James Baggott has been to test the 6 Series GT – BMW's latest saloon with coupe styling.
What is it?
Picture the scene: you're heading to the golf club for a round with all your other retired company executive pals. You pull up in your brand-new BMW 7 Series – you're the bee's knees, the cock of the walk – but then what in the Daily Mail is this? Is that Fred over there in exactly the same car? The horror!
If this rather elaborate imaginary scenario sounds anything like a "disaster" that could happen to you, then you'll be wanting this: the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo, or GT for short. With looks that'll divide opinion, the German firm is hoping there are enough 7 Series buyers out there who want the same comfort and luxury levels of its range-topping saloon, but in a package designed to stand out from the crowd, to make this a success.
The GT is a whole new body shape based on the 7 Series platform and has been sculpted with pleasurable, cosseting long-distance cruising in mind. BMW describes the design as "muscular", and from the front it's certainly got presence, but move to the rear and things go wrong.
The unkind among you will say it looks like a saloon that's been reversed into a wall; BMW, meanwhile, describes it as "elegant and sporty". We'd say it's a car you certainly need to take a close look at before signing on the dotted line. Inside, it gets clever new tech, a smart upgrade to the iDrive multimedia system and lots of space to relax in.
What's under the bonnet?
There's plenty of choice for powerplants in the 6 Series GT, both petrol and diesel. On the international launch, where we sampled this car for the first time, the only option was the 640i xDrive M Sport. Confusingly, this features a twin turbo-charged 3.0-litre petrol unit, producing 335bhp and 450Nm of torque.
That's good for 60mph in 5.1 seconds, while it will return a combined fuel economy figure of 40.4mpg and emit 177g/km. Likely to be the biggest seller in the UK is the 630d xDrive Gran Turismo. This will hit 60mph in 5.9 seconds, return 51.4mpg and emit 144g/km. Both come with eight-speed automatic gearboxes.
What's it like to drive?
On the road the 6 Series GT is incredibly soft. You can adjust the driving dynamics thanks to on- board wizardry, but in comfort mode it rides like a mattress. It floats over bumps with cloud-like poise, wallowing and rolling in bends, much like an SUV does.
Flick the switch for the sports set-up and things change dramatically – suspension lowers 10mm, the steering quickens and the whole car feels far more BMW-like. The manufacturer has purposefully softened the ride to appeal to buyers who want the ride and comfort of an SUV but with the style of a coupe and it certainly wasn't kidding.
The 640i engine doesn't sound particularly impressive, and we found the eight-speed automatic gearbox a little slow to respond in comfort mode. But generally the 6 GT is about swallowing large miles in the most comfortable way possible, and it's sure got that nailed.
How does it look?
The looks are going to divide opinion like few cars have before. The GT series of body shapes from BMW don't appeal to everyone, but there's a core group of buyers who love them. It's these that dealers will be hoping open their wallets.
What's it like inside?
Inside, it's luxurious and spacious. In the back, there's plenty of leg room and you sit higher, much like you do in a 4×4. Rear passengers will also get to enjoy reclining seats (optional) and quilted, pillow-like headrests. The quality of the materials is wonderful, with wood and leather adding to the luxury, relaxed feel, but where the 6 Series GT really impresses is with its technology.
The smart key has a digital display that gives you fuel range, allows you to open and close the windows or set the heating – and it can even remotely park the car for you. If you find a slot that's too tight for you and your passengers to get out of the doors, you can stop in front of it and use the key to remotely start the car and back it in. It's incredible to use and works brilliantly.
The iDrive system has been given a makeover. You can use hand gestures to turn the radio up and activate other functions. Alternatively, you can touch the screen or use voice controls. It's a far-improved set-up and can even be connected to a smartphone app so you can glean key data from your car on the move.
One of our favourite new tricks is its ability to share your route and ETA with key contacts at the touch of a button. They'll be texted a link to a webpage that will show your current position and key journey information in real time.
What's the spec like?
The standard specification includes LED headlights, a 10-inch touchscreen daytime running lights, wireless charging for your smartphone, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. It's on the options list where you can really go mad, though. Gesture controls, head-up display, soft close doors and reclining rear seats are all boxes you'll want to tick.
There's rear-seat entertainment, massaging front seats, panoramic sunroof and that clever remote control parking with the digital key for those with even more budget. The M Sport pack gives you 19-inch alloys, chrome exhausts and M specification upgrades throughout the car. It'll add £3,600 to the car's £46,810 starting price.
There's little doubt its questionable looks will split opinion, but if they appeal and you're looking for an alternative to an SUV and hanker after the space and comfort they have to offer, then the 6 Series Gran Turismo is well worth a look. Granted, it won't be storming the sales charts, but with BMW's experts revealing that the 5 Series GT already accounts for 20 per cent of global sales, you can see why this model got the nod. Whether you'll be buying one, though, really all depends on just how important standing out at the golf club is to you.
Model: BMW 640i Gran Turismo xDrive M Sport
Base Price: £46,810
Price as tested: £57,570
Engine: 3.0-litre twin turbo petrol
Max Speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 5.1 seconds