Every year we look forward to an updated BMW 6-series, and every year BMW tweaks a few things, but neglects the exterior design. We reviewed aearlier this year, and found the 2010 model to be much the same car. The new BMW 650i Convertible uses the same power train and, sadly, has the same ugly rear-end and nondescript profile.
The notable difference with the 2010 BMW 650i Convertible is the new iDrive system, a major improvement for the new model year. Replacing the old quadrant menu is a simple list menu, and the various cabin tech functions are made very accessible with the new console-mounted controller. The new interface is a welcome change in the 6-series, which lagged behind other models in this regard.
Rubber, meet road
Where the 650i Convertible doesn't lack is in handling, showing BMW's signature sporting abilities. A big expensive two-door like this, with a convertible top, will probably never be pushed very hard, acting more as a gentleman's sports car, but BMW isn't known for compromising performance. The 650i Convertible is long, but in even tight turns it keeps body roll minimal, and lets the back slip out just a little so that a competent driver can enjoy the feeling of controlling the car.
Our car came with the six-speed automatic, but a six-speed manual is available. The Sport button changes the performance characteristics.
A button labeled Sport on the console changes steering and throttle response, and makes the six-speed automatic transmission maintain higher engine speeds. Those sharpened responses help the car power through the corners, giving almost-immediate power to the rear wheels when called for from a good push on the accelerator. The thick steering wheel offers a lot of grip as it points the car, and understeer is held in check as the car rotates.
Sending power to the rear wheels is the same 4.8-liter V-8 found in the previous model year. It's a pretty advanced engine by anyone's standards, using BMW's double VANOS system to control throttle with the valves. But by BMW standards, it is behind the times. The 2009 BMW 750Li, which we reviewed earlier this year, uses a 4.4-liter V-8 with twin-turbochargers. BMW already applied twin turbochargers to its six-cylinder engine. That the 650i Convertible's engine is naturally aspirated shows that it hasn't come in for a power-plant update yet.
The 4.8-liter V-8 puts out 367 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque, which sends the car to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds when equipped with the automatic transmission. By contrast, the smaller displacement turbocharged engine of the 750Li puts out 407 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy on either car isn't very impressive, with the 650i Convertible getting an EPA-rated 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. During our time with it, a mixture of city, freeway, and mountain driving returned 18.3 mpg.
Much improved electronics
But similar to the 750Li, the 650i Convertible can be had with some innovative driver assistance technology. Our car came with lane departure warning, a system that buzzes the steering wheel if you cross a lane line. The warning only comes on under certain conditions, such as speeds over about 40 mph and if the turn signal is off. Other technologies available, but not included on our car, are adaptive cruise control and a night vision system.
The head-up display shows speed and navigation information.
Our 650i Convertible did come with a head-up display, a projection on the windshield in orange that by default displays the car's speed. When route guidance is active on the navigation system, the display shows information on upcoming turns. This last feature is particularly useful, as we never had to glance down at the car's LCD while following its directions.
But the navigation system is where we saw real improvement in the 650i Convertible over the previous model year. The maps, stored on a hard drive, show nice detail, and the 3D map includes topographical features and renderings of major landmarks. The system responds quickly to button input, although that's never really been a problem with BMW navigation systems.
Entering addresses can be a little tedious using the iDrive controller, as it uses a rotary paradigm for alphanumeric input. But its predictive input speeds up the process, narrowing down the choices as it runs each input against its database. The system also offers easy-to-follow route guidance, although it doesn't read out street names. Traffic is integrated with the system, and it will dynamically route around the worst traffic congestion when a destination has been entered.
The navigation system's maps show very good resolution.
A Bluetooth phone system comes standard with the car. We had no difficulty pairing an iPhone with it and, as we've seen in previous BMW models, it downloaded the phone's contact list, making it available on the car's LCD. This system is good, but is quickly getting outstripped by other manufacturers such as Ford, Kia, and Lexus that offer voice command systems that can dial contacts by name.
The 650i Convertible's hard-drive-based navigation system makes space available for music ripped from CDs in the car, with a library browsable by artist, album, and other ID3 tag information. That is similar to the car's iPod integration, which also works well. The interface for iPod integration is just a little more complex than it needs to be, requiring a few extra controller actions to get music playing. Satellite radio is also offered, of course, and HD radio is standard.
This seven-band equalizer offers a fine degree of tuning for the audio system.
Typical with BMWs, the audio system produces very strong, well-amplified audio. But some of the nuance gets lost among all the fury, as this bass-oriented system drowns out the more delicate highs. This 650i Convertible included the optional upgraded audio system, using 13 speakers, including one center channel and two subs. BMW is one of the few companies to include a real equalizer with its stereo, so some of our criticism about the loss of nuance might be correctable by fine-tuning the seven frequency bands.
BMWs don't generally let us down with the driving experience, and the 2010 BMW 650i Convertible was no exception. But it's a big, powerful car, and opportunities to really throw it around are rare. We would also like to see it updated with BMW's new line of turbocharged engines, which might get it a couple of extra miles per gallon. Cabin tech is very good, especially considering the available driver assistance features. However, we would like a more comprehensive voice command system, along with blind-spot detection. Design is the biggest letdown with the 650i Convertible. The iDrive interface is a big improvement, but the exterior is still in need of attention. For the 100 grand an optioned-up 650i Convertible goes for, the is the more stylish choice.
|Model||2010 BMW 650i Convertible|
|EPA fuel economy||15 mpg city/23 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||18.3 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard hard drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||HD radio, satellite radio, USB drive, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||Optional Harmon Kardon Logic7 13 speaker stereo|
|Driver aids||Sonar parking sensors, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, night vision system, head-up display|
|Price as tested||$92,670|