Gran Coupe: searingly fast yet strangely thrifty
BMW 650i Gran Coupe
What exactly is it? A four-door version of BMW’s 6 Series sports/luxury coupe and a rival to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7.
Powertrain: 4.4-litre V8 petrol producing 330kW/650Nm. Eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive. Combined fuel consumption 8.8 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.6 seconds.
Anything interesting in the equipment list? Standard on the Gran Coupe 650i is the Adaptive Drive system that combats body roll, the 360-degree Surround View camera system for parking, glass roof and navigation. Our test car dipped heavily into the options box with the M Sport package, Bang & Olufsen sound system, Nappa leather upholstery and of course that Frozen Grey paintwork. Grand total: just over a quarter-of-a-million dollars.
The Gran Coupe belongs to that new genre we call four-door coupes.
Conceptually, it’s a four-door version of the very sleek 6 Series coupe. Except that it’s not, because the 6 Series is based on the 5 Series sedan, which makes the Gran Coupe a super-stylish 5, albeit with some interior architecture from the 6.
Example: when your BMW sales consultant tells you the company has extended the wheelbase of the 6 Series for more passenger space in the Gran Coupe, what he or she really means is that it has the same wheelbase as the 5 Series. Because that’s what it is. A much more stylish, much more expensive 5 Series.
Under the skin
Being created primarily for showing off does not exclude the Gran Coupe from being a magnificent car. I drove the Gran Coupe in Sicily some months ago, in 640i form, and appreciated the exquisite build quality and sublime handling.
What I did not appreciate was the fact that I travelled to the other side of the world to discover that 650i to be sold in New Zealand was not available to drive. Hence the second visit here.
Another thing I could not appreciate at the time: just how searingly fast and yet strangely thrifty this car is. The 650i has a new version of BMW’s 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine that makes a ridiculous amount of power and provides an equally absurd level of acceleration.
They are in no way rivals, yet I couldn’t help but compare the 650i to the Audi RS4 Avant that featured in last week’s column; largely because I stepped straight from one to the other. The two have similar-capacity engines producing similar amounts of power. The BMW has two turbos of course, which helps explain the extra 220Nm of torque.
The 650i Gran Coupe is a larger, heavier car than the RS4 Avant. It’s still 0.1 seconds faster to 100km/h than the Audi, which is not surprising when you consider all of the extra torque. But it also consumes nearly two litres less fuel per 100km in the Combined cycle, which is very surprising indeed. How does BMW do that?
The Gran Coupe does succeed in supplying a coupe-like ambience inside. It does so by uplifting some of the 6 Series interior architecture and introducing some bespoke bits of its own. BMW said the cabin design was inspired by the nautical world, which sounds silly. But there is a sense of the dashboard surrounding you, with the cabin bisected neatly in two by a central tunnel that runs from front to rear.
It’s not a four-seater: BMW has now realised that robbing large, expensive four-door vehicles of an extra seat for the sake of an opulent image is a mistake (the X6 is back to being a five-chair machine, for example).
But the Gran Coupe is not quite a five-seater either. Although there’s a central seatbelt in the rear, that large tunnel means that there would be nowhere for the middle occupant to put their feet. I guess if your third child or any business acquaintances have legs, you can buy a 5 Series.
One door opens, another closes
So I’ve now had some more time to mull over the rather extravagant Gran Coupe, all the while clothed in some very expensive matt paint. I still think it’s a better-looking car than the 6 Series two-door and every bit as rewarding to drive, so in that context it’s an easy choice. The only thing the 6 Series has over the Gran Coupe is a slightly smaller price tag and the option of an M6 version. I understand the latter will be rectified next year.