05.28.2012
By Terry Flanagan

Sport and Polish

There is an unbreakable rule with regard to high-end sports cars: whether it’s precise with lightweight speed (Lotus Evora), gentlemanly but lethal (Aston Martin Virage), or absurdly, gorgeously ostentatious (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing), said car must be roaringly noisy, even with the engine at low revs.

The 400-horsepower BMW 650i does not deviate from this rule; rather, it revels in it. Our winter-white two-door coupe rumbled through toll booths, roared past intersections, and raged down highways with a savage glee that can only be described as purposeful and deliberate. This kind of noise is by design, of course, as is everything else in this BMW.

Take the cabin, for instance. Sumptuously appointed in ivory white and contrasting black Nappa leather, it is at once pristine, modern, and eminently comfortable. The console screen, broad and readable, is navigated by a dial handily positioned close to the passenger seat. Legroom and headroom are generous, with seats easily adjustable for height and length — our 6’4” test driver easily maneuvered into position and, with a bit of tweaking, angled himself to see stoplights (always helpful). Sitting inside, it’s easy to forget this is a sports coupe aimed at speed aficionados with means, which explains why the car makes such a roar when accelerating. A gentle reminder, if you will, of exactly what it is you have in your hands.

With several settings — Sport Plus, Sport, Comfort, and Comfort Plus — the 650i xDrive can satisfy the whims of both passenger and driver. In Comfort and Comfort Plus (our settings for most of the otherwise bumpy four-hour ride), the car managed to absorb the punishment the Long Island Expressway had to give. In Sport mode, the setting can be refined further with just two flicks of a dial, tightening the chassis, the drivetrain, or both. When in Sport or Sport Plus, the 650i’s response is kinetically immediate and fierce, almost rough in its delivery of speed and in its handling of turns and curves. It is in these modes — with a road-feel so direct, it feels almost under your skin — that the 650i comes completely alive, justifying its growliness by this nearly-forgotten element of brute power. This coupe was made for those who secretly live for the gas pedal, for the simple thrill of harshly vaporizing the car in the next lane with flash-bang acceleration.

As responsive and athletic as the xDrive all-wheel-drive on the 650i may be, however, don’t be fooled: it is not made for long trips. Even while on the Comfort or Comfort Plus setting, the car’s sporty underbelly made itself known, somehow being neither as cushy over bumps or as soft around turns as one’s body might hope. At the end our test drive to Southampton, we were tired and a bit achier than expected.

Of course, it would be silly to expect this muscular piece of engineering to be anything but itself. Taking the 650i on a long trip is about as foolhardy as dragging a Chevrolet Suburban to a rally car race. Like any other car, its essential characteristics must always be considered, and in this BMW’s case, one must never forget — despite being esconced in yards of cushiony leather, high-tech gadgetry, and what seems to be tons of interior cubic space — this car, ultimately, is made for racing, for handling, and for rip-roaring displays of power.

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