Goodbye TR4, hello BMW!

This has been a big week for me as a long thought-about change in my modest car stable finally happened. I’ve been thinking of replacing my Triumph TR4 that’s been with me for close to ten years (and thereby by far the car I’ve owned the longest!) since it didn’t really fit the bill any longer and spent far too much time in the garage.

Thanks for everything old chap!

In my post about oldtimers guaranteed to increase in value (see here if you missed it), I made the point of thinking through the purchase well in terms of how much you will be able to use the car, as you otherwise risk ending up in my situation. I wouldn’t claim that I thought through the purchase along those lines ten years ago, but it’s also true that needs change and in my specific case, this has meant the kids now being grown up and my wife and being in the phase of life where we can drive down to Tuscany or southern France over a long weekend. You don’t do that in a TR4 from -65.

They may look good but you don’t want to spend 100’s of kilometres in them…

It took a while to find a buyer, but I finally sold the Triumph at a reasonable price which was around 20% more than what I paid for it ten years ago. In parallel, the brief for what was to replace it was beginning to take shape. I imagined a GT car that could seat four but was really made for two, preferably a convertible, modern enough for the weekend escapes mentioned above, with enough power and sound to put a smile on my face and with enough luggage space to handle the surprising number of things my better half thinks are necessary for a few days.

I thought long and hard about both a 996 Turbo and a 997.2 4S, but they neither transport four, nor have enough luggage space. I met a perfect gentleman with a perfect XJS V12, but again, the back seats don’t work and there was a risk I would always have been about nervous about that V12. A few other, classic candidates were also considered but then it got complicated, also because of the increase in value many classics or future classics have seen these last years. So maybe it was think about something newer, something where the second-hand value is a true disaster, and the value for money is truly spectacular. I guess it also gives some credibility to what we write on this blog to know that we follow our recommendations… (see here). Anyway, that’s how yesterday a BMW 650i convertible ended up in my garage!

A big Bavarian just moved in!

My new car has had one owner since new in 2013 and over the 57.000 kms he has driven it, he must have spent at least as much time cleaning, polishing and speaking kindly to it, because the car is truly in mint condition. Importantly, being a 2013 model, it has the improved V8, double-turbo 450 hp engine, which hasn’t had the problems that were quite common with the previous 408 hp version. As mentioned in my post I’ve always liked the design, which i think is truly beautiful both with the top and without it, and i liked the color combination (the so called citrin black, which is a softer, brown-black color, with the white interior) and the equipment which is quite complete. Rounding it off were good summer and winter tires on alloy wheels and a one-year complete warranty. And for all this, I paid exactly 20% of the price new price of CHF 180.000 in 2013, or if you will, a couple of thousand more than I got for my TR4.

Those are seats I look forward to spending time in!

That’s how I left the classic car scene for now, but honestly I don’t see it as very dramatic. I will always have a heart for beautiful automobiles but as long as both time and space are limited, it’s about that brief and usability. And to be perfectly frank, something else is worth considering as well: things were not better before, which also includes cars, and for the kind of usage we plan, it actually feels quite re-comforting to have a modern car. Yeah, I know, I’ve grown old…

The 650 is not a future classic and not a car that will increase in value (although the downside at that starting point and with free maintenance until 2023 is rather limited!), but it’s a great car that perfectly fits our current needs and can of course be used as my summer daily driver. The first 70-80 kms have been great. Being too big and too heavy, the 650 is not a sports car, yet it sticks to the road in a very capable way, with just enough of the V8 bass tones coming through on acceleration. The kids had enough room in the back seat with minor adjustments to my ideal driving position, and luggage space is sufficient. So far I love it and really look forward to a couple of those trips a bit later this autumn!

BMW 6-series (F12/13) – hard to resist!

