- Published: Thursday, 12 October 2017 06:01
The new BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo is a strange beast, but it’s also a surprisingly sensible one. Read on to find out why...
LISBON, PORTUGAL — Before we get into the BMW 6 Series GT, or Gran Turismo, please put your hand up if you remember the 5 Series GT. Of course you don’t, because no one bought them.
So you’re unlikely to shed a tear to learn that it’s been quietly discontinued, especially since the 6 Series GT has risen from its ashes. As far as cars go it’s a fairly strange machine, mixing the…
Woah, woah, woah, just wait a darn minute! A BMW 6 Series is a coupe. Not… this!
Thanks for interrupting, but I was just about to say that the 6 Series Gran Turismo mixes and matches a few concepts: the sportiness and low-slung looks of a coupe with the utility of a hatchback.
Didn’t the 5 Series GT do that?
Well, yes, but this is a bit more coupe than that car was, in that the proportions are different. It’s longer (by 87mm) and lower (21mm) for a more slinky side profile, and crucially, the caboose end has been made more, uh, graceful. It sits 64mm lower than the 5 GT’s backside.
Here, see for yourself:
There’s a pop-up rear wing that deploys at 110km/h to cut lift, too. Pretty racy, no?
Hmmm, ok, it looks better than its predecessor, but that doesn’t justify the change in model number, surely?
Maybe not by itself, but there are a couple of other factors are play here. Andreas Ederer, the product head for the new car, says BMW is committing to odd numbers for its “core concept” models, and even numbers of its more “emotional” ones. This means, incidentally, that there won’t be another 3 Series Gran Turismo. Instead, it’ll be followed by a 4 Series GT.
Ok, seems logical. But a 6 Series isn’t about logic. Where’s the emotion?
Well, I’ll let Ederer field that one. “It’s a faster looking car (than the 5 GT), and that justifies the 6 Series badge,” he says. Mind you, it’s not just fast-looking, but fast. The base model will be a 630i with 258hp, and that trots to 100km/h in just 6.3 seconds.
There won’t be a V8 model, so that makes the 640i that we tried the range-topper. It cracks 100km/h in 5.4 seconds.
Good to drive, then?
Well, it’s a heavy car, at either side of 1.8 tonnes, and you do feel all that mass on tighter twisties. It really could use more steering feedback, too. You just don’t feel much through the thick-rimmed tiller as you ease it one way or another.
But get past that and it’s a devastatingly fast machine, and one that’s almost missile-like in its ability to smoothly and rapidly cover distances. It’s just so unruffled and fast in the way it picks up speed, and the engine’s a beauty; feeling it pull hard and hearing its cultured purr are a twin delight that you’ll want to indulge in repeatedly. Only that puts you well into three-figure speeds in no time so, well, you shouldn’t if you’re in Singapore.
Well, say I’m not in Singapore but out somewhere with nice roads and nicer policemen, then…
In those circumstances the 640i GT is a lovely partner, responding deftly to steering inputs and generally shrugging off your efforts to break the tyre’s hold on the road.
But here’s a caveat: our test car came with pretty much every existing chassis enhancer known to man. It had rear axle steering (to tighten its turning circle for sharp bends while making the car less twitchy on the highway), BMW’s “xDrive” all-wheel drive system, air suspension with active dampers, and a body roll canceling system.
A version without these might feel behave completely differently, although it might also feel more satisfyingly organic, as well.
Some of those systems sound familiar.
They should. You can have them on the 5 and 7 Series, along with the Adaptive driving mode that sets the car up for corners using satnav info.
If you know those cars, there’s an air of familiarity to the cabin, too, from the gesture controls to the built-in ionizer to the touchscreen display to the use of matte aluminium.
There’s the same cocooned feeling inside the car, too, and in that sense it’s almost more Lexus than BMW: silent, insulated, and vault-like in its build.
But why the need to package all that into this sort of body?
Because… actually, this is still a bit of a head scratcher. It’s a fast and supremely comfortable car with light controls, but somehow BMW decided that it needs to be useful, too.
Accordingly, there’s an enormous boot that holds up to 610 litres with the rear seats up and 1,800 if you fold them — that’s second in size only to the X5’s vast behind. It’s all been designed thoughtfully, too. You can drop the rear seats with a button from the boot, and there’s an underfloor compartment for the luggage covers.
Aha, let me guess, big boot, cramped rear seating, right?
Actually, no. It’s fairly enormous in the back, with mildly reclining seats and somehow, a huge amount of headroom even though the car has a lower roofline than the 5 Series GT had.
Some of that is explained by the fact that the Gran Turismo has the same wheelbase as a standard 7 Series. In fact, don’t like that fastback shape fool you; it’s actually quite a big car, like less than a centimetre shorter than a 7.
So why not just buy a 7 Series, then?
Because, duh, the proposition is different here: it’s a bit sharper than a 7 Series to drive and it looks more racy. I mean it’s got frameless windows and a pop-up rear spoiler, for goodness’ sake.
And why not a 5 Series? Because it’ll be less commonplace, it’s still damn spacious inside, and the boot will carry crates of wine. It’s just a subtly different animal altogether, too — you sit 60mm higher than in the 5 Series, but lower than in an X5, so you neither flop down nor climb up into the 6 Series Gran Turismo.
OK, now I’m getting it finally — this is a car for richer, older guys!
Bingo. If you’re younger you’ll want, say, an M4 and all its attendant violence. This one is a comfortable mile-muncher that’s big, spacious and plush. And yes, the 5 Series GT was that, too, but its challenging looks made it a tough sell. This car is better, but also easier on the eye and thus, likely to be a bit more acceptable.
But, what if I want a 6 Series that’s actually a coupe?
Well, you’ll have to wait till next year for the upcoming 8 Series. It’s likely that the 6 Series range will soon consist only of this Gran Turismo and a Gran Coupe, while the proper two-door coupe and convertible market is served by the 8 Series.
Not to worry, though — as far as the Gran Turismo is concerned, the 6 is greater than the 5, so maybe for the coupes, 8 will be greater than 6.
NEED TO KNOW BMW 640i Gran Turismo*
Engine 2,998cc, inline 6, turbocharged
Power 340hp at 5,500-6,500rpm
Torque 450Nm at 1,380-5,200rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h (limited)
0-100km/h 5.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.4L/100km (estimated)
CO2 169g/km (estimated)
Price To be announced
Agent Performance Motors Limited
*we drove an xDrive model at the car’s launch, but this is the one you’ll be getting