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2016 BMW 640i Convertible Test - A Closer Look




"It pounces on corners, tracks flat through the apexes, and devours the straights with a burly snarl from the V-8. It laps up freeway kilometers at triple-digit speeds, the suspension digesting ripples and dips so thoroughly that the body remains almost inert. All the driver has to do is aim the 645 and it goes there. Fast."

Sounds great, right? Absolutely, except for the fact that it isn't about this 640i. Keen BMW fans would probably be fast to note that this 640i doesn't even come with a V8. The above is from a review of a 645Ci that was published back in January 2004, 12 years ago. This new review, though, was.. let's be kind and say less flattering.




As seems to be a pattern now for all BMW's, except the 2-series and M models, there's lots of disappointment. "Our car, equipped with BMW’s M Sport package, offered what seemed to be a slathering of faux sportiness." It only managed 0.86 g on Car and Driver's 300-ft dia. skidpad, which was the exact same number they managed out of a lowly Chevy Malibu. Keep in mind, the Malibu was on all-season rubber whereas the Bimmer is wearing grand-touring summer tires.

If you think it paid off in ride, you'd be disappointed there too. "Meanwhile, the ride felt unduly harsh, even on smooth freeway stretches." Comfort mode does get rid of ride-quality issues but the problem IMO is that, while comfort mode was great for comfort, sport wasn't great for sport. The steering was lacklustre and ultimate grip wasn't better than a midsize family sedan on all seasons. BMW's used to offer little compromise in comfort for huge gains in dynamics. There now seems to be no compromise in comfort (in comfort mode) but no appreciable gain in dynamics in sport mode, accompanied by a big loss of comfort. If comfort is your top priority and you're shopping out of Germany, you'd probably be better served with a Mercedes E-Class cabriolet in this price range anyway. It even looks better to my eyes, inside and out.




The problem here isn't just that its grip matches that of a midsize family sedan with no sporty pretensions and on worse tires, it's the fact that to avoid disappointment, you have to expect less than you used to from BMW 12 years ago. A 645Ci Convertible, also back in 2004, registered 0.89 g of maximum grip. Meanwhile, a Malibu LT V6 of the same vintage registered 0.76 g on a 300-ft dia. skidpad. A Chevy Malibu improved. A lot. While a BMW Grand Tourer dropped. See the problem? Forget perfect steering feel and driving joy, this is measurable grip.

Everyone is saying that BMW is changing for the sake of sales but I'm not sure if it's even working. Sure, BMW sales have been going up, but so have the entire industry, including Audi and Porsche, two luxury sporty German brands with no brand identity issues. In fact, since 2009, the lowest US sales year in the last decade for BMW, Audi and Porsche, BMW sales are up 76% while Audi is up 144% and Porsche is up 163%.

I'm sure plenty of BMW 640i owners will be very happy with it and the vast majority will not even care, let alone notice. The problem is the clear shift in design philosophy from BMW. Maybe BMW will return to its core values for the next generation of each of its core models but for now, if I had to pick a large BMW coupe, I'd much rather take an E63 BMW 645 over a new 640.


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