The cars we loved.
The announcement of a new BMW always generates excitement, especially when it’s not another SUV. The propeller brand’s answer to the Mercedes CLS and Audi A7 is one announcement that looks like a winner. Thousands will get the chance to see it in person as it makes its public debut at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show in April. The name ‘Gran Coupe’ has been used by plenty of manufacturers, but only on two door cars. Although not BMW’s first sedan with a coupe-like profile (remember the ugly 5 Series Gran Tursimo), the 6 Series Gran Coupe or “GC” is their most attractive attempt and looks to be the first real stab at the exclusive end of the growing “coupelike” sedan segment. The new GC four-door coupe joins the two-door coupe and convertible as BMW’s premium personal luxury offerings.
The GC is essentially a stretched version of the current BMW 6 Series Coupe. Although it’s called a coupe it’s obviously a sedan with a less obvious coupe-like profile. Unlike the Mercedes or Audi, the GC came from a proper coupe instead of trying to emulate one as a sedan. The 6 Series GC is wider than the 5 Series and longer than the coupe that spawned it, yet retains much of the character of the 2-door. Instead of just saying that the new sedan is a 5 passenger car, BMW likes to say it has a four plus one passenger seating arrangement, suggesting that a fifth passenger is likely to be uncomfortable unless they are very small. The interior is ideally suited for four passengers and may be the best example of BMW’s take on modern ergonomic design.
The GC will come in either 640 or 650 trim, just like the two-door coupe, all with variable sequential twin turbocharging. The 640’s 3.0L engines will be either a 320hp inline six cylinder (640i) or a 313 hp diesel (640d) with common-rail direct injection. The diesel car is not likely to be offered in BMW’s North American line up. The 650i’s 4.4L V8 is expected to be the initial performance leader with up to 445 hp, making 0 to 60 times as low as 4.6 seconds possible. The 650i will also be available with all-wheel drive as the 650i xDrive Gran Coupe. An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available for either engine. It’s expected (or hoped) that a M6 version will appear with possibly the same engine as the upcoming M5. M6 coupes have been a mainstay in the 6 Series line, so it makes perfect sense to add the M badge to the new four-door coupe. A M6 version is still just a rumor for the moment.
The Gran Coupe will employ a considerable amount of technology to improve efficiency and performance. Fuel economy for the 650i is expected to average low 30’s mpg, an impressive if not optimistic figure for so large a car. The current 6 Series is estimated to get 31mpg on the highway. Every creature comfort imaginable is inside as expected for a car that will start somewhere north of the current 2 door coupes $75,000. Even more technology is employed where it’s felt and not seen. A Driving Dynamics system will remap throttle response to improve response and gas mileage. BMW claims a 20% improvement in fuel economy over the previous 6 Series coupe. Fuel economy is taken seriously with weight savings not being limited to the obvious parts. Exotic materials and a lightweight suspension further reduce weight. The active suspension is tuned to work with various control systems to keep the GC firmly planted on the road. Then of course there’s that magical BMW combination of road feel and ride quality.
With the state of the world economy as it is it’s a wonder that anyone has the money for a new super-premium car, but the wealthy don’t seem to be retracting their budgets like the rest of us. Oil barons and lottery winners have a growing field of luxury sport sedans with coupe like profiles to choose from. The new 6 Series Gran Coupe is certainly attractive, but if previous 6 Series resale value trends continue, a 5-year-old GS will be an affordable used car at Carmax. Perhaps making the 6 Series a four door coupe will attract a whole new type of buyer and the resale fortunes of the 6 Series will be changed for the better as a result. It’ll be interesting to revisit the GC in five years to see if history catches up with the new 6 ‘coupe’.