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2006 BMW 645Ci

BMW probably isn't going to like my saying this, but there's something very American about the 645Ci.

Published October 15, 2005
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BMW probably isn't going to like my saying this, but there's something very American about the 645Ci.<br /><br /> It comes not from the way the car looks, the way it's built, or indeed the way it's priced (a $99,000 base price is way above pretty much any American car you could name except for the upcoming Corvette Z06 and the Dodge Viper).<br /><br /> Instead, it comes more from the car's general attitude and the way it goes about its business. This is no bad thing; it's just a bit unexpected.<br /><br /> What the company would like you to think is that the 6-Series is a grand touring flagship, using the latest technology to effortlessly whisk you from city to city at high speeds and extreme comfort.<br /><br /> In Europe, where high-speed highway travel is normal, that's very much the role it likely plays; here, with our traffic and speed enforcement, it's as likely to be found cruising along as blitzing the outside lane of the 401. The 6 is also at home bullying its way through downtown traffic.<br /><br /> Just one look at the car establishes a certain muscle-car connection. Like the classic 1960's street machines that used to drag up and down Detroit's Woodward Ave., the Bimmer 6 is an almost self-consciously long and wide two-door coupe, with a cabin packed tightly in between big wheels and long overhangs at either end.<br /><br /> It hunkers over 19-inch wheels that show a lot of rubber around the edges, and twin chromed tailpipes poke threateningly out of its big rear bumper. Its big shoulders and arcing side crease give it a really serious, pumpedup look that screams big power.<br /><br /> Unlike many of those '60s cars, though, which were kind of pedestrian-looking save for their big tires and racing stripes, the 6's body is truly exotic in its shapes and execution.<br /><br /> Thanks to its fenders and trunklid being formed of composites, the shapes they're able to curve into are crazier than could have been achieved with steel. The overall effect of the intersecting curves and planes is probably the most successful version of Chris Bangle's "flame surfacing" in<br /><br />BMW's lineup, a shape that seems to draw stares wherever you go.<br /><br /> Enhancing my tester's cosmetic appeal even further was a custom paint job that came as part of a $10,000 "Individual" package, which gives you access to a huge range of trim and colour options, allowing you to colour-match your car to just about anything you choose.<br /><br /> Certainly, the car's plunging shark-like nose and bunched-up rear haunches suggest a certain latent power under the hood, and thanks to a 325 hp output from its 4.4-litre V8, the 645 doesn't disappoint.<br /><br /> With six forward gears whether you choose the slick manual, the high-tech sequentiallyshifted manual, or full automatic — you're always right in the middle of the engine's broad power band, and a mere twitch of your toe is all it takes to rocket forward from a stoplight, or past slower-moving freeway traffic.<br /><br /> What's a surprise is the engine's soundtrack, which has the depth and anger of distant rolling thunder, and which gives the 6 coupe a real hotrod edge. (This same engine, fitted in the outgoing 745i, was almost completely silent, but that car didn't have a "sport" switch to harden up the<br /><br />throttle response and decrease the steering's power assistance.)<br /><br /> Despite a penalty in gas mileage even with BMW's economic Valvetronic technology, I struggled to return better than 14 L/100 km in a mix of urban and highway driving — you're pretty much going to want sport mode engaged all the time.<br /><br /> Not only does the engine respond more quickly, loudly and energetically to throttle inputs, but the steering loses some of its artificial (dare I say, domestically-inspired) lightness around the straight-ahead.<br /><br /> Thanks to its size and weight, the 6 isn't really a sports car so much as a big, powerful coupe whose tires hold on longer than your interest does.<br /><br /> Even with the huge Bridgestones, which come as part of a $6,000 sport pack, a carefully-tuned multi-link suspension and active steering that speeds up at lower speeds for an extra dose of nimbleness, this is still a car that prefers long, open stretches to tight, winding back roads.<br /><br /> Poor visibility front and rear mean you never quite know where the car ends, and the suspension bumps and jiggles over pavement imperfections.<br /><br /> Better to turn things down a notch and simply enjoy the cabin's ambience. While the tight dimensions inside might be a surprise given the car's exterior dimensions — one's reminded a bit of the way a Mustang or a Camaro seems to be packaged the overall quality of the materials and the level of sophistication make this an interior that's expensively cosy rather than merely cramped.<br /><br /> The back seats, only really useful for children or very small adults, are nonetheless contoured as carefully as the front buckets, and upholstered in the same buttersoft leather. Piano-black wood pours down the dash and across the door panels, whose other surfaces are wrapped in contrasting shades of French-seamed leather. The glass roof panel (which can be shaded for super-sunny days) gives the interior an almost open-air feel.<br /><br /> While many writers have heaped disdain on BMW's iDrive controller, its use here means that the dashboard is clean to look at, and I found all of the major controls easy to use, with less-frequently used options, like the car preferences and seat-heater distribution settings, only a turn and a push away; the standard Harman/Kardon stereo with sixdisc CD changer sounds superb.<br /><br /> Perhaps more important, it's a cinch to find a great driving position thanks to a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment, and you can customize the buttons on the three-spoke wheel to do pretty much whatever you want, be it read you the last instruction for the navigation system or access your favourite radio station.<br /><br /> Mostly, though, what you'll want to do in this car is rumble around town enjoying the big V8's thunderous soundtrack, enjoying the showcar looks in the mirrored glass of the office buildings you drive past.<br /><br /> The 6's charms are bigger, bolder and a bit more obvious than they are in usuallysubtle BMWs, from its over-the-top styling to its excessive size, its even more excessive footprint, and the way it slurps back the gas when you blip the throttle just to hear that glorious hotrod noise reverberate off the surroundings.<br /><br /> From its intense, deeply hooded headlights right to its spinning rear tires, the 645Ci isn't a friendly car; in fact, it's a bit of a bully. But that doesn't mean it isn't totally charming at the same time.