Driving the 6 Series Gran Turismo, a luxurious 5 Series alternative
There are two ways of looking at the 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo: A) It’s the answer to a question no one asked, or B) It’s a more interesting, more useful, and more luxurious alternative to a loaded 5 Series sedan. We take the latter view.
Make no mistake—this car will be a tough sell when it arrives at BMW dealers in the U.S. this fall priced from $70,695 USD. It’s not that the 6 Series Gran Turismo is a bad car. It’s just that Americans aren’t big fans of hatchbacks even when they’re cheap and fun to drive such as the Golf GTI or the Fiesta ST. And those Americans with the money to spend on a big four-door BMW are used to spending it on conservative sedans or swaggering SUVs.
The 6 Series Gran Turismo replaces the largely unloved 5 Series Gran Turismo, and, as the new nomenclature suggests, it takes the large hatchback concept further upmarket. The car shares much of its structural hardware with the 5 Series and 7 Series sedans, along with engines and transmissions. Size-wise, it’s a tweener, 6.3 inches longer overall and with a 3.8-inch longer wheelbase than a 5 Series sedan, but 5.7 inches shorter overall and with a 5.5-inch shorter wheelbase.
The 6 GT is 2.4 inches taller than either sedan, reflecting BMW’s emphasis on creating a roomier interior with a higher H-point than in its regular four doors, though more than eight-tenths of an inch has been trimmed from the roofline compared with the old 5 GT. The new car looks the better for it, frankly, swoopier and sportier, especially because there’s less crown in the roof at the rear of the car, and the rear pillars flow into a tail that’s less truncated.
From the driver’s seat, it’s like a regular 5 Series. From the rear seat, the 6 GT is an impressively roomy mini-limo, with a lovely, light, and airy ambience, especially when trimmed in pale leather and with a panorama glass roof. The rear hatch opens to reveal a wide, deep 31-cubic-foot load space; fold the rear seats flat (levers allow you to do it while standing at the rear of the car), and that balloons to 65 cubic feet. By way of comparison, the cargo capacity of the taller, squarer X5 is 35.8/76.7 cubic feet, and that of the 5 Series wagon—sadly, a stranger to North American shores—is 20.1/60.0 cubic feet. Like all hatchbacks, this is a genuinely useful vehicle.
Although available in other markets with a selection of gas and diesel engines, all U.S. Gran Turismos will be 640i xDrives, powered by the familiar 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six making 335 hp from 5,500 to 6,500 rpm, and 332 lb-ft of torque from 1,380 to 5,200 rpm, driving all four wheels through ZF’s 8HP50 eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite a curb weight of 4,409 pounds (2,000 kg), BMW claims a 0–60-mph acceleration time of 5.1 seconds, and U.S. spec cars will be limited to 130 mph (210 km/h) because of the 245/45 R19 all-season tires that are standard fitment front and rear.
BMW engineers admit the 6 GT’s ride/handling balance has been tweaked in favor of the former, given the car’s mission as a roomy, comfortable, useful luxury cruiser rather than the Ultimate Driving Machine. Thankfully, though, that doesn’t mean it turns into a wobbly mess should you get a rush of blood on a winding road. Well, at least the cars we drove in Portugal, which were fitted with the $4,100 USD Dynamic Handling package, didn’t.
The Dynamic Handling package includes rear-wheel steering, active roll stabilization, dynamic shock control, and height-adjustable air springs front and rear, and it’s probably worth the money. The air suspension system is new—different from that available in the 5 and 7 Series—and delivers good ride comfort with low impact harshness and noticeably better body control through corners. The 6 GT’s steering also feels better than that of some 5 and 7 Series we’ve driven recently, more precise and consistent, though still not with the transcendent feel that was once a BMW trademark.
For the full 6 GT experience, you’ll also need to hand over $2,150 USD for the Executive package, which, among other things, gives you the excellent crystal-clear head-up display, gesture control, and BMW’s park assist system. The $1,700 USD Driving Assistance Plus package delivers useful goodies such as active cruise control and front cross-traffic alert. The $500 USD Luxury pack includes power rear seat backs, and vented, massaging front seats come with the $2,600 USD Luxury Seating package, which also trims the whole lot in Nappa leather.
Bottom line: You’re looking at about $82,000 USD all up for a well-rounded 640i XDrive Gran Turismo, which is not far off base 7 Series money. Or, to look at it another way, spending about $10,000 USD more than we did on our fully loaded 530i long-termer. Yet there’s something curiously appealing about the new 6 GT. You get close to 7 Series interior comfort for less money, most of the practicality of an X5 with better ride and handling and fuel efficiency, and look-at-me sheetmetal that stands it out from the 5 Series sedan herd.
BMW won’t sell many of these cars. But those who do buy them, who dare to be different, will love them.