2016 BMW 6 Gran Coupe

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What price, beauty?'16 GC lead

About $79k – to start.

That’s the entry price point of BMW’s sheetmetal Ashley Madison, the other woman who’s tempting as hell … but you might want to think twice about her before your wife finds out.   

WHAT IT IS

The “Gran Coupe” is actually a sedan – but only just barely.

And thank the Motor Gods for that.'16 GC interior 1

It was designed to be beautiful, not practical. Hence the stunning (and coupe-like) styling.

Hence also the small trunk – and truncated back seat headroom.

Beauty has its price.

Which is $79,500 for the 640i, powered by BMW’s twice-turbo’d DOHC in-line six and with the power delivered to the rear wheels.

With the optional xDrive all-wheel-drive system, the price rises to $82,500.

V8 power (also turbo’d) is available, too.'16 GC back seats

This version – the 650i – lists for $90,900 to start with rear-drive and $93,200 for one with xDrive.

Cross-shops include the Porsche Panamera ($78,100-Monopoly Money), the Mercedes CLS ($66,900-$76,100) and – to a lesser (or at least, different) extent – the Audi A7 ($68,300-$73,050).

The Benz offers a similar concept that’s priced more competitively. You can buy one with a V8 and AWD for less than BMW asks for the six-cylinder (and RWD) version of the Gran Coupe.

The Porsche is more exotic (and erotic) but so its price – which can reach nearly a quarter-million dollars if you pick a Turbo S V8 Executive.'16 GC rear pic

The Audi doesn’t offer a V8 at all – and comes only with AWD. But it does toss in the wild card of available turbo-diesel power, which no other car in this class offers.

The Audi’s diesel engine is attractive not so much because of its fuel efficiency (this is a $70k car, who cares about the cost of fuel?) but because of the long legs it gives the thing. Nearly 730 highway miles on a full tank. That’s about 200 miles more range than the gassers will give you.

More on that – and other pros and cons – follows.

WHAT’S NEW

Minor tweaks for the new model year include a tougher-sounding exhaust burble (both engines) and standard adaptive headlights that turn with the steering wheel.

WHAT’S GOOD'16 GC console detail

You could park it in the living room, put a rope fence around it  – and just look at it.

Available six or eight; rear-drive or all-wheel-drive … with either engine.   

Optional 16 speaker audio rig is exceptional, even at this ethereal level.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Don’t look at the price tag.

Sunroof only tilts. Does not open.

Blitz of buttons, menus and mouse action.

Keine manual transmission.

UNDER THE HOOD'16 GC engine pic

BMW is the only car company still dealing in straight six (inline) engines, which is a damned shame because the straight six engine is an inherently balanced engine that has the additional virtue of having a very sexy “voice” and is thus the perfect engine for this come-hither car.

So, why are straight sixes so scarce?

It is because the rear-drive layout is so rare. Inline sixes are hard to fit sideways (transversely) as is necessary in a FWD-based layout (like the A7, for instance).

But front to back (longitudinally) is no problem, but this is only possible if the car is a rear-driver, or based on a RWD layout.

As here.'16 GC twin power pic

The 3 liter six has dual overhead cams and variable valve timing; it is fitted with a pair of turbochargers, to deliver constant boost, evenly delivered, throughout the operating range. Power is pegged at 315 hp, peaking at 5,800 RPM (with a 7,000-plus RPM redline) while maximum torque – 330 ft.-lbs. – is available from 1,300 RPM and holding steady throughout the range.

Thus armed, the rear-drive 645i takes about 5.4 seconds to get to 60; the AWD version needs another tenth of two, due to the increased curb weight of the AWD system.    

Either way, an eight-speed automatic with multiple driver-selectable modes (and paddle shifter controls) comes standard.'16 GC modes

Though not a hybrid vehicle, this BMW has some hybrid fuel-saving technology. Specifically, regenerative braking – engaged when you select the Eco Pro setting (the others being Sport and Comfort). When you do so, the main (LCD) flat screen instrument cluster morphs into a hybrid-esque (and blue backlit) display showing when the energy of momentum (as when coasting downhill) is recaptured by the brakes and used to generate electricity. This reduces the load on the alternator, which helps save a little bit of gas.

Or, engage Sport – which turns the cluster racy red, with a digital speedo and tach. In this mode, shift points are higher and firmer; throttle response is snappier, too. In between are Normal and Comfort modes, with the gauges morphing to a chronograph look.

The RWD version of the 640i rates 20 city, 31 highway – very good mileage for a large luxury sport sedan.

With AWD, this dips almost unnoticeably to 20 city, 29 highway.'16 GC eco pro 1

The base-engined Panamera is slightly weaker (3.6 liters, 310 hp), not quite as quick (about 5.8 seconds to 60) and drinks about the same amount of fuel (18 city, 28 highway for the RWD version and 18 city, 27 for the AWD Panamera 4).

The V6 version of the Benz CLS is slightly stronger (3 liters, turbo’d, 329 hp), exactly as quick (about 5.4 seconds to 60) but a bit thirstier when ordered with AWD (19 city, 26 highway).

But it also costs about $13k less to start than the BMW – no small thing.

An Audi A7 with the standard-issue 3 liter gas V6 (supercharged, 333 hp) does about the same (5.4 seconds to 60 and 20 city, 30 highway with the standard Quattro AWD system).'16 GC eco gauges

But – wild card – the Audi can be ordered with turbo-diesel power (240 hp and 428 ft.-lbs. of torque) and so equipped, is nearly as quick (5.7 to 60) and spectacularly fuel-efficient (38 highway) for a car of this type. The TDI-equipped A7 is also pretty reasonably priced vs. both the BMW and the Benz: Just $70,400 to start. This is about $9k less than BMW asks for the RWD 640i. The AWD version of the BMW costs about $12k more than the A7 TDi (which comes standard with AWD).

Just FYI.

The BMW does offer a V8, however – and the Audi does not.

In the 650i, you get 4.4 liters’ worth – turbocharged and good for 445 hp and 480 ft.-lbs. of torque (even more torque than the mighty Audi diesel).'16 GC sport gauges

This is more power than the Porsche’s optional (and price-comparable) turbo 3 liter V6 (420 hp), the Benz’s optional 4.7 liter, 402 hp turbo’d V8 … and much more power than the A7’s as-strong-as-it-gets 333 hp supercharged V6.

With the additional cylinders – and another 130 hp – the 650i can belt to 60 in the mid-high four second range, stupendous given its curb weight of 4,430 pounds.

With the optional xDrive AWD, this beefs up to 4,605 lbs.

The BMW’s bulk explains why the less powerful but significantly lighter Benz and Porsche are about as quick (4.6 and 4.8 seconds, respectively).'16 GC v8

Not surprisingly, the V8 version of BMW’s Gran Coup also likes to drink gas. The EPA mileage rating is 17 city, 25 highway for the RWD 650i.

Somewhat surprisingly, ordering AWD incurs almost no additional penalty. You’re looking at 15 city, 24 highway.

At least you won’t be paying more for fuel. But the price of the V8… yeesh. That’s another story.

ON THE ROAD'16 GC road 1

The GC’s weight does have its upsides.

Keep in mind the car’s name. This is a gran touring sedan… er, coupe. Not a “four door sports car” like the Panamera, which is built for people who want a 911 or Cayman but need to have the extra pair of doors. This puts pressure on Porsche to deliver a 911-esque experience in a car that’s got a much longer wheelbase, which is much larger … and much heavier.

It’s doable but difficult.

There will be compromises, whether it’s the ride or the handling or the livability of the back seats.

Something has to give.

In the Porsche, it’s the back seats. They are like a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes that are one size too small for your feet. Gorgeous to look at. Crippling to wear. Just 33.1inches of legroom. That’s really tight for such a large car.'16 GC road 2

The BMW is not trying to be what it’s obviously not.

And so, it’s very good at being what it is: A dramatic-looking big sedan built for high-speed cruising that can realistically take four adults (don’t buy that five seater stuff; unless you enjoy riding the hump) along for the ride.

Very little fazes this car – not road dips, not off-camber corners. It glides serenely through everything, unperturbed.

The problem for BMW is that the A7 and CLS are also superb gran tourers, with excellent road manners as well as equally usable back seats and a lower asking price.

Therein lies the rub.

Either engine is not going to disappoint you but the V8’s gonna cost you. On the other hand, the V8 GC is still a smackin’ deal compared with the V8 version of the Panamera (GTS) which starts at $113,400.'16 GC interior wide view   

Personally, I prefer the six – and not just because it’s more price-competitive.

