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Published: 06/06/2012 - by Erin Riches, Senior Editor
"Hey, that's a beautiful BMW. It's new, isn't it?" asks a man in a Pujols jersey getting out of a Range Rover.
"Yes, it's a 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe. Goes on sale in a few weeks."
"Looks great," he says before taking his wife's hand as they stroll toward Angel Stadium. Fifty feet later, we hear him say, "Honey, look, that's the Porsche I was telling you about — the Panorama."
No way he said that. Oh, but he did. So he's a bit confused about Porsche's big-buck sedan, but he's right about the new 640i Gran Coupe, though. It's a looker. And it has been a long time since any Bimmer was straight-up gorgeous.
We're relieved he didn't ask how it drives, though. There's no easy answer to that, and we'd have felt bad if he missed the first pitch.
This Isn't an Ultimate Driving Machine?
Ordinarily, we enjoy talking BMW minutiae with strangers. There's always plenty to talk about, given that the cars have a knack for turning the most depressing commute into an adventure. You never forget their inline six-cylinder engines' relentless drive toward redline, nor the wonderful sounds they make. And you instinctively know there's something different and good about the way your Bimmer steers even when you're only parking at a Starbucks.
But the case for the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe isn't so clear-cut. It's the entry-level, six-cylinder model in the new four-door 6 Series family. Come late August, it'll be joined by the V8-powered 650i Gran Coupe in both rear-drive ($86,395) and all-wheel-drive ($90,395) versions. A month later, the M6 Gran Coupe will debut in Paris.
The 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe uses a direct-injected 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder with a single twin-scroll turbocharger. Designated N55HP, this engine is rated at 315 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 330 pound-feet of torque, which comes together at 1,400 rpm and sticks around until 4,500 rpm.
We like the 300-hp version of this engine in the 535i, but even with the bump in power, it doesn't feel as potent in the Gran Coupe, which weighs over 200 pounds more. Our 640i also has the sluggish throttle response we've complained about in other six- and eight-cylinder BMWs with an automatic transmission. Switching to Sport mode in the Driving Dynamics Control menu hastens its responses in city traffic but still can't simulate enough low-end grunt to make it feel truly quick.
The midrange is more exciting, and if you have the patience to shift the eight-speed automatic manually, the turbo inline-6 sounds sweet approaching 7,000 rpm. Under part-throttle inputs in traffic, though, the engine note is industrial and uninspired. Start-stop is standard on the Gran Coupe, and although the prospect of saving fuel warms the heart, this system is more abrupt than we like so it gets annoying in stop-and-go traffic. Fortunately, you can disable this feature.
Acceleration numbers are unremarkable, as the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe takes 5.7 seconds to reach 60 mph (5.4 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and 14.2 seconds at 95.0 mph for the quarter-mile. That's no better than a 535i, which carries a $23,500 lower base price. The Audi A7 beats it, too (5.4-second 0-60 time, 13.6-second quarter-mile at 101.7 mph), and so will the Mercedes-Benz CLS550, which has a twin-turbo V8 and still costs less ($72,175). The V6-equipped Porsche Panamera is a hair slower to 60 but prevails in the quarter-mile (14 seconds flat at 98.4 mph).
No Small Thing
Then again, BMW didn't build the 640i Gran Coupe so you could win stoplight drag races. We pretend not to hear the come-ons from a black Corvette. Seriously, guy, it's 2 a.m. and there's always an officer waiting behind that 7-Eleven.
Instead, this is a GT in its most elegant form. It's also as Gran as they come in its physical dimensions, with a 4.5-inch-longer wheelbase than a normal BMW 6 Series coupe (same wheelbase as a 5 Series, actually) and an overall length of 197.2 inches (4.4 more than the two-door). Width is unchanged, but the Gran Coupe is nearly an inch taller. Ah, so that's why we can sit in back without complaining; BMW claims almost 5 more inches of rear legroom compared to the 6 Series coupe and over an inch more headroom.
The four-door 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe is also longer and heavier than the A7, CLS550 and any version of the Panamera, save for the hybrid. Yet it's not nearly the handful (eh, armful?) that it should be in the Malibu canyons, even on the narrowest of roads. At a moderate pace, the king-size 6 Series shrinks around you and has you believing you're driving something a bit smaller — at least until you have to steer around fallen rocks. Braking performance is outstanding, with good pedal feel and a best 60-mph-to-0 stop of 110 feet.
Is Anybody Listening?
The brake pedal is the only real open line of communication with the car, because the other channels are clogged with static from a vast array of chassis technology.
Adaptive dampers are standard, and our car has optional adaptive antiroll bars (Active Roll Stabilization, $2,500) and Integral Active Steering ($1,750), which adds rear-wheel steering capability to the conventional electric power steering setup. The idea is to enhance maneuverability in tight spaces and make the car feel more stable in high-speed sweepers, but we have yet to experience a four-wheel steering system that actually improves the way a car feels from the driver seat.
It's a disappointment in the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, which lacks both steering feel and precision, as you and the car are continually trying to override each other's inputs. We can quantify our disappointment, too. The six-cylinder Gran Coupe goes through the slalom at just 64.9 mph. That's more than a half-second slower than a larger 740i sedan (without the four-wheel steering option) we tested. The A7, which also doesn't have great steering, is good for 65.3 mph, while the Panamera is some kind of alien at 68.4 mph.
"Every cone was its own event, requiring constant adjustments on my part," says Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton. Translation: not fun.
It's a similar story on the skid pad. Even though this 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe has stickier Dunlop Sport Maxx GT summer tires (sized 245/35R20 front and 275/30R20 rear) than the 740i test car, its odd steering and funky throttle calibration hold it back — 0.87g vs. 0.90g for the six-cylinder 7 Series sedan.
Nice Place if You Can Afford It
Even as we complain, the 6 Series Gran Coupe does some pretty amazing things. Its 20-inch run-flat tires have tiny sidewalls, yet the big sedan still provides an exceptionally compliant ride with none of the impact harshness you get in the 7 Series. And although the eight-speed automatic upshifts early to keep mpg in the 20s (we got 19.9 mpg over 450 miles), it shifts quickly when you're running hard and gives you tidy, rev-matched downshifts every time.
Inside, the cockpit has a life to it that's lacking in the 3, 5 and 7 Series cabins, which are like business suits cut to different sizes. The center console flows so naturally out of the dash that you won't be able to stop yourself from checking off the extended leather option ($3,000) to complete the effect. Materials quality is superb, as it must be for this price. However, the plastic shift paddles are an unwelcome surprise, especially since we have metal ones in our long-term Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.
Further, it's hard to imagine this car with a lesser grade of leather than this $3,000 Ivory White napa stuff, and we feel we shouldn't have to pay extra to get ventilation and massage capability for the front seats ($3,600), unless that option also includes a weekly visit from a human masseuse.
Don't Try To Rationalize
Of course, when you start doing the math, you out yourself as a member of the 99 percent. The target buyer for the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe will not likely care that the Audi A7 is so much cheaper. Nor will they worry that even with a full plate of options, the Mercedes-Benz CLS550 is still cheaper than this six-cylinder BMW's six-figure price tag.
The four-door BMW 6 Series is a beautiful car for sure. And the reason to buy one this month is not because you think you won't be able to afford the 650i version, but because you simply can't wait a whole summer to put something this striking in your garage.
We're hopeless plebeians, though, so we advise waiting until BMW puts more engine in this car and retunes the chassis underneath it to make it feel as good as it looks.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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