2012 BMW 6 SERIES REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury four-door coupe
Price: $184,800 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy listed: 7.8 l/100km | tested: 10.7 l/100km
We don’t often comment on how a car looks - you know, “beauty in the eye of the beholder” and all that stuff - but who could not be smitten by the lines of BMW’s 640i Gran Coupe?
It’s jaw-droppingly stunning; the kind of car that has you speeding up for a closer look should you glimpse it in the traffic ahead.
This is a car with a rare presence. Even with two more doors and a longer body, the 640i Gran Coupe has the 6 Series coupe and convertible whipped for balance and style.
But what’s it like to drive? Is there such a thing as a BMW where style wins over substance?
Almost everything forward of the B-pillar is shared with the 6-Series coupe; build quality is exceptional and all materials and surfaces are simply top-shelf.
Everything from the leather-upholstered dashboard to the machined aluminium trim-highlights is very, very upmarket, and the asymmetric dashboard design looks very distinctive indeed.
In fact, we can’t find a single quality-related gripe.
Comfort: Here’s where the 'Big Six' starts to lose a little of its lustre. Unfortunately, despite its sizable footprint, the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe is rather small on the inside.
The driver’s seat is fine, but, thanks to that eye-catching dash, the front passenger’s kneeroom is compromised.
Back seat occupants have good leg-room (and also get a pair of face-level air vents), but headroom is poor due to the Gran Coupe’s low-slung roofline.
BMW also proposes the Gran Coupe as a five-seater, but one look at the centre seat will be enough to make you think twice about shoving someone in the centre. Ever ridden a camel? The Gran Coupe’s middle perch delivers a similar experience.
Equipment: While lesser BMWs can sometimes be accused of having standard equipment lists that look a little bare, the 640i Gran Coupe boasts a lengthy spec-sheet with plenty of gizmos as standard.
Take the standard full-colour head up display, for example. Or perhaps internet connectivity - also standard on the 640i Gran Coupe.
There’s keyless entry and ignition too, along with LED headlamps, LED foglamps, quad-zone climate control, a 10.2-inch infotainment display and high beam assist.
Add all that to the typical luxury staples of dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, USB audio inputs, Bluetooth telephony and a glass sunroof, and it’s clear that the 640i Gran Coupe is already very well specced.
Our car had a few optional extras, including blind spot monitor, BMW’s Surround View camera system, Bluetooth audio integration and a high-end stereo with digital radio tuner.
It was also equipped with the optional M Sport package ($8700), which brings 20-inch lightweight alloys, a sportier front fascia, a black headliner, blacked-out exterior trim and an M Sport steering wheel.
Storage: Measuring 460 litres and with a flat floor, there's room for a couple of golf bags in the 640i’s boot. Fold down the 60/40 split rear seats, and the 640i will swallow up to 1265 litres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Beneath the 640i Gran Coupe’s long, sleek bonnet lies BMW’s outstanding 3.0 litre turbocharged inline six.
It’s virtually the same engine that sees service in everything from the 1 Series to the 7 Series (only the X1 and X3 don’t get the turbo six), and it’s an absolute gem of an motor.
Producing 235kW and 450Nm, the inline six (dubbed N55 by BMW) has a surging linear powerband and almost indiscernible turbo lag. It’s blissfully smooth, pulls like a train and relishes high revs.
But it’s also more than happy to lug around at low RPM. Peak torque is on tap from 1300rpm all the way to 4500rpm, giving the N55 immense low-end tractability. (And, perhaps it’s needed, given the 640i’s kerb weight of 1750kg.)
Power hits the road from the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic, which, like the N55, does duty in a wide range of BMW models.
With the drive mode selector in ‘Comfort’, gear shifts slur smoothly and the gearbox keeps the engine revving low to conserve fuel.
