2013 BMW 640 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New four-door, long-wheelbase 6 Series.
The BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe is an all-new model. Despite the coupe name, it's a four-door with good interior room and seating for four adults and one smaller person. The 6 Series Gran Coupe is physically distinctive, with its long hood, short front overhang, and longer passenger compartment. The roofline is low and stretches a long way to the rear deck, making a head-turning silhouette.
Its wheelbase is 4.5 inches longer than the regular 6 Series Coupe. Initially, it was offered with one engine, BMW's brilliant 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder single turbo, called the BMW 640i Gran Coupe. Later there will be a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 BMW 650i Gran Coupe, an engine currently used in other BMW models. The all-wheel-drive BMW 650xi Gran Coupe will join the range a bit later.
The BMW 640i Gran Coupe contends with the Audi A7, Mercedes CLS, and Jaguar XJL, although it's the second-most expensive, with the A7 being most affordable. The BMW also has the least cargo space and the second-least rear legroom. Styling is what the car is intended to be all about.
Like all of the 6 Series BMWs, the lines are elegant and athletic; in fact, it's lower and wider than the BMW 550i that it's based on. It has a long hood with a powerful contour, short front overhang, and stretched roofline flowing smoothly to the rear deck.
Just when you think the BMW 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine can't get any better, their engineers announce more stunning work has increased both performance and efficiency. The 2013 version, with direct injection and variable valve timing, makes 315 horsepower and 330 foot-pounds of torque from 1400 to 4500 rpm, and easily propels this car that's no lightweight from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. Fuel mileage isn't EPA rated yet, but BMW estimates the 640i Gran Coupe will get 20 city, 30 highway miles per gallon, for a combined 24 mpg. We drove really hard on the throttle for half a day and got 21 mpg, so that number of 30 mpg at a steady 65 mph on the freeway is doable.
The silky and fast-revving engine is matched by a superb new 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. We tested and challenged it every way but sideways, and it met our every demand. It was always tight, quick, smooth, responsive and obedient, whether in manual sport mode, or auto mode shifting on its own. It exhibited none of the intrusive characteristics of 8-speed Mercedes transmissions.
There are a number of mechanical features BMW calls Efficient Dynamics measures. Brake Energy Regeneration, engine Auto Start-Stop, on-demand operation of ancillary components, intelligent lightweight construction, and extensive aerodynamic refinement, which all contribute to efficiency and fuel mileage. Auto Start-Stop shuts the engine off at stoplights, and re-starts it again when you need to go. It might increase fuel mileage, but we found the start-up annoying, and wonder how many BMW owners will use it to lower their fuel bill. (The feature can be switched off.) We also wonder about the additional wear on components such as the battery and starter.
Other features include standard adaptive xenon headlamps or optional adaptive LED headlamps, whose intense white light evenly illuminates the road while following its curves, and a rearview camera. Optional packages include Surround View, Parking Assistant, BMW Night Vision with pedestrian recognition, Lane Departure Warning System, Active Blind Spot Detection, and Bang & Olufsen High-End Surround Sound System. One feature we love is the Head-Up Display; BMW might not be the first with this, but it might be the best, with a full spectrum of colors displaying the information on the windshield. Options can add as much as $34,000 to the price, however.
The parade of technology continues. There's standard Dynamic Damper Control, electronic shock absorbers that adapt to the road surface and adjust compression and rebound settings continuously and independently. Optional Active Roll Stabilization provides precise and flat cornering.
The brakes use lightweight floating calipers and vented discs, and they too get the full technology treatment. The Dynamic Stability Control brings together the ABS, Dynamic Traction Control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Start-off Assistant for hills, Brake Drying function and Brake Fade Compensation. We used them ruthlessly on a curvy downhill road in the mountains. They smelled hot, but didn't fade. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires (245/45 R18).
The interior of the BMW 640i Gran Coupe is focused on the driver with the instrument panel and controls angled toward him or her. The doors are designed to make the compartment feel like a wedge, although not so much that we felt wedged in.
