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No carmaker knows how to fill niches quite like BMW. And at this point, there are so many seemingly overlapping vehicles that it's often hard to decipher why one is better than the other. A crossover gets a sloping roofline and suddenly it's a whole new model. A coupe sprouts a second set of doors, and it's something new, too.
Then there's the 2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo. It's like a tall four-door sedan with a hatchback and a coupe-ish roofline. It's like the X6 went into the Proportion-O-Later machine and grew 7 inches in overall length, but got skinnier and shorter in height in the process. It's not a coupeover. Maybe it's a hatchback? Maybe it's a crossover?
Whatever it is, the 6 Series GT is the replacement for the original segment-bending 5 Series Gran Turismo. And as its name suggests, the GT is more of a luxury cruiser than canyon carver.
The 6 Series Gran Turismo is offered exclusively in 640i xDrive guise, with a 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 engine and all-wheel drive. The six-cylinder engine has plenty of grunt, with 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque on tap to move this 4,400-pound beast to 60 miles per hour in a BMW-estimated 5.1 seconds.
In its default Comfort setting, the 6GT's ZF-sourced transmission shifts through its eight gears like the proverbial knife through warm butter. Sport mode, meanwhile, changes the throttle and transmission parameters for a bit more urgency in terms of power delivery, and tightens up the steering and suspension. My tester's Dynamic Handling Package with Integral Active Steering, a fancy way of saying rear-wheel steering, improves overall response to driver inputs. My only real complaints are that the run-flat tires are lousy and the brakes could use a bit more bite.
Adaptive mode suits this car best, adjusting the steering, suspension and powertrain settings based on my driving style. I also like that this mode works with the standard navigation system and transmission, downshifting before I approach an intersection or holding gears between closely spaced turns.
The 640i GT's rear air suspension can compensate for heavy or uneven loads, keeping the car's rump flat and level. You can also adjust the height manually, raising it by 0.78 inches or lowering it by 0.39 (weird measurements, I know). At higher speeds, the car automatically hunkers down for improved aerodynamics.
The EPA rates the 640i Gran Turismo at 23 mpg combined, right in line with the similar-ish Audi A7. That said, I didn't even manage to hit the 20-mpg city rating during my week with the car. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
Inside, you'll find BMW's latest iDrive system housed on a 10-inch touchscreen. You can control it by voice, touch or a rotary knob located between the seats, and it even has those weird gesture controls for increasing/decreasing audio volume and answering calls. Gesture control is cool at first, but definitely not reliable (I can't get it to work all the time) and probably more trouble than it's worth.
iDrive itself is pretty intuitive, with all major functions separated into six large tiles. Secondary functions are less obvious, and require digging deep into menus and submenus. Wireless Apple CarPlay, for example, is kind of finicky to set up the first time. And don't forget, CarPlay costs $300 here, and Android Auto isn't coming to any BMW models anytime soon.
Wireless cell phone charging comes standard, which is good, since all five passengers share just two USB ports. An optional Wi-Fi hotspot can accommodate 10 devices.
The 6 Series Gran Turismo is the first BMW to come standard with the company's Active Driving Assistant, which incorporates a whole suite of aids like blind-spot detection and lane departure warning. Both of these systems give off a visual warning and steering wheel vibration if it detects the driver drifting out of a lane or about to cut off another car. Unfortunately, neither system works at low speeds, so keep your eyes on the prize while stuck in stop-and-go traffic.
Daytime pedestrian detection, forward collision warning with city collision mitigation, speed limit information and rear-cross traffic alert are also standard fare on the 640i Gran Turismo. Optional extras include adaptive cruise control, active lane-keep assist and traffic jam assistant, which are bundled into the Driving Assistant Plus Package.
I love adaptive cruise control, and it's great here in the 640i GT. The tech works at slow speeds and monitors the actions of two cars ahead for smoother overall response and operation. And while many cars can pause for only a few seconds before starting up again on their own, the 6 Series can hold a stop for 30 seconds and then set off automatically. I'm often waiting at the Bay Bridge toll plaza in San Francisco where 20-second holds aren't uncommon, so this longer pause time offered by the 640i is a huge convenience.
The 6GT can also keep itself in a lane with steering assistance at speeds up to 130 mph and allows for up to 50 seconds of hands-off support. That's great in super-slow traffic, but of course, always keep your hands on the wheel. Just because you can drive hands-free doesn't mean you should.
The weird hatchback shape means the 6 Series GT is actually quite functional. There's 31 cubic feet of space on offer with the rear seats upright, but fold 'em down -- with the remote in the trunk, of course -- and you've got 65 cubic feet at your disposal. That's less space than larger, boxier crossovers like BMW's on X5, but the 640i GT offers more usable space than the X6 coupeover, as well as wagons like the Volvo V90 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
As you'd expect, there's leather everywhere in the 640i GT, covering the comfy and endlessly adjustable heated front seats. If you really want to up the luxe, opt for the Nappa leather with decorative quilt stitching. It's gorgeous.
The cabin is nicely insulated, keeping the outside world where it belongs. A Harman Kardon stereo fills the interior space beautifully, and a large panoramic sunroof lets the light shine in. The interior is as spacious as it is comfortable.
The 2018 BMW 640i GT starts at $72,995 including destination, but you'll definitely want to add some options.
For my money, I'd add the $1,700 Driving Assistant Plus package for the stellar adaptive cruise control system. I would also throw $2,600 for the Luxury Seating package, since I can't say no to massaging seats, though this also requires a $1,000 upgrade to the Nappa leather. I'll take the $4,100 Dynamic Handling Package, too, since it adds the air suspension, dynamic dampers, active roll stabilization and rear-wheel steering. I'll also begrudgingly pay $300 for CarPlay -- BMW, seriously, why price gouge the tech that so many other automakers are offering for free?
All in, my ideal 640i GT costs $79,895, including destination. My test car, meanwhile, stickers for $85,005.
The 6 Series Gran Turismo has a lot going for it, including an impressive suite of driver's aids and really great utility. It's not the best-looking car on the road by a long shot, but that also gives it kind of a unique factor. Just keep your performance expectations on the low side and enjoy the cushy, comfortable ride.