BMW has finally fired its salvo against the likes of the Aston Martin Rapide and the Porsche Panamera in the form of its luxurious four-door Gran Coupe.
The model, which was launched last week in the Western Cape, will be available initially in 640i and 640d derivatives, with the 650i earmarked to join the line up later this year.
Essentially a 6 Series coupe with two extra doors and a 113mm longer wheelbase, the Gran Coupe has an equally low roof line, frameless doors, and very well laid out and sumptuous cabin architecture, ensuring that the addition of the two extra doors takes little away from that baroque pose.
Available in various trim levels such as Standard, Individual, and M Sports, it is the Individual that truly interprets the model to the tee, thanks to unique colours such as frozen bronze - a matt bronze - that lends it a bespoke, boutique theme. The interior materials and finishes are right up there with the aforementioned rivals and includes a leather-festooned dashboard with colour contrasting stitching, and alcantara headlining, all part of the Individual package. This is a luxurious vehicle that will appease the most ardent of discerning buyers.
Being a 2+2 seating arrangement - though a centre seat belt is available for the occasional third passenger - there is sufficient leg and headroom in spite of the tapering roof line. Most impressive is the boot capacity of 460l, which can be further expanded to 1265l, making the model a stronger option for someone in the market for a 6 Series coupe, but who needs more than a whiff of practicality for good measure.
Much like its coupe and convertible siblings, driving dynamics have certainly been part of the design brief, as I experienced first-hand over the two-day launch. Even at 5m long, the vehicle is exceptionally nimble and does well to mask its length as it neatly tucks its nose in when hurled into a bend with verve.
The two powerful engines come in the form of the 3.0l straight-six petrol with Twin Power turbo, direct injection and valvetronic wizardry, and the TwinPower turbo 3.0l diesel. The former boasts 235kW and 450Nm, while the latter pushes out 230kW and 630Nm.
Both engines are linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission with a lock-up clutch that gives it rather smooth and immediate transitions for a torque converter gearbox. While both models are claimed to scoot to 100km/h from standstill in 5,4 seconds, and achieve a top-end of 250km/h, it is in the fuel consumption stakes of 7,7l and 5,5l /100km where the main differences are.
Even so, I found the 640d to be the most surprising package of the two, with some rather serious get up and go thanks to that thick wedge of torque available at fairly low revs. That is not to say that the petrol variant is disappointing, quite the contrary, as this remains one of the company's best engines - regardless of model application. As is the case with the coupe and convertible models, the new model also features the driving experience feature with Eco Pro mode and stop/start functions. It adapts throttle, damping and steering mapping in the form of comfort, sport, and sport+ depending on the driver's mood.
Hurling the vehicle up and down the Western Cape, the Gran Coupe managed to blend the best of what a GT and sports car have to offer. Many are probably wondering why it took BMW so long to enter the segment. However, I reckon it was worth the wait. Of the two models we drove, I reckon the 640d is the pick of the bunch as it offers similar levels of performance as its petrol sibling, with thriftier drinking habits.
As mentioned earlier, the 650i, sporting a new variant of the company's 4,4l TwinPower Turbo V8 engine with 330kW and 650Nm, will be available later in the year.
The M6 version with a 412kW and 680Nm engine will be available in 2013.
. Pricing: 640i Gran Coupe R872044 640d Gran Coupe R914623