Hardened BMW fans (I’d put myself under that umbrella) might still be coming to terms with cars like the X6 and X1, but huge sales figures render our furrowed brows rather irrelevant. Even so, it’s nice to be reporting on a niche BMW that’s not a quasi off-roader. In fact the new 6-Series should keep traditionalists very happy. Based on the excellent 5-Series chassis but tuned for a more dynamic experience and with a lower centre-of-gravity, there’s every chance it’ll be a fantastic GT with a really sporty edge.
The 6-Series will initially be available as a 640i, 640d or 650i. We drove the £59,550 640i, which actually has a 3-litre Twinpower (single twin-scroll turbo) engine producing 316bhp and 332lb ft. It’s hooked-up to an 8-speed ZF torque converter auto, more of which later. In the UK the 640d, priced from £62,080, will take the vast majority of sales… so well try to get a go in that one soon.
Sounds promising. Does the driving experience live-up to the spec?
The drivetrain is absolutely fabulous. The engine is super-smooth and the 640i easily feels good for its 0-62mph claim of 5.4-seconds. You can rachet-up the speed of shifts, tighten the suspension and alter the steering weight via the grandly titled Driving Experience Control switch. In Eco Pro mode the 640i feels like the throttle’s broken but the ride is excellent and it has the potential to deliver 36.7mpg. Shuffle through Comfort+, Comfort and then into Sport and Sport+ and it’s more BMW-like. Body control is good, there’s tons of grip and the gearbox really snaps through ratios like a twin-clutch system. There’s no need to use the paddle shifters, but you probably will because it adds just a bit more fun and control.
So it does the numbers, but is it exciting?
Exciting is perhaps too strong a word. Nothing wrong with the performance, nor the outright grip and composure of the chassis, but 1735kg is quite a lot of weight and the 6-Series never fully shrugs of its mass. More of a concern is the Active Steering system (an option that brings active rear wheel steer for added agility), which is very sticky at speed and highly unnatural. The idea is that this system makes the car easier to drive by speeding up the steering rack at low speeds (for parking or dealing with tight bends) and slowing it down for stability as speeds increase. The reality is that the front never reacts the same way twice, undermining confidence. Perhaps this would fade with time, but drivers who appreciate consistent controls will struggle to warm to the set-up.
The 6-Series is a hugely wide car, too. I suspect it might feel a bit too chunky on narrow UK roads for enthusiastic driving. Of course there’s more to a GT car than its outright handling balance and here the 6-Series looks more attractive. There’s plenty of room for adults in the back, a big boot and the interior is genuinely excellent. The quality is superb and it feels suitably expensive. Add that to the superb refinement and you get a car that would be a real treat on long journeys. You’d be very happy driving down to the Route Napoleon or the Alps… just don’t expect the Six to morph into a thrilling sportscar when you get there.
How does it compare with rivals?
So the new 6-Series is essentially a much-improved version of the old car. The centre of its appeal is the superb drivetrain, the quality of the interior and its relative practicality. A Jaguar XK is nothing like as practical or efficient but is probably a shade more fun, a Maser GranTurismo is perhaps closest to the BMW in concept but costs vastly more. It’s a good car, no question. But my hardened BMW enthusiast tendencies means that I can’t help being a little disappointed that it’s not more fun to drive.