The BMW 6 coupe is a grand tourer, or GT, designed for those who like to churn up motorway miles in sporting luxury. This latest iteration goes up against established favourites including the Maserati Granturismo, Mercedes-Benz SL and the market-leading Jaguar XK Coupe, but promises better performance, comfort, efficiency and is cheaper than all three.
This 2012 model features a new 8-speed automatic transmission, rear wheels that help steer the car, an aggressive M Aerodynamic body styling kit, and the latest BMW ConnectedDrive technologies, which include night vision, a head-up display and a sat-nav that connects to the Internet.
We hopped in the £66,745 BMW 640d M Sport to discover just how good it really is.
The BMW 6 Series has, historically, looked quite understated compared to the competition. It's always been a classy, relatively attractive thing, but it's lacked the sleek lines of the Jaguar XK, the presence of the Merc SL and the sheer badassery of the Maserati Granturismo. The M Sport iteration attempts to correct that oversight, however, with the addition of an aerodynamic body kit from BMW's M motorsport division.
This doesn't quite propel it into Granturismo territory. The kit, which features large front air intakes, sideskirts and a bootlid spoiler, does provide the car with a certain understated menace. It's also worth noting the new model is 74mm longer, 39mm wider and 5mm lower than the previous model, so it's a damn sight sleeker than the car that came before it.
The new 6 Series Coupe is available in three engine guises at launch. There's the rather mental, 650i, which is powered by a 407hp twin-turbo V8; the slightly less mental 640i, which produces 320hp; and a the 'actually, this is quite mental for a diesel' 640d, whose twin-turbo diesel lump produces 313hp.
Before you walk away muttering about how all diesels are crap, you should consider this: the 640d is fast -- it'll do 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds, which is quick enough to send spit down the wrong tube in your chest -- trust us on this. More importantly, it'll either match or beat the top-of-the-range Mercedes-Benz SL 500, the 5.0-litre V8-powered Jaguar XK and the 4.2-litre Maserati Granturismo from the traffic lights.
Emissions and fuel economy
Despite its epic grunt, the 640d M Sport Coupe is surprisingly efficient. It emits CO2 at a rate of just 144g/km and returns 51.4mpg on the combined cycle. Its rivals are thirsty and unclean by comparison. The Jag achieves 25.2mpg and 264g/km, the Merc SL 24.4mpg and 272g/km and the Maserati a laughable 19.7mpg and 330g/km. As a result, the 640d SE costs £130 to tax annually, while road tax for its rivals will cost you up to £1,000. The money you'd save on fuel depends on how much you travel, of course, but it's safe to say the 6 Series is far cheaper to run than anything in its class.
Handling and driveability
Sadly, as impressive as the BMW 640d is in most areas, it's not particularly fun to drive. It's quick in a straight line, cruises quietly and is well-mannered at low speed, but show it some twisty roads and you'll be left strangely cold by the experience. It grips well, is composed through corners and changes direction quickly, but there's something about the drive that isn't quite as rewarding or as involving as, say, a Jaguar XK.
We'd put that down to several factors. Firstly, the the new 6 Series uses an electric power-steering system. These systems are more efficient than traditional belt-driven hydraulic systems, as they don't consume as much fuel, but they do have a tendency, in our experience, to feel a little too digital.
Also, our test car featured BMW's, admittedly very clever, Integral Active Steering feature, which not only steers the front wheels, but also the rear wheels, in the opposite direction, by up to three degrees. This is designed to help improve the car's turning circle at low speeds and also improve turning precision, but the reality is, the car's steering system behaves differently at 40mph than it does at 39mph and under, which makes for a slightly confusing drive -- in our heads at least.
The car's 8-speed gearbox, meanwhile, is impressive in the fact it is smooth and helps deliver great fuel economy, but it's not very involving. Even if the driver chooses to use the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, you never quite know what gear you're in unless you glance down at the display on the instrument binnacle. Also, the car doesn't stick in the gear you choose. The minute it reaches what it deems the appropriate shift point, it'll change up, so there's almost no point in you bothering to do so manually.
The 6 Series interior is among the best we've seen in any car. It's absolutely stunning to behold and features BMW's ConnectedDrive system, which incorporates some of the finest cabin tech on the market.
It has a number of headline features including a head-up display, which projects speed and navigation prompts onto the windscreen directly into your line of sight. It also has an absolutely fabulous 10.2-inch display that resembles a tablet PC, sitting in the middle of the dashboard. Through this, you can access a host of ConnectedDrive features including BMW Online, through which you can access the Web (if you've connected an iPhone), have the latest news and weather read aloud via the text-to-speech interface, and even add Web-powered apps such as Qype.
Most useful of all, perhaps, is the car's sat-nav. This uses BMW's new Real-Time Traffic Information system, which connects to the Internet to give you -- in theory -- the best possible, traffic-free route. Rather than using the old-school radio-based Traffic Message Channel system, it uses the Transport Protocol Expert Group channel over the GSM mobile network to track other drivers' mobile phones to see how quickly they're moving along any given road. If there are lots of drivers (with phones) moving extremely slowly along a stretch of road, RTTI will alert you and suggest a route that's less congested.
The BMW 640d is a fantastic car. It's not as rewarding to drive as some of its rivals, but it uses an incredible engine that delivers heaps of power and efficiency, it looks the part and its cabin tech is fabulous all round.