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BMW 650i Cabriolet

Paul A. Eisenstein
From the Print Edition:
Joe Mantegna, July/August 2011

The speed limit drops sharply as we plunge down the steep canyon road, switchbacks tossing us every which way. Of course, in this part of Mexico, the signs offer little more than a recommendation, so we just put it in sport mode and push the new BMW even harder, the tires barely letting out a chirp as we dive into the next corner. The real test is whether our SPF 50 sunscreen can stand up to the blistering heat, but the last thing we’re going to do is surrender to the Baja sun and put the top back up on our new BMW 650i Cabriolet—even if it takes just 24 seconds at speeds up to around 30 mph. This car was meant to go topless.

The 6-Series convertible may seem familiar but a closer look reveals some significant changes for 2012. There’s a more shark-like face, with a lower, wider twin kidney grille framed by all-new LED headlamps. From a side view, the new 650i is sculpted into an almost Coke-bottle shape that better emphasizes the cabrio’s sporty nature. Inside, the updated 6-er has also undergone extensive renovation, the lower dashboard’s center stack capped by an absolutely massive 10.2-inch color display. Our test vehicle’s two-tone interior and contrast stitching underscore that this is a car worth every cent you’ve paid. But you’ve already figured that out thanks to the enveloping yet surprisingly comfortable seats that hold you firmly in place through every sharp turn.

Set side-by-side with the 650i coupe due to come out later in the 2012 model-year, it’s surprising how distinctive the two body styles are. The good news is that BMW treated the two as distinct models, rather than simply cutting the roof off the two-door. You recognize that as you blast through the turns, the 650i convertible’s body stiff and unyielding even on the roughest road surfaces. Of course, you can always switch to comfort mode and the beast turns into a pussycat, smoothing out the bumps without relinquishing that trademark BMW control.

When we were handed the keys we were disappointed to hear that our test model was equipped with BMW’s new eight-speed automatic. We needn’t have been. After spending a few hours with this intuitive, lightning fast gearbox, we can only wonder why anyone would settle for the optional six-speed manual—especially since they’re both offered at the same price, $91,375. The gearbox is mated to a 4.4-liter TwinTurbo V8, practically pouring out its 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. It’s hard to tell where your foot ends and the throttle begins; the 650i just responds to your every wish—and does so with a lush growl that provides another reason to keep the top down.

When you ease off the throttle, the interior is surprisingly quiet—it’s possible to hold a conversation without shouting, even at 80 mph. Of course, you can always put the top up and add a little more trunk space, though even with the canvas top down there’s more cargo space than you’d expect. BMW went the soft top rather than folding metal roof route to provide a bit more interior and exterior space. So, add some surprising functionality to the checklist, another reason to hail the arrival of the new 650i Cabriolet.

Visit bmw.com.

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