2012 BMW 640i Gran Coupe Review
BMW goes back to sleek, suave and sexy
By Shahzad Sheikh
Nader Faghihzadeh is a 36-year-old Iranian-German car designer, and I believe his contribution to BMW design trends might prove to be a turning point in what has thus far been a rather confused post-Bangle era.
Few BMWs could ever be described as pretty (the 507 and Z8 being definite exceptions) but there was always a certainly a handsome elegance about them up to the 1990s that suggested robustness, aggression and competence. They weren’t always meant to look stunning, but they were meant to command your respect – not something that can be said about today’s gawky 5-series Gran Turismo.
The 1994 (E38) BMW 7-series, which was sublime in its proportions and unflinchingly sleek and elegant making superb use of its imposing length, was the epitome, in my opinion, of perfect BMW design.
Then it all went wrong with the Bangle-era cars and the incongruous and jarring shapes that have afflicted Beemers since then, with the possible exception of the Z4. Until now.
This 6-series Gran Coupe is the first BMW, for a long time that I’ve instantly fallen in love with. And the similarities with my favourite of the Sevens are obvious. Elongated fuselage, low roofline, thrusting bonnet, hint of a shark-nose, ground-hugging stance, subtle details and little in the way of unnecessary flairs – although it has inherited some of the ‘flame surfacing’ style contours of recent BeeEms, but deployed them to brilliant effect, pinching the profile to disguise bulk.
Based on the same chassis that underpins the 5 and the 7 and of course deliberately aping the design language of its 6-series coupe and cabriolet siblings, this Gran Coupe, manages to make its design more impactful and garners a far greater street presence than the somehow slightly anonymous coupe and cabriolet. I love its scooped bonnet, jutting M’d jaw, and even the tautly pulled rear end. And it has framless doors which are cool in my book, but often difficult to pull off in terms of fit, finish and sealing – no complaints here though.
Often it’s the case that after all the effort and investment is poured into creating a striking and appealing exterior, the designers run out of steam when it comes to the cabin and just fill it with stock bits to paint by numbers. Actually that’s kind of true here as well, because the interior is from the 6-series, but having said that, that’s a great looking cockpit. And the different tones, materials and textures used, including enamel white, add a lot of interest to this particular cabin.
The colour choices on this test car, including the white leather seats might not be to my taste entirely, but certainly stood out and made the cabin a bright, appealing and inviting place, as opposed to what you might have expected in a coupe-style car.
The front seats are from the coupe and cab so have built-in seat belts and the two rear seats are a work of art to behold. BMW claims this is a 4+1 with the middle seat being suitable for occasional use – I don’t think so, despite the provision of a seatbelt. There’s a central console that runs right up to it, so no leg room, unless it’s a small child.
Performance and on the go
It comes in two flavours: a 640i actually powered by a 3.0-litre 320bhp twin-turbo straight six priced at AED360,000 ($98k) and the 650i with a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with a walloping 450 horses, but priced at half a million dirhams ($136k). But even this 640i will hit 100kph in 5.4 seconds and reach a regulated 250kph (4.6secs for the 650i).
And from behind the wheel, the silky smooth six doesn’t disappoint at all, never allowing the Gran Coupe to feel slow or lacklustre and certainly having no trouble keeping up with most anything out there, particularly if you put it in Sports+.
Frankly speaking though that mode is too aggressive for this car and even Sport should only occasionally be deployed with the car best left in Comfort (although avoid the sickly Eco mode).
And therein is my slight disappointment with this Six. With a firm but comfortable ride and easy thrust (peak torque is delivered from as little as 1300rpm up to 4500rpm) this car is a superb cruiser. But whilst it certainly can hustle, it doesn’t really feel all that comfortable doing so.
The electronic steering is not quite as talkative as you’d like, the extra length seems to burden it with understeer where the regular 5-series boasts a sharper turn-in, and the electronic aids on this car are firmly set to sensible, with not a lot of give even in the looser settings.
Don’t get me wrong, this car can be hustled, and could still just about be described as a sports saloon, certainly as the performance isn’t exactly wanting, but it doesn’t necessary feel comfortable going hard – which is something of an aberrance of course considering the blue and white propeller badge on the bonnet.
Okay it may not be the ultimate driver’s BMW, but it’s a distance-crusher par excellence and a hugely desirable new offering from BMW, one that you will look back at each time you park it. Its looks and appeal endow it with a tremendous feel-good, although keen drivers might want to consider cars like the AED310k 535i M-Sport or even the AED290k Lexus GS350 F-Sport.
But the new 6-series easily wins the award for the best looking new BMW, and is to be duly lauded and welcomed for establishing a possible new design language for the BMW range. The real test would be see how it will stack up against the car it’s really aimed at, the even more glamorous Mercedes CLS 350 which is also actually cheaper at AED314,300 ($85,400). Perhaps a twin-test for another day…
BMW 6-series Gran Coupe
Price: AED360,000 ($97,825)
Engine: 2979cc, inline-6, 320bhp @ 5800, 332lb ft @ 1300-4500
Performance: 0-100kph 5.4seconds, 250kph, 7.8L/100km
Transmission: eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive