Page 1: Intro
It is a seemingly simple ribbon of black asphalt, wrapping itself along California's coastline, but this famous scenic drive is anything but simple road construction. Stretching 644 miles, the Pacific Coast Highway crosses deep crevasses, protected wetlands and earthquake faults. One section took eight years to build and features one of the highest single-span bridges in the world, stretching 714 feet and standing 260 feet high. The road is punctuated by dramatic cliffs and sparkling seashores, as well as living natural wonders---ancient windswept trees, brilliant flower fields and beaches dotted with sea lions and elephant seals. While the spectacular scenery is always there, the view of it is not. Often Highway 1 (as it is also known) is mired in thick, billowing fog and, in winter months, heavy rains frequently cause rock and mud slides that can make driving treacherous.
We began our journey near Los Angeles in the summer -- hoping the warm days would cause the fog to lift early, resulting in postcard-perfect weather. The hour as the sun begins to set is the most magical of any day along the coast. It is then that the setting sun lights up the shoreline as if it were made of gold. It is this light, what a photographer friend once called "God's light," that makes the scenery even more breathtaking.
Page 2: BMW 645Ci
A short drive brought us to Santa Barbara and a night stop at the Simpson House Inn, a gorgeous 1874 Victorian home. Just a five-minute walk from the shops and restaurants of State Street, the Simpson House, with its 11 rooms in the main house and renovated barn as well as three individual cottages, is tucked away behind a tall hedge in a secluded setting. Although complimentary hors d'oeuvres and local wines in the Inn's English garden was as close to heaven as one could get, we tore ourselves away to ride the charming Old Town Trolley, touring Stearns Wharf, State Street's shops and the city's historic adobes.
Page 3: Valley of Flowers
Our arrival at La Purisma was punctuated by the odors of the Misson's livestock corrals located adjacent to the parking lot. The near fully-restored Spanish-style Mission is located on 900 acres, which include farming areas, gardens and walking trails as well as the buildings that comprise the Mission itself.
Heading north again, the road passed through more agricultural communities, including Guadalupe, a town nestled along a large rise of sand dunes where parts the 1923 epic The Ten Commandments was filmed. The entire movie set, including giant sphinxes and three-story-high pharaohs, was dumped into trenches and covered by sandstorms over the years. Bits and pieces of the set have been recovered and an archaeologist is currently planning a full excavation.
Page 4: Cambria
Page 5: Big Sur
Page 6: Monterey
Page 7: Paso Robles
Page 8: Scenery
As I piloted the 6 Series through the transition from Highway 1 to Highway 101 at the end of our journey, the sign leapt out at me from the road's edge. There, in bold letters was the word "end." Almost simultaneously, the California coastline with its brilliant Pacific Ocean and dramatic hills disappeared from my view.
Page 9: FAQS
On sale now, the new model comes in two versions--the 645Ci Coupe that starts at $69, 995 and a 645Ci Convertible, priced beginning at $76, 995 (both prices include destination). BMW expects its typical customers to be successful males in their mid-fifties. A Competitors include the Jaguar XK8, Cadillac XLR, Porsche 911, Dodge Viper, and the Mercedes SL500 and CL500. What are its best features?
The list is long, but first, and most impressive and head-turning is the exterior styling of both models. Each model has its own unique look, and yet, they are clearly fraternal twins. Glass and light play an important part in each, as the coupe has a wonderfully wide, panoramic moonroof with tilting glass, while the drop-top sports a fin-shaped soft top, with an industry-first, electric-opening glass rear window, that operates as a wind blocker when the top is retracted. Interior styling is also up to par with BMW luxury and impressive is the list of state-of-the-art driving technologies that help to make your drive spirited, but far safer than ever.
What are its state-of-the-art technologies?
Start its award-winning 4.4-liter aluminum engine, that gets 325 hp. and 330 lb.-ft. of torque, and has "stepless variability" in timing, which improves fuel economy. It is matched to a standard 6-speed manual; optional is a 6-speed automatic with STEPTRONIC and a 6-speed manual SMG. While primarily an automatic, the STEPTRONIC unit allows for some manual control, as well. The SMG, however, is a clutchless manual that shifts according to paddles behind the steering wheel. It also includes an automated mode. Standard are 4-wheel disc brakes, with ABS and Dynamic Brake Control. Dynamic Stability Control, and traction control, with optional Active Roll Stabilization and Active Steering. The interior is laden with safety technology, such as two-stage Smart airbags, door-mounted side-impact airbags, an Impact Sensor that unlocks the doors, turns on the hazard lights, and illuminates the interior in the event of a collision and an Intelligent Safety and Information System that coordinates the activation of all safety features.
How does it handle?
We drove each of the new models out of the Beverly Hills city traffic to the hills and dales of Malibu Canyon and the Ojai backcountry, on a course of more than 200 miles, where there was ample opportunity to dart in and out of congestion, apply power, scrub the velocity of forward momentum, steer along zig-zagging pavement, and cruise the freeway. It handles just the way you'd expect a luxury sportscar to handle. It moves quickly when power is needed, stops in a graduated and effortless way, takes corners with ease (we'd like a little more off-center feel to the steering) and a minimal amount of body roll, and sounds grrreat, with just the right amount of throaty throttle.
We are still not sold on BMW's iDrive system, even though we have tried it out in the 7-Series and 5-Series models. Even with practice, we were not able to operate it with ease and, until this system is integrated into the driver's knowledge base, for us, is perceived as a driver distraction to engage it while driving. Bring a passenger and your manual along!
Page 10: BMW Notes
Engine: 4.4-liter V8 (325 hp @6,100 rpm, 330 lb.-ft. @3,600 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed manual; 6-speed manual SMG; 6-speed automatic with STEPTRONIC
Wheelbase: 109.4 in.
Length: 190.2 in.
Width: 73 in.
Height: 54.1 in.
Curb weight, lbs.: 3,781 (Coupe), 4,178 (Convertible)
Fuel economy: 15-18 city/22-26 highway mpg
Safety equipment: four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Dynamic Brake Control; Dynamic Stability Control; Dynamic Traction Control; Two-stage dual frontal airbags; side-impact airbags (door-mounted); Head Protection System; Intelligent Safety and Information System; Adaptive Brake Lights