Has BMW become too timid? The next 6-series will follow the cautious evolution of the 7-series and our exclusive spy photos of the new 6-series Convertible prove that it's business as usual at Munich.
It wasn't always going to be that way. BMW was at one point toying with seven different concepts: a four-seater coupé and cabriolet, a coupé-cabrio with retractable hard top, a slightly more compact two-seater Mercedes SL rival, a pillarless four-door coupé with rear suicide doors, a four-door four-seater Z6 coupé like the CS show car, and a three-door shooting brake.
However, CAR has seen the latest cycle plan – and the only survivors are project numbers F12 and F13. That means a cautious but classic 2+2 coupé and soft-top derivative. Clever marketing or missed opportunity? Time will tell.
BMW 6-series: the inside story
Today's 6-series, which was facelifted 2007, is a solid success in the market place. At about 20,000 units per year, it eclipses the Mercedes SL and isn't far behind the segment leader, Porsche's 911.
It's a big money spinner, too. The two-door sports car is basically a redesigned and repositioned 5-series and the product planners will do anything it takes to protect those fat profit margins. Which is why the new 6-series, revealed today as an early engineering prototype, won't usher in a culture shock design with Timothy Leary cutlines and Henry Moore surfaces.
The new Six: what's new
Just like the new 7-series, the next 6-series is a gently reheated evolution of the first-generation styling philosophy. There will be no rabbit hatch bootlid, no crying-eyes headlamps, no jaw-dropping bumpers. To fix the slightly odd proportions, BMW designers will shorten the overhangs and extend the wheelbase by 80mm.
Munich's designers will also shorten the nose by 40mm – no mean feat in view of the more stringent pedestrian protection regulations now throttling car stylists. The roofline will be lowered slightly, and the overall effect will – on the finished production car – produce a sportier and more aggressive stance.
BMW 6-series (2011): the design story
Although this will be a subtle upgrade, the 6-series v2.0 will have a few design flourishes of note. Expect new split taillights, fresh wraparound headlamp and indicator units, an even wider kidney and the characteristic belt crease which drops from bonnet to rear bumper level.
The biggest detail improvement over the current car is the absence of ungainly B-posts, insiders claim. As a result, even the 6-series coupé boasts four fully retractable side windows, a feature which adds that coveted boulevard cruiser appeal.
Why have you scooped the new BMW 6-series Convertible first?
Good spot. We hear the convertible will this time be launched about six months before the 6-series coupé. The rationale? To make the most of the spring time sales boom in 2011.
Sadly, prices for the new model will soar. Today a 650i soft-top currently undercuts the SL500 by £15,000 – but that gap will narrow with the new F12/F13 family. To justify the extra dough, the new Six will come with a more generous standard equipment along with an uprated interior.
The new 2011 GT will be pitched as a driver's car par excellence, with bespoke instruments, a made-to-measure centre console and the joystick gear selector we know from the X5. Out goes the unloved SMG gearbox, replaced by a new Getrag-developed seven-speed dual-clutch paddleshift transmission.
A new BMW... I'm expecting hybrids!
You won't be disappointed. Fans of alternative propulsion will see a mild hybrid complete with active transmission (that's an electric motor sandwiched between engine and gearbox), supercaps (high-performance energy storage elements) and brake energy recuperation. Not frugal enough? Then sack off the new-fangled eco tech and plump for the 635d powered by the latest torque-basher, the 300bhp 3.0-litre turbodiesel.
Three petrol engines earmarked for F12/F13 are:•
Turbocharged 306bhp straight six•
New twin-turbo 408bhp V8•
The 507bhp V10 implanted into the M6
Thanks to the new twin-clutch gearbox, there will no longer be a manual option.
Could there be a four-wheel drive Six? We used to rule it out, but Merc is readying 4wd versions of the new E-class Coupe and next-gen CL, so BMW could follow suit.
BMW 6-series: the gadgets
Another new BMW, another slew of weight-gaining laziness enhancers. We're talking about heated head restraints, a power-operated wind deflector, active cruise control with brake-to-stop mode, VDC (variable damping control, which also includes adjustable springs), DPC (dynamic performance control, active rear differential) and TLC (tactile lane control via intermittent vibrations in the steering wheel).
Not enough for you? Then how about improved night vision, an enhanced head-up display and an engine sound programming kit which lets you dial in your favourite throttle and exhaust music – from Bayreuth to the Nürburgring. Seriously.
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