systems, including stereo, climate control and navigation.

Stability and traction control are part of the standard suspension package as is Active Roll Stabilization, which reduces body lean during cornering.

The sole powerplant is a 4.4-liter double-overhead-cam V-8, an engine that sees duty in BMW's 545i and 745i sedans. With 325 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque under your right foot, the company claims the coupe will scoot to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds (a half-second longer for the heavier convertible).

There might be one engine, but customers can pick from three different transmissions: a traditional six-speed manual; a six-speed paddle-shifted sequential manual that works without a clutch pedal; or a six-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode.

Options are limited to a head-up display that projects speed and other vital information onto the windshield, wood interior trim (dark or light birch), premium surround-sound system and heated front seats and steering wheel.

As with most BMWs, a sport package is also available. Open your wallet and upgraded seats magically appear as does exterior brightwork, 19-inch wheels and an active steering system that adjusts the ratio according to vehicle speed.

The return of the 6 Series brings with it a strong dose of high-end spice and sizzle that has been absent from BMW's lineup for far too long.

With the new coupe/convertible 6 Series, the excitement level is off the scale.

The wait is over. All is forgiven.

© 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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