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BMW 645 Ci Coupe review (2004-2005)
Make and model: BMW 645 Ci
Bodystyle: two-door 2+2 coupe
Engine: 4.4-litre V8
Fuel type: Petrol
Transmission: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Date of test: October 2003
What is it?
It's BMW's modern spin on the classic sporting Grand Tourer. It is a spiritual successor to sporty BMW's like the legendary 635CSi, and more recently the classy but slow-selling 8 Series. It's a two-door 2+2 coupe with controversial styling but no room for argument in its aggressive dynamic specification. It's the kind of car that BMW hasn't had in its portfolio for a few years now, but which in many ways encapsulates everything the brand stands for, in style, performance, and character.
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Where does it fit?
It is based on a slightly shortened wheelbase, slightly wider tracked version of the latest 5 Series platform. But it is rather more than a 5 Series coupe with a contradictory badge, because the 6 Series philosophy is actually different enough from either 5 Series below or 7 Series above to fit into neither, and genuinely to be a series in its own right. As for the broader world, it fits into quite a sophisticated niche - the stamping ground of very grown-up modern sporting cars (but strictly speaking not sports cars) like the Mercedes SL500, the Lexus SC430, the Jaguar XK8 and on the outer fringes perhaps the Maserati Coupe. Civilised performance.
Is it for you?
Well it certainly isn't for everybody, because it's the kind of car that you have to understand on several levels, and to appreciate because of its differences, not in spite of them. It isn't for you if you want a totally focussed, slightly raw and aggressive sports car - it's quick enough to frighten plenty of those, but far too well bred to be obvious about it. It might well be for you if you appreciate the finer things in life, and understand that subtlety and understatement are often better than making a big song and dance that you can't really live up to. The new 645Ci is a classic example of speaking softly and carrying a big stick.
What does it do well?
In this launch model the big stick is impressively big; BMW's mighty 4.4-litre four-cam 32-valve V8 with variable everything - valve timing, valve lift, even inlet tract length. Also found in the new 7 Series, optimised for the 645Ci, it delivers a hefty 333bhp and 332lb ft of torque, with a gloriously broad spread of solid punch beautifully matched by the near-faultless six-speed Steptronic automatic of our test car. Whether either the six-speed manual or six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox semi-automatic would suit it better is very doubtful, but at least there's the choice. That also means it goes well - a limited 155mph max, 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds, and massive, flowing muscle almost anywhere from crawling pace to far beyond two miles a minute. Character, too - with a satisfying V8 thunder but nothing so noisy as to be rude. And it is all matched by a deeply impressive chassis. The 645Ci has colossal mechanical grip from its big black boots, and the balance and feel to enjoy it to the full. It has superb steering, massively powerful and progressive brakes, and all the poise of a first class athlete. It really is that good.
What doesn't it do well?
Very little really. Mechanically you'd be hard pushed to find any faults at all, so what potential niggles there are either aesthetic or practical. Not practical in terms of space, comfort or high levels of equipment, because - for a 2+2 - it has all those in spades, and beautifully presented. Some people will, of course, have an issue with the looks, because it's a new-generation, Chris Bangle-designed BMW and every one of those, from 7 Series to 5 Series to Z4 has already attracted at lest as much criticism as praise - but before you pass judgement, look at it on the road, in natural light, and don't believe everything you see in photographs. With the boot open it might look like a 911 without an engine, but generally it's hard to deny that it has real presence, and real personality. For better or worse. It also, unfortunately, also still has iDrive, and that's still a monster.
What's it like to live with?
It would be wonderful to spend a long time finding out. It may not be the first thing on the typical 6 Series buyer's must-have list, but first impressions are that it has a remarkable amount of genuine practicality and very few basic shortcomings. It's roomy, very comfortable, very luxurious, very uncomplicated. You wouldn't even have to send the luggage on separately on your Grand Tour - boot space isn't an issue, and even the two rear seats are reasonably usable in small doses. If you use it as nature intended, it's not going to be a budget car to run, obviously - but on paper it does have a reasonable combined fuel figure of almost 26mpg, and a CO2 rating of 264g/km, so it's not in fantasy land, and of course depreciation isn't going to be an issue so long as there are waiting lists, which there probably will be for quite some time.
Would we buy it?
Does the Queen have a party frock, and do squirrels eat nuts? It's better than good, it's special, especially dynamically. It's the sort of super-quick, super-refined mile-eater that you should jump into in the UK and jump out of in the south of France or the toe of Italy. It's everything a GT should be.
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