Chris Bangle is a name associated with everything from love (for some) to dislike of various degrees (for most) in BMW circles. The 65-year old American designer who today runs his own company out of Italy, notably working for Samsung, came to BMW in 1992 as chief designer and was responsible for mostly everything that came out of Munich in the following 17 years. Of all the various models he led the work on, one of the more controversial was no doubt the 6-series grand tourer, internally known as E63/64, launched in 2002, and available both as coupé and convertible. Pretty much everyone agreed that whereas the front and side views were more or less ok, the rear view was not, looking lack the trunk lid of another car had been fitted by accident.

Things improved slightly with the 2008 facelift, as seen above.

Fortunately the launch of the successor F12/13 range in 2011 and built until 2018 meant a vast improvement. The range now included the previous coupé and convertible but also a four-door grand coupé, that I will however not focus on here. The new car was the work of Adrian van Hooydonk who had succeeded Bangle as head designer (but who was partly responsible of the E63/64 as well, so he doesn’t come out completely unscathed…) and produced a far more appealing package from all angles. In V8 650i-version, both body shapes usually cost between EUR 120.000-160.000 with options. Today, excellent cars can be had for EUR 30.000-40.000 with less than 100.000 kms on the clock, for a less than ten year old car that looks as modern now as it did then. That makes it a very compelling proposition!

Why didn’t they do that from the beginning?

Coupé and convertible share the same, almost 5 meter long body, but the convertible is around 150 kg heavier, pushing it on the wrong side of 2 tonnes. More weight is added if you opt for the 4WD Xdrive version that could be had with all engines, although the rear-wheel drive ones are more common. You would think such a big car offers ample interior room, but whereas you sit like a king up front and have room for all your luggage especially in the coupé, the rear seats are cramped for any person bigger than a mid-sized child, especially in the leg area.

A lovely place to be – as long as you’re in the front.

BMW offered four different engines in all three versions and whereas the 6-cylinder, 308 hp diesel can perhaps be an option for the coupé and for lovers of torque (knowing it produces 680Nm), I still personally struggle with a diesel engine in combination with a convertible. That leaves the two petrol options, a single-turbo, 6-cylinder with 315 hp, and a double-turbo V8 with 402 hp until 2013 and 444 hp thereafter. The same engine is also boosted to 553 hp in the M6 version, which today is however almost twice as expensive as the 650i. The six-cylinder 640i certainly has enough power for the character of the big Bavarian, but the V8 in the 650i excels in outright power, torque and sound, and would be my choice.

Steering away from the M6 is also based on the 6-series not being a track car, or really a sports car in that sense at all. It’s a fantastic machine for the left lane on the autobahn or for large open roads, but neither size nor weight invite to being thrown around narrow mountain roads or on track days. The 6-series is much more of a well-behaved cruiser, enjoying high speed transport in luxury and comfort to St. Tropez as much as posing in front of Club 55 once you get there. That’s why I would also choose the convertible over the coupé – it’s the perfect body for this car!

The M6 certainly looks good, bu it’s debatable if its character suits the body format.

Contrary to what the reputation would you have you think, the 6-series only comes out average in quality surveys, with problems notably linked to the very extensive electrical system, the A/C system and also coolant leaks. This shouldn’t be exaggerated but buying form a dealer with a warranty is certainly a good idea. You also want to make sure all electronics are working and, for the convertible, that there are no strange noises or issues with the hood – open and close it a few times just to make sure. Owner and service history are obviously also important, but fortunately, many of the owners tend to be on the right side of 50 from a pre-owned car perspective.

All in all , a pre-owned 640i or 650i is a wonderful proposition and quite unbeatable in terms of value for money. This is after all a modern car with all the luxury you would expect at the original price point – but not really at the one they can be had for today. Interestingly, especially in convertible form, it’s also a car without real competition. A Mercedes SL of corresponding age is more expensive and a strict two-seater. Audi never built a larger convertible than the A5-series, which in terms of comfort, luxury is on a very different, inferior level. A Maserati GranCabrio/Coupé is was never a very convincing car and additionally may make you look like something you don’t want to. It will also cost you far more. If you ask me, go for a 650i, choose wisely and enjoy the satisfaction of having done a good deal on a very complete car, and looking very good this summer!

A great buy with the additional benefit of making you look great!