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BMW 6 Series Coupé review (2011 onwards)
Summary: New BMW 6 Series Coupé promises to be more than just the Convertible with a solid lid - but is it sharp enough to thrill or does the presence of a new Eco Pro driving mode suggest BMW's Ultimate Driving Machine priorities have shifted?
We like: stonking engine and gearbox combo, quality interior, Eco Pro impressive, loads of available tech
We don't like: lacks emotional involvement and true driving excitement, Integral Active Steering odd (but also optional)
Coming some five months after we first drove the new BMW 6 Series Convertible, we've had plenty of time to adjust to the new 6 Series Coupé's appearance.
Lower and wider than the car it replaces, it's also 74mm longer with an extended wheelbase to improve both ride comfort and interior space; the elongated proportions going hand in hand with the softened, post-flame-surfacing looks.
It's not a pretty car. But the muscular definition of the wheel arches, the unusual - for a BMW - rising swage line, and exaggerated shark nose complete with engorged kidney grille should sit nicely with fans of the brand.
The interior is beautifully finished, too. More importantly, however, BMW says the Coupé is intended to have a sportier feel than the more comfort-orientated Convertible.
Yet even having said that, this remains much more a 'Gran Tourer' than an out and out sports car - complete with space in the boot for no less than three sets of golf clubs.
It's also something of a technical tour de force, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, while the new Driving Experience Control debuts an innovative 'Eco Pro' driving mode for enhanced efficiency.
The new 6 Series Coupé goes on sale later this year with the same set of engines as the Convertible - 640i straight six and 650i V8 turbo petrols, plus the 640d straight six turbodiesel.
On the original Convertible launch test cars were limited to the 650i only, and so with the Coupé we were treated to the 640i alone. The mere 320hp this musters suggests it ought to feel fairly inadequate next to the 650i's 407 ponies.
Not so. At all. In fact, if there is one truly outstanding thing about this new 640i it's the drivetrain - the 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds combination of 3.0-litre 'TwinPower Turbo' six and eight-speed 'Sport' automatic is actually outstanding.
The TwinPower part refers to the redesigned turbocharger system, which takes the previous twin individual turbo set-up and replaces it with what is effectively two turbochargers hidden away in one casing.
Either way, you end up with a car that revs right through the range with serious conviction if you nail the accelerator to the floor, snaps through the upshifts on part throttle torque, or tickles along without drama through town.
What's more, if you resort to the wheel-mounted paddles for a bit of manual control, the gearbox does absolutely everything you ask of it - immediately. No frustrating waiting for downshifts here. Brilliant.
Ride and handling
The new 6 Series is a not insignificant 50 percent torsionally stiffer than the car it replaces, so as basic starting point for the chassis there is plenty of promise - even before the increased sophistication of all the active handling gizmos.
In addition to the Driving Experience Control - which offers a choice of Sport, Sport+, Comfort, Comfort+ and Eco Pro modes - you can also have Dynamic Damper Control, Adaptive Drive and Integral Active Steering.
The launch test cars were optioned-up with everything - which is good and bad. The Dynamic Dampers give you a palpable choice of ride quality, though even in Sport it hardly felt awful over Germany's generally smooth tarmac. Which is good.
Yet as with the Convertible, the 6er Coupé is exceptionally competent, well-balanced front and rear, flat and stable through the corners, generally fast - but it isn't especially exciting. That's bad. And the Active Integral Steering doesn't help.
Including active rear steering, this changes how much you need to turn the wheel depending on how fast you're going. There's a learning curve - to start with it's difficult to use smoothly - but more critically the sheer variability of the system removes any sense of reliable feedback.
Which means you have to take the car's ultimate driving dynamics on faith rather than reason. Since the limits are inevitably high, this is unlikely to be a major issue on the road, but it still saps your sense of involvement.
The interior of the Coupé is naturally similar to that of the Convertible - which is to say more intricate and beautifully finished than your average BMW, with more high-tech toys.
Standard kit includes soft Dakota leather, electric front seat adjustment, parking sensors and satellite navigation - relegating fancier gear, such as the Head-up Display, Night Vision with pedestrian recognition and Bang & Olufsen stereo to the options list.
The big centre console somehow isn't quite as imposing in the Coupé as it is in the Convertible, and the 6er gives a generally restrained but opulent impression from inside the cabin - luxurious but not over the top.
Rear legroom is improved, and while still far from generous it is notably better than the obvious Jaguar XK and Maserati GranTourismo rivals. BMW bills it as a 2+2 rather than a full four-seater, anyway.
Economy and safety
Brand new for the 640i is the new Eco Pro driving mode; like the Comfort and Sport settings this controls the throttle response and the gear selection parameters - but for radical, economy increasing results.
With Eco Pro engaged the engine is encouraged to dig deep into its chunky 332lb ft of torque, rather than downshift - resulting in such a softening of the throttle response it feels like someone has unplumbed the turbos.
Pin the pedal, though, and it will still pick up and go. The point, however, is to encourage you to drive more economically, with a gauge appearing in the dash to show you how far you've managed to increase the range since switching to it.
This and all the other EfficientDynamics measures - including start-stop on the 640i - see the 320hp six return a claimed 36.7mpg combined with just 179g/km CO2 emissions. Safety systems include six airbags, stability control and tyre pressure monitoring.
The MSN Cars verdict
The new BMW 640i Coupé is fast, comfortable and very accomplished. Taken as a 'Gran Tourer' it offers great long distance capability, surprisingly unassuming luxury, a respectable degree of frugality and performance when you need it.
But it doesn't thrill us. It isn't the kind of car that makes us want to go for a drive - and as a flagship BMW coupé that saddens us considerably. Here's hoping the forthcoming M6 can give us a bit more of a grin.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||3.0 TwinPower Turbo, 4.4 TwinPower Turbo V8|
|Engines, diesel||3.0 TwinPower Turbo|
|Torque, lb ft||464|
|0-62 mph, secs||5.6|
|Top speed, mph||155 (electronically limited)|
|Mpg combined||27.2 - 51.4|
|CO2, tax||144 - 243g/km, 18 - 35%|
|Ratings||BMW 640i Coupé SE|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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