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2014 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

BMW 640i Gran Coupe front quarter view
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Introduction

For the 1995 model year, Oldsmobile introduced a strikingly beautiful four-door sedan to replace its flagship Toronado coupe. The Aurora flopped. It was hard to see out of, and tight inside given how large it was on the outside. Oldsmobile tried to explain that the Aurora was intended as a personal luxury vehicle, just with four doors instead of two. But when people saw a large four-door car they expected the functionality of a sedan.

Jump forward eleven years, and Mercedes did much the same thing--and the E-Class-based CLS was a huge success (at least initially). Credit some mixture of evolving tastes, somewhat smaller dimensions (inside as well as out), and the magic of the three-pointed star.

Whenever one of Germany's full-line luxury auto makers does something that is even mildly successful, the other two are sure to follow. Audi introduced its A7 "four-door coupe" the same year that Mercedes redesigned the CLS, and BMW followed a year later with the 2013 6-Series Gran Coupe.

Despite being the inspiration for the other two, the CLS is easily the least intriguing of the three cars. This review will pit a BMW 640i Gran Coupe (6GC) against an Audi A7 TDI. TDI as in diesel. An apple vs. an orange? Well, this is hardly the largest difference between the two cars.

6-Series Gran Coupe Reviews: BMW 640i Gran Coupe front quarter view

Truth in sheetmetal. Long and low, the Gran Coupe looks powerful if not agile. more 6-Series Gran Coupe photos

6-Series Gran Coupe Reviews: BMW 640i Gran Coupe interior

More curves than the typical BMW interior, all of them upholstered.

Tested: 2014 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe

4dr Sedan turbocharged 315hp 3.0L I6 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Compared: 2014 Audi A7 / S7

4dr Hatch turbocharged 240hp 3.0L V6 Diesel 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Why the 2014 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe?

  Compared to the A7 / S7
Exterior styling
Exterior styling: About the same Better Worse

BMW's interpretation of a "four-door coupe" is easily the most literal. They took their 6-Series coupe, itself based on the 5-Series sedan, stretched the wheelbase 4.5 inches, and added a second pair of doors.

How is the result any different than the 5? While the two cars share the same wheelbase, the 6 Gran Coupe is 2.8 inches longer (197.2), 1.4 inches wider (74.6), and 2.8 inches lower (54.8). Their proportions are much different, with the Gran Coupe's decidedly those of a traditional coupe: long nose, short deck. Also short windows--more on this later.

Some reviewers have declared the 6-Series Gran Coupe the most attractive current BMW. And yet, when I asked visitors to TrueDelta's Facebook page which four-door coupe they found the most attractive, the great majority preferred the exterior of the Audi A7 (excluding the many who found the entire category silly). Oddly enough, the A7 is neither a coupe nor a sedan, but a hatchback with slightly wider fenders and a slightly lower roof than the very closely related Audi A6.

Both cars are very attractive, but in very different ways. It's hard to imagine anyone seeking the appearance of a traditional coupe finding this in the A7, as artful as it is. They will find this look in the 6GC. I suppose that the Facebook vote is just one more indicator that interest in traditional coupes is waning.


Materials & workmanship
Materials & workmanship: Much better Better Worse

Inside, the 6-Series Gran Coupe is also more stylish and less technically cold than the 5-Series sedan, with artful, almost Italian curves flowing across the instrument panel, console, and doors. Opt for the M Sport Edition, and these curves are upholstered in fine leather for an ambiance a few steps above the 5er's. Otherwise, they're still upholstered, but in leatherette (as seen on the tested car).

The A7's interior is more plainly styled, and far fewer surfaces can be swathed in hides. But some people will prefer the Audi's more restrained, arguably more tasteful styling even if this comes at the cost of a less luxurious ambiance. For an especially clean appearance the infotainment display can be retracted. Extensive matte-finished wood is an especially nice touch.


6-Series Gran Coupe Reviews: BMW 640i Gran Coupe rear quarter view high angle

Very clean for a recent BMW, and yet not as clean as the Audi.

6-Series Gran Coupe Reviews: BMW 640i Gran Coupe instrument panel

Complex controls, but generally well-laid out and easy to use once your learn them.

Front seat support & comfort
Front seat support & comfort: Much better Better Worse

Like all BMWs midsize and larger, the 6-Series Gran Coupe can be equipped with the make's multi-contour seats. Thanks to abundant padding and a large number of adjustments, these are about as comfortable and as supportive as seats get.

