Car review: The 650i is BMW’s statement car

BMW 650i SE
It’s far from the sensible option, but who cares when there’s this much fun to be had
There’s something about BMW’s big 6. Its first incarnation was no oil painting, sure, but an awful lot of people still opted to buy one. When the second-stage all-new replacement arrived it was transformed from ugly caterpillar to beautiful butterfly, and the makers in Munich couldn’t build them fast enough.
It’s not hard to see why. We know it’s a looker, but step into the cabin and you find an interior that’s extremely well made; solid rather than just tightly screwed together.
Perhaps the real appeal of the 6 Series isn’t the quality of the materials, or even its divinely Grecian proportions. This is a statement car. No one buys a large, three-door coupé because they don’t want to be noticed, especially when there’s a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 under the bonnet.
Measured, the 402bhp 650i ain’t. It delivers its vast torque in big dollops through the wonderfully slick and long-legged eight-speed gearbox. A modest prod of the throttle at corner apexes easily overwhelms the available traction at the rear wheels. It jinks sideways at the rear just a fraction before the stability control stops you hurting yourself.
But trying to drive the 650i quickly with all the electronics switched on is like trying to play squash with a tennis ball. It feels awkward, heavy and between the power and the e-nannies it’s hard to find a real rhythm.
So relax, leave those last two or three tenths of performance firmly on the shelf and let things fall into place. At a more relaxed pace, braking earlier and gentler, smoothing out your lines and squeezing the right-hand of the two pedals with more care, the Six settles. It falls into an unstoppable flow, devouring corner after corner, demonstrating exactly why it has acquired a reputation as the driver’s car among its rivals. Turns are tasty snacks to the 650i. It gobbles them up like a teenager with a can of Pringles. Just remember: allow it to eat too fast and it'll make a mess.
Fuel consumption leaves a lot to be desired. You can tickle it along and see figures in the 20s if you like, but allow that right shoe to fall even slightly heavily and you’ll pay a heavy price. Best not to even think about it, really. This is a statement car, after all, and no one wants their big entrance to smell a bit cheap.
Your accountant will tell you to buy the excellent 640d, which is cheaper to buy, cheaper to run and will almost certainly depreciate less. But not everyone wants to be tarred with the diesel brush. The 650i has a thunderous roar, goes like a rocket and – if you’re driving sanely – is perfectly comfortable. Plus, let’s not forget it’s at the top of the 6 Series tree before things get a bit rowdy with the much less discreet M6. This model is prestige incarnate – owners are almost guaranteed never to see another one on the road.
No one will try to argue a sensible case for a V8 6 Series. But there are 402 reasons – plus a few more – why it might be the one you really want.

THE FACTS: BMW 650i SE

PRICE:  £65,770

0-62MPH:   4.9 secs

TOP SPEED: 155mph

CO2 G/KM:  246g/km

MPG COMBINED:  26.6mpg

 

THE VERDICT: 

DESIGN ★★★★☆

PERFORMANCE ★★★★☆

PRACTICALITY ★★★★☆

VALUE FOR MONEY ★★★★☆

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