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2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe First Drive

It's like an Armani suit: Classy, elegant, tasteful, and more expensive than it needs to be.

Who It's For
Style-conscious, high-flying social butterflies need only appreciate this attention-getting take on a coupe with the utility of two extra doors, otherwise known as a designer sedan.
Best Thing
Both hardcore BMW enthusiasts and simple badge-fans will be able to appreciate this car's precision and quality.
Worst Thing
Its optional high-dollar Bang and Olufsen stereo didn't deliver its promised aural cocoon of serenity.
Snap Judgment
The 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe makes your four-door coupe buying decision that much harder. But for the kind of money BMW's asking, you should expect it to be as good as it is.


Sitting around with BMW's product planners at dinner, you notice immediately they're not wrinkled industry veterans who have sat in the trenches of the auto industry for decades. They're two 30somethings, fast-talking and snappy in their responses. Not the type to dwell on tradition, they see BMW's future filled with stylish performance cars filling every market void you can imagine. And with today's technology, they say it's going to happen sooner than we could have imagined.

Ah, yes, that word: technology. It's a word these seeming iconoclasts embrace, while BMW traditionalists shun the very mention of things like iDrive, smartphone-integrated BMW Apps, and complex turbocharged engines. But BMW's spritely employees love the word, saying the 640i Gran Coupe is possible only because of it, allowing the company's designers and engineers the opportunity to create something that wouldn't have even been possible a decade ago.

The 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe hails as BMW's first foray into a competitive against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class and Audi A7 -- called four-door coupes for their stylish fastback rooflines. The 640i Gran Coupe is the first of three models from BMW to share the "Gran Coupe" name (the other two being the 650i and 650i xDrive versions), and it's based on the same architecture as the two-door 6 Series coupe and convertible with which it also shares its name. At $76,895 for starters, including destination and handling, it costs about $3,000 more than the traditional 640i coupe. It's also about $5,000 more than the V-8-powered Mercedes-Benz CLS550, or put another way, about the same price as a completely loaded Audi A7, which has a base price that undercuts the BMW by more than $15,000, including destination and handling. Each of these three are tarted-up sedans, but BMW justifies its extra cost by saying it's basically the $74,495 640i coupe with two extra doors and some unique styling.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Walkaround

If you want your twin kidney grilles, Hoffmeister kinks, round headlights, and blue and white hood- and trunk-mounted roundels, the 640i Gran Coupe checks each and every one of those BMW boxes. But if you want something that sands down the edges of the upright, ordinary sedan look, the Gran Coupe delivers a little something extra.

BMW sells plenty of sedans and more mainstream coupes. But the Gran Coupe straddles the form of coupes and function of sedans, and then splashes cold water on the faces of both. This car has presence. From the front, it looks mostly like any other 6 Series, sans a revised front bumper. From the rear, its scalloped trunk and solid-red tail lights couldn't come from anything else but a 6 Series. But its profile has been lengthened, stretched upward and outward to add a swept look of grace to the 6 Series' otherwise long and low profile. And it works, really well. No complaints there.

Sitting Down

BMW did its darnedest to get us to like this car. And with an interior swathed in the automaker's premium Merino leather package -- exclusive to the Gran Coupe at a heart-stopping $5,000 premium -- it's hard not to. The package covers the dashboard and most every panel it can in the fine white cowhides, giving it a little bit of an Italian style and flair to the package.

But BMW swung for the fences with the cars on-hand for our drive, adding M Sport package ($4,200) that included BMW's suede headliner and a thick sport steering wheel; the Luxury Seating package ($3,600), which includes multicontour heated and cooled active front seats and heated rear seats; and the Driver Assistance package ($3,700) that offers up lane departure warning that vibrates the steering wheel when it senses drifting, a headup display, and park assist, among other features. Most features are controlled by way of BMW's now fairly intuitive standard iDrive infotainment system, which is displayed by a 10.2-inch widescreen monitor on the dash. Translation: If you're not a Luddite, you should be able to catch onto using iDrive without much effort at all. The Gran Coupe had a letdown, though, and a mighty expensive one at that. We received two presentations on both nights we had with BMW about the $3,700 Bang and Olufsen stereo, a feature which costs $5,900 in the rival Audi. We were told customers in this price bracket appreciate value differently and that the system offered lifelike sound. And we're sure it could when tuned properly. But so could the basic Harmon/Kardon audio system. And with that, we wouldn't need P.T. Barnum trying to justify an indiscernible difference.

