To truly experience all a car has to offer, you need more than a lap around a dealership. Like you, we demand to know more before considering a purchase or giving a ride our stamp of approval. With that in mind, we went with BMW to the south of France to check out all the new BMW 6 Series Coupé Citrin Black Metallic, Gran Coupé in Space Grey Metallic and Convertible in Mediterranean Blue Metallic have to offer. This was not a jaunt around our local BMW dealer—we took the cars through the crowded city streets of Marseille, along coastal roads mistaken for bike paths, and around a top secret test track for an entire day. We flipped every switch; we pushed every button. We lived in the cars for two days. We were there to test, and test we did.
Here’s a not so well-kept secret about France in the summer: it’s hot. Like, melt your brie on the dashboard hot. So one of the first things we noticed about the 650i Coupé was, despite leaving it sitting under the French summer sun while we had lunch—a long, French lunch—the interior was comfortable when we hopped back in. The clever sun reflective technology in the Merino leather trim package keeps the steering wheel and the seats from turning into branding irons as the sun beats down. With lots to see, a seat that doubled as a grill would have caused us to become a bit impatient. You’d never curse getting leather again if your car did this.
Little touches like that made the Coupé a joy to drive around the coast. Every switch, every indicator and every control —and there are many—are designed with the comfort of the driver and the passengers in mind. When we had some space to open it up, the 8-speed Steptronic Sport Transmission transformed the car from luxury looker to snappy beast. Straightaways were just a tad enjoyable. And when they led into winding paths that seemed about as wide as the Coupé itself, the Driving Assistance features felt like a safety net—not just the Lane Departure Warnings, but person warning with light city braking. You can be alert without being on edge. At one point, when the trees parted, we could take in a gorgeous view of the water sparkling next to a series of pale beaches, and it was nice to do so without the fear we’d glide into a tiny car coming the other way.
As we weaved around the coast and eventually crisscrossed some packed city streets, the 6 Series held the road wonderfully. We’re not racecar drivers, but there’s a noticeable difference between driving the new BMW 6 Series and most other cars we’ve piloted—you point it and it goes; you turn it and it responds. The Coupé is a perfect blend of sporty luxury and safety—a driving experience anyone could appreciate.
The 6 Series Coupé even had the honor of accompanying us on the most difficult road we’ve ever driven: a narrow path where cars honked while taking turns to alert other drivers an accident was looming. It snaked through the trees with a laughably high speed limit. At one point you reach a peak with no visible path in front of you, like you’ve finished your ascent to the top of a roller coaster and you’re left with the simple hope the designer had your best interests at heart. Did we grip the steering wheel tighter? Yes. Did we rely on the slew of safety warnings the car offered? Yes. Were we glad we weren’t driving our actual cars? Very much.
With the afternoon wearing on, we switched over to the 6 Series 640d Convertible to take in the evening under the lights of Marseille. The Bang & Olufsen system provided a crisp soundtrack to our escapades through the city, like a mobile concert when we dropped the top. In a vibrant city, with people spilling out of cafes and shops, this is what you want to be driving. Looks aplenty. And, unlike most convertibles on the market, the 6 Series pairs its sporty with plenty of space. No matter where you sit, it doesn’t feel like the cramped convertible you remember your pops driving. Despite plenty of stop-and-go, we never felt like we were trapped behind the wheel.
Marseille was the perfect scenario for the “Active Cruise Control.” This feature maintains a speed determined by the driver, as well as the distance to the car ahead. In slow-moving traffic, the convertible takes over accelerating and braking, If a vehicle ahead brakes heavily, the convertible responds immediately when the “Approach Warning” is activated.
We don’t speak a lick of French, so finding the restaurant that evening proved challenging… until we gave the concierge service from BMW ConnectedDrive a try. It’s a feature we could get used to. Just press a button, ask the concierge a question, and they handle everything for you. Restaurant found. And when pulling up to park, we got to try out the “Parking Assistant” feature the car’s equipped with. It measures out potential spaces, while driving past at a low speed and helps you parallel park like an ace. You simply turn on the indicator and the Parking assistant takes over the steering, while the driver continues to operate the accelerator, gears and brakes. Probably wasn’t necessary where we parked, but for our city life at home, it could be very helpful.
Over drinks and a bite to eat, we unwind, stretch our feet. We’ve taken two exceedingly impressive vehicles through the south of France for an entire day. There are worse ways to spend a life. But our 6 Series test was only getting started.
The following morning we awoke to reminder emails about the secrecy of the day:. BMW’s test track. We were going to push the new 6 Series alongside camo-clad prototypes that couldn’t be photographed. With that honor came a duty to basically put the pedal through the floor and take turns with reckless abandon (at least that’s how we justified it).
We started with the luxurious 650i Gran Coupé, seeing as how we hadn’t had a chance to drive it yet. Not only did the Welcome Mode usher us in with a series of strategically placed, relaxing lights, but it did so in a way that made us feel like we were stepping into our own lounge. The M leather steering wheel that’s part of the M Sport package, with its slim design and comfortable grip, felt perfect in the hands, like a contoured chef’s knife we were about to use to carve up the track. In fact, all the interior elements had these niceties from BMW, making the Gran Coupé a luxurious ride. But large, luxurious vehicles are rarely at home on a racetrack, which makes the Gran Coupé a welcome anomaly. When you enter it, you get acquainted with the exceedingly comfortable leather seats in a jiffy. It growls like a sportscar. It handles high-speed turns with a mocking yawn. It’s fun—especially for its size.
Track work was assisted by the colorful Head-Up display, which is filled with necessary information in full colour and high res while remaining unobtrusive. It’s the best Head-Up display we’ve come across: helpful, legible, yet easily forgotten when not necessary. Long hours of playing with the fun-seeking torque in the sun was aided by the Green Stripe Climate Comfort Windshield, which reduces the effects of sunlight and allowed us to leave the air conditioning almost untouched (though we did enjoy the active seat ventilation, and have had a hard time readjusting to not having it).
We put the Gran Coupé through the wringer, as we did the Coupé and the Convertible. For all the cool little features, luxurious accents, and clever innovation, it’s nice that BMW kept a fun driving experience at the heart of these new cars. Headlights that automatically adjust to suit your driving speed and cameras that provide a 270° view around the car are really, really nice, but if slapped on a vehicle that drives like a tank, they’re not that desirable. Luckily, BMW got this all right. The new 6 Series blends luxury with performance and dynamics. The cars are elegant without being pretentious. Perfect for handling the coast of France, the city streets of Marseille, a hidden test track or, you know, your daily commute.
Check out the BMW 6 Series showroom here
This post is sponsored by BMW