Test Drive: 2012 BMW 650i Convertible

?An open air dream machine?

Los Cabo, Mexico ? BMW just introduced their all-new third generation premium 650i convertible in Mexico?s Riviera playground. The latest iteration German luxury drop top is a stunner in the looks department, and is certainly no slouch in the performance category either. The 2012 BMW 650i convertible enters the fresh-air luxury motoring scene in a longer, lower and wider form that without question has become ever more elegant and beautiful as time progresses.

At first glance in the glowing sunlight on a scenic terrace of the Las Ventanas all Paraiso Resort overlooking the Gulf of Mexico?s azure waters and crashing surf, this latest, third generation, open air 6 Series doesn?t look dramatically different from its predecessors, but it definitely is, albeit in a subtle, and understated way. The Blue and White Rondelle team also treated the attending press to a preview example of the all-new 6 Series coupe which made its debut at the Shanghai Motor Show and which will be available in the Fall along with BMW?s x-Drive all-Drive System.

Both vehicles are longer, lower and wider than their predecessors. In addition, both feature taller and more upright signature twin kidney grilles and more accentuated character lines along with a ?Shark Nose? featuring flat headlights that project a bolder and more powerful image. Fog lights are integrated into wide air intakes, and the hood accent lines draw one?s vision rearward. Wheel arches display a bold flair, and the fully integrated rear decklid spoiler joins the L-shaped LED taillamps. The rear is finished off by dual rectangular exhaust outlets. The Convertible or Cabrio is not however, simply a Coupe sans top. Each vehicle was designed and engineered separately and individually to serve its intended purpose in the most efficient manner.

The Convertible?s layered retractable cloth soft top opens electrically at the touch of a button in 19 seconds and closes in 24 seconds, operational in either direction while underway at speeds up to 25 mph. The new top also allows for improved trunk storage with the top when either stowed or raised.? Wind buffeting is minimal even with the top and windows down, and there is a windscreen that reduces the wind?s effects for rear seat passengers.

The interior is driver oriented with functional controls angled toward the driver, and materials are softer and more inviting. Nappa leather wrapping is standard?with the sport steering wheel, and there is now a 10.2-inch flat screen display for navigation and vehicle function information. Gauges and instrumentation features?Black Panel Technology. Starting the engine brings the onboard information and check control light to life, and once the vehicle is running, prompts appear from the navigation and active driver assistance systems between the dials, including navigation arrows and various system warnings. Instrumentation illumination changes from white to classic BMW amber at night. Also featured is a new 80GB hard drive as well as a new and improved hard-drive-based Navigation system with a fully browse-capable Electronic Driver?s Manual. 12 GB is reserved for the entertainment server, which can rip music from the CD/DVD reader, or of transferring music or media images through the USB port. HD radio comes as standard fare.

The new 650i?s 400 horsepower is generated by a state-of-the-art reverse flow, 4.4-liter DOHC, 32-valve V-8 with TwinPower Turbo technology, High Precision Direct Injection and Double-VANOS steplessly variable valve timing. The engine, which s mounted forward in a longitudinal orientation, also develops 450 pound feet of torque, and is connected to an eight-speed Sport automatic with wheel mounted paddle shifters that meters power to the rear wheels.

My test BMW 650i Convertible wore a rich Black Sapphire exterior coat and featured a striking Ivory White Nappa leather interior and Black top. The base sticker read $90,500. The final tally came to $107,625 after adding: the Cold Weather Package; Driver Assistance Package; Luxury seating Package; Premium Sound Package; 20-inch wheels with performance tires; Active Roll Stabilization; IP with leather; Ceramic controls; BMW Apps; Night Vision with pedestrian detection; and the Destination charge.

SUMMARY: I?ve long held that the BMW 650i Convertible may well be one of the most beautiful vehicles to come from Bavaria ? at least in modern times (I was a big fan of the Z8, but alas, that has been out of production for years). This latest example of the 650i Convertible raises the bar even higher in all regards.

The car is a wonder to behold and is exhilarating to drive ? especially with top stowed as it should be, and with wind and sun in your face and hair. There?s nothing like a scalp massage provided by Mother Nature at speed.

Acceleration is available instantly on command, steering is immediately responsive and the ride quality, though extremely stable and flat is not punishing at all ? that is, unless you want it to be by selecting Sport+ through the Dynamic Damping Control ? other settings are: Normal and Comfort.

There are loads of Driver Assistance features that are optionally available to further enhance both one?s driving pleasure and prowess. I believe that the only aid not found on any of the vehicles in the program, was the Integral Active Steering, which essentially incorporates four-wheel steering for more precise directional control.

The base price of the 650i Coupe with all the same features, will be $7,500 less than that of the Convertible when it becomes available in the Fall if you are able to live without the open air motoring experience that the Convertible provides. I?ll personally take the sun and the wind thank you very much.