Johannesburg - There are plenty of ‘niche’ vehicles popping out of the automotive woodwork in today’s age of easily-scalable vehicle platforms, but few are as unusual and obscure as BMW’s ‘Gran Turismo’ models.
What you see here is the new 6 Series Gran Turismo, launched in SA late in 2017, and it has nothing to do with the low-slung 6 Series Coupé, Convertible and four-door Gran Coupé that will soon be replaced by cars with 8 Series badges.
This is actually the replacement for BMW’s 5 Series Gran Turismo, although technically it’s actually quite closely related to the 7 Series, sharing its 3070mm wheelbase and 1902mm width with the latest standard-wheelbase 7.
But that doesn’t get us much closer to figuring out what this actually is (for crying out loud!), and it hardly helps that BMW defines it as something that blends the long-distance comfort of a luxury sedan with “alluring coupé style”.
In truth it matters not how much time designers spend perfecting slopey roof lines, frameless doors and Hofmeister kinks - a vehicle as tall as this (1540mm) is never going to look like a proper coupé.
If anything it just ends up looking like an egg, although if we have to be fair here, it’s not the rotten design egg that its predecessor was accused of being.
Although those proportions are still a bit challenging, the new design is far more agreeable all round, and might even appeal to those looking for something unique and different among the monotonous tide of same-old-same-old SUVs.
And that might just be where the new Gran Turismo’s appeal really lies - that, and the fact that it’s really spacious inside, with some proper stretching space for rear occupants and a large, albeit fairly shallow, boot.
You’re ultimately getting a less expensive 7 Series, considering that the 640i Gran Turismo featured here - at R1 157 150 before options - costs a cool R332 000 less than the equivalent 7 sedan.
That said, many of the snazzy gizmos that you get as standard on the 7 are optional on the 6 Series.
This means you’ll have to budget a bit extra for features such as BMW’s Driving Assist Plus semi-autonomous driving system with steering assist (R40 300), as well as Head-up Display (R17 100), digital Display Key (R3600), gesture control (R3600), four-zone climate control (R7900), and Park Assist Plus with surround view (R10 300) - and these are just some of the many items you’ll have to pay extra for if you want a 6 Series with all the bells, whistles and bragging rights.
Granted, you still get BMW’s Navigation System Professional, a nice panoramic glass sunroof, Dakota leather seats (electric upfront), ambient interior lighting and an electric tailgate, to name a few of the many standard amenities you don’t have to tick for.
Unlike the larnier 7 sedans, you also don’t get any kind of lounge-style executive back seating option, the 6 featuring a conventional rear bench, but you can still order BMW’s two-screen rear seat entertainment system for R33 700.
Your command centre is the latest version of BMW’s iDrive interface, with a high-mounted 26cm touch-screen displaying large configurable tile-style icons for the various functions on the home screen. In keeping with its cushy, grand touring nature, the 6 GT comes standard with rear-axle air suspension, although you can order the full two-axle air suspension that you get on the 7 Series for R28 100.
Our car was thus equipped and it wafted over Gauteng’s sometimes rough surfaces in the greatest of comfort, yet without imparting that floaty, out-at-sea sensation. You still get a good feeling for the road.
While the 630d is rear-driven, the 640i GT is fitted with BMW’s xDrive permanent all-wheel-drive system as standard, which is well-suited to this application. Considering its 1800kg+ kerb weight, the 6 GT carves through corners with relative ease and, subjective though this might seem, this car just doesn’t feel as heavy as it is.
The 640i gets BMW’s euphonious three-litre straight-six turbopetrol, tuned to 250kW and 450Nm, and dishing up brisk, effortless performance through BMW’s very likeable and quick-thinking eight-speed autobox. The only thing standing in this variant’s way is the more efficient 630d that’s available for 40 grand less.
Ultimately you don’t get the luxury or performance one-upmanship that its 7 Series cousin offers, and the styling is still an acquired taste, but the 6 Series GT makes a very strong case for those seeking a spacious and luxurious family vehicle that’s different from the herd.
BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo
|Engine:||3.0-litre, 6-cyl, turbopetrol|
|Power:||250kW @ 5500-6500rpm|
|Torque:||450Nm @ 1380-5200rpm|
|0-100km/h (claimed):||5.3 seconds|
|Top speed (claimed):||250km/h|
|Price:||R1 157 150|
|Maintenance plan:||5-year/100 000km|