2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe Review by Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: BMW Buyers Guide
Can luxury, performance, and fuel economy coexist in one car? BMW is working in that direction, and successfully if my week with a 2013 640 Gran Coupe is any indication.
The latest entry in the premium four-door luxury coupe class, the 6-Series Gran Coupe is a stretched version of the 6-Series two-door coupe that features elegant styling, comfortable accommodation for four adults, with maybe a third, small, person in the rear occasionally. As the 640i, it has 315 turbocharged horsepower matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission and utilizes multiple drivetrain-management modes and engine stop-start to optimize fuel efficiency or performance, as desired. It's a solid 4300-pound luxury car that can sprint from a stop to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and is capable of speeds in excess of 150 mph, if you happen to live near an un-congested part of the Autobahn. In a week with 60 percent highway driving and the rest on secondary roads and around town, I got a 25 mpg average -- without trying for maximum economy.
Sitting on a wheelbase 4.5 inches longer than the 6-Series coupe, the Gran Coupe is 4.4 inches longer overall. Nearly all of the stretch is in the rear seating area, giving a long, low passenger cabin. Compared to a 5-Series sedan, the Gran Coupe is 4.0 inches longer, 1.3 inches wider, an 2.8 inches lower. And more than a bit more expensive, with an MSRP of $76,000 for the 640i version. At this level, "coupe" is two syllables.
So why the Gran Coupe instead of a 5-Series sedan? Just look… BMWs have often been notable for their engines and chassis dynamics, but rarely for their styling. The Gran Coupe is a car that will be bought on style as much as for its engine and chassis, and of course status appeal. The stretch harms the graceful proportions of the two-door 6er not at all, and in some eyes (mine included) even improves upon it.
As well-equipped as the Gran Coupe is, personalization matters, perhaps nowhere more than in the luxury classes. So there are a multitude of packaged and standalone options to add even more comfort, style, and electronic safety and infotainment equipment. My test car was far from "fully equipped", but still had almost $26,000 worth of options. Your needs or desires may vary… but whatever they are, there is likely a configuration available.
One would expect the Gran Coupe to be lazily at home on the highway. After all, it was designed and built for the high speeds of the German Autobahn, and so is massively underemployed here in the USA. (And of course, your highway mileage at 60 to 70 mph will be far better than at twice those speeds.) It is not a small car, yet it is surprisingly at home on narrow, convoluted roads seemingly more suited to sports cars or motorcycles as well. The multiple drive modes are a key to its adaptability -- choose Sport or Sport+ for the fun stuff, with quicker throttle and steering response, the default Comfort or Comfort+ for city traffic, and EcoPro for the long drone on the Interstate. And expect to be noticed.
APPEARANCE: Longer! Lower! Wider! In this case, it works, and well. With graceful and elegant proportions and understated but powerful styling, the Gran Coupe makes a statement. It is most definitely executive transportation, and if it isn't the largest vehicle on the road, well, a Gulfstream jet is not all that big, either. The beveled, vee-shaped hood, highly-raked windshield and near-fastback rear window, LED CHMSL stop light above the rear window, and ducktail lip at the trailing edge of the trunk are the most noteworthy styling cues. My test car had the optional LED lighting package and black "shadowline" window and mirror trim. Both add to the appearance, and the lights add to nighttime safety.
COMFORT: Yes it's low, but not as low as it looks. So entry and exit require no contortion, and four doors make rear-seat access painless. Inside, first-class comfort is expected -- and delivered. The interior design is tastefully conservative and eminently functional. Both front seats are power-adjustable for nearly every possible parameter, including cushion length, and have two-position memory. Spending the day in the car is a pleasure. Upholstery is leather, naturally, but multiple colors and varieties may be specified. With the Nappa leather option, the instrument panel, door trim, and console are also finished in stitched leather. Instrumentation is driver-oriented, and refreshingly analog. Bright electroluminescent main instruments are under an anti-glare hood in front of the driver, with navigation, audio, and information on the large screen at the top of the center stack. The power-adjustable steering wheel has a comfortably thick leather rim and cruise and auxiliary audio controls; audio, navigation, and information systems are controlled by the i-Drive controller on the console. Which is becoming ever easier to use, now surrounded by marked buttons for the various functions. Basic shifting is by the stalk on the console. It's not necessarily intuitive at first, but you'll adapt quickly.