Otherwise, sitting in the car proved to be as pleasant as you'd expect in a high-dollar luxury car. Even with frameless windows on each door, seatbelts anchored on the chairs themselves -- borrowed from the convertible 6 Series -- and a sloped roofline, the interior felt plenty usable. In configuration, it's listed as a 4+1 seater, but with a large tunnel housing vents in back, we wouldn't try putting five people in there. In fact, we wouldn't recommend putting anyone with long legs in back.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Driving

"This car feels so soft and wallowy," exclaimed my driving partner on our drive as he pushed it hard through mountain passes. It should be noted that his daily driver is a BMW M3 sports car, and we had just gotten done with driving the 560-horsepower M6 during our first leg. Of course, the 315-horsepower 640i would feel softer, probably just fine for the sort who carry lapdogs with them during weekday jaunts to a swanky shopping center.

But, then, he also had the car in Comfort mode, one of its four suspension and throttle settings. With a few taps of a button near the gear selector, he turned it to Sport+, which made all the difference in the world, uncorking BMW's punchy turbocharged engine. Doing that also sped up shifts, stiffened the suspension, and made the Gran Coupe's steering feel more robust. It changed the car's character completely, no longer feeling like a highway-bound Buick.

In Sport+, the car's eight-speed automatic shifted at an ultra-fast pace, and the engine kept up, making it possible to easily and confidently handle the roads that weaved throughout the canyons. Indeed, I found the same, infinitely more engaging driving behavior when it was my turn to drive. But as the road straightened up and we got onto the highway again, I put the car in Comfort+, which made the road's bumps almost imperceptible and the steering much less sensitive.

As with most any BMW, the car's brakes are excellent. And as we've come to expect from the 3.0-liter turbocharged six cylinder used in this car and other BMW models, it's more than enough motor than most anyone will likely need. BMW plans to offer the Gran Coupe with a 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 later in the year, complete with 445-horsepower. But even with the Gran Coupe's 4,200-pound heft, we don't think it'll be necessary. It can reach extralegal speeds with no effort at all; the V-8 almost seems like it will be overkill in such a well-balanced car. And, of course, we mean it's plenty more balanced for more spirited driving in its Sport or Sport+ modes.

Summary

The 640i Gran Coupe isn't BMW's sportiest car; it's a grand tourer in the traditional sense, a long-distance companion that does an amazing job of coddling its passengers whims, all while surrounding them in an atmosphere that will make your friends driving six-figure Italian cars jealous. It's a large, luxurious cruiser that oozes style. With BMW's premium and Individual options, its upscale demeanor is all the greater. It should easily rival Mercedes-Benz's and Audi's cars. But at a pretty big price premium over those two for what you get.

Our car tipped just north of $100,000, which is a lot of cash for a six-cylinder-powered BMW. For that kind of cash, you're well into Mercedes-Benz's CLS63 AMG territory, a 518-horsepower car that could run laps around the Gran Coupe. You're also well above the asking price of most any Audi A7. But BMW has traditionally made its on-road feel and level of driver involvement a selling point in its cars where rivals haven't always. Still, BMW's not off the hook for the 640i Gran Coupe's pricetag. It's justified a little; we could happily live without $14,000 worth of the M Performance package, premium paint, nicer leather, and a stereo that didn't live up to our expectations. But if price isn't a factor, there's no question the 640i Gran Coupe is a good car -- very good, in fact. It should be for as much as it costs. Whether it's good enough to justify its asking price over its rivals is a question we look forward to answering as soon as we can.

Basic Specs

640i Gran Coupe: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6, seven-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive, 315-hp, $76,895, 23 mpg city/33 mpg hwy

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