Four-door Gran Coupe bruits BMW breeding
BMW 6 SERIES GRAND COUPE
What exactly is it? A four-door version of the 6 Series couple. Which really makes it a more svelte version of the 5 Series, since the current Six in a two-door version of the Five. Confusing.
Powertrain: 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 producing 330kW/650Nm. Eight-speed automatic, rear-drive. Combined fuel consumption 8.9 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.6 seconds
Anything interesting in the equipment list? Final specification is yet to be decided but it will be very close to the 650i couple. Expect high-tech driver-assistance features such as Adaptive Drive and Dynamic Drive Control to be standard. An M Sport package will be available as an option: cost on the current two-door couple is $5500.
Price: To be confirmed but BMW says the 650i Gran Coupe will sit in between the current two-door coupe and convertible. Educated guess: $245,000.
Endure a divorce, wear running shoes with a sports jacket, drive a luxury two-door couple; all excellent ways to instantly add 20 years to your age.
Can't help you much with the first thing.
Don't want to help you with the second.
But I can tell you the automotive world is rapidly coming up with solutions for the third.
My objection to coupes does not apply to bespoke sports cars of course, which have a purpose and desirability all of their own.
Rather, I'm talking about massive two-door machines that are based on luxury sedans: decorative conveyances that give you less space for more money and just look gauche beside their four-door equivalents.
The coupe low-down
Four-door couples are the new two-door coupes for the German car industry.
What initially seemed like a strange idea is turning out to be a significant market segment.
The watershed model was the Mercedes-Benz CLS of 2004, which was far sexier than any other two-door from the three-pointed star. Not a big ask, I know, but it was still gorgeous. So is the second-generation model, albeit in a more thoughtful, brand-conscious way.
Others have followed, including the Porsche Panamera and Audi A7. They are both hatchbacks but really they are couples by virtue of their sleek shapes and low rooflines - which is the more accurate definition of a couple than the number of doors.
Now BMW is adding to the exquisite confusion with the 6 Series Gran Coupe, which it is pitching as a four-door version of the 6 Series coupe. That's fine, although given that the current 6 Series is a two-door version of the 5 Series, the family tree is kind of growing in a big circle.
The taste of Italy
It is odd how reluctant German car companies are to talk about their specifically German qualities.
Perhaps it's a historically apologetic thing.
When it comes to coupes, many talk about Italian influence. Audi did that with the A5 when it launched the car in Verona back in 2007. Italy is a popular launch location: in the case of the BMW Gran Coupe this week, the world's motoring media were summoned to Sicily.
Given so much of this new BMW is a known quantity, there's not a lot to say about it in a technical sense.
This was made obvious by what was the shortest international press-conference presentation I've ever experienced.
One man got up and said the the Gran Coupe styling was intended to follow BMW tradition, with a long bonnet and large wheels.
Another man got up and said the interoir was very nice.
Then we all had dinner.
The Gran Coupe powertrains and platform are the same as the existing 6 and 5 series.
However, the sole model arriving in New Zealand in September, the 650i, introduces an up-rated version of BMW's 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with an extra 30kW/50Nm.
That's outrageous, as it makes the 650i a mere 0.3 seconds slower to 100km/h than an M5.
If you can detect a difference of a third of a second when you're being thrust toward the horizon, you're a lot better at this than me.
The new V8 engine was indeed introduced at the launch put on a plinth, not in a car, as production of the 650i has not yet commenced.
Instead, I drove the 640i petrol, which will not be offered in New Zealand but gave me the Gran Coupe experience anyway - just at a slightly slower pace.
From behind the wheel, the Grand Coupe is certainly more 6 Series two-door than 5 Series sedan - not necessarily in the way it behaves on the road but because you sit low in the cabin and the dashboard architecture is exactly the same as the 6 (which ids different from the 5). The door trims are unique to the Grand Coupe though, as they have a sweeping shape that runs from front to rear.
The windscreen is steeply raked and the rear window is letter-box size, which is less of a problem than it should be because BMW has an excellent parking camera system. It gives you a Google Earth-type image of the car as you're maneuvering. I like the sliver of brake light across the width of the rear screen as well - the first time BMW has done that.
The Grand Coupe is not a small car, at a snip over 5m long.
But unlike the two-door coupe, the size is justified.
Much of the interior style is allegedly inspired by luxury speedboats, including our test car's BMW Individual-created combination of biscuit brown interior and high-gloss white trim.
The marine theme also accounts for the huge centre console that runs from the front of the car right through to touch the back seat.
That makes the Gran Coupe a four-seater really but thee's a centre seatbelt fitted for emergencies: an odd case of combining practicality-be-damned with hedging-your-bets.
One door opens, another closes
I really like this car.
It has all the style and dynamic appeal of the two-door coupe and then some. It also allows you to enjoy a fast, luxurious and really rather extravagant machine without announcing to the world that your favourite person is you.
To my mind, the Gran Coupe renders the 6 Series two-door irrelevant and good taste dictates that it should supplant, not supplement, the standard coupe.
But that's not going to happen, because none of us are getting any younger.