x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Road Test: BMW adds a Gran Daddy to its 6 Series line-up

It's essentially the same as a 6 Series Coupé, but the differences lend it a sporty elegance, and on the road Shane O'Donoghue finds this car is a joy to drive.

Even with a wheelbase 113mm longer than a 6 Series, the large Gran Coupé can cover 0 to 100kph in just 5.4 seconds. Photos courtesy of Newspress
Even with a wheelbase 113mm longer than a 6 Series, the large Gran Coupé can cover 0 to 100kph in just 5.4 seconds. Photos courtesy of Newspress

The car manufacturers make our lives tough sometimes (yeah, I bet your hearts are bleeding for the arduous life of the average motoring journalist). Not that many moons ago BMW was selling the 5 Series and the 6 Series. The former was a four-door saloon; the latter a two-door coupé. The 5 Series Touring (estate car) was a logical development, but then BMW went a bit mad and invented the 5 Series Gran Turismo, something we still have not got our heads around.

So has it done it again with the 6 Series Gran Coupé? We all know what a 6 Series Coupé is. Same story for the Cabriolet. But what does adding "Gran" to the name mean?

Let's take a step back in time to get to the root of this. Back in 2004, to be precise. That's the year Mercedes-Benz launched its first CLS, in the process creating a whole new niche - the four-door luxury coupé. Never mind the fact that car manufacturers have been calling two-door models coupés for decades.

But there's no room for pedants and conventionalists in the world of marketing, and buyers voted with their hard-earned cash: the CLS has been a massive success and it manages to stand apart in the line-up from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class it's heavily based on. Suddenly the concept of the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé doesn't seem so left-field, does it?

You've probably not been paying too much attention to our words, which is forgivable with the seductive lines of the car to linger over. It's been a surprisingly successful transformation from two to four-door coupé. Detail changes aside (a different position for the high-level brake light and chrome accenting up front, for instance), the Gran Coupé is essentially a regular 6 Series with 113mm extra in the wheelbase and rear doors.

Yet it looks far more special than that, the extra length giving the design real elegance, which contrasts neatly with the inherently sporting stance and the sculpted body panels. From the rear it's squat and purposeful, while the face is highly distinctive thanks to those four squared-off LED headlights.

The magic continues inside, where sumptuous leather covers most surfaces. Sitting in the driver's seat it's little different to the 6 Series Coupé - but that's no bad thing, as it's so well put together and every switch and control is a joy to use.

What is new, of course, is easier access to those rear seats. Don't expect 5 Series or 7 Series levels of space in the back, but there's plenty for average-sized adults and the attention to detail is exquisite. Unlike most of the Gran Coupé's rivals there's a third rear seat belt if someone feels masochistic enough to sit perched atop the raised middle section - not that most buyers will care.

The owner of the car will never sit there and the driver's seat is definitely the preferred location in this model. As with the 6 Series, there's plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel and it shares that car's low-slung feel, too, differentiating it further from the 5 Series. A quick press of the large start button fires up the engine with a rousing rumble before it settles into a smooth, quiet idle.

At this juncture I should mention that, while a V8-engined 650i model is on the way (and probably an M6, too), we tested the entry-level 640i. Saying that, the turbocharged six-cylinder engine is far from basic. It puts out a healthy 320hp at high revs, but it also produces a chunky 450Nm of torque from just 1,300rpm - all the way around to 4,500rpm. It makes for swift, effortless progress.

If you feel the need for a little excitement, grab the left gear-change paddle to drop down a few ratios and floor the throttle. You quickly forget that you're driving a large, heavy luxury car.

The impressive 5.4-second 0-to-100kph time should have prepared you for that. Those paddles operate a truly fantastic eight-speed automatic gearbox. In its default setting it slurs smoothly from one gear to the next, almost imperceptibly, but you can alter the calibration by choosing from one of the various car modes.

Indeed, that's what really singles the 6 Series Gran Coupé out as a great car. Choose Comfort+ and it's as refined and comfortable as any other car BMW makes, yet hit Sport+ and it can be as unruly as you dare. It really is a joy to drive in either mode. Life can be tough on us journos sometimes.

Price Dh355,000 to Dh406,000

Engine 3.0L turbocharged six-cylinder

Gearbox Eight-speed automatic, RWD

Power 320hp @ 5,800-6,000rpm

Torque 450Nm @ 1,300-4,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined 7.8L/100km