BMW: Mega bite from big coupe

BMW Gran Coupe. Photo / Supplied
BMW Gran Coupe. Photo / Supplied

Car designers love to use animal attributes when creating new models: there's Kia's famous tiger nose, Mazda's cheetah muse for the CX5 and now BMW has taken inspiration from a shark for the new 6 Series Gran Coupe.

Yes, it's a "killer" when it comes to performance and road-handling. But, for BMW's design boffins, it's the front of the car that's shark-like.

And it's not just a marketing line.

During a drive at the recent New Zealand launch, I looked in the rearview mirror as a colleague in a Gran Coupe loomed behind. With its LED front headlights on, and the nose prominent, I could almost hear the famous "dah dum, dah dum, dah dum ...".

The 6 Series is a formidable foe. Although it has the 5 Series wheelbase, its body is nearly as long as the 7 Series - and it's called the Gran Coupe because the two-door Coupe is already in the New Zealand lineup.

What makes this "Gran" is that it has four doors, a curved roofline and has a seating arrangement of "4 + 1". That means it can fit four adult passengers comfortably but, because of the middle console buffering the rear seat, there is limited legroom for a passenger in the middle of the back seat.

What also makes it "Gran" is the engine lineup: the 640i diesel with twin-turbocharged 3-litre common rail direct-injected six-cylinder engine, producing 230kW at 4400rpm and 630Nm at 1500-2500rpm.

Priced from $199,200, it sits in the lineup due to demand from Kiwi buyers.

Its petrol partner is the 650i with a twin Power variable twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre direct injected V8 petrol engine (330kW at 5500-6000rpm, 650Nm at 2000-4500rpm).

Both vehicles have eight-speed automatic transmissions with steptronic and are assisted by Driving Experience Control. This allows you to select differing modes - Eco-Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ - that, among other things, alter the engine's response.

To test the car, we drove from the luxury resort of Kauri Cliffs, just north of Kerikeri, to Auckland via the windy, back roads near Russell.

Combining a post-big breakfast start with a car that gobbles tight corners - and my colleagues who feel the need for speed - inspired a few emergency pit stops for "a breath of fresh air" on the country roads from Russell to Whangarei for some passengers.

It wasn't the Gran Coupe's fault. Like a shark, it operated best at speed. Its body mass and power meant it didn't hesitate around corners and chomped through the gears to top speed like a Great White taking on a school of stingrays.

But once in the open water of the motorway system, the 6 Series showed that in Comfort mode, it could provide a smooth, solid ride with enough power from both engines to easily command the road.

The interior of the car continued the sleek feel. The front dash flowed to the gearstick and down to middle storage compartments thanks to the use of leather and aluminium.

While the cars were specced up to the hilt with such features as park assistant, rearview camera, heads-up display, my favourite was the optional speed limit info (for $900) that reflected the road speed in the heads-up display.

This is brilliant for when you're navigating Auckland's motorway systems with the "70, 80, er ... make that 100km, no, it's 70km again" speeds.

There is room for improvement: the lane indication sits in the frame of the side mirrors, rather than bang-smack in the mirrors as in the Range Rover Evoque and even the Mazda CX-5. Flashing triangles in the mirror urgently let you know some idiot is in the blind spot - in this case I didn't see the triangle but my peripheral vision picked out a car in the other lane. My passengers were relieved.

The 6 Series Gran Coupe is competing with the Porsche Panamera, Mercedes-Benz's CLS and Audi's A8. With its styling and handling, the Gran Coupe wins by a nose - a shark nose, of course.

- NZ Herald

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