Gorgeous BMW 6-series gets minor Botox treatment

By Henry Payne - The Detroit News

To the guitar wail of Jimi Hendrix, BMW revealed a mild refresh of its most premium model at the North American International Auto Show Monday: The 2015 6-series. Widely admired as one of the most beautiful cars in the world, the question is: How do you improve on perfection?

Very carefully as it turns out.

Modest updates to the stylish, third generation, $78,000-plus tourer will be applied across its model range: Coupe, convertible, a four-door Gran Coupe, and ground-pawing M6 performance edition. The changes are few and subtle. Full LED lighting is now standard. A bigger, nine-rib kidney grille gains a rib over the current model. The lower front air intakes now connect to form a continuous opening across the front chin.

The sumptuous leather interior and base, six-way seats remain largely unchanged with minor adjustments in trim and color. Bang & Olufsen still provide an optional audio upgrade. The cramped rear seats provide little room for anyone bigger than a toddler.

Powertrain offerings don't change — the major change in the 6-series coming in its major, 2012 overhaul when its normally-aspirated engines gave way to turbocharged offerings and the big coupe was offered for the first time with all-wheel drive. For 2015, the entry level 640i carries over its 315-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo inline-six. The 650i hangs on to its 445-horse, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. Both powertrains are offered with only an eight-speed automatic transmission — the manual having been put out to pasture years ago.

The coupe, Gran Touring, and convertible are all available in an M (for "Motorsport") performance upgrade. The M transforms this stately cruiser into an earth-pawing deviant — its twin-turbo V-8 packing 560 possessed ponies.

Despite a gold-plated sticker price that can easily climb north of six-figures, the 6-series — based on the same chassis as BMW's flagship, 5-series sedan — has sold more than 20,000 copies since 2011 (80,000 world-wide). The U.S. market accounts for two-thirds of those sales.

Indeed, the U.S. market continues to be a focus for the Bavarian automaker. The automaker announced in Detroit that it will be expanding production of its Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant to 400,000 units a year — the largest of any BMW plant in the world — when it introduces a plugin-hybrid version of its BMW X5 sport ute later this year.

BMW also announced a new sales experience for customers. They can meet with a BMW "individual consultant" to design a customized 6-series for themselves. All BMWs, meanwhile, will receive routine, mobile network-based, map updating for their navigation systems. Built into the vehicle through a SIM card, the automatic updates are free.