Ralph Fiennes. Now there’s a fine actor. And so versatile too. He’s one of those chameleon-like thespians who doesn’t merely act, he “becomes”. In fact he’s so good at becoming his character that you forget he’s actually acting in the movie. That evil Nazi camp commander in Schindler’s List? The determined husband in The Constant Gardener? Lord Voldemort himself? Oh yes, all our man Ralph.
Even his name is versatile. You could call him “Ralph” as in "Alf" – the nice chap he is, no doubt he’ll leave your faux pax unchallenged – but those familiar with the arcane enunciations of really posh English names know it’s pronounced “Rafe”.
The new BMW 650i, you’ll be pleased to know, is a lot like Ralph.
Like the English actor, the German automobile is equally capable of several different roles. Thanks to its Drive Dynamic Control and the very clever electronics this employs, you essentially own three different cars, all accessed via a couple of buttons on the centre consol. Toggling between Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ you have anything from corduroy-jacket wearing Quiz Show college professor Ralph, to pasty-skinned, ethereal-cloak-of-pure-evil-wearing Harry Potter Ralph at your beck and call.
In Comfort mode the Beemer will happily tootle around the ’burbs with softer suspension settings and appropriately chilled out throttle, steering, and gear change responses. In this persona, it’s a total bullevard cruiser, perfect for a slo-mo glide up to the nearest red carpet.
But flip it two notches up into Sport+…and the car shapeshifts into something entirely different. Now it’s a powerful and lithe athlete. The twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 releases the full wrath of its 300kW, the suspension adopts a far more purposeful pose, and the gearbox swaps cogs with the kind of speed that requires an Einsteinian equation.
Make no mistake, this is a big, heavy car, but in Sport+ it behaves like anything but that. It’s nimble, responsive and flippin’… flippin’… fast. Scary fast. In fact the in-between Sport mode rather than Sport+ is probably the option most suitable for the kind day-to-day road driving that’ll still put a smile on your face without needing a change of underwear.
Like Ralph, this Bavarian’s versatility extends to its name too. It’s the BMW 650 to some… but to those in the know… it’s Beh Em Veh Sechs Fünfzig. Not so Ralph?
The BMW 650i sells for R1 149 773
(as published in the Kulula in-flight mag, Khuluma)