The news that the BMW 6 Series range as we’ve all grown to love it will be retired after the current Coupe, Convertible and Gran Coupe models have run their lifespans shocked a lot of people. A lot of us already knew that the 8 Series was in the making and that the revival of this iconic nameplate would probably lead to a sort of cannibalization between the two. Even so, the thought that the 6er will be dropped was kept in check with our never-ending optimism. And then the confirmation came and we learned that the 6 Series range won’t be completely retired but that it will simply…transform.
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When the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo was unveiled, it was already too late, we knew that there’s no going back and that this is the only model that will keep using the number ‘6’ on the boot moving forward. It was a bittersweet moment, to be honest, one that made me wonder just how good the new GT will be, considering my previous experience with its predecessor, the 5 Series GT. A true trailblazer in my view, a car that I thoroughly enjoyed, basking in its comfort and ample room but which fell short when it came to what matters most to the vast majority: the looks department.
It’s true, the 5 Series GT was no looker. It was peculiar, weird and boxy, especially in its original guise. The facelift that came afterwards managed to change some shapes, especially at the back, making the boxy rear end look a bit rounder, a bit less blunt but even then, you couldn’t say it was a good-looking car. The advantages were obvious though, if you could just ignore the exterior looks of the 5er.
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BMW wanted to offer a more practical alternative to those looking for the ultimate luxury and comfort…
Inside the car you’d find room for even the largest and tallest people out there, rivaling the 7 Series in terms of leg room and then rattling its crown as the roomiest Bimmer out there by having more headroom thrown in for good measure. Get the 5er GT with a panoramic roof and the sense of space was even more overwhelming. But there were obvious drawbacks, the most obvious one being the weight of the gran tourer.
Back when I tested the 5 Series Gran Turismo I remember saying to myself and my readers that it was the perfect surrogate if you really didn’t want to buy an SUV. It offered all the space and comfort inside while allowing you to ride closer to the ground and therefore more compliant when pushing the car to its limits. On the other hand, if you put the 5er on a scale and then an SUV right afterwards, you might notice that the needle would rest in roughly the same position. It was a heavy beast.
Therefore, those two were the main culprits that made the 5 Series GT a peculiar offering in the 5 Series range: the looks and weight. Could the 6 Series Gran Turismo overcome those handicaps? From the get go, the 6er lines up at the starting grid with a huge handicap in the collective mind of the audience it’s appealing to. You see, the 6 Series range as a whole might’ve been a bit heavy overall, but those cars were still regarded as high-precision tools, fast and enjoyable, not to mention drop dead gorgeous. Nobody can deny those claims and that means the 6 Series badge comes with a certain prejudice that will simply block some people from seeing what the Gran Turismo is supposed to be all about.
Some will get in and try and reproduce the driving dynamics of the old and now retired F13 6 Series Coupe and that simply won’t happen. It will then leave them angry and disappointed, without even trying to understand the car that’s sitting in front of them.
The Gran Turismo is a different kind of 6 Series. It’s a new breed if you will, a car that aims at offering the ultimate comfort and luxury for those looking to save some money compared to a 7 Series. The two have almost identical exterior dimensions. In terms of length, the standard 7 Series – not the long wheelbase model – is just 7mm longer while the two are exactly the same in width. However, the higher roofline of the GT makes it over 70mm taller and all of that translates into extra headroom compared to the limousine.
By now, you should get the picture: BMW wanted to offer a more practical alternative to those looking for the ultimate luxury and comfort inside a Bavarian machine but the size of the Gran Turismo isn’t the only thing that confirms my theory.
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The car is also quick off the line and keeps you secure at all times, rising the confidence levels even higher.
Unlike the old 5 Series, the new model now also comes with all the latest tech the 7 Series brought out in the first place as well as the being built on top of the same CLAR architecture. This is actually important as it means the 6 Series GT now managed to drop considerable weight compared to its predecessor, thanks to intelligent use of lightweight materials. yet don’t believe that the 6 GT is now a light car on its feet but it did drop 150 kg (331 lbs) off its hips which is noticeable in all types of scenarios. It also comes with the latest adaptive drive suspension and integral active steering which, combined, make a big difference in how the car handles.
However, a big part in that is played by the engine choice as well. In the US, the entry-level model is the 640i GT. It comes with the familiar B58 3-liter straight six engine we’ve all grown to love, making 340 HP and 450 Nm (332 lb-ft) of torque. It’s a rapid machine that will reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.4 or 5.3 seconds, the latter for the xDrive all-wheel drive models. All cars come with an 8 s-speed automatic gearbox as there’s no manual on offer. Then there’s also the 630i model but, unlike what the name would suggest, it’s powered by a powerful and yet small 2-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine.
