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BMW's high-style tourer returns for its second season as a 2-door coupe, 4-door gran coupe, and convertible. Whatever the body style, the 650i stands out as big, fast, and visually stunning. Based loosely on the more conservative 5-Series, all 650i models are powered by a 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8 good for 445 horsepower and mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual can be ordered on the coupe only). BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is available across the board.
Weighing in 4,300 pounds, the 650i accelerates from zero to sixty in about 4.5 seconds, high-performance territory despite its size and luxury. Standard equipment includes what BMW calls Driving Dynamics Control, which allows the driver to select driving modes (Comfort, Sports, Eco Pro) that adjust the car's steering, throttle, suspension, and transmission for desired performance.
The gran coupe, with its two extra doors, is 6 inches longer overall and offers more rear head and leg room, but the standard full-length console makes five-passenger seating awkward even in a pinch. It's best to think of these cars as roomy four-seaters with grand-scale performance and appointments.
Packages are available to help buyers personalize their cars with extra-cost woods, leathers, and colors (both inside and out). Interesting options include 4-wheel steering, glazed ceramic interior controls, automatic soft-closing doors, and a BMW-issue ski bag.
The 650i's natural competitor is the Mercedes CLS-Class, which offers a twin turbo of its own, albeit with 402 horsepower, and a somewhat lower sticker price. Porsche's 4-door Panamera is priced similarly to the gran coupe, but is skewed more toward all-out performance than high-class touring. Some lower-rung players (Audi A7, Mercedes E-Class, Cadillac CTS) can be optioned well enough to be credible alternatives for buyers who want something more conservative in looks and price.
The rear-drive i models are equipped with traction and stability control, so they cope well with rain or a dusting of snow on well-traveled roads. As with any rear-driver, expect traction to diminish substantially on ice, mud, or accumulated snow.
xDrive models are equipped with BMW's sophisticated all-wheel-drive system for maximum traction on slick or uneven road surfaces. The system continuously monitors road conditions and splits engine power between the front and rear wheels for maximum traction. This setup reduces the risk of skidding in turns, spinning out when accelerating, and otherwise leaving the road unintentionally. Expect to pay about $3,000 more for xDrive on any 650i model and give up a mile from each gallon of gas.
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Equally impressive, with emphasis on sport albeit with four doors
Outstanding styling and more athletic than past models but not as much horsepower
Interior class like only the British can do, vintage race-car shape, but cabin not as spacious
What it lacks in image and refinement it gains in performance and price