2012 BMW 640i

By August 7, 2012
2012 BMW 640i

The BMW 640i Coupe and Convertible were redesigned for 2012, with a stiffer chassis that’s heavily composed of aluminum, new skin, and improved engine. The 6 Series Coupe is a gorgeous car, with a long hood, low roofline, stylish sculpting on the sides, and big but smooth rear end. The 6 Series Convertible has a shapely roofline and is eye-catching with its black soft top.

The best thing about the 640i might be its 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbocharged engine, sweeter than the more powerful and thirsty twin-turbo V8 that’s in the 650i. The latest version of this brilliant powerplant uses direct injection and variable valve timing, makes 315 horsepower and 330 foot-pounds of torque from 1400 to 4500 rpm, and easily propels this car from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. It gets an estimated 20 city and 30 highway miles per gallon.

The silky and fast-revving engine is matched by a superb new 8-speed automatic transmission that’s tight, quick, smooth, responsive and obedient, whether in manual sport mode, or auto mode shifting on its own. Its programming is not intrusive in the least; that is, it doesn’t try to show off its gears by using them all the time. Actually, the top two gears are overdrives for long-legged freeway cruising and better fuel mileage.

There are a number of mechanical features that BMW calls Efficient Dynamics measures, including Auto Start-Stop, which shuts the engine off at stoplights, and re-starts it again when you need to go. It might increase fuel mileage, but we found the start-up annoying, and wonder how many BMW owners will use it to lower their fuel bill. We also wonder about the additional wear on components such as the battery and starter. It can be turned off, but not conveniently.

Other features include standard adaptive xenon headlamps or optional adaptive LED headlamps, and a rear-view camera, which, in our 640i Coupe, kept showing its view even after the car was moving forward down the block. Another annoyance was the parking distance beeper, which, when we backed up, screamed that we were about to hit the parked car in FRONT of us, while the display flashed impending contact at the front fender.

Optional packages can raise the price of the 640i by thousands, and they do, for most BMWs in dealers’ inventories. They include Surround View, Parking Assistant, BMW Night Vision with pedestrian recognition, Lane Departure Warning System, Active Blind Spot Detection, and Bang & Olufsen High-End Surround Sound System. Based on the harassment we suffered from the features that are supposed to be drivers’ aids, we would stay away from such allegedly helpful options.

However, one optional feature we definitely love is the Head-Up-Display, with programmable information shown in colors on the windshield. We also like BMW’s adaptive cruise control.

There’s standard Dynamic Damper Control, electronic shock absorbers that adapt to the road surface and adjust compression and rebound settings continuously and independently. It sure worked for us, because the 640i ride was smooth and comfortable everywhere we took it. Optional Active Roll Stabilization provides more precise and flat cornering if you drive the 640i hard in the curves.

The Dynamic Stability Control brings together the ABS, Dynamic Traction Control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Start-off Assistant for hills, Brake Drying function and Brake Fade Compensation. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires run-flat tires, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Many run-flat tires make the ride stiff, but the 640i ride is comfortable over all surfaces.

The interior is rich and classy, as you would expect a BMW to be. It’s focused on the driver with the instrument panel and controls angled toward him or her. The doors use a combination of convex and concave surfaces, designed to generate a feeling of depth, and make the driver feel secure. The standard leather is naturally high quality, although naturally you can upgrade to a softer plusher skin for your luxury upholstery.

The instrument cluster uses beautiful silver-rimmed analog gauges, and an excellent display with a large 10.2-inch high definition screen using “trans-reflective” technology that makes it easy to read in sunlight; BMW leads the way on this one, as the screens of some other cars, namely Jaguar and Land Rover, are almost useless in some light. The audio and navigation systems, phone, infotainment and other functions are controlled by BMW’s iDrive, now in its fourth generation and finally convenient. We can say with great pleasure that it’s easy and intuitive.

For 2013 BMW has introduced a longer and heavier 640i Gran Coupe, using the same powertrain as the 2012 640i Coupe. The Gran Coupe has two more doors and nearly five more inches of rear legroom, and can seat a fifth passenger in a pinch, but we’re not sure it’s worth it.

Model Lineup

The 2012 BMW 640i Coupe ($73,600) and BMW 640i Convertible ($81,100) use a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine with an automatic manual 8-speed transmission. Standard equipment includes full power, leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto start-stop function, rearview camera, Xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, dynamic damper control, split fold-down rear seats (Coupe), adaptive light control, dynamic cruise control, LED foglamps, navigation system, Bluetooth, HD radio, and more. The packages with the fancier equipment are all optional.

