The sleek, muscular BMW 650i xDrive Cabriolet

Open-air cruising wasn’t on my mind when I drove the BMW 650i xDrive Cabriolet back in March, but by the time you read this, you might yearn to do exactly that, and in this car.

First impressions

The 650i Cabriolet pertains to the 6-series, which includes gran coupés, coupés and M variants. It’s much the same vehicle introduced in 2015 as a 2016 model, and it’s still a stunner.

Covered in Tarzanite Blue Metallic paint, the 650 cuts a low, wide figure, hunkered down in sprint position, always appearing ready to move. This M Sport edition offered optional extras throughout, including M 20” wheels and performance tires and the M aerodynamic package.

The BMW website photo shows a boat in the background, and that wasn’t an accident. BMW’s press materials liken the 650 family’s looks to that of a boat deck when the roof is down.

Interior

Bi-color surfaces alternate in ivory white and black leather, held tightly in place by contrasting stitching. It’s an unusual yet pleasing scene, eye candy for adults.

There’s a separate user manual for the navigation and infotainment system included with the 650i. I’d argue the seats merit their own user manual too. It would cover all adjustments, heating, cooling, and something BMW calls Active Seat.

image courtesy BMW

If the name of this last feature seems vague, let me fill you in. Press the button on the side of the seat closest to the front of the car (as I accidentally did the first time I drove the 650) and it will glow green. Then bumps slowly form and undulate from one buttock to the other. This “active adjustment” ought to keep drivers comfortable on long drives and prevent lower back pain. So there are perfectly good reasons for BMW to include what is, in effect, a butt massager. I fear that name might not mesh with the brand, though, hence “active seat” instead.

The seats also behave in subtle ways according to the situation. Flip the front seat forward to get access to the rear seat and the headrest quietly lowers itself. Move the front seat back into place and the headrest rises back into place.

About the rear seats… while lovely to look at, for people above average height, they’re little more than a suggestion, which is par for the course in a convertible.

Bringing down the roof can seem to take forever. Plenty of moving parts kick in, and it’s not the type of thing you want to try when at a red light with 21 seconds left on the pedestrian signal. Just saying.

Hockey bag test

I shoehorned the bag into the trunk, but only after manually raising the hard rear edge of the ragtop storage compartment. The rear seats don’t fold down and the centre armrest doesn’t offer a pass-through, so sticks rode inside the car.

With this partition up, you can’t lower the roof. You need to first get out of the car, open the trunk, fold down the partition, close the trunk, get back in the car and hit the switch again. BMW could create a way to have the hard flap fold down on its own, unless it’s blocked by the contents of the trunk, in which case the 650 could tell the driver to make room.

This is undoubtedly a first world problem, but if BMW designers can incorporate a butt massage mechanism in the front seats, this extra convenience doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request.

In-cabin electronics

The infotainment system appears on a wide, frameless screen in the centre of the dashboard. Users control it using BMW’s easy-to-use controller and the buttons that surround it.

image courtesy BMW

Said buttons lead to screens drivers commonly use, like Map, Nav, Media and Menu.

The controller is a combination of four different control mechanisms:

  • knob
  • joystick
  • button
  • touchpad: You can draw letters and numbers on the round surface to enter information into the navigation system

This setup is one of the easiest to figure out and use of any automotive infotainment system.

Audio comes through a Harmon/Kardon sound system. Phone connections happen using USB or Bluetooth. Non-cellular Bluetooth-enabled devices can connect to the Internet using the 650i’s hotspot and stream music that way – or just be used to surf the net.

The instrument cluster, while shaped like an analog set of instruments, is entirely digital. BMW made thoughtful design choices here that are only possible on digital readouts. Among my favorites:

  • There is the now-common (in BMWs) point that swings around the speedometer bezel from 0 to the current speed any time cruise control is turned on.
  • The numbers on both the speedometer and tachometer are small by default, but they increase in size and brightness whenever the needle approaches them.

The heads-up display shows commonly-referenced information, from current speed to speed limit to current track to the next turn from the navigation system.

Cameras on cars are nothing new, and the 650i sports a whole bunch of them. The de rigueur rear view camera gets help from other lenses around the car.

  • Surround View shows everything around the car to a distance of about two feet whenever the transmission is in reverse.
  • A “camera” button on the centre console provides a view from the front corners out to the sides. These side view cameras are mounted on the front end of the front wheel wells. When backed into a mall parking spot and flanked by bulky SUVs, these cameras will tell the driver what’s coming from the sides.

If your phone can charge wirelessly, open the centre storage console and slide it into the wireless charging tray hidden within. It will also charge the BMW Display Key, if you have one. Extra bonus: this tray connects the phone to the external antenna, which can translate into better sound quality and network reception.

Driving

Press the Start/Stop Engine button and the 445 hp V8 under the hood briefly rumbles to life before settling down to a more demure sound level. An eight-speed Steptronic transmission brings those horses to all four wheels. Drivers can choose to control gearshifts using either the lever or paddle shifters.

The 650 offers five driving modes. In decreasing order of performance, they are:

  • Sport +
  • Sport
  • Comfort
  • Comfort +
  • Eco Pro

The instrument cluster changes configuration depending on the drive mode you choose. If you’re hankering for more engine noise and fewer electronic aids to keep you out of trouble, try Sport and Sport +.

BMW provides both the ability for drivers to get into trouble and many features to keep them out of trouble. Lane departure warning, blind spot warning, even “night vision” (where the car detects heat signatures of warm objects ahead on the road) are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to safety features embedded in the 650.

At a stop sign, traffic lights or when idling, the 650 can turn off its motor while you have your foot on the brake and certain conditions are met. Take your foot off the brake and the engine starts up again. Just under the Start/Stop engine button is another button that lets you turn off the automatic engine stop feature.

Pricing

Base MSRP for the 650i Cabriolet is $111,500. MSRP as tested, with M Sport Edition, Individual paint and full Merino leather, is $126,800.

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