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BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe review (2012 onwards)
What - BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé
Where - Sicily, Italy
Date - May 2012
Price - From £61,390 (BMW 640d Gran Coupé: £63,900)
Available - June 2012
Key rivals - Mercedes CLS, Porsche Panamera, Audi A7 Sportback, BMW 5 Series
Summary: BMW's first four-door coupé is classy to look at, sporting to drive and a surprisingly accomplished package overall.
We like: elegant styling, well-judged ride and handling, superb diesel engine
We don't like: the cheapest car is the weakest, fuzzy steering, 'four plus one' status is stretching things, high-end pricing
BMW is very late to the four-door coupé party. The Mercedes CLS was launched in 2004 - and is now well into its second generation - but only now, six years on, is BMW following suit, with the new 6 Series Gran Coupé.
When the result is this pretty, you can forgive BMW the wait. The 6 Series Gran Coupé is both striking and very elegant in the metal, looking cohesive and proportionally correct in a way the two-door 6 Series doesn't quite manage. The flowing side lines, with their distinctive creases, are pleasing and the shallow, stubby tail is pert.
Closer to the sporting Porsche than the cruising Mercedes
The low, elongated roofline also flows nicely but despite the potential for this to make the interior space cramped, BMW has in fact ensured there's space for up to five people inside. OK, it's naturally a four-seater, but a central 'plus one' pew is available for emergencies. It also has a 460-litre boot that extends, thanks to folding rear seat backs, to 1,265. Practical despite its styling, then.
When it arrives in June, BMW will pitch it to compete with the Porsche Panamera and Audi A7 Sportback as well as the obvious Mercedes. In terms of setup, it's closer to the sporting Porsche than the cruising Mercedes, reckon the engineers. The Gran Coupé costs around £1,800 more than the Coupé, but BMW still expects the latter to sell best. We think differently though...
Three engines are offered in the 6 Series Gran Coupé. The 650i's 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo has just been upgraded, so it now produces a ferocious 450hp. This makes the 320hp of the 3.0-litre straight-six turbo petrol 640i seem rather meager (it feels a bit limp on the road too, demanding high revs to give its best). Expect an update for this in time.
The one you want is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel 640d. Producing a potent 313hp, it's as fast as the 640i, reaching 60mph in 5.4 seconds and going on, like the other two models, to a limited top speed of 155mph.
On the road, it's exceptional. It pulls very strongly with minimal delay, shifting through the standard eight-speed gearbox with flawless refinement. With 464lb ft of torque from 1,500-2,500rpm, it has tremendous reserves and feels both fast yet effortless.
The diesel also genuinely sounds superb. Free-revving, it rorts and wails like a classic straight six petrol, with any gruff dieselesque tendencies completely absent. It's even happy nudging the redline at 4,500rpm-plus. A diesel you'll rev for the fun of it? You bet: don't let a little low-speed clatter fool you, for this engine is a true great.
Ride and handling
The 6 Series Gran Coupé has a longer wheelbase than the regular car, which has a significant impact on both ride quality and driving feel. Basically, it feels more natural, with greater fluidity and a confident, stable assurance, particularly at speed. BMW says the weight distribution is actually better-balanced than in the 6 Series Coupé: it shows.
Appreciably more focused than the comparable 5 Series
For such a long and large car, the 6 Series also shows decent agility in corners. It's not as chuckable as a small car, but the accuracy and balance of the chassis means the car's size is no hindrance. Given its four-door pretentions, it's a dynamic and rewarding drive - and appreciably more focused than the comparable (and still impressive) 5 Series.
To achieve this, BMW started off with the sporting 6 Series Coupé setup, rather than the softer 5 Series settings, so it's naturally an appreciably more driver-centric car than BMW's other four-door executive car. To counter the effect on ride, attention to spring and damper tuning focused on taking the edge off bumps for rear seat passengers and, overall, it strikes a very nice balance for all four occupants.
The one proviso is that all the test cars were fitted with BMW's adaptive dampers, which give computer-controlled variation of settings according to driving conditions. This is optional in the UK: it's a must-have, we'd say. We wouldn't bother with the Integral Active Steering though: while accurate, the steering is disappointingly fuzzy straight-ahead and in small inputs: it needs more natural purity, not more complexity.
Getting into the 6 Series Gran Coupé is an event. Not only is it relatively low, as all good coupés should be, it also has lightweight all-aluminium frameless doors: opening them feels like accessing something that bit more special than normal - an effect magnified if the windows are lowered. Pure drama.
The same peerless dashboard as the 6 Series Coupé features within: it cocoons occupants and adds to the sense of being in a genuine coupé rather than a four-door saloon. It is made from impeccably rich and high-quality materials that are packed with satisfying details.
Front passengers face it from low-set seats, which electrically adjust in multiple directions and hug hips in a convincing coupé-like way. The rear seats are also bucket-style and optimised for four. BMW says the middle seat can take a 'plus one' occupant: we wonder where their legs will go, and just how long they'll be able to tolerate it. At least the option (and the three-point seatbelt) is there.
We wonder where their legs will go
Although a bit low and awkward to get into, the rear is roomy, with ample head- and knee-room (just watch the front seats: if occupants set them too low, foot-room disappears). The boot opening is a bit small but swallows a decent amount of luggage - weekend bags for four won't be a problem and it also takes the inevitable set of golf clubs.
Economy and safety
Both the 650i (31.7mpg) and the 640d (an astounding 49.6mpg) deliver class-leading fuel economy figures. The weak link is the 640i: 35.8mpg is OK, but the Mercedes CLS 350 BlueEfficiency is better. All engines get stop-start and the fuel-saving BMW ECO PRO user-chooser efficiency mode.
Airbags are fitted all round - it's a 'coupé' but BMW hasn't forgotten the needs of those in the rear - and a whole host of safety gadgetry is optionally available. One nice feature is standard though: front seatbelts are built into the seats, rather than coming from the centre pillar. Seemingly a detail, they actually hold the driver that bit more securely and confidently.
The MSN Cars verdict
The 6 Series Gran Coupé doesn't steal headlines in the way a new Mercedes CLS would - blame the 6 Series tag in the name. However, it's so much more than merely a 6 Series derivative, for it gives much-needed focus to a car that's long been inherently able but also slightly characterless.
BMW's first-ever four-door coupé has been late coming, but it's worth it. Beautiful to look at, pleasing to drive, nice to sit in and with a stormer of a diesel engine, it's not cheap and not quite the perfect dynamic drive, but it's still very appealing and easily the choice 6 Series of the three.
Need to know (640i petrol, 650i petrol, 640d diesel)
Engines: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel, 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol, 4.4-litre V8 turbo petrol
Torque: 331-479lb ft
0-62mph: 4.6-5.4 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
MPG, combined: 31.7-49.6mpg
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