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TIME FOR SIX

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Apr 3, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

TIME FOR SIX

By JOHN GRAFMAN

"We will sell no fries before their time" - Brad Hamilton, Fast Times At Ridgemont High

The 6 Series took a hiatus for a generation or two. Is this the same car some of us remember? No, it's better!

BMW knows right from wrong. They left this car in the oven until it was done to near perfection. Now if you jump from the old style 630 into this, it feels akin to a spacecraft. Admittedly, this is a rather advanced machine. Advanced, yes. Complex? Not entirely.

As I spend time doing what everyone else does behind the wheel, running from here to there in a meaningless fashion, I become acquainted with the 6 beyond the casual first blush. I am amused with what I find.

The details make this a loveable GT. While naysayers might balk at this BMW, which costs over twice the price of a Pontiac GTO, the 645Ci provides an impressive experience - well beyond the capacity to smoke the rear tires to smithereens. I like that kind of fun, but I appreciate the entire package even more.

I don't know how many others take real notice, but some designer or engineer at BMW should be given kudos for making the lives of 6 Series drivers a warm and fuzzy experience. A perfect example is the sun visors. How such an often overlooked, innocuous part gets consideration and is crafted so masterfully must be painful to accept by the competitors. So many visors have the thickness of a fast food burger. They also have a tactile quality that is unappealing, with a density that feels similar to either a stiff styrofoam board or a worn-out kitchen sponge. The 645Ci offers a visor that, while lacking gizmos, does provide a level of refinement found in fine handbags and briefcases. To the touch, it's obvious this is top-notch stuff. Of course, how often does one really use the sunvisor over the life of a car? Two or three hundred thousand times?

The radical cup holder that snaps into the center console (not unlike a seatbelt) is clearly a unique piece. The cup holder definitely functions well in the "keep it from tipping" department. It looks like a modern art piece in a metal finish. The reach is a bit far, and raises the question of what to do with it once it's removed - a question we never had to ponder, until now. I find myself impressed on how BMW came up with something so out of the box - until my passenger asks the big question, "Where's the other one?"

Hidden in a not-so-accessible spot is the other holder. There is a secondary section of the center armrest that flips rearward. "Lo and behold, there it is." The problem is the holder is so far aft it becomes awkward. I guess those designers and engineers are just human after all.

I-Drive, I-Drive, I-Drive... what can I say. I can make it work. I can figure out how to get the centrally located actuator to control functions such as the ventilation and the audio system. But big deal, I can also work my cell phone. Neither of which I can use without looking, and really paying at least moderate attention to. And I still screw up. Enough said!

The fit and finish throughout the interior is modern and clean, with quality showing through-and-through. The leather and plastic reek of expense, as do the carpet and every part that I can lay my hands or eyes on. To transform the typical coupe interior into a place one wants to hang out in (even if they don't need to be), there's a glass panel top that is simply massive. The light that floods the cabin makes even the dreariest of drives at least tolerable, if not outright enjoyable. The panel will pop open but doesn't slide back. Given the size of this, I am not surprised.

Appreciating the interior is understandable. Appreciating the exterior goes without saying. Forms like this don't need to be explained. Angles, edges and surface create a distinctly BMW shape. Heads turn and nods of desire (almost like an automated muscle response) come from all directions. I get the funny feeling I'm not the only one who finds this sexy.

There is no way to get around this though. Cruising around like normal folk, I get a chance to immerse myself and absorb the details. Driving this like it was meant to be is another story. The 645 can move damn well. In fact, if you are paying attention to anything else other than what is coming down the road when the big pedal on the right side does down, bad things will happen.

The BMW does have a special little button. This is the epitome of the phrase "good things come in small packages". Residing aft of the shifter is an inflated rectangular shaped button that sits flush with the console. A small illumination informs, as well as the indication in the gauge cluster that the 645 is in the sport mode. With such little fanfare it might be easy to dismiss - except this little switch unleashes the bats outta hell. The behavior is like night and day. From Clark Kent to Superman, From Mickey Mouse to Mickey Mantle, from... well you get my meaning.

