Style & Substance

More than just a longer 6 Series with four doors, the 6 Series Gran Coupe is a gorgeously crafted car that could easily displace both the 5 and 7 Series for most buyers. It’s a niche-filler that actually makes sense.

August 3, 2012
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The Gran Coupe is the very first 6 Series with four doors. It’s also a car designed to compete directly with the coupe-esque sedans from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Unlike the A7 and CLS, however, the 6 Series Gran Coupe doesn’t get its own styling language. Instead, BMW’s designers have fashioned a 6 Series Coupe with two additional doors, which is no bad thing considering what a handsome and well-proportioned design this is. Of course, the creation of a four-door 6 Series took a lot more effort to realize than mere tweaks to a CAD file, but BMW’s decision to retain so much of the 6 Series coupe’s visual identity with the Gran Coupe makes a lot of sense.

For a car that is so obviously about style and presence, practicality doesn’t suffer much at all. You get the same driver-oriented dashboard and slim front seats as a 6 Series coupe, while 4.6 inches of additional wheelbase ensure acceptable legroom in the rear, at least for the outboard passengers. (The center rear seat is described as having a “+1” configuration, meaning that it can legally carry a fifth passenger, but said passenger is required to straddle the fixed center console and transmission tunnel.) Rear headroom is obviously not as ample as in a 5 Series, but the back seats will easily fit two average-sized adults provided that they are willing to stoop their heads a bit on the way in.

The Gran Coupe model range essentially mimics that of the 6 Series Coupe (though no M6 variant has yet been announced), right down to the standard and optional equipment lists.  But since the 640i Gran Coupe arrives at dealers several months before the 650i Gran Coupe, our brief drive during the North American press launch was limited to the six-cylinder version. This is the same single-turbo N55 unit that powers the 640i coupe and it does an admirable job of propelling 4,191 lbs. despite having just 315 hp on tap. Of course, you do have to work this motor fairly hard to extract all of its potential, which means the ZF eight-speed automatic (no manual is offered) is forced to swap cogs rather frequently. Thankfully, this is one of the very best automatic transmissions in the world, with paddle-operated shifts so quick and positive that they would shame most single-clutch sequentials (and maybe even a few double-clutch units, as well).

The majority of Gran Coupe buyers should be perfectly content with the 640i, but we have a feeling that the forthcoming 650i (with its 445-hp N63 TU V8) will be the pick of the lineup. It’ll certainly provide much more effortless acceleration, not to mention a far more enthralling exhaust note. (The N55 doesn’t make much noise at all, even with the louder exhaust that is allegedly included with the optional M Sport package.) That said, this Gran Coupe did feel noticeably more agile and alert in the corners than the last 650i Coupe I drove, so the lighter motor certainly has its benefits.

Though not a particularly engaging car to drive quickly, the 640i Gran Coupe is undeniably competent and capable, especially with the Driving Dynamics Control set to Sport+. This ratchets up the damping to a level that is stiff enough to keep movements tight and controlled, yet still a long way from being remotely harsh. In fact, the level of chassis refinement in this car is so incredibly high that BMW could easily eliminate the DDC altogether and simply default all the adjustable settings to the Sport+ configuration—we’d be greatly surprised if a single customer complained.

It’ll take more time behind the wheel to arrive at a definitive conclusion, but first impressions of the Gran Coupe reveal a niche model that just might make more sense than the traditional two-door version that it is based upon. Though just as stylish to look at and as satisfying to drive, the four-door 6 Series is considerably more practical for those who actually use their back seats on a regular basis. And considering the almost negligible price difference between the two body styles, it wouldn’t surprise us at all if the Gran Coupe turns out to be the volume seller of the 6 Series range.—Alexander Palevsky

Also from Issue 109

  • BMW Zagato Coupe, where Munich meets Milan.
  • M6 Convertible: 560-hp luxury drop-top
  • TC Kline suspension for E90 M3 sedan
  • Good buys on a used BMW 128i Coupe
  • Dinan 550i upgraded for power, handling
  • Marc Norris, Bavarian Workshop E30 M3 Conver
  • Perfect 2002tii restoration by Wayne Wundram
  • Bill Young vintage BMW 328, 507, CSL, M1
  • Fern Mora 850CSi, 8 Series gathering SoCal
  • BMW Team RLL M3 racing, fuel strategy, tires
  • BMW DTM Bruno Spengler, Joey Hand M3
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