Created in 1979 by the simple expedient of designing a coupé body based around the platform of the original ‘E12’ 5-Series and adding 7-Series engines, the 6-Series was built for BMW by Karmann, which perhaps explains why so few of those early cars have survived – they did tend to dissolve rather quickly like so many other Karmann products from the Karmann Ghia to the Scirocco.
In 1983, BMW unveiled the second-generation ‘E28’ 5-Series and the 6-Series switched over to the new platform at the same time. It’s not immediately obvious to those outside BMW enthusiast circles as the style of the car remained so similar, but the easiest way to spot the change is that the rear bumpers now wrapped around all the way to meet the rear arch. Despite looking so similar, there’s a huge difference between the two cars and although the E28 5-Series still carried the old-school ‘sharknose’ BMW styling it was technically right up-to-date for the ’Eighties whereas the old E12 platform was more of a ’Sixties design. The later cars drive so much better and even today feel more usable and more modern with the bonus of better parts support too – there’s plenty of interchangeability with other BMW models of the day, especially the 5-Series.
Most of the attention is lavished on the bigger-engined 635CSi which with its 218bhp engine was a quick car, but at £25,000 in 1985 it was fearsomely expensive and BMW also sold an equal quantity of the £19,000 2.8-litre 628CSi. With 184bhp on tap it’s no slouch and top speed was still 127mph, even in automatic form. This particular example is a nice one too, in bright red rather than the more common silver or the ubiquitous Dophin Grey, with the right BMW/BBS cross-spoke alloys. It’s relatively unusual to find a 6-Series without leather but this one is more unusual than most as it comes with the rare optional Recaro sports seats which are tremendous. The car has covered just 50,000 miles and as a result it’s in really nice condition inside.
On the outside it looks good too. There’s evidence of some paintwork touch-ups here and there but when it comes to the 6-Series that’s generally a good thing, since they do tend to rot out their front wings from the inside and if somebody’s already sorted this expensive job for you then so much the better. The wheels need the BMW centre logos fitting but a set is provided with the car.
ON THE ROAD
The M30 straight-six bursts into life without the top-end clatter you find on so many tired high-mileage 635CSi’s and runs smoothly – after all, 50,000 miles really is nothing to these engines. The ZF automatic takes up drive nicely without any worrying noises or clonks and usefully the rear axle subframe bushes seem good on this example too – so many 5- and 6-Series of this age need them replacing and a solid set here makes a big difference to the handling. As a result, this 628 feels nice and tight on the road and in truth handles better than some much more expensive 635CSi’s we’ve tried in the past.
It feels fast enough to be fun, too. The 6-Series doesn’t boast the ‘manumatic’ Steptronic mode of later BMW automatics but it’s a responsive box and has the benefit of being a four-speed unit when so many makers were still using three-speed autos. The lock-up overdrive top gear also provides improved fuel economy at higher speeds.
You buy a 6-Series on condition rather than spec and this example is a far better bet than some of the tattier 635’s out there. The low mileage brings huge dividends in the way it drives and also means it’s unlikely to be a costly ownership proposition. It provides that classic 6-Series style with better economy than the 3.5-litre.
Top speed: 127mph
0-60 mph: 8.3secs
Fuel consumption: 32mpg
Gearbox: four-speed automatic