There is a Driving Dynamics Control function on the center console, with five modes: Eco Pro, Comfort, Comfort Plus, Sport, and Sport Plus. The driver can tune throttle response, power steering boost assistance, shock absorbers, automatic transmission shift characteristics, roll stabilization, and Integral Active Steering. We tried all five modes during our few hours in the car, and we could feel the difference between Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport, but not Comfort and Comfort Plus, or Sport and Sport Plus. The new Eco Pro mode is for economic driving; BMW says it can increase fuel mileage by 20 percent. It changes the accelerator mapping so that the same pedal travel delivers less power than in other modes, and the transmission upshifts sooner and downshifts later. Special displays in the instrument cluster let the driver know how much the driving range is being extended.
The instrument cluster uses round clean gauges, and a display with 10.2-inch high definition screen using trans-reflective technology that makes it easier to read in sunlight. The Navigation system, telephone and entertainment functions are controlled by iDrive.
The 2013 BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe comes in three models: BMW 640i, BMW 650i, and BMW 650xi, although only the 640i was available initially.
The BMW 640i Gran Coupe ($76,000) uses the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, making 315 horsepower and 330 foot-pounds of torque, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Standard equipment is complete with Dakota leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, full power, moonroof, rearview camera, navigation system, Bluetooth, HD radio, xenon headlamps, auto start-stop function, 18-inch alloy wheels, dynamic damper control, split fold-down rear seats, adaptive light control, dynamic cruise control, LED foglamps, and more. Nappa leather ($3000) and heated seats ($500) are optional.
The BMW 650i Gran Coupe ($86,500) is powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 making 445 horsepower and 480 foot-pounds of torque, with the same transmission. It adds Nappa leather, contoured seats, and 19-inch alloys with run-flat tires.
The BMW 650xi Gran Coupe ($89,500) is all-wheel drive. It uses the twin-turbo V8 detuned to 400 horsepower and 450 foot-pounds, and the same 8-speed transmission.
Option packages include: Driver Assistance Package ($3800); Luxury Seating Package ($3600); Cold Weather Package ($1000); M Sport Package ($4200); Premium Sound Package ($950); Bang & Olufsen sound system ($3700); Adaptive Drive ($2500); 20-inch alloy wheels ($1300); LED lights ($1900); active cruise control ($2400); head-up display ($1300); night vision with pedestrian detection ($2600); wood trim ($1080); wood inlay steering wheel ($800).
Safety equipment standard on all models includes front airbags, head-thorax side airbags integrated into the seat frame, three-point automatic belts for all seats, belt force limiters and front belt pre-tensioners and child seat mounts in the rear, as well as the full array of electronic safety features. Optional all-wheel drive can enhance safety in slippery conditions. The optional rearview camera can help the driver spot a small child behind the car when backing up, and night vision with pedestrian detection can help the driver spot pedestrians at night. A long list of active safety features is available designed to help the driver avoid an accident, while other technologies alert drivers to lane drive or cars in adjoining lanes.
Even though the 6 Series Gran Coupe is only 4.5 inches longer than the 6 Series Coupe, it looks longer than that, partly because the side windows are longer. They extend far back into the C-pillar to make this four-door look like a coupe. There's Gran Coupe badging etched in the rear section of the side window, and the roofline stretches smoothly to the rear deck.
The 6 Series Gran Coupe is lower and wider than the 5 Series sedan. The flowing contours are powerful, inspired by the movement of waves, says BMW. They open out as they extend rearward to the muscular rear end. A character line streams from a gill on the front wheel arch to the door handle and bulging rear wheel arches, forming a strong stance. Another character line drops from the front wheel arch to the sculpted sill and travels back horizontally.
From the rear, the Gran Coupe still looks low, with its flared wheel arches emphasizing the wide track. The trunk lid and rear fascia are flatter than on other 6 Series models. The L-shaped rear lights use LED strips and are distinctive. The third brake light is integrated into the roof and stretches the full length of the rear window.
