Image of silver BMW parked on road near the sea, taken from the front of the car

BMW 6 Series (E63/E64)

BUYER’S GUIDE

BMW 6 Series E63/E64 Review

Shocking when launched, BMW’s big coupe is now maturing nicely and looks like a bargain modern classic

What Is It?

With its bustle-back and ‘flame surfaced’ panels BMW’s E63 6 Series wasn’t without controversy when it launched, though 20 years on the shock value has mellowed. While generally credited to then design boss Chris Bangle, and aligned with his ethos, accounts differ as to whether the car was his creation or that of his protégé (and current BMW design head) Adrian van Hooydonk. Whatever the truth of that the 6 Series stands as an archetypal Bangle-era BMW, its twist on classic coupe proportions and the chiselled lines still looking good.

Regular models with their choice of petrol or diesel six-cylinder or V8 petrol engines offer a mature combination of performance and luxury, the M6 meanwhile deploying its 507PS (373kW) via a high-revving V10 engine shared with the contemporary E60 M5. Whichever flavour you opt for a 6 Series today represents cracking value for money and a more soulful twist on BMW traditions than many of its more recent products, though it pays to bide your time for a good one with a solid service history to avoid some of the scarier issues.

Checklist

  • This generation of 6 Series is generally distinguished by its E63 code, Convertibles officially E64s and both sharing much with the E60 generation of 5 Series
  • Launched in the UK in 2004 the entire range was facelifted in 2007; in BMW jargon this is known as a Life Cycle Impulse so if you see cars advertised as ‘LCI’ this is what it refers to
  • LCI cars can be identified externally by the additional strip of LEDs atop the headlight lens, different rear lights and the third brakelight relocated to the upper lip of the bootlid; other upgrades included an updated version of the iDrive infotainment system
  • Engines comprise 630Ci six-cylinder petrol (renamed 630i with more power in facelift models), a twin-turbo 635d diesel, 4.5-litre 645Ci and – later – 4.8-litre 650i petrol V8s and the 5.0-litre V10 in the flagship M6
  • Transmissions include a rare manual option, six-speed automatic and, on the M6, a seven-speed version of BMW’s SMG automated manual; a six-speed SMG gearbox was also available on pre-facelift 630Ci and 645Ci models
  • Six-cylinder petrol cars considered reliable when looked after properly and capable of racking up big mileages with few issues; weight savings over V8s also improves handling in some eyes
  • V8 engines more charismatic but suffer known issues, including oil leaks from rocker covers and failed pipes from water pumps – replacement is an engine out job and very expensive to fix
  • Diesels out of favour these days but powerful; engine suits steady cruising while those with low or city miles can suffer from clogged particulate filters and other issues
  • M6 engine can be very highly strung and demands diligent servicing; catastrophic failures not unknown due to dropped valves on top end and failed big end bearings; throttle bodies can also be weak
  • M6 SMG gearboxes can burn through clutches if driven hard and are expensive to sort, especially if you’re replacing the flywheel at the same time; check for recent evidence of replacement and be wary of any cars that may have been abused or have been through a lot of owners in a short space of time
  • Plastic sumps on automatic transmissions can warp and leak so look out for puddles under any prospective purchases
  • Bodywork is generally good and mix of steel with plastic and aluminium panels means corrosion shouldn’t be an issue; if there is any rust it could indicate crash damage and poor repairs
  • Bulkhead drainage channels can get blocked – check for wet carpets in footwell and beware electrical issues if water has been getting into interior; convertibles have additional rear drains that also need to be kept clear of debris
  • On convertibles check condition and operation of roof and the distinctive retractable rear window
  • Optional Dynamic Driving Control active anti-roll and Active Steering variable ratio rack divide opinion but add to potential complexity and things that could go wrong

How Does It Drive?

