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2012 BMW 650i Coupe review: The beauty of impracticality

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2012 BMW 650i Coupe

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Reasonableness, practicality and logic are highly overrated. Because if one were serious about the transportation of human beings, our test 2012 BMW 650i Coupe isn’t the best way to move more people for the $100,825 price sticker on its window. Even by eliminating all the optional extras, it’s a mere $83,000.

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It’s enough to make one consider buying a school bus.

But the 650i Coupe isn’t about being reasonable. It’s an indulgence.

Indeed, the front seats are posh but supportive, with generous leg room, elbow room and headroom. But the rear seat, though neatly contoured into twin pockets for two additional passengers, makes a mockery of the phrase two-plus-two. An adult of even less than average stature faces a choice: bump his (or her) pate on the overhead, or slouch and have the seat belt ride too high across the abdomen for safety.

And at that, the 2012 BMW 650i Coupe has the overall length, if not a bus, equal to that of a minivan.

The Bimmer coupe, debuting a new generation for 2012, is powered by BMW’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine. While engine is a marvel of efficiency for the power it produces—400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque—it’s obviously more than one needs for basic transportation.

The engine is BMW’s unusual “reverse flow” design. Instead of the typical intake-between-the-banks of the vee and exhaust to the outside, the BMW 4.4-liter parks its two turbochargers in the valley between the banks, spinning them with the exhaust from the inside valves. According to BMW, the short run from cylinder to turbine results in a faster turbo spool-up and greater responsiveness. The engine also has direct injection, responsible in part for the engine’s performance as well as low emissions numbers.

An eight-speed automatic transmission is the only choice, but it contributes to cleaner, more efficient performance, and indeed, according to BMW, the 2012 BMW 650i Coupe sprints from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.

With that said, the 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway fuel economy (we achieved 18.5 mpg and 17.6 mpg with consecutive tankfuls of mixed driving) is wholly respectable. Certainly on the highway one could record fuel use closer to the EPA highway estimate, but in day-in day-out driving, the 4.4-liter twin-turbo simply responds to well to the throttle pedal for one to not to indulge oneself on a regular basis. Entertaining…but not the soul of practicality.

Nor is cargo capacity. Compared to the two or three minivans one could acquire for the cost of our BMW 650i Coupe, the coupe’s trunk, at 16.5 cubic feet, is ridiculously small. On the other hand, for touring for two, there’s more volume than any reasonable pair of passengers should require. It’s at least practical in its impartibility.

And there’s the crux. The 2012 BMW 650i Coupe is an extravagance, a transportation device but with more than something extra. Something extras the car has in abundance, however, and it strains the capacity of the space we have here to describe it all. Consider just the list of options on our test coupe for starters. Active steering, which adds steering rear wheels, and “active roll control”, which combines with the standard dynamic shock absorber control to keep the car uncannily flat in cornering, hydraulic actuators pushing down on the outside suspension to keep the car level. Add $1,750 and $2,000.

Then add night vision with pedestrian detection, another $2,600, and the “Driver Assistance Package”—side and top-view cameras, park assistant, bind spot warning, lane departure warning and head up display—for yet an additional $3,700. Premium audio tacks on $1,800. With options adding costs like snow piles up in Juneau in January, our test 2012 BMW 650i Coupe is into six digits with even more options untapped.

At least BMW takes another step in making its iDrive accessory control system intuitive and less logical, or at least driven by the gimlet logic of a German engineer, with more hard buttons (as opposed to “soft” buttons with changeable functions). The typical owner will still find the system somewhat intimidating at first but within several weeks of use, the system should become second nature. Still, with a lot of functions and data available, why can’t it be easier to find?

And of course, one doesn’t need all or perhaps any of these extras. But there’s a lot to want. The 2012 BMW 650i Coupe is an extraordinarily handsome car, from its broad twin-kidney grille and complex headlamp cluster to its double lip trunklid. Subtle overlapping character lines are subtle but effective in communicating elegance and power. The Mineral White Metallic all but glows in the dark. It’s a car that inspires look-backs when walking away from it.

The interior follows the BMW design theme of horizontal lines and technical instrument gauges. One instrument panel detail: The engine coolant temperature gauge is replaced by an engine oil temperature gauge. Organic hasn’t found the sides of a BMW yet, or at least this one. Think technocratic and like it or leave it. We like it.

We like, too, using the 2012 BMW 650i Coupe in the manner it was intended. It’s a big car and drives like one. It’s not cut out for corner carving on winding back roads in the way one might with a BMW 3-Series, for example, but it is extraordinarily competent in curves where it can get its elbows out along with six league boots for highway touring

Performance is big as well. BMW says 0-60 mph comes in just under five seconds and limits top speed to 156 mph. If there’s a disappointment in that, it’s the lack of engine sounds in the cabin. A car as sleek and powerful as the BMW 650i deserves a voice.

So an indulgence it is, but such a sweet nectar is, for those with the $100,000-plus-as-tested price of admission, a gratifying delight. In fact, it’s delightful for even those who can’t afford it. Practicality is so overrated. Be unreasonable.

2012 BMW 650i Coupe, price and key specifications as tested

Body style/layout: 5-door crossover wagon, front engine/all-wheel drive

Base price: $83,000

Price as tested: $100,825

Engine

  • Type: 4.4-liter 32-valve DOHC twin-turbocharged V-8
  • Displacement, cc: 4395
  • Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
  • Compression ratio: 10.0:1
  • Horsepower: 400 @ 5,600-6,400 rpm
  • Torque: 450 @ 1750-4500 rpm
  • Recommended fuel: premium unleaded
  • Fuel economy, EPA est.: 15/23 mpg city/highway
  • Fuel economy, observed: 18.5 and 17.7 mpg

Transmission:8-speed automaticdriver-adaptive

Chassis/Suspension

  • Suspension, front/rear: double wishbone / multilink
  • Wheels: 20 x 8.5 / 20 x 9.0-inch alloy
  • Tires: 245/35R20 / 275/30R20
  • Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 13.7-inch dia. front/13.6-inch dia. rear
  • Steering: power rack-and-pinion
  • Turning circle: 38.4 ft.

Dimensions

  • Wheelbase: 112.4 in.
  • Length: 192.8 in.
  • Height: 53.9 in.
  • Width: 74.6 in.
  • Curb weight: 4,233 lbs
  • Trunk volume: 13.0 cu. ft.
  • Fuel tank: 18.5 gal.

Safety

  • Airbags: Front, front side head/torso
  • Anti-lock brakes: Yes Traction control: Yes Stability control: Yes Electronic brake-force distribution: Yes Brake assist: Yes
  • Other: standard brake fade compensation, start-off assistant, brake drying, brake stand-by, incl options, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, side & top view camera, park assistant, active roll stabilization, night vision with pedestrian detection

Warranty:4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper; 4-year/50,000 mile powertrain;12-year/unlimited-mile corrosion,4-year/50,000-mile scheduled service, 4-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance

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