Two door BMWs are nothing new. In fact, the first one dates back to 1928. But in the 70s and 80s, the 6-Series were the BMW cars of desire. They were the company’s ultimate combination of performance and luxury. And now after an absence of 15 years, the 6-Series is back! But can an ultra-modern machine like this 2004 645Ci recapture the elegance and excitement of a grand touring classic?
It certainly catches the eye! The 2004 BMW 645Ci is the latest design to emerge from a team led by controversial styling chief Chris Bangle. But unlike the 5- and 7-Series sedans, we have absolutely no reservations about saying that the new 6-Series is absolutely gorgeous! This seamless blend of innovative shapes and timeless BMW heritage actually originated in BMW’s California studio. And the convertible version, with its elegantly shaped power soft top, looks just as delicious.
The exquisite body rides on a modified 5-Series sedan platform, but with a shorter 109.4-inch wheelbase. The standard 18-inch wheels themselves wear V-rated run-flat tires. The Sport Package adds 19-inch wheels with W-rated run-flats. Tire pressure monitoring is included.
The rear wheels and aluminum driveshaft are turned by BMW’s 4.4-liter dual-overhead-cam V8. In 6-Series form it makes 325 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It features Valvetronic variable valve lift and Double VANOS variable valve timing. Transmission choices are a 6-speed manual, a 6-speed automatic, or our test car’s 6-speed ‘‘Sequential Manual Gearbox’‘. SMG mixes an automatic clutch with shift paddles on the steering wheel and a more traditional console shifter. Tired of shifting? Well, SMG also has a fully automatic mode.
So how does all this complex drivetrain stack up? Well, we sprinted from 0-to-60 in 6.1 seconds, and through the quarter-mile in 14.7 seconds at 98 miles-per-hour. The 4.4-liter V8 is a gem, with silky smooth delivery and a power band both wide and flat. Unfortunately, the SMG gearbox proved to be somewhat temperamental, with long lag times between gear changes, especially at full throttle. We think the pure manual would quicken track times by a half second or so. That lag was less evident in the partial throttle openings of everyday driving. But when the automatic mode was engaged, the lag was even more pronounced.
While the SMG fits the character of the M3, it would not be our choice for the 645Ci. On the other hand, we have nothing but praise for the response of the 6-Series chassis. With a lightweight aluminum strut 2-link front and 4-link rear suspension, plus electronic stability and active roll control, the 645Ci is sharp and beautifully balanced. Steering inputs were rewarded with instant and precise reactions. The Sport Package includes BMW’s Active Steering System that provides a wider variable ratio than standard and helps reduce oversteer in emergencies. Unfortunately, it also reduces steering feel.
The brakes also scored well, with stops from 60 averaging a short 118 feet. The all-vented discs with ABS and advanced brake assist delivered smoothness and stability. While the brake pedal was soft, there is a very progressive feel.
In the bump-and-grind of daily driving, the 645Ci with its standard sport suspension calibration delivers a firm but compliant ride, and excellent interior noise control.
The interior is full-on modern BMW, with sharp, rakish lines, and a wealth of sophisticated systems. Though to use them you must squeeze over the higher bolsters of the Sport Package bucket seats and into a fairly tight cabin. There’s less head and elbow room than our taller staff would like, but standard 12-way power for the driver seat and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel allowed everyone to still find a suitable driving position.
Dash controls have been minimized by the controversial iDrive system. But, as in the new 5-Series, this latest iDrive is much more user-friendly, while giving up none of its extensive control capabilities. Standard 6-Series systems also include a cruise control that allows the driver to pre-program up to six driving speeds.
The 6-Series has a rear seat, but even children would be hard pressed to find any leg room. Let’s just call it extra well appointed cargo space, though the trunk’s standard 13.0 cubic feet is plentiful for a coupe.
It all adds up to an impressive ride, that carries a base price in Coupe form of $69,995. Opt for the Convertible, and $76,995 is the price of admission. That’s higher than most competitors, but then they don’t deliver like this Bimmer Coupe.
The 645Ci is no rejuvenation of an earlier design, but an all-new, all-modern interpretation of a timeless automotive concept. Elegance and excitement, plus today’s technology and groundbreaking style. The 2004 6-Series is BMW’s new grand touring classic!
Engine: 4.4-Liter Dohc V8
Torque: 330 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.1 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.7 Seconds @ 98 MPH
60-0 MPH: 118 Feet
EPA Mileage: 18 MPG City 26 MPG Highway