By Mark Elias
Tuesday, Nov 13th, 2012 @ 11:45 am
 


In the North American market, four-door coupes have become the sex object du jour these days. With nearly every German builder having one, there are bound to be some dogs in the bunch.

Thankfully, the new BMW 640i Gran Coupe isn't one being relegated to the kennel, as we learned during an extensive evaluation of Munich's newest extension of its 6-Series line.

What is it?

Nothing like the recent four-door fastback that BMW brought forth with the 5-Series GT, the 640i Gran Coupe is a four-door, four+one passenger sport coupe, that borrows some of the best cues from its two-door 6-Series sibling, while riding on the platform that underpins the three-box style 5-Series. Measuring in at 197 inches long with a wheelbase of 116.8 inches, it is 4.4 inches longer than the two-door Coupe. The concept has been around for years, but some builders have just done a better job with their packaging than others.

Our Gran Coupe tester came outfitted with the Individualist Composition ($8,300) styling package, which offers much in the way of subtle style cues for an over-the-top air to the machine. Illuminated kick panels, Alcantara headliners, Shadowing exterior trim, full LED lights and 20-inch wheels help make the car truly a product of its individualist owner.

This newest BMW is also available as the 650i Gran Coupe, with its 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo V8 engine and rear wheel drive, and as an all-wheel-drive variant, the 650i xDrive Gran Coupe. Our model was the 640i, which includes a mouthful, what with the 3.0-liter TwinPower (single-twin scroll) turbocharged six-cylinder engine with direct-injection and Valvetronic. Producing 315 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 330 lb-ft of torque from 1,400 to 4,500 rpm, it possesses a nice flat power band.

The engine mates to ZF's eight-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted alloy paddle shift levers. Zero to 60 mph for this sexy 4,200 lbs. sedan comes on in 5.4-seconds before topping out at 155 mph. Our tester included BMW's start/stop system for added fuel economy specs of 20/30 mpg.

The 6-Series Gran Coupe arrives standard with BMW's Dynamic Damper Control, while ours was also equipped with the available Active Roll Control for more precise handling and according to BMW, "perfectly flat cornering ability." With it, compression and recovery are automatically settled on the fly as quickly as 2.5 milliseconds.

The Driving Dynamics mode, working in conjunction with other adjustable features, allows the Gran Coupe to transform itself into five different vehicles. An ECO Pro mode reduces fuel consumption up to 20-percent, while Comfort+, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings all go to the other extreme, remapping throttle response, steering, shock absorbers and shift points.

What's it up against?

The originator of this segment is the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, but there are also two relatively new interlopers, the Porsche Panamera and the Audi A7. Both feature more angular variations on a theme, namely that of making a four-door automobile look coupe-like.

Interestingly enough, most of the others start with a base price that is lower than the 640i. As tested, ours checked in at $104,695, which is more in line with the Panamera.

How does it look?

A typical grand, er, Gran Touring machine, the 640i Gran Coupe features the long nose, and short rear overhang that are typical of many other grand tourers in the segment. Featuring the same front clip from the 6-Series coupe, as well as the shark-nosed grille, it is a handsome sled.

We think that BMW was correct in choosing the 6-series coupe to be the starting point for this car. Proportionally, it measures up better than it would using a 5 or 7-Series for inspiration.

The overall look of the car is low-slung and powerful. The rear fascia bears a resemblance to its two-door sibling, all the way down to the dual exhaust finishers at the rear. With the roofline more than an inch taller, passengers can occupy the rear seat with a minimal amount of head thump.

The front fenders taper inward while tracing the lines of a hockey stick along the lower portions of the door. To us, it's the least desirable aspect of an otherwise beautiful four-door sedan, er, coupe, painted in an amazing frozen bronze metallic color scheme. The "frozen" description of the color denotes that it is a matte surface paint, which carries with it a $3,500 tariff. Still, if money were no object, it would be our color of choice.

And on the inside?

