Sometimes car designers are given particularly hard acts to follow. The team charged with creating the first BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo (GT) had no such bad luck.
To say the outgoing 5 Series GT had as many detractors as admirers is probably erring towards generosity. Yet Bimmer clearly thinks this peculiar market niche is worth another crack.
And why not? Between the X4 and X6, Gran Turismo and Gran Coupe models, BMW has sold 1.13 million units. Unusual body types plonked on existing architectures are an easy way to add buyers and pad budgets.
There’s no sense in denying the 6 Series GT is a more resolved package than its progenitor. It’s no timeless beauty, but it’s certainly less stylistically awkward, with the G30 5 Series sedan’s sleeker nose, less ‘slabby’ sides and a lower roofline for a sleeker side profile. The frameless side windows are also timeless.
At almost 5.1m long, it’s about mid-way between a 5- and 7 Series sedan in length, giving it the imposing presence desired by the target market. Its 3070mm wheelbase is limo-worthy, with every extra bit used to improve rear legroom – something coveted in China, the car’s stronghold.
Tellingly, you can option the car’s iDrive interface in Australia with simplified Chinese language software.
Furthermore, that hatchback style boot gives you 40 litres more cargo space than the 5 Series wagon with the 40:20:40 back seats in use, and a massive 110 litres more than the 5 Series GT. You’ll fit more than just a few golf bags. Hell, you could almost drive the electric cart in.
Price? Two variations will come to Australia, kicking off with the rear-drive 630i GT at $123,500 before on-road costs ($13,000 more than a 530i sedan and $8000 more than the wagon), and topping out with the all-wheel drive $148,900 640i xDrive GT – that’s including $31,000 of GST and luxury car tax.
For a further point of reference, the outgoing 5 Series GT range-topper, the 535i M Sport, cost $125,110.
So it isn’t cheap, but then again you’re buying something exclusive. BMW Australia sold just 664 units of the 5er GT in Australia over six years – and while this car should prove more popular, you’re still not going to see many.
To the nitty gritty. The 6 Series GT is as much as 105kg lighter than its predecessor, because it uses the same high-strength steel and aluminium architecture as the 5 Series and 7 Series models that both moved the game forward for their segments.
The sleeker design – we’re grading on a curve, here – isn’t just for show. It’s much more aerodynamic (0.28Cd), a figure aided by active grille shutters and air breathers behind the front wheels.
The 630i GT gets the latest 2.0-litre TwinPower turbo-petrol engine making 190kW of power and 400Nm of torque, while the 640i gets an inline-six petrol with a twin-scroll turbo, and belts out 250kW and 450Nm while using a claimed 8.5L/100km.
The range-topper pulled a 5.3 second 0-100km/h sprint time against a V-Box, which ain’t hanging about for something so massive. Both get the familiar ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission used in every BMW model under the sun.
We only drove the 640i, and found the engine to be perfectly adequate to waft occupants along in stately comfort. The engine note is pared-back, and the throttle response is prompt rather than face-melting. A V8 or hi-po diesel would be nice.
The 630i is RWD, but the 640i has a party trick, being just the second BMW passenger car to get its xDrive AWD system with right-hand drive, after the M performance 7 Series. The default is a 40:60 front:rear torque split, though 100 per cent of engine torque can go to either axle.
Also fitted to the 640i as standard (optional on the 630i) is BMW’s familiar Integral Active Steering, a fancy term for rear-wheel steering – whereby the rear wheels move opposite to the fronts at low speed and the same direction above 60km/h.
Having AWD is brilliant in Europe, though Australian snow bunnies will be glad for all-paw surety. It also gives the 6er a further differentiator to justify its positioning. The RWS system reduces the urban turning circle, and performs the deft trick of making this 5m long beast feel smaller than it is when you’re tackling narrow or twisting roads.
Dynamic engagement levels aren’t particularly high, but that’s not the goal. Comfort is far more important, and that’s an area where the Gran Turismo succeeds. Standard to both models is adaptive air suspension on both axles, with dynamic damper control.
The car simply glides over cobbles and road joins in a way that’d be acceptable on a 7 Series, even on 19- and 20-inch wheels with expensive run-flat tyres. Furthermore, its NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) suppression at speed is as good as demanded.
The Sport setting also lowers the car by 10mm, while you can also raise the car by 20mm below 35km/h. An optional Executive Drive system for the range-topper adds active anti-roll bars to add a hint of extra handling prowess.
The cabin fascia is largely carried over from the 5 Series, and that’s not a bad thing. The design is austere, but the ambient lighting, material quality and iDrive 6 infotainment is all befitting of the class – mostly because it’s cutting-edge even by BMW standards.
The back seats are capacious. That roof – lower than the 5 GT’s – is still sufficient to house two tall occupants (two-metres or so) and legroom is 7 Series-like. The back seats also recline and have sumptuous headrests, though we’re annoyed the back windows don’t go all the way down, and would like to see a USB point or two back there, rather than just a 12V input.
The 630i gets standard fare including adaptive LED headlights with auto high beam, an electric tailgate and a panoramic glass roof. There’s also a proximity key, 10.25-inch screen and 12.3-inch digital instruments complemented by a head-up display lifted from the 7 Series.
Other features include a wireless smartphone charger, banging 16-speaker harmon/kardon surround-sound, surround-view camera with 3D view, Dakota leather seats heated up front, and preventative/active safety tech such as adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, steering and lane assist, front/rear cross-traffic alert, evasion aid and automated parking.
The $25,400 pricier 640i adds the xDrive AWD system, 20-inch BMW M alloys, Integral Active Steering, Nappa leather seats, ventilated front ‘comfort’ seats, four-zone (rear) climate-control adjust, ambient air and electric rear seat adjust/sun-blinds.
Beyond this, if you want the G30 5 Series’ nifty BMW Display Key, remote control parking and gesture control system, they’ll cost you $1600 total as part of the Innovations Package. The $8000 Indulgence Package on the 640i xDrive adds two tilting high-res 10-inch rear screens with various connections, a TV function, massaging seats and soft-closing doors. Apt....
All told, the 6 Series GT is a pretty simple car to review. We’ve raved about the G30 5 Series sedan and G31 wagon, and this car is simply a stretched version thereof with cushier suspension, AWD available and an unusual body type designed to cater to those wanting maximum rear space.
Does it achieve these things? Absolutely. Do we find it desirable? Irrelevant. It sure makes a lot more sense than its predecessor ever did.