Saturday, February 2, 2013
BMW 6-series Gran Coupe
BMW's four-door answer to the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7 is here, wrapped in stretched 6-series coupe sheetmetal. Like the 6er coupe, it is mechanically similar to the 5-series—following the pattern of the A7 and CLS, which are rebodied versions of the Audi A6 and Benz E-class.
Having the 5-series as a base means weight—and a lot of it. With identical engines and drivelines, the Gran Coupe adds about 200 pounds to its respective 5-series. That puts the base 640i somewhere near 4300 pounds; the upper limit will be set by the all-wheel-drive 650i xDrive, at 4550.
From behind the wheel, however, this BMW manages to mask its abundant heft with some success, thanks in part to the adjustable chassis. It offers multiple settings, although each generally has trade-offs. Sport and sport plus are our clear favorites, with stiffer suspension settings and minimized body roll, although these modes can amplify the car’s general tendency to go a bit jittery over broken pavement. Sport plus claims to loosen the reins of the stability-control system, but we couldn’t really tell a difference. Down the settings ladder, comfort will improve the ride but sacrifices agility. Comfort plus was a mode we avoided at all costs, as it turns the car too soft and brings even more artificiality to the electrically boosted steering. (The 650i xDrive Gran Coupe has hydraulic power steering.)
Focus on the Familiar
As are those of other 6-series models, the Gran Coupe's cockpit is beautifully executed. The front seats and the outboard rear seats offer a satisfying level of lateral support, even for larger people. Finding a proper driving position is a snap. Rear-seat room is merely okay, however, considering the Gran Coupe is three inches shy of a short-wheelbase 7-series in overall length. It won’t be an issue unless you sit behind a particularly gangly front occupant, so there’s no need to fear being stuffed in the back for a few hundred miles.
The Gran Coupe is offered with three engines in Europe, two of which we’ll get in the 640i and 650i. The former is powered by a 315-hp, 3.0-liter, single-turbo gasoline inline-six producing 330 lb-ft of torque; the latter uses BMW’s twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V-8 with 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. (We won’t see the 640d or its 309-hp diesel six with 465 lb-ft of torque.) Both models feature a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic that shifts flawlessly and quickly, and there’s enough grunt at nearly any speed—particularly in the 650i—that it hardly matters which gear you’re in. We’re told a manual transmission could come later.
We estimate that the 640i will hit 60 mph in 5.3 seconds; it will top out at a governed 155 mph. That is really quick, although the N55 engine's soundtrack leaves a bit to be desired. The 650i sounds fantastic and should hit 60 about a second quicker—we peg it at 4.5—but you’ll pay dearly for those delights at the gas pump. If you don’t care about fuel prices and none of the foregoing numbers excites, an M6 Gran Coupe appears to be on the way.
Our initial exposure to the 6 Gran Coupe leaves us with a positive vibe—it looks fantastic and is tastefully executed—but there are alternatives. BMW likes to consider the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera, and Aston Martin Rapide as competitors, although we’d say the A7 and Jaguar’s XF and XJ are more akin to this new 6-series than the Aston in particular.