This is the new 2012 BMW 6-series Gran Coupe – and it’s been a long time coming. Such is the pace of the modern automotive industry that as soon as one (usually premium German) manufacturer finds a new niche, its rivals rush in too. But Mercedes genuinely stole a march on the competition when it launched its CLS ‘four-door coupe’ in 2005: the E-class underpinnings were disguised by swoopy shapes both inside and out, and only recently has the opposition started to catch up.
It’s taken BMW longer than most. Model cycles and product plans caught BMW out so only now, with the advent of the latest 6-series, has Munich been able to create a rival for the CLS. Not that Munich believes the 6-series Gran Coupe is a CLS rival. Instead it claims Porsche’s Panamera is its real opposition – and the price list concurs as the 640d is £14k dearer than the equivalent CLS.
Is the Gran Coupe any good? Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the new BMW 640d Gran Coupe…
So just what is the BMW 6-series Gran Coupe?
The basic chassis architecture (double wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear) is shared with the 6-series Coupe and Convertible, as well as the 5-series, 5-series Gran Turismo and 7-series. But versus the Six Coupe and Convertible there’s now an extra 113mm of length between the axles (all for back-seat passengers) and the roofline is 23mm higher too.
It’s an elegant but aggressive shape, the angular ‘shark nose’ identical to its two-door siblings', the sides similarly scalloped, before the raised roof leads back and drops down to the upright rear. The M Sport kit (expected to be an option chosen by over 80% of Gran Coupe customers) adds more angular front and rear bumpers, 19in alloys, black brake calipers, darkened exhaust tailpipe tips, dark chrome exterior trim, sportier seats, and an M Sport steering wheel.
And inside the 6-series Gran Coupe?
Those M Sport bits apart it’s standard 6-series, with the dash angled slightly towards the driver and a huge leather-wrapped curvature separating the front passenger from all the controls like they’re some second-class citizen. The massive 10.2in sat-nav screen is standard, as is the leather dash in this M Sport-spec car, but the details necessary to really differentiate the Gran Coupe from the 5-series and 7-series (ceramic finish for the controls and contrast stitching for the dash) are optional extras – £385 and £195 respectively.
To keep up the coupe pretences (or to save on costs) the front seats are shared with the other Sixes, which means integrated seatbelts rather than ones attached to the B-pillar, so if you’re tall they’re constantly tugging down on your right shoulder. As for the back, the extra legroom, higher roof and new seat design means this is the first 6-series that can actually carry four real people in comfort.
What is the 6-series Gran Coupe like to drive?
There’s a choice of three engines, two of which are petrols and will barely be bought by anybody. But if you can’t stand the thought of a diesel Gran Coupe then the 640i (316bhp 3.0-litre straight-six) or 650i (444bhp 4.4-litre V8) might appeal.
But it’s the 640d that will account for around 80% of sales here. The twin-turbo 3.0-litre makes 309bhp, but more importantly there’s a hugely chunky 465lb ft available from 1500rpm to 2500rpm. Which means the 640d is as quick as the 640i to 62mph, and thumps past almost anything between 20mph and 100mph thanks to all that torque. Plus it makes a lovely un-diesel roar too.
Is it vaguely economical?
The official combined fuel consumption figure is over 50mpg thanks to electric power steering (which offers little real communication for the driver to interact with), start/stop and an Eco Pro mode that adjusts the ECU, reduces the throttle’s sensitivity and changes the gearshift characteristics. Thrash it everywhere and you’ll do nearer 30mpg, but 35-40mpg is readily attainable and a lot better than the sub-20mpg an M5 would achieve whilst offering little in the way of extra usable performance.
Beside Eco Pro, the Drive Performance Control selector on the transmission tunnel also has Comfort and Sport modes: pick between a softer, more comfortable ride, lighter steering and relaxed gearshift points, or firmer damping, a heavier helm and more aggressive gearbox tuning.
Our test car had optional 20in alloy wheels shod with run-flat tyres so it really thumped into potholes and smacked over expansion joints and means the ride is never perfectly smooth in Comfort mode. It’s the setting you’d pick though, more calm and comfortable than Sport, which is only necessary if you’re tanking along – which despite the Gran Coupe being more focussed and sportingly accomplished than the 5-series – never feels what it’s been built for.
Best to stick it in Comfort, waft along, surge along on the torque when the overtaking occasion arises, and cover great distances in fine comfort.
More special and sporting than a 5-series, more comfortable and practical than a 6-series Coupe or Convertible, the Gran Coupe is expensive, not perfect, but definitely an appealing means of fast and comfortable transport.