It was a trip that almost did not
happen, no thanks to Lufthansa's striking pilots. Missing the flight
would have meant missing the opportunity to drive the facelifted BMW
6-series, a car said to pack a host of improvements.
The current 6 series was launched and offered in July 2012 under three appearances: half-compartment, convertible and a large half-compartment with four doors. What follows are six principal changes which make 6 sexy even the sexier.
1 Fresh design
The key differentiator for all facelifted cars and their
predecessors is an updated design that usually involves minor tweaks
accomplished by introducing newly moulded bumpers or newly designed
lights, both of which are seen on the 6-series LCI (Life Cycle
Impulse). It is hard to spot the differences at first glance, but a
giveaway is its new kidney grille, which now has nine instead of 10
slats per side.
If counting is too laborious, then look out for angled bends in the grille that give the car a more brawny look.
And if that is still too difficult to spot, then look out for a more chiselled front lower apron that allows for more airflow.
The changes are subtle, really.
But they all add up for a more sporty stance without losing the elegance of a grand touring type of vehicle.
2 Reduced emissions
The new 650i coupe, which is powered by the same 4.4-litre V8 in the
outgoing model, now produces 7g less carbon per km driven at 199g/km.
It consumes 0.3 litre less fuel per 100km at 8.6 litres/100km, while
maintaining an output of 450bhp and 650Nm.
So what is behind the lower emission ratings? Nothing much has
changed mechanically, but the car benefits greatly from improved
aerodynamics throughout. Apart from better airflow through the intakes,
the 6-series comes fitted with underbody panelling to aid undercarriage
There are also minor additions, such as the small curled lip under
the wing mirrors and a kink in the tail lights to optimise airflow at
higher speeds. In other markets, the efficiency is brought to the next
level with wheels that have a more "closed face" design to reduce drag
caused by fancy designs of multi-spoke alloy rims.
3 Better sounding exhaust
Despite not producing more power, the V8-powered 650i sounds far
sportier than the version it replaces. It does not matter which variant
you choose - couple, grand coupe or cabriolet - the 6-series now comes
with a sports exhaust system.
The previous model sounded rather muted, keeping its creamy V8 notes
to the confines of the engine compartment. But the new sport exhaust
uncorks all the glorious sounds when the car is driven in Sport or
Sport+ modes, or revved past the 3,500rpm mark. It does not sound as
raucous as a Jaguar F-Type, but it has a distinct big-engine rumble
when pushed hard, complete with an intoxicating overrun on upshifts.
This is, of course, best enjoyed with the top down on the convertible version.
4 Darkening out
Despite the more brash sounding exhaust, BMW is now offering buyers
of the 6-series an option to make their cars a little more understated.
It comes in the form of what it calls Design Pure.
The package includes a black grille and tailpipes instead of chrome.
In the cabin, you get handsome two-tone leather seats with contrasting
The mid-life update also sees minor changes to the interior. The
centre console is now surrounded by glossy piano black panels and the
multimedia screen sitting right in the centre of the dashboard gets a
new layer of bonded glass - or what Apple fans know as Retina screen -
to enhance readability in any condition.
5 Brightening the path
While the designers were hard at work trying to make the 6-series
less "visible", engineers have made the road ahead of the 6-series
brighter than ever.
The car has all-LED headlamps. The pure white lights are not only
more energy-efficient than halogen and xenon options, but they are also
brighter. Even in daylight, you can catch a glimmer from the headlights
reflected by street signs.
However, they are not glaring for other road users. In fact, there
is an option called Selective Beam anti-dazzle that allows you to leave
your headlamps in high-beam mode without fear of irritating or blinding
drivers of oncoming vehicles. The technology detects other vehicles
ahead of the car and the headlights "blank out" appropriate areas.
The extensive use of LED technology throughout the car has
undoubtedly reduced the electricity required from the alternator, which
in turn helps with overall fuel consumption.
6 A more dynamic drive
Among all the other changes seen on the 6-series, the last change is
what excites me the most. Lisbon roads are mostly poorly maintained -
think of trunk roads just north of the Causeway, and then add some more
unevenness and pot holes.
The outgoing model would have faired poorly here, especially with
its soft and rather unwieldy nature. There would have been too much
body movement, and even on Singapore roads, the suspension felt
somewhat wallowy at times.
However, the new suspension setup, which is now rid of the
weaknesses of the previous system, is impressive. This was done by
changing only the rear suspension mounts as well as tuning the
suspension software. Apparently, no geometry settings were altered in
this iteration. However, current 6-series owners have no cause to
celebrate because the software-based tuning cannot be applied to their
Another important software change is the steering programming. The
steering feels more direct and precise compared with the last one. At
speed, the car feels more stable as the steering does not react as
quickly in the first few degrees of movement. The 6-series maintains
its point-and-shoot behaviour. Even with all that torque powering the
rear wheels on the 650i, the car goes where it is told in a neat and
Many LCI projects are merely cosmetic (such as in the 1-series) and
ignite little excitement. But BMW has done much to refresh the 6-series
and, in doing so, hopes to boost sales (85,000 units of the current
model have been sold globally).