Review and road test of the BMW 6 Series Coupe (2003 - 2010)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
After the furore caused by the controversial styling of the 5 Series, the launch later in 2003 of the 6 Series was virtually a low key event. Based on a modified 5 Series chassis, the Six offered a sleek coupe shape and was followed shortly thereafter by a Convertible version. Both cars are in strong demand, with few natural competitors. As a used buy, these cars are just starting to make sense, the earlier models having had the sharpest edge taken off the depreciation curve.
(2dr coupe, 2dr convertible, 3.0, 4.4, 5.0 petrol [M6])
The BMW 6 Series had a lot to live up to. Many of us fondly remember its shark-nosed predecessor. Although it stayed around a little longer than perhaps it should have done, this was a car that oozed charisma, with classic old shots of 6 Series Touring Cars making it one of the coolest cars the late seventies produced. Although it's doubtful the current 6 Series will ever attain that cachet, it is, in many ways, a car similar in philosophy. Customers after a high-end GT coupe that can lift its skirts and hustle bought the original 6 Series then and buyers looking for the same qualities are attracted to today's Six. Introduced in December 2003, the 6 Series was initially offered with just a 645i coupe model available. A convertible model followed in February 2004 and it wasn't until August 2004 that the range was augmented with another engine - in this case the entry-level 630i, offered in both coupe and drop top forms. The ultimate 6 Series was unveiled in summer 2005 to a rapturous press. The 507bhp V10 M6 coupe featured similar mechanicals to the M5 with a lighter and sleeker body. Deliveries to customers started in late 2005.
September 2007 brought a facelifted 6-Series but you had to work hard to spot the changes. For the record, the headlamps gained LED technology that takes the form of a thin row of lights above the main projectors. More obvious was the redesigned front valance that accommodates differently shaped air intakes and at the back, the bumper was tweaked to increase the impression of width. Other than that, the grille is fractionally larger and the rear light clusters have been tweaked. BMW's groundbreaking EfficientDynamics technology was also included boosting economy and lowering emissions across the range.
What You Get
Core driving functions are located in or around the steering wheel and a simplified version of the iDrive system offers a still enormous amount of driver control with just a few nudges, taps and twists of the serrated metal mouse. The dashboard design is otherwise rather low key, the analogue dials being rather disappointingly small. If the exterior is jam-packed with design details clamouring to catch your eye, the opposite is true of the cabin layout. Yes, it all hangs together very well and seems well built but nowhere does your eye alight approvingly on a signature feature. BMW claim the 6 Series has the largest luggage capacity in its class and there's ample room for a pair of golf bags and a suitcase. Automatic air conditioning and a very respectable stereo are fitted but some small omissions grate. The BMW may be able to carry a decent amount of luggage but don't expect to carry rear seats passengers over 5'9" without complaint. Legroom isn't generous either.
No fewer than three transmissions are available to hitch up to the 645i's glorious 333bhp V8 powerplant. Aside from a conventional six-speed manual 'box, there's also a six-speed automatic Steptronic gearbox. Or for those who want the convenience of a sequential manual gearbox but really want to take control when charging hard, there's the F1-style SMG system with steering wheel mounted paddles. The 630i, meanwhile, misses out on the SMG and the M6 is offered exclusively with its seven-speed SMG set-up.
What to Look For
No significant faults have emerged thus far. You'll need to make sure the previous keeper has specified wisely from the options list. Leather and metallic paint are essentials and anything with oversized or chromed alloys should be given a wide berth. Check that the service record and mileage corresponds and that if your car is a high mileage ex-fleet vehicle, that the price has been adjusted correspondingly. Like all contemporary BMW models, the 6 Series has no fixed service intervals, the car's diagnostics deciding when it needs to come in for a freshening, so ask the buyer questions about how the car has been run and get a feel for whether it's been cherished or punished. Check the Convertible hoods thoroughly for tears or discolouration and operate the mechanism a few times to ensure it all seals correctly.
(approx based on a 630i ) An air filter is around £21, whilst you'll pay a similar amount for a fuel filter. Oil filters are around £8, whilst spark plugs are £17. A replacement cam belt is around £29.
On the Road
Although the 6-Series can lift its skirt and hustle when needs be, as evidenced by a sprint to 60mph in just 5.9 seconds produced by the 645i or 4.2s in the M6, it's by no means an out and out sports car. The ride is firmer than you may expect, the big tyres occasionally crashing through potholes. Dynamic Driving Control is a function very similar to the 'Sport' mode on M3 and M5 models. Press a button on the centre console and this sharpens up throttle reaction as well as generating a little more feel from the steering system. When allied to the SMG or Steptronic gearboxes, DDC also shifts gears at higher revs, switching ratios in just 150 milliseconds. Whichever system you choose, you'll be amazed at the sheer grip generated by the roadroller Bridgestone Potenza tyres. That said, the 6 Series feels just that little bit too big to be a truly effective cross-country tool. On sweeping A-roads, however, the Six is magnificent, third gear capable of reaching over 100mph, the engine's gutsy 332lb/ft of torque making it almost unnecessary to resort to stirring the box. Leave it on third and it'll be fine. Even the 630i is a strong performer, 62mpg is reached in 6.5s thanks, in part, to the 258bhp output.
An option many customers will choose is BMW's Dynamic Drive. This automatically builds up counter forces on the car's anti-roll bars and as such, virtually eliminates any body roll when cornering. After trying a car with Dynamic Drive and another without it, it's an option worth pursuing if you plan to enjoy serious lateral g-forces. Another interesting option BMW offer is Active Steering, a system that debuted to mixed reaction on the latest 5 Series. This dramatically varies the steering ratio according to speed. At low speeds, you'll often need little more than a quarter of a turn on the wheel to effect a 90-degree turn. It's easy to be caught out when decelerating from a motorway into the tight car park of a service area by Active Steering but it's probably something to which you'll grow accustomed. Customer take-up of the option on 5 Series models has outstripped BMW's most optimistic estimates. There's also Adaptive Headlights which turn through corners, a Head-up Display which projects vital information onto a section of the windscreen and Active Cruise Control that uses radar to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front.
If you are going to splash out on a used GT coupe or convertible of this ilk, the BMW 6 Series is one of the safer havens for your money. That's not to say that depreciation won't take quite a toll, just that there are many rivals that will get hit much harder. The M6 model is virtually beyond reproach but for most people the 630i variants are the best compromise. Tracking down a nicely specified, low mileage 630i coupe could be a very enjoyable quest.
BMW 6 Series Coupe (2003 - 2010) review by ANDY ENRIGHT