BMW's Gran Coupé a gorgeous surprise

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By Minesh Bhagaloo

Let’s be honest, BMW’s reputation for car design has in recent times been left a little wanting.

Chris Bangle’s lines left more questions than answers and polarised opinions on ranges like the previous-generation 6 and 7 Series.

The more-recent 5GT (Bangle’s parting gift) was also a bit of an anomaly – like a square peg trying to fill a round hole, and it baffled the buying public – while new-generation 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7 Series ranges all look fresher, but have adopted that play-it-safe approach with styling.

And that’s why I reckon this car, the 6 Series Gran Coupé, is such a breath of fresh air for both the brand and its designers.

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It looks closer to a concept than to something actually in production, and even though at first glance you may think it’s simply a 6 Series with four doors, look more closely and there’s lot more to it than that. Strictly-speaking its closest cousin is the Seven mechanically, but it’s also the love child of 5, 6 and 7 Series components – with all of these ranges, including the Gran Coupé, built in the same factory.

A four-door coupé is by no means a new concept, and in Beemer guise takes on more familiar competitors like Merc’s CLS (already in second-generation guise), Audi’s A7, Porsche’s Panamera, and the Aston Martin Rapide. Most of these are quite pleasing to the eye, and Beemer slides into this fashionable club like a duck to water.

GRANDNESS

The Gran Coupé is the most beautiful car I’ve driven this year, exuding, like its badge suggests, a sense of grandness in both its design and execution. It has presence with a capital P thanks to that menacing low and wide stance. Little design highlights are the flared rear fenders, the frameless windows all-round, the discreet Gran Coupé badging on the inside of the rear doors, and even the way the centre part of the rear seat fits snugly underneath the climate control switches.

Having said that, for a car of this size (the newcomer is 11cm longer than the 6 Series coupé) it’s still strictly a four-seater affair (although there is a middle belt at the back) and rear legroom is not the greatest. Boot space, thanks to those widened wheel arches and stretched rear suspension, is roomy though. And even with that sloping roof line at the back, rear head and shoulder room has not really been compromised.

SUPERB FIT AND FINISH

Fit and finish in the Gran Coupé is superb, and you tend to notice little things like the crisp stitching on the seats, the bow-like design of the wrap-around dash, and the plush driver and passenger seats. I also liked that you get a fixed glass roof and not a sliding sunroof – it’s just classier somehow.

Under the skin it’s business as usual with three Gran Coupé models currently on offer in SA – the 650i, 640i and 640d. We had the diesel on test, which contrary to any suggestions the badge makes is powered by a twin-turbo 3-litre straight-six good for 230kW and an impressive 630Nm of grunt.

POTENT ENGINE

It’s a potent powerplant with absolutely no lag. It pulls like a runaway freight train at any point in the rev range, shunting you into your seat and chirping the low profile rubber into submission.

It's also quite pleasant on wide open roads, where the smallest throttle inputs trigger the eight-speed auto ‘box into subtly dropping a gear or too, allowing all that torque to surge through the rear wheels. Overtaking is an especially-pleasant experience, with even the longest trucks posing no threat for all that in-gear twist. And there’s a nice growl from the tailpipes, which I found a little unusual for a diesel.

Our official test times weren't too shabby either – at the reef we managed 5.9 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint and crossed the quarter mile in 14.3. We also averaged a consumption of 11.1l/100km, which for the size and performance on offer is very palatable.

But I’m not going to lie to you, this is a big car. And you feel it most when parking, when overtaking, and when cruising down narrow streets. It really does demand a full lane and can intimidate oncoming traffic. But as big as it is it’s still quite entertaining to drive and almost shrinks around you when the occasion calls for it.

VERDICT

There really is very little not to like here. At R914 623 you’re spending just twenty five grand more than you would on the more-traditional 640d Coupé, but getting two more doors and quite a different car in look and character. If you have a little more to spend, ask about the new matte paint finish, it really is the business.

Welcome to the four-door Coupé club BMW, we can't wait for the M6 version next year.

Follow me on Twitter: @mineshbhagaloo

-Star Motoring

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