It's taken a long time and almost a decade of provocation, but BMW has finally decided enough is enough. After seven years of watching Mercedes-Benz steal its design and sporting thunder (not to mention customers) with the CLS and then suffering the added indignity of Audi jumping in with the A7 as well, BMW has finally built its own swoopier, sexier version of the 5 Series.
Dubbed the 6 Series Gran Coupé, the car BMW calls its four-door coupé shows that the Bavarian company has finally conceded its clean, neat and evolutionary-looking 5 Series saloon is just no longer sporty enough for some of its traditional customers.
Where premium buyers once went to BMW for sportiness and agility, Mercedes-Benz for solidity and Audi for interior design, the CLS turned that on its head in 2004 and, as a more radical body design dropped on top of the existing E-Class, made a pot of money, too.
In fact, the only surprise about the 6 Series Gran Coupé is why it took BMW so long to build it - it's already hundreds of thousands of sales behind the CLS and tens of thousands behind the A7.
It uses the same strategy as both its German rivals, with BMW taking the 5 Series architecture and dropping a swoopier bodyshell and interior on top of it. In this case, though, it's a strategy that's even closer to Audi's A5 plan, because it gives the 6 Series a full three-model range.
Squeezed between the 5 Series and the 7 Series, BMW will use the 6 Series Gran Coupé in a long-plotted strategy to retarget the customers who think its 5 Series has become more of an older executive's car than it used to be.
Built on the same production lines as the 5 and 7 Series, the 6 Series Gran Coupé will start with a TwinPower turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine with its 640i, then move through the super-strong 640d diesel and will be topped by the 650i twin-turbo V8. BMW can (and will) insist all it likes that the Gran Coupé is a 6 Series, not a 5 Series, but with the 6 heavily based on the modular 5 Series architecture, they are, essentially, the same car.
Due to arrive in the first half of this year, the Gran Coupé brings with it BMW's full electronic ensemble, including adjustable suspension systems, electronic steering, start-stop and eight-speed automatic transmissions across the range.
Its thumping V8 is also capable of sprinting to 100 kph in 4.6 seconds, while both the 640i and the 640d reach the mark in 5.4 seconds.
But the real key to the Gran Coupé is its design and, just as Mercedes- Benz has achieved with the CLS, BMW's design boss Adrian van Hooydonk has had his team designing shape, texture and light-catching surfaces into every single panel.
It takes the 6 Series Coupé's basic long-bonnet, short-tail proportions and adds a cabin that BMW calls a 4+1, which means it's got five seat belts, but good luck if you're in the middle.
Very clearly a BMW from any angle, it's arguably the firm's most beautiful offering for some time, especially in profile. It's almost as though the length of the bonnet and the shortness of the boot, which can both look slightly out of sync from certain angles on the coupé, were originally designed with this car in mind.
It carries over the coupé's dash largely intact, though the changes get serious behind the front seats. There is as much legroom in the rear as there is in the 5 Series and the back seats of the Gran Coupéfold flat to create a big cargo area.
The V8 650i will take all the headlines, but few of the sales. Its raw, effortless performance is its forte but it's not just power, though, because the 650i steams out 650Nm of torque from 2,000 revs all the way through to 4,500, promising a seamless stream of gristle from idle to the redline. But the big seller will be the 640i, with its proven, sweet TwinPower in-line six-cylinder motor with 328hp and 450Nm of torque.
The beauty of the six is that its torque peak arrives at just 1,300rpm and holds its plateau until 4,500rpm.
A 5.4-second sprint to 100 kph will be enough for most, and it benefits from its 7.7L/100km fuel consumption figure being almost a full litre more frugal than the V8.
That just leaves the diesel, which could be the pick of the bunch. With 308hp at 4,400rpm, it doesn't trail the in-line six by much. It doesn't trail it in straight-line speed, either, whipping across the standing kilometre three-tenths of a second quicker and hitting 100kph in the same 5.4 seconds. But its real strength is in its mid-range, with its 630Nm just trailing the V8 petrol motor and its weight helping it achieve fuel economy figures of 5.5L/100km.