To anyone with a conservative bent, the 2015 BMW 650i Gran Coupe must seem like utter folly - unnecessary excess and expense in equal measure. That might all be true, but to have that opinion would be to slightly miss the point of what is a very stylish four-door.
The Gran Coupe theory (whether you buy into it or not) straddles a segment that isn’t quite sports car and isn’t quite sedan, a stylish vehicle for the buyer who needs four doors but doesn’t want to drive a garden-variety sedan.
Indeed, it's a segment that didn't even exist all that long ago, as, once upon a time, you either owned a sedan or a coupe. However that notion has been changed.
The 6 Series Gran Coupe is an exercise in style that sits between the far more conservative 5 Series and 7 Series sedans in the greater BMW garage. Adding to the appeal of the BMW 650i is a fairly hefty serving of V8 muscle to back up the ingrained sense of style.
With a price just under $240 grand, the BMW 650i demands deep pockets of any potential buyer, but the M Sport Package as featured on our test example is a no cost option, meaning that not everything desirable costs a massive wad of cash on planet BMW.
Don't get too excited though, because the German brand knows a thing or two about charging for options.
Pricing starts from $238,900 plus the usual raft of on-road costs. Our test 650i also has BMW Individual interior trim (which costs $1000), along with ceramic surrounds for the controls (which adds $1100) and Nappa leather trim ($3200). All these bring the as-tested price up to $244,200 plus on-road costs.
The aforementioned M Sport Package brings a lengthy list of gear to the party including 20-inch M light alloy wheels, BMW Individual high-gloss shadow line, BMW anthracite headliner, interior trim finishes in aluminium hexagon, black brake calipers, upgraded exhaust system, dark chrome exhaust tailpipes, M aerodynamics package, M door sill trim and an M leather steering wheel. You could argue that the M Sport package doesn't necessarily add to the appeal of the 650i Gran Coupe in spades, but it certainly adds some to the attraction.
Highlights of the standard equipment list includes 20-inch alloy wheels (with run flat tyres), Surround View, parking assistant, rear view camera, adaptive LED headlights, LED fog lights, park distance control, soft close doors, Adaptive Drive including Dynamic Drive and Dynamic Damper Control. Also included is a full suite of active and passive safety technology, BMW ConnectedDrive, heated front seats, exclusive Dakota leather trim, electric front seat adjustment, memory driver's seat, active seat ventilation, head-up display and the control display with a crisp 10.2-inch monitor.
The cabin is masterfully crafted, comfortable, beautiful and restrained all at once. The driver's position feels more cockpit than sedan-like, so getting comfortable won't be an issue. The swooping roofline might impact rearward visibility slightly, but the view forward is expansive. The interface between driver and vehicle is par for the course for BMW when it comes to controls and touch points, so mastering the system controls is easy.
The second row is comfortable, sculpted and provides enough leg and headroom for two adults, while the boot space is also expansive. There's genuine practicality to be had, despite the inherent sense of style.
The pièce de résistance of the 650i Gran Coupe might initially appear to be the beautiful styling and design, but it isn't. In fact, it is the stupendous engine that resides beneath the low, sloping bonnet. Displacing 4.4 litres, the twin turbo masterpiece pumps out a solid 330kW between 5500-6000rpm and a thumping 650Nm between 2000-4500rpm. The power is formidable, there's no doubt about that, but the chunky low-end torque is the real key to the 650i's effortless performance, rocketing the big Beemer to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds.
Despite the sportscar-like performance on offer, the 650i consumes fuel at an ADR claimed 8.8 litres/100km. On test, we used an indicated 11.8L/100km but it has to be said that the engine note will encourage you to burn fuel you might not otherwise waste.
Around town, the 650i Gran Coupe prowls rather than crawls through the urban sprawl. There's much flippancy as city speeds barely register beneath the bonnet, with the engine ticking away only just over idle.
The ride, thanks to sports suspension and run-flat tyres, is a little on the harsh side over choppy surfaces, but the payoff is razor-sharp handling and stability at speed. Despite this harshness, the Gran Coupe never feels truly uncomfortable though, so its firmness is a trade off you'll be more than willing to live with. This minor gripe over the ride aside, there's a sense of opulence from behind the wheel or anywhere else in the cabin that is rarely interrupted.
The eight-speed automatic is as precise as the engine's power delivery, being smooth and assured at any speed. If you require snappy, rapid shifts, the BMW can abide. If you're simply rolling with the traffic, especially the stop/start stuff we “love” so much, there's no hesitation, shunting or jerky shifting.
Perhaps the most poignant string to the 650i's bow is that despite its bellowing V8 soundtrack when you mash your right foot, it doesn't appear to be the car of choice for the hoon. Unlike anything with an 'M' badge, the 650i engages an altogether stealthier modus operandi. Therefore, it barely registers a look from prying eyes or traffic light warriors until you do let the V8 loose - should you choose.
Despite the presence of two turbochargers, there's almost no perceptible lag, regardless of the road speed from when you need to coax the V8 from its cruising slumber. From a standstill, the 650i Gran Coupe is incredibly rapid.
The auto stop/start system isn't especially annoying around town either, unlike some others we experience, so it's a system I leave active during my test.
Leave the city behind and the 650i comes into its own. You can immediately sense the continent-crossing, autobahn-hammering ability of this vehicle when the roads open up enough for you to pile on some speed. You're reminded of the simplicity and brutal efficiency of the front-engine, RWD platform, and the images of businessmen belting between cities in Germany at 250km/h are easy to perceive.
The steering is precise, balanced and beautifully weighted at speeds above 80km/h, but remains light enough around town to make an otherwise grinding drive a joy. Like most performance BMWs of the past decade or so, there's a scalpel-like precision to be enjoyed from behind the wheel of the 650i Gran Coupe.
In fact, you can work it through bends on winding roads at speeds that you'd never subject passengers to. This is a vehicle that owners will want to unleash on a cheeky weekend morning run into the twisty stuff.
So, does the BMW 650i Gran Coupe make sense? Maybe not financially and maybe not logically. But that's not the point, because these decisions, especially when there's $240-grand-plus on the line, are rarely made with logic. Decisions in this realm are about desire. Fuel economy? Who cares when you've got this much power at hand? Buyers at this end of the spectrum don't often worry about the overall financial implications either.
This kind of car does, however, say a lot about the buyer. There's little doubt that the 650i Gran Coupe is a stunning vehicle, both visually and in performance terms thanks to the technological wizardry of the V8 engine. It's also one of the most beautiful BMWs in the stable regardless of which model you favour. While most of us don't have close to a quarter of a million dollars to funnel toward a motoring purchase, those of us who do will be mightily pleased they opted for this Bavarian beauty.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.