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A Be-Seen Beemer

A Be-Seen Beemer

Mountain Life
By Jason Harper
posted: 10/17/2001

It's a curious seasonal migration. In summer the adventure-seekers and scene-makers of highfalutin New York City take their Mercedeses, Lexuses and chauffeured Town Cars to the Hamptons for the weekends. In winter they head north to the ski slopes of Vermont. As a Westerner, it's taking me time to adjust to Eastern skiing, but the parade of fine vehicles fleeing the city is always a fascinating spectacle.

So it is in early spring that I decide to tempt the Fates and head north in a convertible. My choice: a brand-new BMW 645Ci convertible with rear-wheel drive, summer tires and a fine silvery finish that's never known the sting of salt. Perfect.

I convince my pal Rahul to take Friday off so we can beat the rush. But packing the car gives us pause. The Beemer has semi-functional back seats, and it comes with run-flat tires, so there's no need for a spare. But while it's got more storage room than most convertibles, we quickly realize we'd need engineering degrees and a set of torches to get two pairs of skis in it. So we bring boots and plan to demo skis.

I've grumbled over BMW's recent designs, but the 645Ci quickly ingratiates itself with a pleasing silhouette and its 4.4-liter V-8's frisky 325 horses. It drives surely, powerfully and responsively. We make swift work of the delivery trucks in Manhattan and are soon on familiar roads to ski freedom. The 645Ci has a long sloping hood, a sharply raked windshield and a short, elevated back end that terminates in an incongruously bulky trunk. But all in all, it's a looker, and at $77,000, it's a bargain among status cars.

BMW offers three types of six-speed transmission on the 645Ci: a manual, a Steptronic automatic and a sequential manual with steering wheel-mounted shifting paddles. Our Steptronic is easygoing in stop-and-go traffic, yet still feisty. And it's packed with technology: Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity, headlights that swivel as the car corners and the iDrive system-a center-mounted lever that controls everything from the air to the radio.

We stop at a favorite diner at the top of the Taconic Parkway, and when we finish, the sun's shining. It's not exactly balmy out, but in 20 seconds we've dropped the soft top. We put on coats, crank the heat and seat-warmers, raise the glass rear wind-block, and we're off. Rahul's at the wheel. He owns the lighter, very wicked BMW M3, but he gives the 645Ci a hearty run when we hit Vermont's two-lane roads. He's grinning, so I can see he approves. We get more than a few long looks from the locals, but as the sunlight streaks our faces and our ears burn in the cold, I smile. My skis might be sitting at home, but I'm not.

MARCH/APRIL 2005

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