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First drive: BMW 640i Gran Turismo. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 640i Gran Turismo
BMW's executive hatch remains something of an oddity. It's hugely refined, though.

 



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BMW 640i Gran Turismo

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

BMW transforms the ungainly and bulbous 5 Series Gran Turismo into the slightly less ungainly and slightly less bulbous 6 Series Gran Turismo. If you want a practical, luxurious BMW but, for some strange reason, you can't stomach the thought of the superb 5 Series Touring, then the 6 GT is the car for you. Otherwise, you're going to think it's an overpriced oddity of a car that shouldn't really be wearing the 6 Series badge...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW 640i Gran Turismo xDrive
Pricing: from 46,810; 640i GT from 57,570
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed Steptronic automatic
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 183g/km (VED 800 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 35.3mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Power: 340hp at 5,500- to 6,500rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 1,380- to 5,200rpm

What's this?

As poor Kirstie and Phil have been trying to explain to an increasingly infuriating succession of dunderheaded house-hunters for years, if you set up a long tick-list of what you want from a property and point-blank refuse to compromise on even the smallest detail, you end up looking at some pebble-dashed carbuncle of a home on the outskirts of Redcar, simply because you want five bedrooms and a view of the sea for 160,000. With that thought in mind, perhaps someone ought to have a quiet word in the ear of BMW management, along the lines of: "Look, you can't have a huge great car that's as luxurious as a 7 Series, as practical as a 5 Series Touring, as sporty as a 4 Series Coupe and as hatchback-y as a, er, hatchback BMW (please, don't mention the E46 Compact...), without it ending up looking like... like... well, like the 6 Series Gran Turismo."

This is not a pretty car. Pretty imposing, yes, as it's more than five metres long and tipping the scales at the best part of two tonnes. BMW's designers have done their best, by lowering the roofline fully 21mm over the outgoing 5 Series GT and dropping the lip of the boot lid 64mm, which does help take some of the weight out of the backside of the new car, but it remains extremely aesthetically challenging.

As with any BMW, M Sport trim helps matters somewhat by beefing up the lower portions of the car and adding big alloys on low-profile tyres, and as the firm estimates that 90 per cent of all 6 GTs sold in the UK will be M Sports, perhaps we might come to tolerate the car's appearance in time. For now, though, it's safe to say we're not fans - and why, if it's now a 6 Series, does it so clearly have the face of the current 5 Series saloon?

Still, if frightful form does indeed follow function, then at least the 6 GT's lovely cabin somewhat makes up for the car's unapologetic exterior. There's space for four adults to get comfy inside, while it can actually take five people at a push (there's a centre seatbelt in the rear). Out the back is the 6 GT's party piece, a huge 610-litre boot that can be increased to a barn-like 1,800 litres by dropping the 40:20:40 split rear seats - a task that's easy to do, thanks to levers near the hatch opening.

Furthermore, the quality of the Gran Turismo's dashboard fixtures and fittings are typically first-rate, as you'd expect of the latest BMWs, while the kit count is high on all models and incorporates some real fancy tech, like Personal CoPilot, on the options list. The best things, though, are items we've seen before, like the TFT instrument cluster, the pin-sharp, perfectly rendered head-up display and the new 10.25-inch infotainment screen for iDrive version six - that means you can cycle through its various menus and functions using your voice, a series of pre-programmed hand gestures, the tap-and-swipe familiarity of the touchscreen itself, or the iDrive rotary controller that soldiers on in the face of increasingly contactless human-machine interfaces. Overall, a top-notch cabin helps to balance out the hunchbacked body.

How does it drive?

Like a scaled-up version of the 340i GT we tried last year: massively skewed to comfort at the expense of sharp driving manners. That's not the worst crime in the world, actually, despite the blue-and-white propeller on the nose, because the 6 Series is a Gran Turismo when all is said and done. Long-distance effortlessness is supposed to be its forte and, with optional twin-axle air suspension, the result is a car that has some of the best ride quality you'll get this side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Gliding serenely over bumps and ripples in the tarmac, quelling the noise of that juicy 3.0-litre straight-six up front, minimising tyre roar and wind noise to the merest background whisper, the 640i GT is a delight to travel in at a steady 75mph on the motorway. Envisaging easy 1,000-mile-plus drives behind the wheel is no difficulty at all.

There's a big tick for comfort, then, but it's not such a big tick for the so-so handling. Like the 340i GT mentioned earlier, the four-wheel-drive 640i is competent up to a point, whereupon its mass starts to make itself felt in a number of unpleasant ways. Push-on understeer is more prevalent than we can remember in any BMW for a long time, and the air suspension feels like it's fighting a losing battle to keep that cumbersome body in check during braking, turn-in and acceleration through all stages of a curve. And a rear axle that seems to have no impact on cornering lines, no matter what provocation you throw its way.

Of course, the chassis is not without merits; keep the 640i GT within itself and it'll hook up a series of corners in an assured manner. The eight-speed gearbox and that jewel of a six-pot motor provide just enough acceleration to make the BMW feel quick, while the brakes are a strong set of uprated M Sport items. But the overly light steering, commanded by a squidgy leather-bound wheel that's farcically thick for padding - robbing you of several degrees of feedback - manages to keep the driver at arm's length from the proceedings. In summary, we'd say a 5 Series Touring is nearly as comfortable as the 6 GT and much nicer to steer fast down a quiet back road.

Verdict

BMW will say that the lack of obvious rivals for the 6 Series Gran Turismo shows it is mining a narrow seam of precious automotive resources that other companies cannot access. It will no doubt further cite the decent-enough global sales figures for the 5 Series GT that justify that the 6 Series GT simply had to be made. And it could easily say it has nailed the Gran Turismo part of the design brief so emphatically that the car should be deemed a roaring success.

But we still think the 6 GT is a quirky, self-indulgent piece of engineering that is outperformed in several key areas by many of its more talented stablemates, like the 5 Series Touring and X5 SUV. And as attractive exterior design is key to encouraging people to buy less practical coupes over 'regular' motoring fodder, then the GT's unrepentant looks would seem to be a significant sticking point. It's by no means a bad car, but the expensive 6 Series GT remains a BMW that we really can't fathom.

2 2 2 2 2 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 12 Oct 2017









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2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.

2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 640i GT drive. Image by BMW.








 

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