2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo Review
Paul Horrell’s 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL A definite curveball from BMW, but one that succeeds on its own terms. Luxurious and useful
2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo (European spec)
Price $NA + orc Warranty 3 years/150,000km Engine (tested) 3.0l turbo 6cyl petrol Power 250kW at 5500-6500rpm Torque 450Nm at 1380-5200rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive four-wheel drive Body 5091mm (l); 1902mm (w exc mirrors); 2158mm (w inc mirrors); 1538mm (h) Turning circle 12.5m Towing weight 2100kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1935kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 68 litres Spare no (run-flat tyres) Thirst 7.7 l/100km combined cycle Fuel Petrol
THE OLD BMW 5-series GT was a camel – you know, a horse designed by committee. It was so full of ideas it lost its way. Its long wheelbase and high seating position helped comfort and easy access. It had a hatchback for variable cargo handiness. But it also wanted to be a saloon, so it had a strange two-section boot so you could open just the metal part, plus a strange arrangement of internal partitions, again to keep the people and the bags separate. That all made it heavy and ugly.
The new one finally admits it’s a hatchback. The tailgate is a less cumbersome single-part job and the partitions have gone. The boot-line is lowered a little so the overall silhouette’s sleeker. The lighter tailgate, as well as a new platform of lighter metals, have saved a substantial 115kg. The drag factor is just 0.25, again to the good of efficiency.
The result is a car with no direct rivals. That’s unusual, as BMW, Mercedes and Audi usually slavishly copy the format of each of each others’ cars. The British, Japanese and Swedes have nothing quite like it either. Do they know something BMW doesn’t? Let’s see.
What’s the interior like?
The 6-series GT sits on the wheelbase of the 7-series, and the seating position is slightly higher. That makes it spectacularly roomy front and back. You get to stretch like a lounge lizard. The price list contains all sorts of entertainment options – a rear comfort package gives heated and electrically reclinable seats back there, power sockets, screens, and sunblinds the better to see them. Four-zone climate control and wifi are is also on the options menu.
And it’s not like the people in the front are impoverished in sacrifice to the ones behind. Massaging, vented and heated multi-way electric seats can be had for the driver and passenger. The driving environment is superb, nicely made out of fine materials. All the ergonomics up to BMW’s usual standard, which means an absolute high standard.
Leather’s standard, but if that’s not enough for you, how about the softer diamond-quilted kind? Simple garnish on the dash not fancy enough? Get open-pore wood or embossed metalwork. Do your sensitive fingers shy from touching switches made of rude plastic? Then spend more for the optional ceramic-clad buttons and knobs. See, this isn’t your window cleaner’s hatchback.
Swing your leg under the back bumper and the powered hatchback opens to a chasm of a boot. Is it just us or are powered leg-operated hatches the height of feckless decadence? The leg-swing bit doesn’t always work, leaving you standing behind your car like you’re trying to relieve a cramp. The lid itself operates so slowly you wonder why you didn’t just yank it yourself. Then it’ll come close to the bottom and meet a soft bag that you’d have just shoved past. It takes fright and as a precaution motors slowly open again.
Anyway, the boot. It’s 610 litres under the parcel shelf, and 1800 with all three back seats folded – they drop forward in 40:20:40 splits depending on how many people you need to carry. Very neatly, the two halves of the parcel shelf store under the boot floor.
As usual, BMW’s iDrive system has lovely graphics on the screen. Logical menus via the console-mounted controller are easy to fathom for the basic functions. After a few minutes you’ll be up for seamlessly running the stereo, traffic-aware navigation and phone. And if you prefer Apple’s interface, CarPlay is available too. Lord knows why it’s an option not standard. Android Auto is promised but not here yet.
However, the system has a load of much more advanced comms functions, but they’re badly explained and not very logically laid out. Definitely for advanced students only. The hilarious and pointless gesture control system is further proof that aspects of the infotainment system are done because the engineers could, not because they had any earthly reason to.
What’s it like to drive?
BMW fitted us out with the ritziest spec for the test drive. That means not just the big six-pot petrol engine (a four and diesels are also available) but a suspension system consisting of four-wheel-drive, with adaptive dampers, self-levelling air springs, active anti-roll bars and four-wheel steering.
Experience teaches us that it’s likely to be a sweet and natural car to drive with the smaller engine, rear-wheel drive and simpler chassis. BMW certainly didn’t mess that up on the related 5-series.
But with this 640iGT’s full house of options, the thing is vastly composed. the ride at all speeds is soft, calm and quiet. The steering is set up so it spears down a highway with rock-solid determination. Even at pretty silly cornering speeds it stays level and has traction to spare. The springs absorb big bumps and potholes even if it’s half-way round a bend, and the dampers calm away the aftershocks and float.
But the steering and handling, although accurate, are a bit numb. So there’s less fun to be had than you might think when an interesting road worms its way ahead.
The six-cylinder engine is also the quiet strong companion. Sure you can swing the revs upward, but you’ll be grazing the red-line before you get exciting noises. Instead, it’s tuned, like the steering, to do great things without making a fuss or getting you involved.
Its efforts are aided by the eight-speed auto transmission. It chooses the right ratio and does it smoothly and promptly. What more does it need to do? You can change the tone of the car by toggling through comfort, normal and sport modes, even a sport plus. These alter the accelerator map, the transmission strategy, the chassis and damper settings and the stability system thresholds.
But guess what, you don’t need to do that. That’s because another mode, called ‘adaptive’, reads how you’re driving and also any upcoming corners or junctions from the navigation system, and alters the parameters to suit. Most cars can second-guess you part of the time; this one’s trick is to do it nearly all the time. I’m an incurable switcher of modes, over-rider of automatics and all the rest. This one I learned to trust, and left it alone. Again, it suits the subservient but mighty effective character of the car’s entire dynamic capacity.
What about safety features?
As is common for brand-new minority interest cars, we don’t yet have an Australian or European NCAP rating. But the closely related 5-series been scored very strongly five-stars for crash safety.
Its collision avoidance braking system was also well-rated in Euro NCAP’s tests. It’s effective up to 80km/h. In fact if the BMW driver is following another car using at least a sensible distance, and the driver in front jumps hard on their brakes, the BMW will come to a stop in time even if its driver fails to react at all. Don’t try this at home. It will also spot pedestrians and warn the driver and brake. Really don’t try this at home.
On the options list is lane departure and lane change warning, operational between 70 and 200km/h. Yes, 200. Other options include side collision warning and evasion aid, which gives you corrective steering inputs.
A very fancy surround camera system means you really shouldn’t reverse over your sleeping puppy (or worse) in your drive. Backing further out into the road, the crossing traffic warning system monitors the surrounding area using radar sensors.
The BMW night vision system is another option that gives a real-time video image in the dash display that highlights any pedestrians, larger animals or other objects radiating heat. But that takes your eyes off the road. Better invest in the optional adaptive LED headlights, and BMW’s excellent head-up display.
So, what do we think?
BMW makes glamorous saloons and coupes, and comparatively sporty SUVs. The 6 GT is neither glam nor sporty. But you’ll have to look very hard elsewhere to find such a combination of space, luxury, utility and quiet athleticism.