It’s also unique.

How do you quantify such a thing? Hear one – feel one – and you will understand. It’s not about the horsepower rating or the 0-60 time. These are tangibles. We are dealing with emotional qualities here, inherently intangible.

The best analogy I can come up with is the difference between a Porsche 928 and the 911. The 928 was powerful, quick. But its V8 was not a flat six, Porsche’s signature powerplant.

The straight six is BMW’s signature powerplant.

If you want the true BMW Experience, that’s the engine you want.

If only it could be paired with a manual transmission. But these are disappearing for sadly tangible reasons. Efficiency and consistently perfect performance, chiefly.'16 GC road 5

Even the Porsche is automatic-only. Because the automatic is quicker – and returns better MPG numbers as the icing on the cake.

This is why manuals are going the way of ashtrays and CD players.

And yet, something important is lost along the way. Something intangible, something emotional.

And that’s too bad.  

Some testers have sniped at BMW’s electric-assisted power steering (this is becoming common industry-wide as a way to eke out fractional fuel efficiency gains relative to an engine-driven power steering system) but while feel may not be as pleasantly connected as it once was, precision has not suffered.'16 GC toggle

The adaptive cruise control works brilliantly, maintaining the car’s pre-set speed even on steep downhill stretches without downshifting aggressively and using engine braking to bleed speed. Instead, the brakes are discreetly applied while the throttle is just as quietly dialed back.

Similarly, the Lane Departure Warning system (bundled with an ActiveDriver Assistance package) is pleasantly unobtrusive. You will feel a slight murmur through the steering wheel if you inadvertently wander over the double yellow – not an obnoxious (and unsettling) heavy vibration.   

The toggle-style gearshifter takes a little time to get used to because there is no mechanical feedback. It’s all drive-by-wire now. Probably the only reason there is still this stubby vestige of a gear shifter is because people are used to having one and the center console looks odd without it. But it would make more sense (because it would save some space better used for other things, like cupholders) to have buttons on the dash for Park, Drive and Reverse. The Lincoln MKC I reviewed last week has exactly such an interface – and I expect it will become more common as the years roll by.

AT THE CURB'16 GC curb 1

Of the three main players in this segment, the Gran Coupe is – somewhat surprisingly – the most radically slick.

My first guess would have been the Porsche. But check the specs. The Gran Coupe rides lower – a full inch lower – than either the Panamera or the CLS. And – here’s the one that really tells the tale – it’s almost three inches closer to the earth than a 5 series sedan.

Stand next to Gran Coupe … and feel tall.

The car sits that low. 

It’s a happy departure – back to the sexy side of the aisle – from the jacked-up fleet of crossovers and SUVs that now dominate the roads.'16 GC rear view  

But with just 5 inches of ground clearance (vs. 5.7 for the Porsche) you will want to be careful about approaching steep driveways. Also, you’ll need to duck – if you’re going to ride in the back seat. Legroom’s good (35.3 inches) but headroom is tight (37 inches).

Beauty always has its price.

Surprisingly, the Porsche’sgot class-leading backseat headroom: 38.2 inches vs. a duck and cover 36.1 inches in the Benz.

All these cars are highly personal – and very intimate feeling.

That’s the point.

Climb inside and the car envelops you – literally. The door panels roll upward, forming a cocoon around you and your passengers. Very un-sedan. And a very effective conjuring of coupe-ish ambiance. It’s easy to forget about those back seats – until you need them for something.'16 GC curb 5

And then, of course, they’re there.

Kinda sorta.

One thing that’s not there, unfortunately, is an adequate-sized trunk. Those tight buns look great from the outside, but when you pop that cute little caboose, you’ll be glad you do have those back seats (assuming you aren’t putting people back there). There’s just just 13 cubic feet of space to work with – vs. 15.3 in the Benz and 15.7 in the Porsche.

The Audi somehow manages 24.5 cubic feet (almost crossover capacity).

Here’s a case in point of form taking precedence over function. Though the BMW is a bigger car overall than the Benz (197.1 inches long vs. 194.5 inches) yet the Benz has the bigger – and not by a little – trunk. I’m just speculating, but my bet is the design guys at BMW didn’t think it was worth elongating the GC’s perfectly tight, gym body little nub for the sake of a larger, more practical trunk.

Good for them.