But switch it into Sport or Sport+, and the drivetrain takes on a different personality. Throttle response is sharper and gearchanges quicker. Drive aggressively with the gear selector in “S” and the gearbox will hold lower gears almost until redline, even when off the throttle.
There is also manual control, either by the plus-minus plane on the gear selector itself, or via a pair of wheel-mounted shift paddles.
But whichever mode you select, this is a seriously quick point-to-point executive tourer. A 5.4 second 0-100km/h time is nothing to be sneezed at.
Refinement: Besides its impressive grunt and linear powerband, the 640i’s 3.0 litre turbo engine is known for one other thing: its smoothness.
From idle to redline, the engine is almost turbine smooth. Engine noise is muted too, but has a sporty edge to it when the engine is spinning hard.
With such a sleek shape, it’s no surprise that wind noise is almost entirely absent at high speed. The optional 20-inch wheels of our car did transmit a bit of road roar, but otherwise the 640i Gran Coupe’s cabin is a quiet one.
Suspension: The standard suspension is comfortable enough for urban commutes, although we think the regular 19-inch wheels may be a more back-friendly choice than the 20-inchers fitted to our tester.
Compared to the two-door 6 Series, the Gran Coupe’s wheelbase is nearly 10cm longer. That translates into handling that’s a bit more predictable at the limit, and a lot more benign.
Thanks to double wishbones up front and a multi-link rear suspension - not to mention a true 50:50 weight distribution - it’s superbly balanced when punted around a twisty road, and won’t bite suddenly when pushed to the threshold of grip.
The only problem is that the electric power steering doesn’t communicate exactly when that point is reached. The steering wheel has a nice weight to it, but it’s just not as talkative as some other electrically-assisted systems.
Braking: Big brakes, big stopping power and a nice responsive pedal. No problems to report with the 640i’s all-disc braking hardware.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: All seats get three-point seat belts (yes, even the “occasional use only” centre seat), with the front seats gaining pretensioners and anti-whiplash headrests.
Standard safety equipment includes six airbags (front, front side and full-length curtain), along with stability control (switchable), dual-mode traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and cornering brake control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years.
Service costs: Servicing costs can vary according to vehicle usage, and BMW does not set rigid maintenance intervals. Consult your local BMW dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 ($164,070) - Mercedes-Benz’s counterpart to the 640i Gran Coupe is the CLS 350, which has a similarly low-slung four door coupe body style, but is shorter, slightly narrower and taller than the BMW.
Its naturally-aspirated 225kW/370Nm 3.5 litre petrol V6 falls well short of the 640i’s outputs, but perhaps the CLS 350’s emphasis is more on luxury than sporting ability.
However, it’s more affordable than the 640i Gran Coupe by a significant margin. (see CLS reviews)
Audi S7 Sportback ($179,900) - The S7 is Audi’s own four-door coupe offering, and with a 228kW/440Nm supercharged 3.0 litre V6 it also comes closest to the BMW for sheer power.
The Audi also has the extra grip of its standard quattro AWD, but carries a significant weight penalty because of it.
Interior quality is great in the S7, and like the BMW it comes standard with a wide array of mod-cons. (see A7 reviews)
Porsche Panamera GT ($201,400) - Porsche’s interpretation of a fast four-door is polarising to some, but it comes with a significant performance pedigree.
Its naturally-aspirated 3.6 litre petrol V6 only has 220kW, yet torque is a substantial 400Nm, driving through a seven-speed twin clutch transmission.
The base Panamera hits 100km/h from standstill in 6.3 seconds - nearly a full second behind the BMW, which is the fastest in this group. (see Panamera reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you’re in the market for a car that makes a powerful and exclusive statement, the 6 Series Gran Coupe deserves your consideration.
It’s beautiful, swift, classy and refined. It is also, we think, better looking than its two-door siblings, and well worth the seven grand premium over the 640i Coupe.
But for us, we think the syrupy-smooth turbo six suits the Gran Coupe’s elegant form rather well. You won't be disappointed.