The Audi A7's seats, firmer, flatter, and with far fewer adjustments, aren't as luxurious or nearly as supportive in hard turns. (I did drive the car for over nine hours one day without even a hint of soreness, though.)


Handling
Handling: About the same Better Worse

Despite being larger, and feeling every bit as large as it is, the 6-Series Gran Coupe feels more responsive than the 5-Series. Credit tighter suspension tuning (especially with the M Sport Package, on the tested car) and the lower, more rearward driving position that has historically lent conventionally-proportioned coupes a sportier feel than sedans. This coupe-like driving position similarly distinguishes the 6GC from the Audi A7, which has the proportions of a front-wheel-drive sedan, albeit one with a low, swoopy roof line and muscular shoulders. Plus even with all-wheel-drive the BMW's throttle can be used to adjust the attitude of its balanced chassis, for a more dynamic character than you'll experience in the moderately nose-heavy Audi. As with nearly all sport-suspended BMWs, the harder you push the 6-Series Gran Coupe the better it feels. Even the chassis bits that feel somewhat out of sorts (or just sleepy) in casual driving wake up and fall into line when called upon to take even lumpy curves at speed.

Electronics enhance the suspension's inherent balance, control, and composure. Standard adaptive dampers further control body motions in sport mode. Active stabilizer bars (a $2,500 option) dramatically reduce the amount of lean in hard turns. Some people find the resulting reduction in feedback disconcerting. But the 6GC rides better than a 5-Series I tested later with an M Sport Package but without these enhancements, suggesting that they reduce the sport suspension's impact on ride quality.

Sadly, as in other recent BMWs, the 6GC's steering is rather numb, with an especially artificial feel on center. The Audi's steering feels more direct, especially in its "dynamic" setting at highway speeds. It's easier to connect with and feel in precise conrol of the A7.

A big caveat: with generous dimensions (including a hood that seems to go forvever) and a hefty curb weight of 4,365 pounds, the 640i xDrive Grand Coupe isn't going to feel agile except relative to some other large, heavy cars. The Audi A7 feels more wieldy, but for quick responses and a thoroughly involving driving experience you'll want something smaller and lighter, perhaps the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe arriving with the 2015 model year.

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Quietness
Quietness: Better Better Worse

Aside from the clomping of its low-profile run-flat tires over road imperfections, the 6-Series Gran Coupe is hushed inside. The Audi seems to permit more road noise into its interior. This might be the result of careful tuning by the Bavarians rather than objective noise levels. The Audi feels like it is traveling about two-thirds of its actual speed--60 feels like 40--yet its cabin doesn't seem as thoroughly insulated as the BMW's.


Why Not the 2014 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe?

  Compared to the A7 / S7
Rear seat room & comfort
Rear seat room & comfort: Much worse Better Worse

Even with the 4.5-inch wheelbase stretch, the 6-Series Gran Coupe has a tight, low-mounted rear seat with a virtually useless center position, as the center console extends all the way to the seat. At 5-9, I can sit behind myself with an inch or so above my head and a couple ahead of my up-angled knees. The cushion is well-shaped, but under-sized.

The A7 has a much roomier, more comfortable rear seat. It's the one to buy if you want adult-sized people to use that second pair of doors. (Why you'd want these doors if you're not going to use them? I don't know--ask the person who owns one.)


Driving position & visibility
Driving position & visibility: Much worse Better Worse

The 6GC's low seating position and small windows make it difficult to see out of. It's also hard to judge the full extent of the long, long hood in parking lots. The optional around-view camera system, not on the tested car, would help with this.

The A7 is much easier to see out of and navigate around parking lots, even though the optional multi-camera system cannot provide a top-down view. (Such a view is offered with this system on the A6 and A8 sedans.)


6-Series Gran Coupe Reviews: BMW 640i Gran Coupe front view

M Sport Package includes LED foglights within this more aggressive front fascia.

6-Series Gran Coupe Reviews: BMW 640i Gran Coupe back seat

Nice shape, but under-sized and scant room.

Price or payments
Price or payments: Much worse Better Worse

It's a good thing the 640i Gran Coupe looks and feels more expensive than the 5-Series inside, as its $78,525 starting price is over $22,000 higher.

The $5,300 M Sport Edition includes options that would otherwise add over $12,000 to the price. (The tested car instead included the M Sport Package and multi-contour seats separately, for a total of $5,700. Let's hope most people ordering a 6GC are smarter than whoever configured this car.) All-wheel-drive adds $3,000, the Cold Weather Package (heated steering wheel and rear seats) adds $450, and the active stabilizer bars add a hefty $2,500, for a total of $89,775.

