Buyer's Guide 

2018 BMW 640I XDRIVE GRAN TURISMO FIRST DRIVE: A BMW WITH A DIFFERENCE

There are two ways of looking at the 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo: A) It’s the answer to a question no one asked, or B) It’s a more interesting, more useful, and more luxurious alternative to a loaded 5 Series sedan. We take the latter view.

Make no mistake—this car will be a tough sell when it arrives at BMW dealers in the U.S. this fall priced from $70,695. It’s not that the 6 Series Gran Turismo is a bad car. It’s just that Americans aren’t big fans of hatchbacks even when they’re cheap and fun to drive such as the Golf GTI or the Fiesta ST. And those Americans with the money to spend on a big four-door BMW are used to spending it on conservative sedans or swaggering SUVs.

The 6 Series Gran Turismo replaces the largely unloved 5 Series Gran Turismo, and, as the new nomenclature suggests, it takes the large hatchback concept further upmarket. The car shares much of its structural hardware with the 5 Series and 7 Series sedans, along with engines and transmissions. Size-wise, it’s a tweener, 6.3 inches longer overall and with a 3.8-inch longer wheelbase than a 5 Series sedan, but 5.7 inches shorter overall and with a 5.5-inch shorter wheelbase compared to the 7 Series.

The 6 GT is 2.4 inches taller than either sedan, reflecting BMW’s emphasis on creating a roomier interior with a higher H-point than in its regular four doors, though more than eight-tenths of an inch has been trimmed from the roofline compared with the old 5 GT. The new car looks the better for it, frankly, swoopier and sportier, especially because there’s less crown in the roof at the rear of the car, and the rear pillars flow into a tail that’s less truncated.

From the driver’s seat, it’s like a regular 5 Series. From the rear seat, the 6 GT is an impressively roomy mini-limo, with a lovely, light, and airy ambience, especially when trimmed in pale leather and with a panorama glass roof. The rear hatch opens to reveal a wide, deep 31-cubic-foot load space; fold the rear seats flat (levers allow you to do it while standing at the rear of the car), and that balloons to 65 cubic feet. By way of comparison, the cargo capacity of the taller, squarer X5 is 35.8/76.7 cubic feet, and that of the 5 Series wagon—sadly, a stranger to U.S. shores—is 20.1/60.0 cubic feet. Like all hatchbacks, this is a genuinely useful vehicle.

Although available in other markets with a selection of gas and diesel engines, all U.S. Gran Turismos will be 640i xDrives, powered by the familiar 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six making 335 hp from 5,500 to 6,500 rpm, and 332 lb-ft of torque from 1,380 to 5,200 rpm, driving all four wheels through ZF’s 8HP50 eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite a curb weight of 4,409 pounds, BMW claims a 0–60-mph acceleration time of 5.1 seconds, and U.S. spec cars will be limited to 130 mph because of the 245/45 R19 all-season tires that are standard fitment front and rear.

BMW engineers admit the 6 GT’s ride/handling balance has been tweaked in favor of the former, given the car’s mission as a roomy, comfortable, useful luxury cruiser rather than the Ultimate Driving Machine. Thankfully, though, that doesn’t mean it turns into a wobbly mess should you get a rush of blood on a winding road. Well, at least the cars we drove in Portugal, which were fitted with the $4,100 Dynamic Handling package, didn’t.

The Dynamic Handling package includes rear-wheel steering, active roll stabilization, dynamic shock control, and height-adjustable air springs front and rear, and it’s probably worth the money. The air suspension system is new—different from that available in the 5 and 7 Series—and delivers good ride comfort with low impact harshness and noticeably better body control through corners. The 6 GT’s steering also feels better than that of some 5 and 7 Series we’ve driven recently, more precise and consistent, though still not with the transcendent feel that was once a BMW trademark.

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