THE REST'16 GC roof

I was kind of surprised to find just a standard-length sunroof in my test car – rather than a full-length panorama roof. The glass is wider than typical, but it does not extend farther back than the B pillar.

And it doesn’t open. It just tilts a little.

Ironically, it’s easier to find the super-stylish full-length glass roof that opens on the options list of much less stylish (and expensive) cars.

You’d think it would be the opposite – but it’s not.

Also surprising: A heated steering wheel is not included as part of the standard equipment suite of this nearly$80k BMW. You have to pay extra for the Cold Weather Package to get that.

The power privacy screen and ventilated seats likewise cost extra.'16 GC curb 6

BMW (and Benz and Audi, too) should probably take note of the fact that amenities such as theses are becoming common in cars that cost literally a third or less less as much (check out some of the new Kias and Hyundais, as a for-instance) and accordingly probably ought to be part of the standard equipment package in cars of this caliber.

Kind of related to this: Be aware that unless you pony up for the M Sport package your Gran Coup’s top speed will be electronically limited to a figure below what you probably – and rightfully – expect a car such as this to be capable of. It’s a tire issue. Non-M Sport Gran Coupes get an all-season (and not high-speed rated) 18-inch wheel/tire package, but springing for the M Sport uprates the rolling stock to 19 or 20 inches and more aggressive compound/high-speed tires. Thusly fitted, BMW loosens the leash a little – and the car is now capable of 155 MPH before the computer calls a halt to the illegalities.'16 GC last

You can custom-tailor the Gran Coupe with special-order paint, as well as via the Individual Composition Package, which includes dark tinted window trim, crushed suede headliner and your choice of piano black, white ash or sycamore wood trim.

If you order the Executive package, you’ll also get electronically-assisted soft-close doors, ceramic trim, an ultra-premium audio system, power rear sunshade and manual control door shades. Other available features include infra-red night vision, an all-around camera system, a heads-up display and automated park assist.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This is an emotional purchase, so look out. The usual considerations take a back seat. That can be all kinds of fun. But sometimes, you regret it in the morning.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. 6 Gran sounds low rent. 90 Grand Coupe is more realistic.

    Electric vehicle R&D and production is all about carbon credits, tax incentives and other such political and financial nonsense. That ship sailed and sunk 100 years ago, current battery and energy storage technology only marginally better than lead/acid. A Nissan Leaf costs $30k new but has considerably less value as a used car because it is practically useless in real world driving.

    • Maybe we should require all these tax subsidized beasts to bear stickers stating ‘Your Tax Dollars at Work’ – especially the Tesla.

  2. 21/30mpg is impressive. A 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds is mundane.

    I know it’s all about CAFE. But it’s out of balance for such an upmarket car to offer no more engine than a V-6 Accord or Camry.

    I would never buy that.

  3. > energy of momentum (as when coasting downhill) is recaptured by the brakes and used to generate electricity.

    Wait, what?

    How does that work?

    • Hi Chip,

      I’m not sure about all the details, but it’s like a hybrid regenerative braking system. Of course, there’s no electric motor in this car, so the energy recaptured does not power the car’s drivetrain.

  4. Hi Erik, what do you think about this: http://www.bmwblog.com/2015/12/01/bmw-to-speed-up-electric-brand-development/ do you think it is a good way for BMW? i heard that Audi is getting ready for production synthetic fuels like e-benzin, e-diesel, e-gas. It is not better way for carmakers? clear syntethic fuell that we can use in current engines? Here informations about these fuels: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/audi-e-benzin-synthetic-fuel-news-details-and-more/

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Since no one has yet been able to make an economically viable electric car I think committing to mass producing any such is either foolish or an exercise in public relations – to show the world how “green” the company really is.

      Long-term, electric cars will be the death of the love affair with cars, which will be the end of BMW. Why? Because electric cars have no heart, no character. An electric motor is an electric motor. Who cares what the badge on the trunklid is?

      • Thank you for reply.
        Im agree with you in 100000%. In my opinion all of these electric cars its only PR, and it is way to show world that “we are green” (because now green is like religion). But i think that people dont see difference between conventional and electric engines and people indifferent for this. Do you think that synthetic fuels like e-benzin or e-diesel can compete with electric cars? or is it certarin that electric cars are future? im affraid that BMW is going to stop making car for enthusiast and BMW lovers.

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