Standard safety equipment includes front airbags, head-thorax side airbags integrated into the seat frame, three-point automatic belts for all seats, belt force limiters and front belt pre-tensioners and child seat mounts in the rear, as well as the full array of electronic safety features.


The 640i Coupe has big elegant lines that flow all the way to the muscular rear end over taut surfaces and precise contours. The windshield is steeply raked, and smooth slanted trapezoidal headlamps glare down upon the twin kidney grille. An LED accent light cuts across the tops of the standard adaptive Xenon headlamps like a glittery eyebrow. The optional Adaptive LED Headlights have LED light rings for the parking lights and flattened daytime running lights, with horizontal LED ribs.

The Convertible is more eye-catching, either with the top down or with the standard black soft top raised. BMW calls the shape of the soft top, “flying buttress architecture,” words that don't do justice to the sweeping silhouette, which looks best in black. The top can be lowered or raised at 25 mph, 19 seconds to open and 24 seconds to close. You can do it with the key fob, before or after you get in or out. The heated, vertical glass rear window retracts with the top up.

Interior Features

In the cabin, there are subtle curves everywhere, from the rear doors to front doors to dashboard to center console. The front doors are wide, improving access to the rear seats, but it's a long reach for the driver to close the door, and the grip is small, almost like a coin holder. The leather is rich feeling, as it should be in a BMW, although it's only the Dakota leather, with Nappa and Merino being the more costly upgrades in quality.

The center stack is relatively tidy, with some controls slightly angled toward the driver. The handsomely stitched dashboard leather surrounds silver-rimmed analog gauges that are clean and beautiful, with white numbers by day and clear orange at night. There's a small horizontal window under the speedo and tach that's easy to read and scroll through to access travel information. We love the thick leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, with controls for audio, phone and cruise control.

The standard display screen in the center of the dash is a big and beautiful 10.2 inches. Navigation information is displayed clearly, and there's enough room on the screen for audio info to be displayed at the same time. The screen in the convertible has a special reflective treatment so it can be seen in sunlight; we tried during our test of the M6 convertible, and it really works.

The seats are fairly broad and firm, although with many adjustments they can be made to fit any body size. Rear legroom of 35 inches is adequate for average-sized adults, although taller passengers will feel cramped, especially in the low-slung Coupe, which offers less headroom than the Convertible. Both have pass-through openings into the trunk for long items like skis. Trunk space measures 16.2 cubic feet in the Coupe and 12.3 cubic feet in the Convertible (10.6 with the top down). The trunk lid is heavy to pull down.

Room for the passengers in the rear is a bit of a joke. A Fiat 500 offers more rear legroom. The 640i is a long car, but that length is more about style and driving dynamics.

BMW's iDrive, now in its fourth generation, is no longer an obstacle to the driver. Now it's actually easy, including operation of the navigation system, and tuning the satellite radio without dangerous distraction and confusion.

But this is a BMW, and there are always maddening electronic things. It's the shift lever, which is infuriatingly uncooperative. When you go to put the car in Drive or Reverse, a message on the display screen tells you to: Select a gear by pressing the button on the lever and stepping on the brake pedal. Okay, but if you follow those instructions literally, you'll sit there forever. So you figure it out and move the lever toward the gear you want, and the message stays the same, even after you're in the gear. Not only that, the illustration on the screen is confusing, with the P for park near the bottom, and another P for parking assistance at the top. Didn't BMW wonder if people might get confused with this re-invention of the shift information?

It gets worse, when the Parking Distance Warning and the rearview camera get into the act. The backup beeper often shrieked incessantly in our ear, apparently warning us that the nose of our car was going to hit the car we were backing away from. The shriek was so irritating we couldn't concentrate. And then, after we pulled away and drove down the street, the rearview camera would stay on for a block or so.

Then there's the Start button. We never knew when it was totally shut off or not. It's not as easy as one push of the button. We're not stupid. We've talked to other journalists about this, and they all have the same issue. We think you have to press the button twice, to get out of Accessories mode.

One option is the BMW Connected app, which allows drivers to access Facebook, Twitter, Pandora and paid music subscription service MOG accounts through a late-model iPhone or iPod Touch on the iDrive display. The possible glitches boggle the mind.

Driving Impressions

The BMW 640i is a very sweet car to drive. The engine is incredibly smooth and sounds nice, a heavily subdued if not sedated scream when you're on the gas, or silent when you're just cruising. Its 330 foot-pounds of torque are available from 1400 to 4500 rpm, and what more do you need? With 315 horsepower and that much torque, you've got all the acceleration that real-world driving demands. The 0 to 60 time is about 5.4 seconds, and that's quick.

