Top down, cruising through the hills and along the coast of Baja or in the coupe, dashing down Highway 1, the 2012 BMW 6-Series is an experience not quite like any other in the segment: fast, comfortable, stylish, and fun, yet unconcerned with the outer limits of extreme sportiness. In other words, it's the perfect touring companion.

We weren't fans of some of the styling elements of the previous 6-Series, but those worry areas have been fully addressed with the 2012 model, especially at the rear. Up front, the aggression level has been turned up a notch, but not in a way that makes it look busy or overwrought. The side view of the car is particularly striking, with the accent line over the rear fender lending a forward-moving feeling while the sculpted lower-third of the side lends a leaner, trimmer look. It's an arresting design, with our eye slightly favoring the coupe to the convertible.

Being a large car, both in exterior dimensions and in weight (4,200-plus pounds), the 2012 6-Series nevertheless has that tendency all very good cars do of shrinking around the driver when it's time to dance a canyon road. Part of this unexpected nimbleness comes from its Integral Active Steering, which helps rotate the car by steering with the rear axle for quicker response.

Backed by a 400-horsepower, 450-pound-foot twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine, it's gets up and moves in brisk and immediate fashion as well, letting out a muted bark with each sport-manual mode downshift of its eight-speed automatic transmission.

That said, it's clear behind the wheel of the new 6-Series, both coupe and convertible, that while it will hustle, it and its occupants will have a better time relaxing the pace and absorbing the scenery. Flying across hundreds of miles of open highway, on the other hand, is clearly its native talent. Switch the settings back to more comfortable ranges and the 6-Series is an implacable cruiser.

2012 BMW 650i Convertible

2012 BMW 650i Convertible

After all, the interior of the new 6-Series is a place where you'll want to spend some time. Up front, the seats are spacious, with just the right amount of bolster and stiffness, quiet and turbulence-free in the convertible and even more serene in the coupe. The back seats are probably best left to kids or spare luggage--though the large trunk will hold all that two people will need for even a week of resort-hopping.

Toss into the mix available all-wheel drive, and the 6-Series comes into year-round practicality even in the snowier parts of the country--and despite the relative opulence of the cabin.

For all of these reasons, the 2012 BMW 6-Series is a nominee for Motor Authority's 2012 Best Car To Buy award.


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