BMW 640i GT
Remember the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo? No? That’s all right, because Damien O'carroll thinks BMW would probably rather you forgot it anyway.
It would be a hard car to remember at any rate, because they sold so very few of them in this part of the world. The large, ungainly lump that was the 5 Series Gran Turismo was an attempt to blend SUV practicality and 7 Series luxury that just looked crook. But now the 5 Series Gran Turismo has morphed into the far more attractive 6 Series. What’s that? BMW already has a 6 Series? That large coupe remember? Except that particular 6 Series has now become the 8 Series, leaving the surprisingly large liftback GT as the sole bearer of the 6 Series moniker. Big and handsome, as opposed to bulbous and weird like the old 5 Series GT was, the 640i is attractive and in proportion. But big. Very big. In fact it handily offsets its potentially awkward height by being simply massive in every other dimension as well. While it is a far better looking car than its predecessor, it can still look a bit odd from some angles. Inside, however, it is all elegantly restrained BMW at its best. Superbly comfortable and luxurious, and made from outstandingly high quality materials, the interior is a delightfully comfortable and high-tech place to be. BMW’S now standard gesture controls for audio and phone are still utterly brilliant and the seats are superbly comfortable and supportive. And that sheer size is even more obvious inside, with amazing rear legroom and quite starting headroom. That massive headroom has let BMW give the 640i a very Suv-like seating position, with a commanding view out over the long, wide bonnet. It feels slightly odd at first, sitting so high, but it soon becomes mildly reassuring in a sea of SUVS on the road. While the interior is beautifully built, it still does look a bit old fashioned, despite all the high tech screens and, most annoyingly, the gloss black finish on centre console attracts dust and fingerprints, and also scratches easily. The sole power plant available in the 6 Series in New Zealand is a 250kw/450nm 3.0-litre inline turbo six that is a simply superb piece of engineering. Smooth and powerful, it is wonderfully refined and quiet, as well as being muscular and responsive. The eight-speed automatic transmission is equally excellent and efficient, with a silky smooth shift action. That said, while it is generally superb, the transmission can be wrong-footed on occasion and the not inconsiderable weight of the 640i can make the engine seem a little reluctant at times. On the road the 640i is so comfortable and confident it is almost silly. Superbly composed over every surface and incredibly sure-footed on wet roads (thanks to BMW’S excellent xdrive AWD system), the 640i is a remarkably capable executive express that simply devours distance without breaking a sweat, at any speed. Think of the 640i Gran Turismo as a 7 Series liftback and you start to appreciate it for what it is – an impressively capable luxury car that is also remarkably practical and roomy. And no longer looks weird.