Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. What makes some people tick can make others turn away in horror - and the new 6-Series coupé is sure to be a car that polarises opinion.
But one thing you're normally guaranteed with a BMW is a vehicle that delivers thrills from behind the wheel - and we've grabbed an early first drive in the new 645Ci to see if it fits the bill. The newcomer certainly has a lot to live up to. The previous-generation BMW 6-Series, which was produced from 1976-89, became a legend in its own right with its neat, slab-sided styling, excellent six-cylinder engines and beautifully balanced handling.
It also has to meet the dynamic expectations created by the firm's superb new 5-Series, which has established itself as the finest-handling mid-size executive car on the market. Initial impressions are promising.
The 6-Series still looks alien from certain angles, but some of the styling cues work really well. Neat touches, such as the chromed side-repeater surrounds and tapered rear quarter panels, give the car a classy appearance. And even the incongruous boot-lid and snub nose look much better in the metal than in pictures.
The new car appears to be incredibly well built, too. It's a technical masterpiece, with a combination of plastic, steel and aluminium body parts helping keep the weight of the bulky coupé to a sensible level - at 1,600kg, it's only 60kg heavier than a top-of-the-range 3-Series saloon.
All of which bodes well for the performance. Fire up the new Valvetronic V8 engine and it greets you with a hearty rumble. Plant the throttle and the aural experience gets better still, steadily building revs with a muscular bark, rather than the high-pitched snappiness of some supercharged rivals.
The 4.4-litre unit develops 333bhp and a massive 450Nm of torque at 3,700rpm, giving remarkable acceleration and superb in-gear tractability. Our test car came with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, and would pull happily from 30mph in top, while SMG and conventional automatic transmissions are available on the options list.
Excellent performance is matched by handling that's in keeping with the rest of the BMW range. Our car didn't come with the Dynamic Drive or Active Steering options, although both will be offered as extras. Yet even without these, the 6-Series still felt perfectly balanced. A 'Sport' button next to the handbrake sharpens the throttle response and adjusts the steering assistance for tackling twisty roads, while on more sedate routes, the 645Ci really excels itself as a polished and civilised cruiser.
The driving position is almost faultless; the only flaw is a blind spot created by the driver's side A-pillar. Tactile controls and superb plastics in an ergonomic layout are enhanced by a smart leather steering wheel, simplified iDrive and clear DVD-based sat-nav display. Space in the rear is cramped, but the boot will easily house two sets of golf clubs. Controversial looks aside, there's no denying that the 6-Series has been well thought out - and the driving experience doesn't disappoint.
I'm a guy, not a girl.
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