BMW decides that the second generation of its 5 Series Gran Turismo coupe-hatch-luxury-car-thing will no longer be called the 5 Series Gran Turismo at all; instead, it gets bumped to upgraded 6 Series status. But employing one of BMW's sportier nameplates - and even taking the stunning execution of the 6 GT's overall refinement into account - cannot hide the plain fact that this is still an expensive car that's very hard to justify over some of BMW's own 'lesser' offerings.
In the Metal:
Our mothers once told us that if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all. However, it'd be a pretty rubbish test drive of BMW's brand new 6 Series Gran Turismo if we simply skipped grasping the whole aesthetic debate nettle and went straight to the driving impressions instead. So here's our sole positive conclusion on the external design of the 6 GT: it's imposing. Having stretched 81mm from the old 5 GT, it's now more than five metres long. It's a little bit lower than the old car and, somewhat confusing given its boost in series number, it shares much of its facial design with the current 5 Series saloon. But pretty, the 6 GT is not. You can attempt to make all kinds of conciliatory arguments about 'it doesn't look too bad as an M Sport' and 'it'll suit dark colours and big wheels', but let's face it, the 6 GT is comfortably BMW's least physically appealing product. It's as simple as that.
Inside, it is obviously much better (no, we're not going to say the hoary old 'once you're in it, you don't have to look at it' line... oh, wait, we just did...) and improved no end by the 10.25-inch freestanding screen for the latest version of BMW's iDrive infotainment. Controlled by voice, touch, gesture or the rotary controller, this is one of the automotive industry's most intuitive on-board systems and everything it displays is rendered in the very crispest of graphics. Further luxurious appointments, be they either standard-fit or cost options, include a head-up display, digital instrument cluster, BMW Personal CoPilot semi-autonomous driving functionality, massaging front seats and rear-seat entertainment, among much more, but as a high-end premium product, all cars will be equipped reasonably well from base model upwards.
Everything is beautifully put-together and laid out within the 6 GT, while there's plenty of space for a quartet of adults to lounge around on board in comfort, plus there's a 610-litre whopper of a boot out the back - this can be enlarged by popping down the 40:20:40 split folding rear seats, using boot-mounted 'easy release' levers. In short, the interior of the 6 Series has a lovely ambience, befitting of a car that's going to be pretty pricey.
BMW has three 6 GTs from launch, two of which are petrol-powered and one of which has a diesel mill. No prizes for guessing which one of these will be most popular here in Ireland. In other right-hand-drive markets, the 630d (it develops 265hp and 620Nm from its 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbodiesel unit) is the only Gran Turismo with a choice of rear- or all-wheel 'xDrive'. The 630i, utilising a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 258hp/400Nm, is rear-wheel drive only, while the 640i tested here comes with just xDrive traction; all to help it put 340hp and 450Nm to the tarmac.
All 6 GTs have an eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox and we only get SE and M Sport trims here, the latter featuring the various visual addenda and suspension changes we're used to with this BMW specification. Also optional will be two-axle air suspension, which was fitted to our test car for this event - and it's something you should definitely tick when it comes to specifying your hatchback Six.
This is for the simple reason that, at a steady 120km/h cruise on a fairly poorly surfaced Portuguese motorway, the 6 GT's ride quality and levels of noise suppression were off-the-charts impressive. Seriously, the 640i felt every bit as good to be in as a fully-loaded 7 Series and that's some accolade. At speed, the near total lack of wind, tyre and engine noise grants the cabin of the GT the same sort of peace and tranquillity as a Buddhist temple enduring a prolonged vow of silence. Couple in exceptional ride quality and drivetrain refinement, and the 6 Series comprehensively lives up to its Gran Turismo epithet. You could go thousands of miles at a time in this thing and probably still get out at the far end feeling totally unstressed.
Sadly, for a BMW, the 6 GT is much like its smaller 340i GT cousin we sampled last year - by which we mean it focuses on outright comfort ahead of dynamic acuity. Grip levels are high and the body control on the fancy air springs is capable, but provoke the big BMW and understeer is the main order of the day. There isn't any real sense of rear-axle interactivity to cornering proceedings and the GT is also saddled with overly-light steering that remains intransigent about providing any meaningful feedback to its driver.
Also, the gigantic wads of sound-deadening stuffed into the hidden crevices of the Six and the use of acoustic glass absolutely do their job of keeping the engine quiet... but that includes the times you extend this gem of a six-cylinder engine out to its redline. You'll be hard-pressed to hear anything but a muted, distant growl from the 640i. And, as good as that engine and eight-speed transmission are when paired together, here they're trying to haul nearly two tonnes of car around, a fact that ultimately blunts straight-line performance and dulls the driving experience. Net result? A BMW 5 Series Touring does the balance between everyday comfort and occasional back-road blasting fun much better.
What you get for your Money:
The cheapest BMW 6 Series GT is €73,070, for the rear-drive 630i SE Gran Turismo, which is quite a lot dearer than a 5 Series Touring (from €56,870). Having said that, we're not fond of estates on these shores, so there's every likelihood the GT might play a little better with well-heeled Irish customers who want a practical and luxurious BMW that isn't the norm.
Diesel power comes in the form of the 630d GT, starting at €75,740. All models are offered in SE and M Sport specification, with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 640i only comes with xDrive four-wheel drive, while it's optional on the 630d.
The BMW 6 Series GT is considerably less bulbous to look at than its immediate 5 GT predecessor but, for our money, it's still an ungainly looking car that costs a fortune and which needs to cram too many compromises into its idiosyncratic body shell to make the end result work convincingly. Is it a coupe? Is it a hatchback? Is it a sports car? Is it a tourer? Who knows? It rides beautifully well on the motorway and certainly makes a clear statement about potential owners' desire to stand out from the crowd, but there are more talented BMWs available at this sort of cash that are both far easier on the eye and the wallet.