Stunningly, the 640i breaks new visual ground with its Opal white and Amaro brown leather interior package with full Alcantara headliner, itself in a matching shade of brown. Ours also came with the available ($3,600) luxury-seating package featuring a power rear sunshade, side sunshades, and active front multi-contour ventilated seats. That's a long way of saying they have massagers and blow cold air.

The interior looks as though the whole cabin was lifted directly from a classic Chris Craft power yacht. But that doesn't mean the entire interior is vintage in nature. Contemporary design makes its way into the cabin through the full-color head-up function and 10.2-inch high-definition display. With it, the driver can operate the latest generation of iDrive for the Gran Coupe's Navigation, Audio and Communications systems.

The center console, finished with a high-end bleached wood process, houses the Driving Dynamics controls and toggles, as well as the thumb-shaped Drive Select Gear selector shift. A swoosh of leather from the rear console to the front dashboard help to visually separate the Captain from the passengers. The grand effect is topped off with the sublime tones of the Bang & Olufsen audio system.

The one shortcoming of the interior is the claimed Four+One seating capacity. The +One will be required to straddle the rear seat console in order to be properly seated.

But does it go?

Performance from the inline six-cylinder engine certainly does not have the same grunt you would find in the 650i's 4.4-liter V8 TwinPower Turbo engine, but it is still pretty snarly. In order to get the most performance out of the mill, it needs to be switched from Eco-Pro mode first. Eco-Pro tends to be for nudniks bent on squeezing the last tenth of a mile out of a gallon of gas. Those people don't buy 6-Series Gran Coupes. It's only after switching the Dynamic Driving Control toggle over to Sport or Sport+ mode that this beast begins to roar.

Once in Sport and Sport+, acceleration was right where we liked it, especially the damned impressive audio track from under hood.

The start/stop system, while helpful, tends to veer towards annoying, not so much for its intrusion, but for, say, a turn-on-red situation. A quick re-fire wasn't always guaranteed, much to our chagrin, but at least the system can be disabled.

Driven as BMW intended, the Gran Coupe exhibited little body lean, thanks to the Active Roll Stabilization. The Integral Active Steering ($1,750) helped tighten up the turning radius and provided faster steering response with its steerable rear suspension. We were almost unaware of the system's existence because of its subtlety.

The steering wheel offered considerable heft, but there was a sense of too much coddling from the electronic power assist. On the slow down part of the equation, the 640i Gran Coupe brakes offered great grab, without fade, after repeated attempts. The binders also have drying and pre-charge features for safety first in the torrential downpours that are a daily activity, especially during summer.

Reflecting on the drive, we remember "back in the day," when getting behind the wheel of a BMW meant that soon, you would be tooling around like you were in a go-kart, riding a rail behind the wheel of the Ultimate Driving Machine.

Blame it on technology that is too good, or even the lack of skills needed to secure a driver's license these days, but the BMW's of today, while flawlessly executing whatever is asked of them, don't seem to offer the same joie de vivre they once did.

Why you would buy it:

Because, for all its electronic assists, and computer-aided functions, it's still a sexy beast.

Why you wouldn't:

Is it possible for something so sexy to feel just a little too sterile?

Leftlane's bottom line

The BMW 640i Gran Coupe is one of the sexiest rides to come out of Germany in a long time. Gorgeous in nearly every aspect, it's like snagging a date with a supermodel, but then having the supermodel lead you around on a leash all night.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we wish it was ever so slightly more engaging to drive.

2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe base price, $76,000. As tested, $104,695.

Frozen Bronze Metallic, $3,500; Driver Assistance Package, $3,700; BMW Individual Composition, $8,300; 20-inch wheels, $3,600; Luxury Seating, $3,600; Bang & Olufsen audio, $950; Adaptive Drive, $2,500; Integral Active Steering, $1,750; Heated seats, $500; Ceramic control knobs, $650; BMW Apps, $250; Wood steerin wheel, $800; Destination, $895.

Words and photos by Mark Elias.

  • Aesthetics

    A

  • Technology

    B

  • Green

    C

  • Drive

    B-

  • Value

    C+

  • Score

    B