Additional options can push the price into the nineties--and this with the 6-Series Gran Coupe's base engine. Step up to the V8 or M, and the price can surge well into six figures.

Equip a 535i much like the above 640i Gran Coupe, and its list price reaches $76,875, still $12,900 less. (Remaining feature differences account for about $1,400 of this.) The 6GC's additional style is expensive.

And the additional doors? The 6GC starts $2,200 above the regular 6-Series coupe.

Though it is itself priced about $8,000 higher than the related A6 sedan, the A7 3.0T is much less expensive than the 640i Gran Coupe (over $15,000 less before adjusting for remaining feature differences, and about $9,600 less afterwards). The diesel engine adds $2,400 to the A7's price.


Other features of the 2014 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe

  Compared to the A7 / S7
Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: About the same Better Worse

Don't believe the power ratings on the boosted V6s in the BMW 640i Gran Coupe or the A7 3.0T--both feel much stronger than their alleged 315 and 310 horsepower, respectively. Only buyers in search of brutally quick acceleration need consider spending more for a V8 engine. Between the two, the Audi feels a little stronger and is a little quicker.

And the A7 TDI's diesel engine? It's rated for a mere 240 horsepower, but diesels peak early, 3,500 rpm in this case. To produce even 240 horsepower at such a low engine speed, the diesel V6 must produce much more torque (force on the crankshaft) than a gas engine of the same size. While the gas V6s peak at 330 and 325 lb-ft, respectively, the diesel peaks at a V8-like 428. In around-town driving it feels at least as strong as the gas V6s, and driven all-out is nearly as quick at legal speeds (figure six seconds to 60). Over 70 mph the gas cars will pull farther and farther ahead.


Fuel economy
Fuel economy: Much worse Better Worse

Gas engine to gas engine, the 640i Gran Coupe has a fuel economy edge over the A7, with EPA ratings of 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway vs. 18 and 28. I was only able to drive the BMW in extremely cold weather, and observed high teens and low 20s on the trip computer.

While these numbers are impressive for such a large, powerful, all-wheel-drive car, the A7 TDI is the clear fuel economy champion, with EPA ratings of 24/38. I drove this car in warm weather, and observed mid-30s in the suburbs and 40 on the highway. Incredible.


Ride smoothness
Ride smoothness: About the same Better Worse

Both cars ride firmly, but not harshly. The low-profile tires, especially the heavy run-flats in the BMW, feel stiff over even small bumps. In the 6-Series Gran Coupe, sport mode makes tire impacts a little harder but more tightly and precisely controls body motions--so neither mode is ideal for every situation. I found myself switching between modes depending on what ailed the road surface. But despite the ground-pounding tires the BMW also seems more insulated and cushy than the Audi due to more selective tuning of what gets through to your senses and what does not. Overall, as with handling, ride quality is a wash between the two.


Cargo capacity
Cargo capacity: Much worse Better Worse

I pondered listing cargo capacity as a "why not to buy," but it hardly seems fair to ding a car with a trunk for not having a liftgate. Some people want a trunk, and they'll find one with a surprisingly un-coupe-like 16.2-cubic-feet in the 6GC (made possible by the absence of a spare tire). If more space is needed, the back seat folds in two sections.

On the other hand, some people prefer a liftgate. Perhaps they want to carry a bike inside the car. The Audi can do this once you remove the two-piece rigid cargo cover and fold the seats.


Conclusion

First and foremost, the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe looks and drives more like a coupe than the CLS or any of the other "four-door coupes" inspired by the Mercedes. By conventional standards, it's a beautiful car. Inside, finely stitched and upholstered curves banish the technical chill that often pervades BMW interiors. The front seats will hold you in place in the twisties while providing hours of comfort on the highway. Performance and handling befit the badge. Fuel economy is surprisingly decent.

Downsides? The tight rear seat and limited outward visibility that are the rule rather than the exception among coupes. Plus a price that's much higher than those of the related BWM 5-Series and the competing Audi A7.

In many cases the decision of whether to buy a BMW 640i Gran Coupe or an Audi A7 will be made before considering such details. Do you want a conventional large coupe, just with a second pair of doors, or do you want something quite different, perhaps a stylish diesel-powered hatchback? Are you in the mood for an apple, or an orange?

6-Series Gran Coupe Reviews: BMW 640i Gran Coupe engine

Plenty of power from the 315-horsepower inline six. Few people will feel the need for the V8.

6-Series Gran Coupe Reviews: BMW 640i Gran Coupe trunk

16.2 cubic feet, but no power closer and no spare tire.

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2014 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2014 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.
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