The hallmark BMW twin round headlights are xenon and adaptive. The optional Adaptive LED Headlights change that hallmark with LED light rings for the parking lights and flattened daytime running lights, with horizontal LED ribs. Underneath the kidney-shaped twin grille, the air intakes are bigger, wider, and bolder than ever, defying that foo-foo name Gran Coupe.
Advances in materials and development of the chassis structure have enhanced agility and security. In pursuit of balance, the doors, hood and front spring mounts are aluminum, while the front fenders and trunk lid are made from reinforced composite. The double-wishbone front suspension and the multi-link rear suspension are mostly aluminum.
An M Sport package is available with aero front and rear fascia and skirts, exhaust tips in black chrome, black brake calipers, 19-inch alloy wheels in M double-spoke design, and Carbon Black metallic or Imola Red non-metallic paint. Inside, there are M Alcantara and leather sports seats, an M leather steering wheel and gearshift paddles, and aluminum trim.
The 6 Series Gran Coupe technically seats five, although that center rear seat isn't much. Even BMW thinks of this four-door as a four-passenger car. But with more side glass, the interior that's already roomier than a coupe feels much more open. Even with the low roofline, climbing in and out of the comfortable form-fitting back seats is easy; although the legroom of 35.3 inches is so-so, at best. The Mercedes CLS has just 35.0 inches, but the Audi A7 offers 37.0 inches and the Jaguar XJL a massive 44.1 inches, however, the Jaguar is nearly 10 inches longer than the BMW.
Another place the Gran Coupe loses is cargo capacity. The 6 Series Coupe has 16.0 cubic feet of trunk space, yet the four-door Gran Coupe has only 13.0. The Mercedes has 15.9, the Jaguar 15.2, and the Audi A7 a spacious 24.5 cubic feet in the rear, thanks to its fastback five-door design.
BMW spends an enormous amount of time and thought on the design of its interiors, the shapes and flow of things. We wish they spent more time on the layout and function of controls, but it's a matter of what they feel are the priorities of BMW buyers. Let's just say the Gran Coupe interior is graceful to look at and certainly comfortable, but cumbersome to figure out and make things work, partly because there's so much to figure out and make work. If only it was as simple as the systems in the far less expensive Volkswagen Jetta or Mazda3.
At least the display screen is big, at 10.2 inches, and it's readable in the sun. And the little window below the speedometer that indicates trip information is easy to read and easy to scroll through. As for the instruments, we love the large analog tachometer and 160-mph speedometer. We love the thick leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel; it provides good cornering feel, and has controls for audio, phone and cruise control.
In the cabin, there are subtle curves everywhere: from the rear doors to front doors to dashboard to center console, or maybe it flows in the other direction. BMW says that this 'provides a harmonious surround for the front passenger area, creating a feeling of exclusive security,' and we'll take their word for it, although what makes us feel secure is when we can easily operate the navigation system.
The center stack of controls is oriented toward the driver, and the console continues between the seats to the rear. BMW adds, 'Precise contours help to create an intriguing contrast with the interior's soft, curvaceous surfaces, producing a vibrant and dynamic collage of forms.'
Our Gran Coupe had the standard Dakota leather, not Nappa leather for $3000 more, or Merino leather for $5000. Dakota was fairly firm, and the seats were broad. Since there are five suspension settings, from Comfort Plus to Sport Plus, there should be five seat settings, as far as grip. Wait, there are. The standard multi-contour seats have 20 settings.
The optional Luxury Seating Package adds ventilated, active, multi-contour seats, sunshades on the rear side and rear windows, and a four-zone climate control system with additional controls located between the rear seats.
The 640i Gran Coupe is a very sweet car to drive. The 2013 V8 650i wasn't available to drive, but we've driven the 2012 650i coupe, and we can say that the six-cylinder handles lighter and quicker. The 650i is all about power; and in fact, for 2013 it adds 45 horsepower to make it 445 hp, up from 400 in 2012. The V8 is more of a point-and-shoot kind of car, while the 640i, even with the longer wheelbase in the Gran Coupe, wants to caress the driver in the corners.