The sporting nature of the 6 is reflected in the transmission, which can shift in a manual mode as well. Now this is nearly standard fare with many automobiles in all sizes and shapes. Each company handles the manual shifting in different means - be it a side-to-side motion of the shifter or a fore and aft motion - as is the case in this machine. While I prefer a fore and aft layout, I am befuddled by the BMW. Almost every reflex that I have set on autopilot in my head tells me that the fore direction means forward and all systems are go. Likewise, rearwards means back off, slow down, reverse engines, and whoa pony! Counter to my preference, the transmission is set up to drop down a gear when nudging the stick forward and to step up to a higher gear once the stick is moved rearward. Similar to the I-Drive, I can do it but it requires a bit of thought (rather than being an automatic response).

The machine holds the revs on the way up and the full force of the motor is brought to bear. Remarkable, explosive and able to drive effortlessly at any speed I choose or the law allows for (whichever comes first), the 645 is more than happy to maintain high speeds for long distances. Smooth and not too loud, but not too docile either - this is a perfect grand touring combination. Now, if I can just find some open road.

On the deceleration, the 6 will down shift and hold it - actually assisting in braking. After a few moments of this strange behavior, I begin to get addicted to this. The car no longer feels like a machine, but a living, breathing animal. If it wasn't for the reduced gas mileage I might never take that button off the sport mode.

The steering is a mixed bag. A quick turning ratio makes this feel race car-like, but the feel is delayed. Maybe the too-new tires have something to do with this (and just a hair bit too much rubber). Whatever it is takes the edge off it. More than almost any other factor in my opinion, the steering feedback keeps this in the GT category and out of the sport car bracket.

I am not too stunned to find so many interested in this machine. However, the qualm many face is they need four doors. This isn't a car for everyone, but this is a car that everyone wants.

It's nice to be wanted!

For more on this please go to www.bmwusa.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Price:Base $69,900, as tested $76,670

Engine type:DOHC 32-valve (4-cam) 4.4-liter, V-8, Valvetronic, variable valve lift & Double VANOS stepless variable intake- & exhaust-valve timing

Horsepower:325 @ 6100

Torque:330 lb.-ft @ 3600

Drive configuration:Front engine / rear-wheel drive

Transmission type:ZF 6 HP 26, 6-speed STEPTRONIC with Adaptive Transmission Control, selectable Sport & Manual modes, Electrohydraulic/electronic controls applied to 6-speed manual transmission - transmission & final drive ratios same as for manual transmission

Suspension:Front: Struts, double-pivot lower arms, coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, Active Roll Stabilization; aluminum suspension system, thrust plate & subframe 1 (Convertible: additional diagonal braces) Rear: 4-link Integral suspension, coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, Active Roll Stabilization; aluminum suspension system & subframe (Convertible: additional diagonal braces)

Wheels and tires:Front: Standard: Cast alloy, 18 x 8.0, 245/45R-18 V-rated run-flat all-season Optional: Cast alloy, 19 x 8.5, 245/40R-19 W-rated run-flat performance (Sport Package) Rear: Cast alloy, 18 x 8.0, 245/45R-18 V-rated run-flat all-seasonOptional: Cast alloy, 19 x 9.0, 275/35R-19 rear W-rated run-flat performance (Sport Package)

Brakes:Front: ventilated discs with lightweight aluminum/cast-iron rotors, aluminum calipers 13.7" diameter Rear: ventilated discs with lightweight aluminum/cast-iron rotors, cast-iron calipers 13.6" diameter

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC); includes Dynamic Traction Control, electronic brake proportioning, antilock braking (ABS), Dynamic Brake Control & cornering/braking stability enhancement

Overall length:190.2" Overall width:73.0" Overall height:54.1" Curb weight (lbs.):3,792

EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway:18/26

0-60 mph:5.7

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