For those keeping score at home, remembering what the various alpha-numeric naming badges stand for within BMW’s growing lineup is fast becoming a full-time job. Pity the poor parts managers at dealerships having to handle a swelling number of vehicles, models and designations that attempt to fill every available luxury segment niche.
Fortunately, BMWs remain aspirational in nature, if not the exclusive performance machines that they used to be only because several competitors have caught up. This week, we get to sample one of the newest offerings in the car-heavy lineup — the five-door 640i Gran Turismo.
Using equal parts from the midsize 5-series sedan, plus much of the platform from the larger 7-series sedan, this hatchback sedan could be considered a much more fluid, more attractive version of the departed 5-series GT. Riding atop a 121-inch wheelbase (essentially full size), this luxury-emphasis five-door is 6 inches longer than a 5-series sedan and 6 inches shorter than a 7-series. Very convenient.
Also unique: while even-numbered BMW models are supposed to denote coupes and convertibles, with odd-numbered models designating sedans, except when crossovers, this 6-series is both longer and taller than its coupe siblings. The 640i features a driver’s seat height a full 2.5-inches higher than its coupe companions, plus AWD is standard — hence, part of the Gran Turismo attraction for active buyers. Cargo space under the large, powered liftgate (with no wiper, yet an electrically activated spoiler) is 31 cubic feet with the rear seats upright, doubling to over 65 cubic feet when the rear seatbacks are powered forward. That is crossover-like cargo room.
Working under the hood is one of the industry’s best engines. This all-aluminum 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder spins out a robust 335 hp thanks to direct injection, Double-VANOS variable valve control and a twin-scroll turbocharger. Peak torque of 332 pound/feet is realized just above idle at 1,380 rpms, giving the 640i the smooth, powerful energy common to BMW, as well as the harried capabilities of sports cars with much larger engines. Like many a BMW, this eight-speed-equipped 640i is stealthy quick and will bring many a smile to the face of the operator.
Inside, the control layout will be quite familiar. Essentially the instrument panel from the new 5-series, controls are modernized for clarity. Fingertip actuation is intuitive, while the center-console I-drive controller continues to evolve and become an essential component in an era of all-too-often unnecessary complexity. Seating, generally a BMW virtue, has been restored here to excel. The driver’s sport seat offered the expected manual thigh adjustments, appropriately strong heating elements, plus the all-day support necessary when you go Gran Touring.
Perhaps most pleasing — this new BMW exhibited more of the prompt, precise handling and steering dynamics that best represent the Ultimate Driving Machine. Steering feel, braking crispness and the overall ride — whether in sport or comfort mode — proved to be a great driving balance no matter how rough the winter-ravaged terrain. And like previous BMWs, this AWD five-door demonstrates a limited amount of rear-drive emphasis when you mash the go-pedal, but never allows the car’s attitude to approach recklessness, or leave the pilot at a loss of grip on slippery surfaces. Forward lighting, with adaptive LED lamps, proved to be driver-friendly as well.
Pricing begins at $70,695 with a generous amount of standard equipment. Yet, temptations on the options list can soon elevate the price to $84,010, as our Bluestone Metallic 640i carried several pieces that some buyers will find necessary. Dynamic Handling package, $4,100. Driving Assistance package, $1,700. M-Sport package, $1,200. Executive Package, $2,150. Ceramic controls, $650. Remote control parking, $750. Once experienced, there were few items that a 640i buyer would offer to give back.
Among the enhancements is gesture control; where once we tuned a knob on the dash for audio adjustments, and then redundant steering wheel buttons, BMW now lets you twirl your finger to make stereo changes. The 640i also offers wireless device charging, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel and Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities. Besides being able to park itself, power-assist doors will softly close behind you, the suspension can automatically adjust for load, while the active driving can help keep you safe on the road or help you drive electronically. EPA estimates are 20/28/23 mpg.
Spacious rear seat, versatile cargo hold, plus superior driving dynamics make this latest BMW luxury sports car an inviting alternative to the Audi A7/S7. Few other rivals come close.