Editor's note: This review was written in November 2012 about the 2013 BMW 650 Gran Coupe. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2014, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
What if you're a top-of-the-line kind of person but don't need a big backseat and don't want a sporty two-door? The new 2013 BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe answers this question, but that's about all it does. Comparable in style to "four-door coupes" like the Audi A7 and Mercedes Benz CLS-Class, the Gran Coupe is considerably more expensive. A Gran Coupe shopper would likely cross-shop Porsche's similarly priced Panamera (see these models compared).
Even with the power under the hood and a few surprisingly practical aspects, the 2013 BMW Gran Coupe is a concrete example of style over substance.
Figuring This Thing Out
No matter what version you pick — the six-cylinder 640i or the V-8 650i — the Gran Coupe costs as much as a 7 Series sedan. So why would you choose it over a 7 that has more interior room?
Well, do you have eyes? Yes, it's good-looking. Stunning, in fact, when draped in the Frozen Brown Metallic matte paint of my test car. And the high-fashion interior is enough to satisfy a pro athlete or gossip magazine celeb. While the 7 Series looks like something your doctor might drive to the country club, the Gran Coupe looks like something your stockbroker drops at the valet of the hottest new restaurant in town.
There are some surprises under the skin, too. The Gran Coupe has similar passenger room up front and a significantly larger trunk — 16.2 cubic feet versus 14 cubic feet — than the standard 7 Series. BMW does make an extended-wheelbase 7 with even more rear legroom but no additional trunk space.
The bottom line is this: If you're not ferrying rear passengers frequently, the Gran Coupe is a better option for its style, its performance and even its luggage space.
The 640i comes standard with a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine good for 315 horsepower, starting at $76,895 (all prices cited include destination charges).
But you probably want the top-of-the-line version, and that means opting for the 650i at $87,395 with a twin-turbo V-8 that puts out 445 hp.
Getting one that's equipped like my stunning test car will set you back roughly $120,000.
That sum might sound closer to exotic territory, along with the Bentley Continental Flying Spur or Aston Martin Rapide, but those cars actually hover around the $200,000 level. That means automakers like BMW have a lot of room to play with in terms of pricing.
Even with the 445-hp twin-turbo V-8 under the hood, I found the Gran Coupe underwhelming to drive. It may be more agile than a 7 Series, but that's not a difficult accomplishment. BMW's 5 Series is a better-balanced car in terms of handling, braking and pure driving pleasure.
The Gran Coupe drives more like a yacht. It may have a lot of power, but it isn't exactly fun to pilot. It's hard to know where the front end actually ends, and I always felt like I was trying to dock it instead of park it.
I had a similar reaction to the 6 Series two-door, upon which the Gran Coupe is based. Both are fine when punching hard to accelerate, but there was little sense of ferociousness in the driver's seat, and the exhaust sounded muted for a car promising plenty of gusto. On even decently paved highways, the ride was somewhat rough — even with the chassis in Comfort mode — and the steering felt vague. That's a rare attribute in a BMW.
Our test car came standard with rear-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is optional, in the form of the 650i xDrive, but it isn't offered on the 640i Gran Coupe.
The Gran Coupe features a start-stop function that cuts the engine when you come to a complete stop to save on fuel. For a big V-8, a few percentage points of better efficiency is important. But what it does to the driving experience is more significant. The 650i's V-8 doesn't exactly turn off with a sigh, and if you want to accelerate away from a stop briskly, it takes a second for the engine to come back to life before you can move.
How do you think that stutter looks to other drivers staring at your decked-out, six-figure car with big tailpipes?
The 650i with rear-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 17/25/19 mpg city/highway/combined, but I rarely saw my combined mileage top 15 mpg during my test. All-wheel drive takes an estimated 1 mpg away from both the city and highway ratings, yet somehow leaves the combined estimate at 19 mpg. The Gran Coupe 640i is considerably more efficient at 20/30/24 mpg.
Next to Porsche's Panamera, the Gran Coupe seems even more lethargic. They're both heavy, four-door sport sedans, but the Porsche's handling is a few steps above the BMW's, and even its base V-6 offers a thrilling driving experience, let alone its array of V-8 engines.
Compare the two here.
Who Cares How it Drives?
My guess is Gran Coupe buyers simply won't care that there are better performers out there, especially if they doll it up a little bit in the option department.
The wow factor of our test car's looks, from the semigloss paint job to the interior, dazzled every editor who sat in it. The seats are comfortable (even in back), there's a ton of tech and every surface felt darn good to the touch.
The big question is whether this car would wow anyone in its basic black configuration at its starting price. My guess is no.
But add white leather seats with brown stitching, a brown Alcantara headliner and white ash wood trim, and you have a car just this side of pro-athlete customizing. (Sort of like that, but tasteful.) The white ash wood trim — a gloss-white answer to the popular piano-black — was likely the tipping point for me in terms of making the interior truly unique versus the competition, especially because it covered the center console.
My test car was equipped with a $3,700 Bang & Olufsen sound system with a center dash-mounted speaker that raised up when the system was powered on. It's similar to the Bang & Olufsen system in Audi's A8 that has two tweeters raise up from the dash.
The systems offer similar sound quality, but BMW's is a bargain compared with Audi's, which costs $6,300.
You sit low in the Gran Coupe because it's based on the 6 Series two-door coupe, not the 7 Series. The upgraded seats are comfortable on long rides. Otherwise, the dash and interior up front is similar to the rest of the 6 Series lineup.
The backseat is a different story.
There is a surprising amount of knee room with the driver's seat adjusted for my 5-foot-10 frame, but anyone larger might impose upon the comfort of rear passengers. It's similar to the space in the Mercedes CLS I tested last year, but, unlike that car, there's an actual seat in the middle for a fifth passenger. Could any human actually sit there and stretch his or her legs over the large center floor hump in anything resembling comfort? Doubtful. So there's no advantage in my mind versus the CLS' setup.
The BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe has not been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
There are a number of standard safety features you can find here, as well as an optional Driver Assistance Package ($3,800) that includes lane departure warning and a blind spot warning system. That package also includes a head-up display, which BMW executes extremely well.
BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe in the Market
There is essentially just one shopper for the Gran Coupe: The 7 Series owner who doesn't need room in the backseat.
Performance fans have a better option in the Panamera, and if comfort is of importance, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is an ideal pick.
BMW's hope is that its Gran Coupe can play in the middle of that spectrum by wowing consumers with its looks.
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