Our drive route from Palermo to Agrigento is a slightly circuitous one, avoiding the geographical distractions of Corleone (the threat is fictional) and Sambuca (the drink does not have its origins there).

But it does contain several lengthy sections of smooth Italian tarmac that seem polished to a highly slippery state. Maybe that's how they roll or spin here in Sicily, but I've never experienced anything quite like it on a public road.

Turn in too quickly and the nose of the 6 Series Gran Coupe gives a little squeal. Prod the accelerator on the way out of a turn and the tail swings wide for a moment, before the stability control system catches it with graceful ease. The first couple of times it catches us by surprise. The next few we do for fun.

On these roads it would be easy to assume that the Gran Coupe is more dynamically edgy than it really is. I think BMW would quite like that: it is, after all, a car that relies on making a dramatic impression through a little sleight of hand.


What is a 6 Series Gran Coupe? Ostensibly it's a four-door version of the 6 Series coupe, a rival for the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7. So it's a four-door version of a car that's a two-door version of another four-door, the 5 Series. Like I said, a little sleight of hand. But don't be distracted by that - BMW loves looking for new niches.

The Gran Coupe rides on the same wheelbase as the 5 Series, lies in between the Five and Six for height and is longer than either, breaking the 5m mark. However, it definitely belongs to the 6 Series family, not just because of the name but because it shares its exterior styling cues and interior architecture with the two-door model.

With excellent results, for in the metal it's certainly the sexiest thing that BMW is making at the moment. It's also a stunning return to form after the bus-like 5 Series Gran Turismo (GT) hatchback-limo thingy. In fact, try not to mention the GT. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

Under the skin the Gran Coupe is all very familiar hardware. So while it's not edgy enough to be drifting at the drop of a hat as it does on some Sicilian roads, it is based on a platform that provides an unparalleled combination of sporting prowess and luxurious refinement. It will be outrageously fast when it arrives here in September, too. In Sicily we drove the 640i, but the sole model for New Zealand will be the 650i - as it is for the two-door. However, the Gran Coupe will be the first to feature an uprated version of the 650i 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, with an extra 30kW/50Nm to make 330kW/650Nm.

Thus equipped, we're told the Gran Coupe 650i will sprint to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds, just 0.3sec slower than the M5.

Mind you, the 650i Gran Coupe will be more expensive than the M-car. Pricing is yet to be announced, but BMW bods on the ground in Italy were talking about a number in between the 650i coupe and convertible - so $245,000 looks like a reasonable estimate.

Inside, the dashboard architecture is pure 6 Series, except for the door trims, creating a flowing line from front to rear.

The Gran Coupe did provide the vehicle for the launch of not only a new exterior colour, matt bronze, but also a speedboat-inspired interior decor that combines brown trim with white leather and even whiter high-gloss console inserts.

Expect Kiwi cars to stick with basic black and grey.

The car has what BMW calls four-plus-one seating: the centre console runs front-to-rear (that speedboat style again) which means there's no legroom in the centre chair, but there's a a fifth seatbelt there anyway.

Plus-one aside, the Gran Coupe appeals because it does combine the sexy style of the Six with genuine four-up seating. The roof tucks down at the rear and the glasshouse isn't expansive, but there's absolutely no reason why four adults cannot travel long distances in comfort in this car.

The Gran Coupe is likely to be minor player in New Zealand.

But if you really think about it, this car ticks so many more boxes than you'd expect something that's primarily a fashion-forward machine. At least for the lucky few who can afford nearly a quarter of a million dollars, or even more when the genuine M-version that's been mooted arrives.