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The BMW 630i Gran Turismo could be the best car BMW builds, but of course conditions apply.
The brand is well known for its sporting models, its M division for crushing performance cars, and even its more basic 1 Series and 3 Series offerings inject a hint of enjoyment into otherwise mundane motoring.
Then there’s the 6 Series range: a coupe, convertible, four-door coupe, and... This thing. What is it exactly? Well, that’s a good question.
Somehow BMW decided that the world needed high-roofed hatchbacks with a strong emphasis on practicality and gave the world both 3 Series GT and 5 Series GT models, which kind of looked like boof-headed caricatures of normal BMW sedans.
In its newest generation, the 5 Series GT has evolved into the 6 Series GT (essentially one is the evolution of the other accompanied by a new name), and in the process has ditched some of the frumpier styling for a sleeker look – without forgetting its more practical roots.
What you get, in essence, is all the rear seat space (plus wheelbase, and overall length) of a 7 Series limo, for a price much, much closer to the 5 Series range, and an added dose of practicality thanks to a hatchback rear.
At a starting bid of $123,500 – plus on-road costs – the 630i Gran Turismo M Sport commands a premium of over $13,000 compared to a similar 530i sedan or wagon, but next to the cheapest 7 Series (the 740i), you’ll save over $106,000 – although you do miss out on two cylinders and some more opulent features.
There’s still plenty of equipment to keep discerning buyers happy, though, with standard items like a powered tailgate, LED headlights, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, panoramic sunroof, air suspension, 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio, dual-zone climate control, and wireless mobile charging just the tip of the equipment iceberg.
The standard styling adheres to BMW’s M Sport guidelines, meaning a slightly sporty styling skew, plus M Sport brakes, and interior touches that amplify the use of the hallowed M logo. Those looking for something more restrained can opt for a more prestigious Luxury Line pack for no extra charge.
So what is it that makes the 6 Series GT one of BMW’s best cars? Put simply, space. The interior of the Gran Turismo is simply huge.
Although the front seat passengers are in no way short-changed, it's passengers in the rear who benefit the most. While a regular 5 Series can feel a touch compact from the rear seat, the 630i GT’s extra 95mm of wheelbase translates into a real limo-like experience.
That’s good news if your kids are about to hit their gangly teenage stage, or if your parents are getting on in years, travel with you often and expect the finer things. It goes without saying chauffeur service drivers will get rave reviews from passengers too while keeping a lid on overheads.
Although the styling hides it a little better than before, the roofline is also higher than BMW’s traditional sedans, making entry and egress easier, and even with the standard panoramic sunroof there’s no shortage of rear passenger head room.
The basic dash design is shared with the 5 Series, which is no bad thing, with BMW’s most recent interiors featuring a contemporary look, and a range of finishes that appear suitably premium amongst contemporary rivals.
This particular car also came equipped with a $3000 Comfort Package, which furthers its limo-like attributes with features like four-zone climate control, power reclining rear seats, heated front and rear seats, and powered rear door sunshades.
Couple that with the $1300 Nappa leather upgrade and the interior moves from accommodating to outright sumptuous. Go for the $6400 Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi upgrade and your music comes through at concert hall quality. Both options are serious steps into 7 Series territory.
There are also options you could probably live without, like the Innovations Package that adds BMW’s cool-looking display key, remote-control parking, and audio system gesture control – all fun things to impress relatives and co-workers with, but short on actual long-term usefulness.
Under the bonnet, the 630i GT runs a version of BMW’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. In this instance outputs are rated at 190kW and 400Nm, giving the big hatch a handy 10kW and 50Nm boost compared to a 530i sedan to help it cope with the extra 180kg it carries around as part of its 1720kg kerb weight.
That’s about as small an engine as a car of this size can deal with. In typical BMW style, there’s plenty of torque available down low, and a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic with the smarts to keep things moving along keenly.
At the end of the day, though, the 630i is no straight-line monster, although working it through Melbourne’s grinding traffic reveals decent acceleration for commuter duty, low levels of noise, and comfortably smooth progress.
Another of the comfort-over-performance attributes is the delightfully smooth air suspension, which unlike some similar systems is free of jiggly ride over small bumps and simply smooths out almost anything Australian roads have to throw at it, even on upsized 20-inch alloy wheels.
Less comfortable, for the driver at least, is Integral Active Steering – BMW’s four-wheel steering system that also includes a variable steering ratio, meaning more turn-in from less lock at low speeds. Fine in theory, but the car feels darty and nervous when navigating car parks or creeping up to intersections.
The steering feels less linear, and a little offbeat depending on the driving situation, but the ability for the rear wheels to turn opposite the fronts at low speeds at least keeps the turning circle trim.
Crucially, though, even at highway speeds interior noise is incredibly low (quite a feat for something with coupe-style frameless door glass), making the 630i GT ideal as a luxed-up cross-country tourer. Melbourne to Sydney in a day should be a fuss- and fatigue-free proposition for the Gran Turismo and its passengers.
To make that process even easier, the 630i GT comes loaded with active cruise control and lane control assist, which gives it the ability to do short stints of semi-autonomous driving – long enough to uncap a drink on the go, for instance.
An active surround-view camera, front and rear park sensors, semi-autonomous parking, front and rear cross traffic alert, and a host of other smart technologies also help take the pain out of driving something so long and large.
Safety credentials also look good with inclusions like autonomous emergency braking, seven airbags, traffic sign info matched to the cruise control and speed limiter, and Active Protection, which tightens seatbelts, and closes the windows and roof in situations where the vehicle detects an accident might be likely. There’s no ANCAP rating for this model yet.
On the practical side, the 6 Series’s powered tailgate lifts to reveal a 610L boot with the rear seats up. That’s 40 litres more than a 5 Series wagon, and 80L more than the sedan with rear seats that can be folded from inside the boot, leaving little that can’t be carried in the 6 Series GT.
On the sticky issue of ownership, BMW surprises with an available BMW Service Inclusive prepaid program that covers general servicing for up to five years or 80,000km for $1695. That sounds like a decent chunk of change, but equates to a reasonable $339 per year.
For buyers worried the 630i may not have the muscle required for its size, or their needs, the more powerful 640i along with its xDrive all-wheel-drive system puts a 250kW/450Nm turbocharged six-cylinder engine underfoot, but to take advantage of that, you will need to hand over an extra $25,400.
That’s a steep step up, although there is extra equipment to offset it, but realistically the 630i GT does everything it needs to do. Fast and frugal enough (at 7.0L/100km), absolutely large enough to be family friendly – right up to fully grown families – and no longer awkward to look at like its predecessor was.
Although its pure driving appeal may not be as sharp as that of the 530i, BMW has carved itself a practical and luxurious niche. SUV detractors are sure to warm to the lower, leaner looks of the GT without missing out on a traditional high-rider’s promised practicality.
Not only that, but for the time being, BMW is without peers in the segment. Audi, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar all divide their efforts between traditional sedans and SUVs, with the occasional wagon and ‘SUV coupe’ thrown in for good measure, but only BMW has decided to follow the Gran Turismo path, whatever that might mean to you.