2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo improves on the coupe-crossover formula

The BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo, a bulbous coupe-crossover mashup, wasn't an attractive-looking vehicle, nor was it a very good driver. In hopes of wiping the 5 Series GT from the public's memory, BMW is rolling out the 6 Series Gran Turismo for the 2018 model year.

Is the 6 Series GT a better-looking bulbous coupe-crossover mashup? Yes, as its nicer flowing body lines help the proportions look less awkward. The optional M Sport package on my test car, with larger front air intakes, side skirts and rear diffuser, helps in the style department. It still isn't going to win any beauty contests, but it certainly is an improvement.

BMW makes the interior surroundings quite nice with available Nappa leather, attractive matte wood trim and a wrapped and stitched dashboard. The higher seating position is comfortable, while there's serviceable room for two adults up front and back. The 6 Series GT also carries three people, although quite snugly, in the rear seat. 

Optional M Sport styling goodies provide sharper looks.

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The biggest practical payoff to the 6 Series Gran Turismo is cargo space. 31 cubic feet of cargo fits beneath the rear hatch, and the load floor is 2 inches lower compared with the 5 Series GT. Electric release buttons automatically fold the back seats down to expand cargo space to a Costco-shopping-spree-accommodating 65 cubic feet.

Infotainment functions are handled by BMW's latest iDrive 6 system, featuring a 10.2-inch center touchscreen. Navigation, Wi-Fi connectivity for up to 10 devices and Bluetooth are standard. A wireless smart device charging pad also comes on all 6 Series GTs, which is a good thing because there are only two USB ports that surely will be in high demand among passengers.

Paging through iDrive 6's menus is intuitive, while the navigation system never led me or my drive partner astray on confusing roadways outside of Lisbon, Portugal, where BMW sponsored drives of this 6 Series variant. For the few times we accidentally missed a turn, the system quickly recalculated the route and got us back on track.

BMW iDrive 6 is standard and available with gesture controls.

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Controlling the volume of the music playing through the car's 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system using the optional gesture controls is a neat trick, and responds well to spinning finger commands. There are also gesture control movements to accept and reject phone calls and maneuver the view of the 360-degree camera, and there's a programmable one for a function of your choice.

For the Apple faithful who prefer to entrust infotainment functions to Apple CarPlay, iDrive 6 is capable of running it, but it is a $300 option. Android Auto fans are sadly left out in the cold for now because BMW says the majority of its customers are Apple users, but the company is studying the addition of the Android system.

Backing up the 6 Series GT's better looks, spacious and cushy interior and impressive infotainment are much better driving dynamics. Where the 5 Series GT felt clumsy through bends and crashed over bumps, the 6 is tighter and deals with road imperfections in a more buttoned-up way. The combination of Sport mode for a firmer adaptive damper, air suspension, steering settings and 19-inch Pirelli P Zero tires (US-bound cars will come on all-season or mixed performance tires) hustles the 6 GT through winding roads in a respectable manner for a 4,409-pound vehicle. Entering a corner reveals strong brake performance, sharp turn-in response, controlled body motions and a healthy dose of grip.

My one complaint about Sport mode is that steering weight is too heavy, making it feel like you are wrestling the 6 GT around turns.

On a straight expressway portion of the drive route, the Comfort detent is ideal for a more forgiving suspension and lighter steering. Active cruise control adjusts velocity in accordance to traffic for relaxed motoring, as the well-isolated interior takes center stage. Thanks to higher soundproofing efforts in the roof, doors and rear seatbacks, the cabin is quiet enough to make me nod off in the passenger seat briefly. Admittedly, jet lag could have contributed to my trip to sleepy town, but the cabin is indeed nearly silent at high speeds.

Unlike the 5 GT, which was available with two engine options, including a 445-horsepower 4.4-liter turbocharged V8, the 6 GT will only be offered as the 640i xDrive with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder packing 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

You can have any engine in your 6 Series GT as long as it's a 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder.

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The car merges quickly onto expressways and performs passing maneuvers with ease, showing no signs of turbo lag. The meaty power band is quantified by peak torque being available between 1,380 and 5,200 rpm. The transmission is a slick operator for up- and downshifts, while the manual shift mode is excellent for a torque converter automatic.

From behind the wheel, acceleration doesn't blow you away, but it feels serviceably fast. BMW claims a 60 mph time of 5.1 seconds. 

Fuel economy numbers aren't available yet, but the outgoing 535i xDrive Gran Turismo with a 300-horsepower version of the 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder and eight-speed automatic gearbox carried an 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway ratings. It won't be too surprising if the 640i xDrive Gran Turismo returns similar levels of efficiency.

The 640i xDrive GT's better looks and performance come at a price.

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If you like what you see in the 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Coupe, a base model is going to cost you $69,700 plus $995 for destination when this tall wagon with coupe-inspired roofline hits dealers in November. Considering that the 2017 535i xDrive GT started at $63,200 and the 550i xDrive GT began at $72,500, the new car's 6 Series name, better styling and performance improvements certainly do come at a price.

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