In your head you probably think of the 6 Series as a big, heavy car but even a 650i V8 weighs less than a modern-day M240i! In this context an E63 6 Series suddenly feels less intimidating, the relative simplicity of its hydraulic power steering and early-2000s running gear looking rather appealing. True, active anti-roll and variable ratio steering were on the options menu but are probably better avoided unless you crave the technical gimmickry. Because, at heart, the 6 Series strikes a nice balance between grown-up GT and the kind of sporty BMW handling we’ve all grown up with.

The later six-cylinder cars with their 272PS (200kW) output aren’t to be sniffed at and are actually relatively light on their feet, the V8s nicely charismatic and understressed while – if not fashionable – the diesels also pull strongly and will guzzle up the miles. The M6 is a different beast altogether, BMW claiming somewhat optimistically at launch it had the chops to rival anything from Aston Martin, Ferrari or Lamborghini. That may be pushing it somewhat but the high-revving V10 is a naturally aspirated masterpiece, and with the limiter removed it’s a genuine 200mph-plus car brimming with character.

What’s Good?

BMW 6 Series E63 E64 Classic Car

Expensive BMWs have always suffered pretty hefty depreciation, the 6 Series especially hard on the original owners in this respect. A few years down the line the flipside is a potential bargain for canny used buyers, the unfashionable offering of diesel power or relatively thirsty petrol engines further damning it in the eyes of mainstream punters. Their loss could be your gain, and a 6 Series is a big tick against the classic ‘lot of car for the money’ promise. There’s no shame in falling for the very obvious temptations of the M6 but these are more expensive to buy and run, while the regular 6 Series offers classy and luxurious transport with looks that get more attractive with every passing year. If somewhat cramped as a family car there are token rear seats to share the fun with the kids and a decent boot as well, so if you’re looking for stylish transport for two and something a bit different for living the coupe dream it’s an appealingly understated choice that would still look good pulling up outside that trendy boutique hotel.

What’s Bad?

Having lingered for some time at the lowest point of a rather epic depreciation curve it’s safe to say many 6 Series will have fallen into the hands of owners more interested in the pose than keeping up with the maintenance required of a car of this type. Which could come to bite you expensively on the backside if you end up with a car that hasn’t been looked after properly. The warning signs should be obvious enough and if you find one on cheap mismatched tyres with a V5 that’s been around the block a few times you should probably hold out for another with a more salubrious history. This counts for double with the M6, given the highly-stressed engine and gearbox don’t respond kindly to abuse and are viewed by some in the trade as an expensive grenade with the pin well and truly pulled. As with any aging luxury car the complexity of the many and various onboard kit will also be a concern, the controversial iDrive system perhaps better than it was considered at the time but still dating the 6 Series in onboard tech terms.

Which Model To Choose?

BMW 6 Series E63 E64 Classic Car

With that engine and performance that still looks pretty mighty in a modern context there’s undeniable appeal in the M6, and we’d applaud anyone willing to take the plunge given the potential for it to go very expensively wrong. If not perhaps the supercar beater BMW hoped it’s certainly a charismatic and defiantly different alternative to that 911, too. Back on planet earth the silky appeal of V8s is hard to ignore, and the big engine vibe certainly suits the grown-up ambience. The Convertible is a stylish option, the buttressed roof and retractable rear screen adding quirky appeal. But the coupe looks less bother over the long-term. And buying with the head rather than the heart a post-facelift 630i could be the smart choice. 272PS (200kW) is enough to be going on with, the fact it weighs 110kg less than an equivalent 650i meaning it arguably handles with a bit more verve as well. The classic combination of a silky straight-six in a posh BMW coupe has old-school appeal as well, the significant savings in running costs the icing on the cake.

Specifications

 

Engine

3.0-litre six-cylinder, petrol

Power

272PS (200kW) @ 6,700rpm

Torque

320Nm (236lb ft) @ 2,750rpm

Transmission

Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

1,615kg (automatic)

0-62mph

6.4 seconds

Top speed

155mph

Production dates

2003-2011

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