EVER SINCE MERCEDES-BENZ introduced the CLS to the world in 2004, the notion of a four-door coupe has become de rigueur among car makers with the Porsche Panamera, Volkswagen CC and Audi A7 Sportback all joining the fray. It’s taken BMW longer than any other manufacturer to tap into this specialised market but the 6 Series Gran Coupe is finally here and looks to be a genuine threat for the CLS et al. The newcomer is one of the most plush, driver-focused cars we’ve driven in a long while, but is it a better proposition than its counterparts or is it just another coupe from the land of more door?
Visually, the Gran Coupe retains much of the 6 Series Coupe and Convertible models’ original styling prompts save for the flatter and lower roofline, shorter front and rear overhangs and two extra doors. What you get then is a refined but aggressive shape, punctuated by a distinct shark nose replete with forward-leaning kidney grille, scalloped flanks and dual exhaust exits. Other notable details include the Gran Coupe logo that nestles under the glass just ahead of the trademark Hofmeister Kink – a classy touch. BMW has made three bespoke colour options available – Frozen Bronze, Silver and Grey Metallic – to further stress the Gran Coupes exclusivity. However, our test model wore a more quotidian grey metallic paint job but nonetheless still looked sophisticated and provided a stunning contrast to the green hills of the Durbanville wine route.
The interior of the 640d model on test here is among the best we’ve seen in any car. The cockpit is very ergonomic with a multi-layered, sweeping facia layout, fine poplar grey wood veneers, two-tone needle-stitched leather seats and an IMAX-like 10.2-inch iDrive controller display among the prominent features. Standard equipment includes a head-up display, seat heaters, a glass roof, automatic four-zone climate control and a navigation system. Our test car was loaded withoptional extras including electric sun blinds, ceramic control surrounds and a Bang & Olufsen surround sound audio system with speaker turrets that rise from the facia top. By stretching the 6 Series Coupe’s wheelbase by 113mm, BMW has crafted more space for rear passengers and created a reasonably sized boot rated at 460 litres that will easily accommodate a couple of golf bags although the boot aperture is a touch on the small side. According to BMW, the Gran Coupe can seat up to three rear occupants, punting it as a 4+1-seater but the plus one tag is rather optimistic given the steeply tapered roof line and extended centre console that connects to the base of the rear bench. The middle section will seat a child at best.
Despite the inference of the 640d badge on the boot lid, the Gran Coupe is powered a 230kW 3.0-litre straight-six that’s breathed upon by a couple of turbochargers that function sequentially. The smaller turbo supplies low-down grunt while the larger one spools up at higher revolutions to deliver a tsunami-like 630Nm wave of torque. The car is blisteringly quick. In fact, it’s as quick as the 640i. Switch the five-mode Driver Experience Control interface to Sport or Sport+ and the throttle sensitivity and gear ratios of the eight-speed ZF transmission become notably more aggressive. At Killarney Raceway we managed to log a 14.18-seconds quarter-mile and 5.93-seconds zero to 100kph sprint – a smidgen off the claimed 5.4 seconds, but still mighty impressive.
But you don’t have to keep the turbochargers glowing to enjoy the 640d. It’s best suited for cruising down a boulevard strip where its grand tourer-like demeanour comes to the fore. The engine sounds phenomenal, too. I couldn’t believe my ears when I first fired it up because there’s a paucity of traditional diesel clatter. Instead, the voice box is unbelievably low-key at idle and you get a genuine sporty tone akin to a turbocharged petrol engine when you put the hammer down. It’s also very frugal. Although unable to achieve the claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 5.5ℓ/100km, I still managed to return a very satisfying 7.9ℓ/100km. As a matter of fact, not once during the 1000km test stint did the 640d’s fuel economy spike over 8.9ℓ/100km – even after our rigourous track testing session. Placing it in Eco Pro mode makes it even more efficient and adapts every on-board process for maximum efficiency, adding bonus kilometres to the tank range depending on the driving style. I was able to gain an extra 17km of range over a 27km drive into work using this mode.
It’s obviously no sports car but the 640d does a phenomenal job of maintaining chassis equilibrium through the twisties. The ride is characterised by firm damping – a direct result of the optional electronic damper control arrangement but there is sufficient compliancy in Comfort and Comfort + modes should any of the sportier modes become too overbearing. Optional 20-inch wheels with run-flat tyres do, however, amplify bumps, potholes and expansion joints but the overall level of refinement is on par with segment rivals.
The 640d isn’t a small car but take it through a mountain pass and it shrinks around you thanks to the adaptive drive (active anti-roll bars) and integral speed-sensitive active steering (rear-wheel steer) set-up. The steering not only improves lateral stability and agility while cornering, it also reduces the turning circle quite considerably at lower speeds by steering the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the fronts. The 640d seldom misbehaves but should it kick out its tail when full torque pours onto the rear wheels, the stability control quickly comes to the rescue and tidies up things. Manoeuvrability is further aided by a lane departure and lane change warning system, while parking in tighter confines is made easier by the reverse and aerial-view cameras.
At R912400 the Gran Coupe is a very expensive machine. In fact, it’s R100500 more than the Mercedes-Benz CLS350 BlueEfficiency and if you spec it to the level of our test car you’ll have to shell out a staggering R1227023. For this kind of money you could buy a more glamourous Porsche Panamera 4S. Will the Gran Coupe sell? Well, it may surprise segment stalwarts if current 6 Series sales are anything to go by. Since its launch, the range has sold a total of 14501 vehicles worldwide, 320 of them in South Africa. Overall, the Gran Coupe is a brilliant package and despite the exorbitant sticker price it’s hard to find anything genuinely wrong with it. Good job, BMW.