Think back a few years. In your BMW
dealership just 12 years ago, you would have been offered a line-up of saloons, estate cars or tourers, plus a sports car or two. That was it. Now, the choice of models is almost bewildering.
The diversification of the BMW range really began with launch of the BMW X5 in 1999. Since then the new model announcements have continued apace.
Recent examples of finding a niche, that others didn’t know existed, are the X6 with its unusual combination of coupé style and SUV ability. Next came the 5 Series Grand Turismo, which BMW describe as “the first of its kind”. Now we have the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé which I had the chance to drive recently.
So, is it really a new niche?
Well, some might argue that Mercedes-Benz filled this role first with the Mercedes-Benz CLS
. I don’t see it that way. I think BMW’s eye has been more firmly on the Porsche Panamera, when they designed the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé. Certainly that is a better comparison on which to justify the £68,585 asking price for my BMW 640d Gran Coupé M Sport test car.
However you choose to look at it, the Gran Coupé skilfully blends the sporting lines of the 6 Series coupe with the practicality of a four-door saloon.
The transformation actually works well. The extra doors and accommodation really looks cohesive in design terms. One might dare to say it is more resolved than the Panamera.
To fit in the extra accommodation BMW has added 113mm to the wheelbase. As a result the Gran Coupé is a bit longer than the 5 Series and I found it tends to extend beyond standard UK shopping centre parking places, leaving the nose, or the tail, jutting out.
Accommodation in the front feels as special as you would expect from a 6 Series. But that sloping coupé roof inevitably raises some concerns about room in the back.
I tend to sit far back from the steering wheel and pedals. Leaving the seat in that position I tried to get into the back. It was a real squeeze for knee room. Headroom, however was adequate for my near six-foot dimension. As with other coupé style saloons, taller passengers would do well to remember to duck under the roof rail when getting in or out.
If you are of average stature and sit behind an equally average driver or passenger, you can be reassured that you will find the back seats (below) a comfortable, even luxurious, place to spend the journey.
The driving position and controls are the usual high standard we expect with BMW. The head-up display is a useful aid to keeping your attention where it should be – on the road. The gear selector is standard BMW fare and becomes quite intuitive with brief familiarity.
You can select Comfort, Eco or Sport settings to adjust the engine, suspension and steering settings for your driving style. On a minor note, I do still curse BMW’s insistence on an indicator stalk that springs back to the centre position. It makes it difficult to cancel an indicator that stays on (as it did a few times on roundabouts) and it seems like someone’s “brilliant” solution to a problem that just didn’t exist.
The three-litre diesel engine in the 640d is so quiet, responsive and refined that one passenger questioned my sanity when I assured them it really was a diesel. To be fair, the subdued roar from the engine really does sound more like the growl of powerful petrol engine, than the drone of a diesel.
In comfort mode, or slightly more urgently in sport, it delivers a progressive surge from the 313 bhp. This translates into real sports-coupé performance. The 0-62mph yardstick is dispatched in 5.4 seconds and thanks to a hefty 464 lb/ft of torque, the performance continues through the gears.
The handling is as sweet as you would expect and there is a reassuring weight to the electrically-assisted steering, but it possibly lacks a little in sharpness and feedback. However, the Gran Coupé remains an enjoyable companion, even on twisty country roads. On the motorway, you really do feel you could dial in a trans-continental destination and just let it waft along the autobahns, autoroutes and autos trades on the cruise control. The top speed is limited to 155 mph.
It is a measure of the progress manufacturers have made in reducing emissions and fuel consumption that the official combined figure for the BMW 640d Gran Coupé is 50.4 mpg with emissions of 148 g/km, putting this in Band F for UK car tax. My ‘real life’ economy tended to be a still-creditable 35-40 mpg depending on the roads.
Yes, I can see the appeal…. the BMW 640d Gran Coupé does feel suitably special. in fact, I will just go and check my lottery numbers to see if I really have to hand back the keys.