The 8-speed ZF manual automatic transmission with paddle shifters does it all. The top two gears are serious overdrives, with long-legged ratios of 0.839:1 and 0.667:1, so the freeway rpms are way low. Driving casually in automatic mode, the upshifts are seamless and kickdowns relatively infrequent; the transmission is programmed to use the engine's torque.

In effect, it's a close-ratio 6-speed, and, using the paddles, you can play with it like that. It will respond sharply and obediently. It will deliver hard downshifts, and will short-shift upward when you want it to. It upshifts at 5800 rpm by itself in manual mode, and it upshifts at the same rpm every time, it doesn't second-guess the driver. We rarely are able to make those statements about automatic transmissions, not even the sportiest of them.

Our 640i test car was not equipped with the optional Active Roll Stabilization, which reduces body roll in corners and transition. Sensors calculate the degree of body roll and trigger hydraulic rotary actuators in the front and rear anti-roll bars, for flatter cornering.

Nor was it equipped with Integral Active Steering, which combines the Active Steering system for the front suspension with a steerable rear suspension. Precisely harmonized steering movements of the front and rear wheels create a virtual lengthening or shortening of the vehicle's wheelbase, which improves high-speed stability and enhances maneuverability for both parking and city use. It's magic, invisible technology.

One important thing is that the ride in Sport mode was not harsh, while the transmission shifts came more quickly and throttle response was sharper and steering quicker; but it's not noticeably aggressive, so comfort isn't compromised. But the Comfort mode is neither soft nor lazy, so it's good to stay in when you're not feeling sporty in the curves.

The brakes are pretty much impeccable, using massive vented discs. The pedal has a nice touch, and brings the 640i to smooth stops from high speeds or around town. The braking system is linked to the electronic stability system. There's also a regenerative feature, which captures electric energy during braking and transfers it to the battery, reducing alternator drag.

Last but not least, the Auto Start-Stop function is a pain, and not just to us, because BMW forums aggressively criticize it. It doesn't just intrude at red lights and stop signs, but it keeps shutting the car down in stop-and-go city traffic; every time you move forward three feet, you hear the starter crank and the engine fire, and you feel a slight jerk in the brake pedal. We might go for this feature if it somehow knew when you were going to be stopped for maybe a minute or more, but not when it keeps stopping the engine every time you stop the car. And it's not the stop but the start-up that's annoying.


We like the 640i best among the BMW 6 Series cars, also including the V8 650i, the new long-wheelbase four-door 640i Gran Coupe, and the powerful M6. It's the simplest, smoothest and sweetest, with an impeccable engine, transmission, ride and brakes. Its styling is beautiful and interior luxurious. The downside is that some of the electronic features are over-engineered and maddening, but that's standard for BMW.

Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the BMW 640i in Northern California.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:BMW 640i Coupe ($73,600); 640i Convertible ($81,100)
Engines:3.0-liter single turbo I6
Transmissions:8-speed automatic with manual mode
Safety equipment (standard):front airbags, head-thorax side airbags integrated into the seat frame, Dynamic Stability Control, ABS, Dynamic Traction Control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Start-off Assistant, automatic Brake Drying, tire pressure
Safety equipment (optional):Night Vision with pedestrian recognition, Lane Departure Warning System, Active Blind Spot Detection
Basic warranty:4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:Dingolfing, Germany
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):BMW 640i Coupe ($73,600)
Standard equipment:leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto start-stop function, moonroof, rearview camera, xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, dynamic damper control, split fold-down rear seats, adaptive light control, dynamic cruise control, LED foglamps, navigation system, Bluetooth, HD radio, full power
Options as tested (MSPR):none
Destination charge:$895
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$74495
Layout:rear-wheel drive
Engine:3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):315 @ 5800
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):330 @ 1400-4500
Transmission:8-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:N/A
Wheelbase:112.4 in.
Length/width/height:192.8/74.6/51.9 in.
Track, f/r:62.8/63.0 in.
Turning circle:N/A
Seating Capacity:4
Head/hip/leg room, f:40/na/42.1 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:35.7/na/30.5 in.
Cargo volume:16.2 cu. ft.
Towing capacity:N/A
Suspension, f:independent
Suspension, r:independent, multi-link
Ground clearance:5.0 in.
Curb weigth:4001 lbs.
Brakes, f/r:vented discs with ABS
Fuel capacity:18.5 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of August 7, 2012.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-831-1117 - www.bmwusa.com