With prices starting at R736 000, BMW SA’s new grand tourer (they prefer to say sportscar) 6 Series intends to deliver a lashing to the Mercedes-Benz SL and Porsche 911 on the South African market. Will Von Hooydonk’s creation succeed?

With prices starting at R736 000, BMW SA’s new grand tourer (they prefer to say sports car) 6 Series intends to deliver a lashing to the Mercedes-Benz SL and Porsche 911 on the South African market.
As with almost all new BMWs these days, the styling of the new 6 Series is a hot topic, so let’s sort that out first. Designed by Adrian von Hooydonk under direction of the world’s most (in)famous designer, Chris Bangle, the Six may perhaps not be classically elegant, but it sure will get you noticed, as we found out on the car’s launch in the Cape winelands yesterday.
All the new BMW styling elements are there - the bulging boot and the heavily stylised headlights, for example. But in the Six the proportions are better and the details more refined compared to, say, the 7 Series.
The interior, too, borrows heavily from its sister cars. The controversial iDrive control system necessitates a second binnacle and the screen is situated atop the facia. Ventilation and other minor controls are seemingly straight from the Five. The Six is a big car and is billed as a 2+2 by BMW.
We wouldn’t call it cramped in the back, but space is indeed tight, especially with a tall driver. It does have a big boot though, one BMW says would comfortably accommodate two golfbags - the new international measuring standard, it seems.
Launched in 645Ci coupé form only (Cabriolet to follow next month), the Six comes to the market at a base price of R736 000 (for the six-speed manual). Two other gearboxes are available - 6-speed SMG (R749 000) and 6-speed Steptronic auto (R750 000). The Cabriolet will sell for R811 000 when equipped with the manual gearbox, but will also be available with the two other ‘boxes.
This is a very well specified car. Standard equipment includes 18-inch Runflat tyres, Active steering, Dynamic drive active suspension, automatic air-conditioning, BMW’s latest stability control system, Park distance control, Adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, iDrive, navigation system and a six-disc CD changer, to name just a few. The options list is equally vast.
BMW’s proven bi-Vanos and Valvetronic equipped 4,4-litre V8 engine provides the firing power. It develops 245 kW at 6 100 and 450 N.m of torque at 3 600. BMW claims a 250 km/h (limited) top speed and 5,6 seconds (manual) for the 0-100 km/h sprint.
Although regarded as a high-speed cruiser by many, BMW is eager to have the Six seen as a true sportscar. The engineers at Munich have tried hard to keep weight down, and the result is the lightweight new aluminium/steel structure of the car’s body.
The front side panels are made of thermoplastics, the bonnet and doors are aluminium and the bootlid of what BMW calls SMC sheet moulding compound composite glass fibre. The result is a car that still weighs 1 615 kg, but weight distribution as very close to the ideal 50:50.
In addition to new technologies such as Active steering and Dynamic drive active suspension, the Six also features Dynamic Drive Control. By pressing the Dynamic Drive Control or 'Sport' button featured on all transmissions, the car is claimed to immediately acquire a more sporting character. Throttle response becomes quicker, the engine will rev higher before shifting to the next gear and on SMG models actual gearshifts will become quicker… and more ferocious.
Yes, but does it all work? On the magnificent winelands roads, including two mountain passes, the Six was mighty impressive. This is a very refined car, but one that manages to “shrink” around the driver in the tradition of all the great sportscars. Ride is firm, made perhaps even firmer than necessary by the Runflat tyres, but for the sporting driver this will be more than acceptable, because the Six has superb body control and towering levels of grip.
It very quickly becomes apparent that this car was designed for enthusiastic, “serious” drivers. The car’s stability system is a perfect example - it allows for a good amount of slide to take place before gently coming into action. This allows the driver to experience some of the car’s on-the-limit feedback, with the knowledge that it won’t end in tears in the nearest hedge.
But alas, no car is perfect. We understand the advantages of Active Steering, but the technology may need to be further refined. There is a fidgety “restlessness” from the steering around the straight-ahead position. This only applies when small steering inputs are made. Once the wheel is turned with more “purpose” the Six is clearer in its communications, and scalpel-sharp.
Perhaps the worst news of all has nothing to do with the BMW’s dynamics. If you’d like a Six in your driveway and order one now, delivery will only be in 18 months… BMW will only import 100 coupé and 100 convertible models every year.