BMW's improved 6 Series Gran Coupe four-door is very desirable. Jonathan Crouch reports on the 640d diesel variant.
Ten Second Review
The now sleeker-looking BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe offers a wonderfully elegant take on the four-door coupe theme and acts as a showcase for BMW's unbeatable blend of performance and efficiency. Big, expensive cars aren't always that easy to like right now, but here's one that doesn't put a foot wrong, especially in diesel 640d form.
This might be a controversial view, but I don't think BMW is a great innovator when it comes to model development. It's a fiendishly smart company in the field of engineering but it's rarely first to the punch when it comes to cars that break new ground. What BMW most certainly represents is a great finisher. Although it might take some time to enter the fray, when it does it often delivers a knock-out punch. It might well argue that who arrives first in the ring is irrelevant, it's who's left standing at the end that counts. Such is the case with the 6 Series Gran Coupe. Cynics might scoff that BMW is only now attempting to copy something Mercedes-Benz came up with in 2005 with its CLS, namely a premium four-door coupe, and they'd have a point. We can only judge what we see in front of us in the here and now, however, and BMW looks to be onto a surefire winner with the Gran Coupe. Let's try the 640d variant that most UK buyers will want.
Performance is very strong - the 313PS 640d will get to 62mph from rest in 5.4 seconds and like every variant in the range, is artificially limited to a 155mph maximum. That means an identical set of speed stats to those you'd get in the petrol 3.0-litre V6 variant - but a rather different driving experience. In the petrol 640i, you're often tempted to take control of the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission yourself, setting the thing into manual mode and using the steering wheel-mounted paddles in order to try to wring the most performance out of it. Here in the diesel, there's so much torque available that you'll mostly end up leaving the gearbox to its own devices. After all, the engine always has plenty in reserve. That's assuming you're not tempted to play with what BMW calls 'Drive Performance Control'. It's a switchable system that, depending on your mood, allows you to vary the responsiveness of the gearbox, the steering, the throttle and the level of assistance provided by the Dynamic Stability Control set-up. There's a choice of four settings, with the two most relaxed being the ones you'll use most frequently - 'Comfort' for laid-back use or 'ECO PRO' to optimise clean frugality. When the road does open up, it's time to click into 'Sport' or, if you're really feeling confident, the most extreme 'Sport+' setting.
Design and Build
Not all recent BMW designs have been really elegant - but this one is. Here, we've an executive saloon on a casual dress-down day, a car with all the proportions of a classic Grand Touring coupe, yet most of the spaciousness you'd find in a luxury four-door. Styling changes to the front of this improved version include smarter LED headlights, a BMW kidney grille that now features nine bars where previously it had 10 and a single, full-width air intake in the restyled apron. At the rear, this 6 Series now appears wider thanks to a horizontal chrome bumper insert which aims to draw attention to the wide rear track. Six-cylinder models also have 10mm larger chrome tailpipe embellishers in enlarged cut-outs and re-styled side mirrors improve the car's aerodynamic properties and contain slim horizontal indicator strips. Finally, the the side window surround has been revised and houses a black painted aluminium section with raised "Gran Coupe" lettering at the foot of the Hofmeister kink on the C-pillar. Inside, the standard leather dashboard with contrast stitching - previously an option on all but the M Sport versions - is an immediate clue to the enhanced quality and luxury of this revised range. Plus there's a modern, stylish high-gloss black finish on the centre console around the switches for the climate control system and audio system. This contemporary look complements the iDrive system's more precise Control Display with its chromed surround, the slicker multi-functional instrument panel and the LED lights to illuminate the footwells, door openings and glovebox. Dakota, Nappa or Merino leather trim is standard. As before, there's also a usefully sized boot. This boasts a volume of 460-litres, slightly more than a Panamera but less than an A7 or a CLS, a figure you can extend with a through-loading hatch for longer items, or fold the rear seat backs forward to free up as much as 1,265-litres of total space.
Market and Model
You'll need a budget of around £63,000 for this 640d. Add around £4,500 to that if you want the M Sport package with its aesthetic upgrades. So you're looking at a premium of around £2,500 over the petrol 640i variant, a figure most potential customers will be quite happy to pay. The choices that face a 6 Series Gran Coupe buyer are sure to make for long hours spent at an online configurator but that's all part of the fun of buying new, isn't it? You get a choice of leather upholstery and trim, electric seat adjustment with memory function for the front seats, automatic air conditioning with 2-zone regulation, xenon headlights and a punchy BMW Professional stereo system. The options list presents some tempting selections including Adaptive LED Headlights and the Bang & Olufsen High-End Surround Sound System. Driver assistance systems and mobile services available with BMW ConnectedDrive include technology such as the BMW Head-Up Display with full-colour graphics, the parking assistant, Surround View, Active Cruise Control with the Stop & Go function, Lane Departure Warning System, Speed Limit Info, High-Beam Assistant and BMW Night Vision with pedestrian warning.
Cost of Ownership
The usual BMW mantra that once you've bought the car it will prove inexpensive to run is only true up to a point with the 6 Series Gran Coupe. It pays to remember that this is a big, powerful car and this sort of vehicle has, in recent years, taken a bit of a beating come trade-in time. Residual values of the Gran Coupe are holding very firm indeed which is more than encouraging. That's largely due to the efficiency of its engine technology as well as its inherent desirability. Clearly this may well change if there's oversupply in the market, but for the time being it looks a decent home for your money. Some of the fuel economy and emissions figures are little short of incredible for cars with this sort of performance potential. The 640d Gran Coupe can average 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and emits just 143g/km of carbon dioxide. You'll need to have the Drive Performance Control set to the 'ECO PRO' mode to get these kinds of returns of course, a setting that'll also give you a series of efficiency driving coaching tips (whether you want them or not). Other technology responsible for delivering these impressive figures includes an efficient eight speed transmission, electric power steering, brake energy regeneration to help reduce alternator drag and, most importantly, a start/stop system that cuts the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights.
Some BMW models have been rather divisive of late, whether it be their styling, their philosophy or their pricing. It's refreshing to find a car that brooks almost no debate. Everybody loves the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe. If ever a car had an inherent rightness about it, this could be it. Perhaps the only slight argument against it is that it's a big, powerful car being introduced when small, green-focused models are a good deal more fashionable. That said, the BMW's economy and emissions figures are quite staggeringly good for a car with real continent-crushing Gran Turismo ability. It's hard to know where the pick of the range is, but if pressed, I'd plump for this 640d model. It's a car where you won't feel guilty about using its performance and with more torque than a BMW M5 under its right pedal, it'll prove an overtaking weapon of rare brilliance. BMW might have arrived at the four-door coupe party fashionably late, but the wait's been worth it.