The remaining models in the range are diesels and, therefore, not available in the US. You get to choose between a 630d with or without xDrive and a 640d xDrive model which can’t be had without all-wheel drive. Both cars use 3-liter straight six diesel engines making either 265 HP on the former or 320 HP on the latter. But that’s just half the story. On a car this heavy, torque is what matters the most and both of them have it by the plentiful. There’s only 60 Nm between them, with the 630d having less of it, of course, the 620 Nm (457 lb-ft) kicking in at 2,000 RPM.
It was this model that we had for testing purposes for a longer period of time and, to be fair, it felt like the best buy of the range. There’s plenty of power from down low, the car will do 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6 seconds flat and it handles great, never leaving the impression you’d need more grunt under the hood. Furthermore, the magic BMW applied to the chassis works wonders in favor of the new Gran Turismo in the range.
With the Executive Drive option ticked, our tester came with active anti-roll bars which did they job brilliantly and managed to keep body roll in check most of the time. Take the car up to 9/10 though and yes, there is some dive to be noticed if you enter a corner with too much speed but considering that the behemoth I was driving tipped the scale at just shy of 2 tons, the way it kept its composure was admirable. Some of the credit also goes to the active steering which makes this tall and ungainly car feel like it’s on rails and that simply left me dazzled. How could such a big beast keep its composure like that?
It was, without a doubt, a combination of factors. From the air suspension on both axles to the active anti-roll bars, everything works together perfectly, like finely tuned orchestra, offering a great show to the person sitting behind the wheel and I’m not talking only about when pushing the car to its limits. The ride feels composed at all times and the steering is direct and confidence inspiring but lacks the feedback everyone is talking about these days. The car is also quick off the line and keeps you secure at all times, rising the confidence levels even higher.
But you might want to take things down a notch every once in a while, especially when you pause for a moment and look around while sitting inside. As I already mentioned, there’s ample room both in the front and in the back but there’s also luxury on par with the 7 Series. The dash looks almost identical and you get access to all the optional features you can possibly want, from Gesture Control to the latest lane-keeping assistant and the Bowers & Wilkins sound system. Our tester also came with massaging seats up front as well as Individual Black Piano trims and Nappa Mokka leather upholstery. In a word, the car was expensive.
The price tag added up to over 100,000 Euros and we were still looking at a dash covered in Sensatec and missing some options that could’ve taken things even further up the scale. And that’s expensive, no matter how you look at it, turning the 6 Series GT into a niche model, if I ever saw one. But then again, there are things working for it, even at this stratospheric price range.
Compared to a similarly equipped 7 Series, the 6er comes in a bit cheaper even though it is also more practical and offers more room. In terms of practicality one has to mention the cavernous boot that offers 610 liters of storage space which is more than the 515 liters of the 7 Series or the 570 liters of the 5 Series Touring. Furthermore, fold the seats and things go up to a ludicrous 1800 liters, 100 more than the Touring 5er, making the GT one of the most practical BMWs you can get these days, including the SUV range. As a matter of fact, the X5 only offers 70 liters more with the rear seats folded and that’s something you might want to keep in mind.
Another thing you might want to remember when driving or parking the 6 Series GT is the high-rising tailgate. With the boot open, the rear end of the car looks like a hippo with its mouth open, allowing you to stow away all your stuff thanks to the flat floor and the secret storage bins underneath it. On the end of the tailgate you’ll also find an active wing that raises at speeds over 100 km/h (62 mph) for more stability on the road.
It’s not like you’d need the help though as the car is keeping its composure at speeds well over the usual 65 mph limit. Flat out, the 630d GT breaks that limit in a couple of seconds and has enough pull even at those speeds to make sure you can overtake without breaking a sweat. But while the performance was impressive, the fuel consumption figures were mind-blowing.
Around town our tester showed restrain without having to use the Eco Pro mode. The long and wide car is easy to manage even on Europe’s old, narrow roads and a lot of the credit goes to the integral steering. Choose the Comfort+ mode and you’ll be feeling like you’re riding on a cloud, the air suspension easily handling even potholes of the larger variety. As for the fuel consumption, it sat around 27 mpg (8.5 l/100 km) which is absolutely incredible in my book. Then I went outside the city limits and my mind was blown away once again, the onboard trip computer showing a fuel consumption of 42 mpg (5.6 l/100 km) at an average speed of 50 mph (80 km/h), leaving me certain that autonomies of over 1,000 km (620 miles) can be easily achieved.
In the end, this drastically misunderstood model left me wanting more. I have to admit that’s roughly the same way the old 5 Series GT left me when I tested it a few years back but this time around, the small flaws that made the 5er a less than perfect model have been ironed out. The 6 Series GT is lighter, looks and drives better while offering you cavernous space and a fuel consumption worthy of a compact car. And in a world where SUVs are usually bought with the classic ‘practicality’ argument trumping over reason, the 6 Series Gran Turismo can be a smarter choice altogether.