The M7 Finally Arrives in a Slightly Different Package
"What took you so long?" That's the question many might put to BMW once they've drunk in the handsome sight of the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe.
Long, low, subtly muscled and drenched with desirability, this is a car that BMW ought to have introduced years ago. Mercedes started the four-door "coupe" trend with its CLS way back in 2005, followed by Porsche's Panamera and Audi's A7. There was a hint of something with the Concept CS at the 2007 Shanghai Auto Show, but then nothing.
According to BMW product management man Thomas Giuliani, the reasons were partly the recession, and partly the desire to base the Gran Coupe on the latest 6 Series platform. The new BMW 6 Series coupe and convertible arrived last year, and now we are in Sicily behind the wheel of the Gran Coupe to see if it was worth the wait.
A Good Start
Curiously, Munich is pitching the Gran Coupe not as a direct Mercedes CLS competitor but as a model positioned slightly above and closer to the Panamera. But the differences in size, price and power seem too small to put much clear blue water between the $71,300 Benz and the roughly $77,000 BMW.
We're not thinking much about that once on the roads of Italy's southernmost island that previously hosted the famously sinuous Targa Florio road race. And with 315 horsepower and a claimed 0-62-mph time of 5.4 seconds, we figured the promise of high entertainment would eventually show up.
The 3.0-liter straight-6 spins with creamy eagerness, its twin-scroll turbocharger delivering a fat torque spread that's unleashed the instant you sink the throttle. There's no lag evident here, especially as the engine's hooked to an eight-speed paddle-shift transmission that masks turbo inertia almost completely.
The out-of-town roads are narrow and this Gran Coupe wide, but it doesn't feel that way because it's quick to respond to the wheel, barely rolls and on tight turns provides extra maneuverability via that optional active steering, as well as rear-wheel steering.
Add speed and the BMW's confidently athletic nature breaks through, as does the light, urgent beat of a straight-6 that's more than powerful enough to make a convincing sport sedan of this car. Soon we're bounding from bend to bend with rampant speed, fine balance and brakes that seem well up to regularly shedding the speed of a 4,191-pound missile.
And then there's the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Sport's ride. That may seem strange to mention when chasing dynamic thrills, but the combination of dynamic electronic dampers and dynamic drive, which adjusts the resistance of the anti-sway bars to minimize body roll while allowing for a suppler, loping ride, is vital on roads puckered by sun-melted tarmac.
You can alter the suspension's degree of absorbency — assuming you've ordered the dynamic dampers — as well as the transmission's shift strategy, the engine's power delivery and the ESP settings — by toggling through the quintet of settings provided by the center console's adaptive drive button. They range from the fuel-saving Eco Pro mode through Comfort+, Comfort, Sport and Sport+, the last of these partly deactivating the ESP. Select a comfort setting and even on optional 19-inch rims, this BMW rides battered urban roads with near limolike equanimity.
But the real pleasures are to come when the road gets tight; Sicily doesn't seem to do plain straightaways much anyway. A standard Gran Coupe is said to be slightly sportier than the equivalent, more comfort-oriented BMW 5 Series, says BMW, but the Gran Coupe's composure is a little more relaxed than the 6 Series coupe, which has the sportiest standard setup of the bunch.
Tossable for a Big Car
Most of Sicily's roads are buffed to an entertainingly low state of grip, so although the rear wheels may be wearing fat, 275-section rubber, they break away with ease. It's a discovery that rapidly provides plenty of tail-wagging enjoyment, the ESP part-disengaged to allow a ceaseless string of indulgent micro-slides.
Rare stretches of freshly surfaced road soon prove that this BMW musters the plentiful grip that you'd expect on smooth tarmac. And curiously, the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe comes over as a more convincing drive than the 6 Series coupe, presumably because of the longer wheelbase and different suspension settings.
To access the best of the Gran Coupe's bountiful grunt you must paddle the transmission, an activity that allows full enjoyment of the engine's impressively broad slug of eagerly delivered torque. When the road does straighten a little, the BMW's civility can be savored. The supple ride, the smoothly subdued engine and the lack of commotion make progress as relaxing as the Gran Coupe's sumptuous ambience.
High Style Throughout
The visual appeal of this car carries over to the interior, too, especially if the Gran Coupe features some of BMW's more lavish options. Ours feels like sitting in a rich layer cake, this cabin upholstered in a mix of tan and ice-white hide, a strikingly elegant combination that to these eyes at least, is deeply pleasing.
Laser-straight double-stitching, a tan Alcantara headliner and white wood inserts — this looks a lot better than it sounds — make this a car that's a pleasure merely to sit in, never mind drive.
So do its multiple convenience features, although many of these require further spending, from the excellent head-up display to surround-view front cameras, an air-ripping Bang & Olufsen stereo, near-endlessly adjustable front seats and soft-closing doors.
More fundamental practicalities include a rear passenger compartment that proves surprisingly spacious for two. You can even perch a middle-seat occupant in between for short trips if they don't mind resting their feet on the tunnel-mounted center console. Long-legged front-seat passengers may find their left knee interfered with by the swoop of the center console, however. The trunk is almost long enough to lose things in and unexpectedly, the rear-seat backrests usefully fold forward to extend it.
Worth the Wait
Details like these make the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe an easier car to own — or an easier one to justify — even if it takes an indulgent trip through the options catalog to reproduce.
But even without a trailer-load of extras, this highly stylish four-door coupe has to be one of the best cars in BMW's armory. It's pleasing to look at, endlessly entertaining from behind the wheel and surprisingly devoid of compromises. It's as though BMW took its time to perfect the four-door coupe instead of merely rushing out a new model to get a stake in the game. If only it could take so long with all of its new models.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.