Life’s grand in BMW’s Gran Coupé

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IOL mot pic may17 BMW 640 Gran Coupe 1

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640i and 640d versions available, both turbocharged straight sixes.

Maserati’s GranTurismo, Ferrari’s 599 GTB and Aston Martin’s DB9 all have two things in common. They’re all stunningly beautiful and they are all two-door coupés

But those of you who own, or have driven, two-door coupés will know that they have two design flaws. Firstly, the back seats are pretty useless and, secondly, they have long, wide and heavy doors - often springloaded - that make getting in and out of them in tight parking spaces an absolute nightmare. Also, trying to make a graceful exit from a low-slung coupé requires the physical dexterity of a Romanian gymnast.

So, ever resourceful, the Germans have come up with a solution - the four-door coupé. Mercedes pioneered the idea with the radical CLS, Audi retaliated with their A5 and A7 Sportbacks and now BMW have jumped into the pool with their grandly named 6 Series Gran Coupé, or Grahn Coop as they pronounce it. And please don’t ask where the D in Grand disappeared to because the BMW boys on the world launch in Sicily didn’t seem to appreciate the question.

CONSERVATIVELY STYLED

It’s a handsome car, the Gran Coupé, but it’s surprisingly conservatively styled given abberations such as the X6 and the 5 Series GT they’ve produced recently. Perhaps the spectacular failure of the GT (which was actually a great car to travel in) has reined in their styling excesses. In fact, I rather thought the 640 looked as though that huge WWE wrestler Mark Henry had belly flopped onto the roof of a 5 Series sedan and squashed it lower, wider and longer.

In fact, it’s 110mm longer than its 6 Series coupé and convertible siblings and that’s where the extra space has come from for the two rear doors and the rear seat.

IOL mot pic may17 BMW 640 Gran Coupe 2

If whipping around mountain passes is more your style then get the 640i.

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FORCE-FED THREE-LITRE SIXES

Two models will be introduced into SA soon, the turbopetrol 640i and turbodiesel 640d. Four-litre V8s, right? Nope, as always the Teutons have messed with the nomenclature and both engines are force-fed three-litre straight sixes.

The 640i petrol produces 235kW and 450Nm, while the 640d punches out 230kW and a monster 630Nm. Each is mated to an eight-speed Sport automatic transmission, driving the rear wheels, that’s just out of this world. There will also be a 650i coming in November with a 330kW/650Nm 4.4-litre V8.

I’m not going to run you through the zillion and one electronic comfort and safety features on the 640s. There’s nothing new here that you haven’t already seen on the 5 or 6 Series models, save a strange matte paint finish option that seems to be all the rage in Europe right now.

PURE FORMULA ONE SOUNDTRACK

I started off in the 640i turbopetrol. Now normally I’m Motoring’s resident turbodiesel groupie, but this thing just blew my mind. Press the button for Sport mode and the suspension firms up - but is still reassuringly supple - the steering tightens, the throttle response quickens and you also have access to a soundtrack that’s pure Formula One.

IOL mot pic may17 BMW 640 Gran Coupe 3

Interior is typically BMW, comfortable and beautifully finished, if a little formal.

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On Sicily’s highways my co-driver and I just couldn’t resist flattening the throttle just to hear that spine-chilling howl.

Incidentally, the runflat tyres fitted as standard made no impact on the drive. They’re as comfortable in the twisties as they are on the highways.

It’s not a small car, the Gran Coupé, and threading it through some of Sicily’s tiny mountainous villages was heart-in-mouth stuff.

It’s as though the damn car can read your mind.

BMW has done a fantastic job matching engines to transmissions. Decide to accelerate and it magics up the right gear in a split second. You’ve also got the paddles on the steering wheel but, trust me, this box can move quicker than your mind or your fingers.

Then it was into the 640d and, suprisingly, it didn’t feel all that different from the petrol model. This one growls rather than howls and the torque is stupendous. In addition, in Sport mode it can do everything the petrol model can. So, which one to choose?

Before the drive I would have defaulted straight to the diesel but I’m not so sure now. As a daily driver and a long-distance cruiser the 640d makes more sense with its better fuel economy and longer range. But if whipping around mountain passes is more your style then get the 640i. And all the speeding fines that will come with it.

MADE TO ORDER

Dislikes? Well, it’s still a tight fit inside for four adults. The rear seats offer plenty of head, shoulder and knee room but it’s your feet that will struggle to find space. Four big boerseuns with size 11 plates are going to be seriously grumpy after a long drive. So, four-door coupé or not, two adults and two growing children will probably be the best recipe here.

However, if you want one you’ll need to speak nicely to your local BMW dealer because these cars are made to order only. You won’t be able to drive one off the showroom floor.

And bring a big cheque: the 640i in basic trim costs R877 000, R906 900 for the M-Sport kit and R981 300 for the Individual model – and that’s before you even start ticking the option boxes.

The 640d will set you back R912 400 for the basic model, R942 300 for M-Sport and a whopping R1 016 700 for the Individual. Eish, but what a car. - Star Motoring

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