You're not alone in thinking that a coupe
is a two-door vehicle, but the niche-loving Germans have sought to reinvent the wheel once again. Jumping into the fray is BMW with their new 2013 640i Gran Coupe.
Is the horse out of the barn, or is the Bavarian auto company really on to something, with their latest entry to the segment? Hop in with us as we take a first drive in BMW's latest niche-buster.
Don't confuse this car with the disappointing 5-Series GT five-door crossover. The Gran Coupe is a completely different animal. The object is that if you squint enough when peering at the Gran Coupe, that the second set of doors will blend
in to the point that they are invisible. As a segment, this group is also home to the Audi A7
, Porsche Panamera
and Mercedes-Benz CLS, the latter of which started the concept of a four-door coupe back in 2005.
New kid on the block
Not a new concept, the 640i Gran Coupe is what the brand calls a 4+1 seater. It's just that we would not want to be that +1. Offered three variants, the new 6-Series Gran Coupe expands the 6-Series' overall portfolio and will first hit the streets as the 640i seen here, with motivation coming from the TwinPower Turbo inline six-cylinder engine. Similar to the N55 engine found in the 335i, this mill produces 315 horsepower between 5,400-6,000 rpm and 330 lb-ft of torque between 1,400-5,400 rpm. BMW says to expect 0 to 60 times of 5.4-seconds and top speed is electronically governed to 155 mph.
The 650i Gran Coupe and 650i xDrive (all-wheel-drive) Gran Coupe will follow in late summer. Power for the 650i will come from an N63 4.4-liter Twin Turbo reverse-flow V8 that produces 445 horsepower between 5,500-6,400 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque. The same engine, when used in the 650i xDrive will yield 400 horsepower between 5,500-6,400 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque. They manage to tick off 0-60 times of 4.5 and 4.3-seconds, respectively.
All three flavors are mated to eight-speed automatic transmissions to maximize fuel economy at barely breathing revs. Extra efficiency comes by way of the BMW Efficient Dynamics protocol that utilizes brake energy regeneration, engine auto start-stop and on-demand operation of ancillary components such as air conditioning and electrical loads during the time you are driving versus idling. With the I-6, the firm estimates fuel economy to arrive at a respectable 20/30 mpg, with a 24 mpg average.
The 640i's ride quality is decidedly sporty. Comprised of a double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link kit in the rear, it is also equipped with BMW's dynamic damper control, which adapts to the road surfaces and driving styles of whoever is behind the wheel. We found through the control on the center console, that we could change the driving characteristics from Comfort to Comfort +, Sport and Sport+ modes with the flick of a switch. The engineers for Munich claim that the system works as quickly as 2.5 milliseconds.
The electrical power-assisted Servotronic speed-sensitive steering system offered typical BMW-style road feel that we have come to expect from this so-called ultimate driving machine. It was adept at handling California's Highway 33 with its twisties and winding canyon roads as it was at handling the grooved pavement on Highway 101. For those seeking more, the Gran Coupe can be had with Integral Active Steering, which combines the front's active steering system with a steerable rear setup at the back. The net result of this package shortens (or lengthens) the Gran Coupe's wheelbase for better high-speed stability and slow speed parking maneuvers. Although our tester was not so-equipped, we have tried the identical system on current 6-Series vehicles and can attest that it works as advertised.
Although it's obvious that the Gran Coupe and 6-Series share many identical parts, the one thing they don't share is a wheelbase and overall length. The Gran Coupe has an overall measurement of 197.2-inches, which is 4.2-inches more than the standard two-door version. At the same time, the four-door has a wheelbase of 116.9-inches, which is 4.7-inches longer than its big brother. It also shares similar lower valances with those seen on the two-door version.
What do you get with all that extra room? Well, for starters, how about two additional doors? Within the new pair are two outboard seats that can comfortably handle a pair of adults. Sure, the addition of only one inch of headroom might feel claustrophobic to some, but it's nothing like having to sit in the center position astride the transmission tunnel. That's why we are content to call this car a four seater. Interesting little details abound, including the Gran Coupe logo that resides under the glass, just behind the trademark Hofmeister Kink.
The overall effect of the greenhouse is a successful execution of trompe l'oeil,
which does, in-fact, impart the impression of a fastback two-door coupe. But that's not to say that it has the same effect as seen, for example, on the Aston Martin Rapide or the Mercedes-Benz CLS. It's not better or worse by any stretch of the imagination. Just different.
Coddling to do
Purchasers in this segment love to be coddled. To that end, the 640i Gran Sport does not disappoint. The driver's side of the cabin starts off with an M-Sport equipped cockpit that includes a leather-wrapped three point steering wheel with alloy paddle shifters, an M-Sport dead pedal and customizable TFT LCD screen and head up display. Once again, we had difficulty seeing the head up display while wearing polarized sunglasses.
Fine wood veneers offer a contrast to the two-toned single needle stitched leather dash area with its 10.2-inch iDrive controller display.
On the comfort side, highly adjustable bolstered driving seats held us firmly in place while cutting the apexes on the twisty canyon roads of 33. The rear seats, while not as bolstered, did manage to supply a comfortable ride with sufficient legroom for your favorite backseat drivers. They are foldable in a 60:40 split. The two front seats feature integrated seatbelt retractors, just as those found on the seats of the 6-Series Coupe.
Our introduction to the 640i Gran Coupe showed us a capable four-door sports car that truly did not need the added oomph of a big V8. The 315 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of twist from the three-liter TwinPower Turbo six-cyl is truly an impressive piece of motivating force. That becomes even more evident when you consider that it's moving a 4,200 lbs. sled up and down varying degrees of road grade, through mountain passes and tightly-coiled switchbacks.
The Driving Dynamics Control offered the right type of stability and comfort for the drive at hand. The twists and turns on Pistachio Road call for a firm ride with lack of roll to help keep the four tires firmly planted. Able to help settle the car quicker, we were ready for the quick reverse that generally awaited us on the other side of a blind turn. Conversely, the comfort setting virtually made the expansion joints and grooved surfaces of the major highways disappear.
Those who think that only bigger is better - and have the wallet to back that up - can wait until the end of summer for the V8-powered 650i and 650i xDrive Gran Coupe models.
Leftlane's bottom line
Definitely not a substitution for the 7-Series, BMW's new four-door sports coupe offers a multitude of options for a driver to choose how he wants to control his vehicle.
From a quad that thinks it's a deuce, to a sporting corner cutter, all the way to a debutante delivery vehicle, the new 640i Gran Coupe tries to span a wide variety of segments - and it mostly succeeds.
2012 BMW 640i Gran Coupe
base price, $76,895.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.