The 640i six-cylinder engine is also incredibly smooth, and sounds nice, a heavily subdued if not sedated scream. Its 330 foot-pounds of torque is available from 1400 to 4500 rpm, and what more do you need? With 315 horsepower and that much torque, even with a car weighing 4190 pounds, you've got all the acceleration that real-world driving demands. The 0 to 60 time is about 5.4 seconds, and that's quick. But if you must, the V8 650i will accelerate to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Fuel mileage for the 640i Gran Coupe is estimated by BMW to be 20 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, or 24 mpg combined. We got about 21 mpg driving it hard over mountain roads, so an all-around average 24 mpg is more than reasonable.
The 8-speed ZF manual automatic transmission with paddle shifters does it all. The top two gears are serious overdrives, with long-legged ratios of 0.839:1 and 0.667:1, so the freeway rpm's are way low. Driving casually in automatic mode, the upshifts are seamless and kickdowns relatively infrequent; the transmission is programmed to use the engine's torque.
In effect, it's a close-ratio 6-speed, and, using the paddles, you can play with it like that. It will respond sharply and obediently. It will deliver hard downshifts, and will short-shift upward when you want it to. It upshifts at 5800 rpm by itself in manual mode, so you don't need to watch the tach; importantly, it upshifts at the same rpm every time, it doesn't second-guess the driver. We rarely are able to make those statements about automatic transmissions, not even the sportiest of them.
With all our praise of the handling, we should mention that our Gran Coupe was not equipped with the optional Active Roll Stabilization, which reduces body roll in corners and transition. Sensors calculate the degree of body roll and trigger hydraulic rotary actuators in the front and rear anti-roll bars, for flatter cornering.
The Gran Coupe is also available with Integral Active Steering, which combines the Active Steering system for the front suspension with a steerable rear suspension. Precisely harmonized steering movements of the front and rear wheels create a virtual lengthening or shortening of the vehicle's wheelbase, which improves high-speed stability and enhances maneuverability for both parking and city use. It's magic, invisible technology.
There are five driving modes: Comfort, Comfort Plus, Sport, Sport Plus, and Eco Pro. The driver can tune throttle response, power steering boost assistance, shock absorbers, automatic transmission shift characteristics, roll stabilization, and Integral Active Steering, to more than 250 combinations. If you're not overwhelmed, you can look at it two ways: perfection exists in there somewhere, or you'll go crazy trying to find it.
We tried all five dynamic modes during our few hours in the car, and we could feel the difference between Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport, but not Comfort and Comfort Plus, or Sport and Sport Plus. The important thing is that the ride in Sport mode was not harsh, and the transmission shifts came more quickly while the throttle response was sharper, so it's a good mode to drive around in when you're not feeling lazy. Also the steering is quicker.
In the comfort mode, the steering is slower, and the transmission upshifts when you let off the gas. That's fine around town. We've read one review that says Comfort Plus is mushy, but sometimes mushy is okay too.
The new Eco Pro mode is for saving fuel, as much as 20 percent, says BMW. It changes the accelerator mapping so that the same pedal travel delivers less power than in other modes, and the transmission upshifts sooner and downshifts later. Special displays in the instrument cluster let the driver know how much the driving range is being extended.
The brakes use lightweight floating calipers and vented discs, and they too get the full technology treatment, with Dynamic Traction Control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Start-off Assistant for hills, Brake Drying function and Brake Fade Compensation. We used them ruthlessly on a curvy downhill road in the mountains, and they didn't fade.
The new BMW 640i Gran Coupe, a four-seat four-door, is a sweet car whose strong points are styling, engine, and transmission. The optional high technology is staggering in its capabilities and price. It's as comfortable as its Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar competitors, although it comes up short on rear legroom and trunk space.
Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the BMW 640i Gran Sport.
BMW 640i Gran Coupe ($76,000); 650i Gran Coupe ($86,500); 650xi Gran Coupe ($89,500).
Options As Tested
BMW 640i Gran Coupe ($76,000).
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