The drive mode switches are next to that, close to the driver's right hand. The moonroof tilts only, no sliding. Rear seat accommodation is likely a major reason to choose the Gran Coupe over a regular 6-Series. BMW describes the car as "4+1" and the "+1" is the center rear position. The two contoured outboard positions are as comfortable as the front seats. There are three baby seat anchors for the rear, and the center is fine for a baby seat or maybe small child. Trunk capacity should be fine for the car's use, and there is a ski-passthrough. Tires are runflats, and there is no provision for a spare.
SAFETY: All of the expected safety equipment is either standard or available. Strong, rigid construction, designed and built to protect passengers in a crash, is enhanced by the usual airbags, dynamic stability control (DSC) with brake drying and fade compensation for the antilock four-wheel vented discs. The optional Driver Assistance Package includes Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detection, Parking Assistant, a configurableHead-Up display, and the useful Side and Top View Cameras, in the outside mirrors, in front of the front wheels, and behind the trunk roundel that give a close-up view of the sides of the car when backing, slowly creeping out of a blind garage, or parking next to a wheel-munching curb.
RIDE AND HANDLING: The Gran Coupe's double-wishbone front, multilink rear suspension uses aluminum for many of its structural components in order to reduce unsprung weight and quicken response. Shock damping is one of many parameters adjusted by the Driving Dynamics Control modes, as is roll stabilization and Active Steering (variable assist). Yes, active suspension, illegal in motorsports but wonderful here. It allows a relatively soft ride quality with minimal body roll in corners. The ride quality is never harsh, but there is a noticeable different between Comfort+ (think Euro luxury) and Sport+ (think Euro luxury performance). Interior noise levels are very low, as expected.
PERFORMANCE: How to reconcile performance and fuel economy: like many automakers, BMW is embracing turbocharging with direct fuel injection, automatic engine start-stop at lights, and brake energy regeneration. Direct injection allows higher engine compression, for both improved power and efficiency. Additionally, the N55 3.0-liter dual overhead cam inline six has VANOS stepless variable cam phasing on both cams and Valvetronic valve lift control to further improve power output and reduce emissions. The result is a smooth 315 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and more importantly for everyday driving, a healthy 330 lb-ft of torque between 1300 and 4500 rpm -- meaning instant torque NOW. Add an eight-speed automatic with shift points and speed tied to the Driving Dynamics Control (DDC) system and both effortless high-economy (up to 30 mpg) highway cruising and quick acceleration are available. The best way to use the DDC system is to stay in EcoPro mode on the highway, with one of the Comfort modes for city driving and Sport or Sport+ for getting somewhere quickly. "D" usually works well, but even in Sport+ manual shifting is the way to go when the road gets really tight. With that wide torque band, shifting won't often be necessary.
CONCLUSIONS: BMW breaks new ground with its 6-Series Gran Coupe.
2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe
Base Price $ 76,000
Price As Tested $ 101,895
Engine Type DOHC 24 valve inline 6-cylinder with Double VANOS stepless variable cam phasing, Valvetronic valve lift and throttle control, direct fuel injection, and TwinPower turbocharging
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 183 cu. in.
Horsepower 315 @ 5800-6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 330 @ 1300-4500 rpm
Transmission 8-speed multi-mode automatic with manual mode
Wheelbase / Length 116.8 in. / 197.2 in.
Curb Weight 4299 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 13.6
Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline recommended
Tires Dunlop SP Sport Maxxis 245/35 R20 95Y front, 275/30 R20 97Y rear
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, DBC, DSC standard
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent multilink
Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 30 / 25
0 to 60 mph 5.4 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Ivory White Nappa Leather $ 3,000
Driver Assistance Package -- includes: Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detection, Side and Top-View Camera, Parking Assistant, Head-Up Display $ 3,700
M Sport Package -- includes: M Steering Wheel, Aerodynamic Kit, Shadowline Exterior Trim $ 4,200
20-inch wheels with performance tires $ 1,300
Premium Sound Package $ 950
Adaptive Drive $ 2,500
Integral Active Steering $ 1,750
Multi-Contour Seats $ 1,300
Heated Front Seats $ 500
Instrument Panel With Leather $ 3,000
Ceramic Controls $ 650
Full LED Lights $ 1,900
BMW Apps $ 250
Destination Charge $ 895