By Dan Scanlan
When a vehicle is badged a GT, that means it is designed as a Grand Tourer – power with graceful handling and ride, plus guaranteed room for at least four in luxury. So when BMW introduced its 2018 640i Gran Turismo xDrive, one expects luxury, pace and grace.
But wait – didn’t a 6 Series BMW normally mean mid-size coupe? This GT looks more like a 5 Series midsize sedan.
In the recent good old days, yes. But BMW has designed another in its array of niche products, calling the 640i Gran Turismo xDrive a “coupe-inspired aerodynamic design.” That means a 5-door hatchback that shares a bit of crossover height and utility along with 5 Series sportiness.
Confused? Let’s go for a grand tour.
· BMW body – The first version of this BMW was called a 5 Series Gran Turismo, basically a taller 5-door fastback sedan when it appeared in 2009. It shared some of 5’s sedan design, but was a bit chunky, especially from the rear. Enter the 2018 redesign, which “elevated both the functional strengths of this concept and the car’s sense of sporting elegance,” BMW says. Indeed, the second-gen GT is sleeker and looks more like a fastback 5 Series.
This GT is just over 3 inches longer in wheelbase, almost 6 inches more overall as well as almost 2.5 inches taller than a 540i sedan. That added height is evident, but nicely so in our M Sport Package edition, with a deep center intake and larger side intakes under the classic twin-kidney grill outlined in chrome. Hooded dual-element Adaptive LED Headlights bend into turns, hexagonal LED daytime running light tubes extended to meet the grille headlights. The grille has slats that close at speed to improve aerodynamics.
The flanks retain the 5 Series’ gentle tucked-in waistline between flared fenders, the rears gaining a bit of muscle under a design line. Those fenders neatly frame P275/40R19-inch Pirelli PZero rubber on 10-spoke silver alloy wheels. The added body height leaves room for deeper front fender vents, plus wider M Sport side sills that visually lower the car. Body-colored door handles get LED nighttime illumination, while the puddle lights glow with a neat arcing spray on the ground.
Head to the rear. and the GT’s design difference from the regular 5 Series, and last-gen GT, is evident. It begins with a fastback roofline that flows deep into a higher rear deck with active spoiler that extends over 75 mph and retracts below 50 mph. Side windows are frameless, the black trim tapering to a slightly rounded point at the fastback D-pillar, a hint of signature BMW “Hofmeister” kink.” Taillights wrap around the rear corners with LED stripes. The tail has a taller vertical rear, the lower fascia done in pewter gray with twin polished steel exhaust tips peeking through. It’s a more graceful shape than its predecessor, the longer wheelbase evident in its stance. It looks wide and fairly well-planted in a rear view, a bit of X5-esque look when seen from rear three-quarters. In its dark silver, there was a subtle elegance to the shape, well applied to body panels with tight shutlines.
· 640interior – Our first few days with the 640i Gran Turismo xDrive coincided with a trip to see friends. So the idea of a BMW with design and technology accompanied by a longer wheelbase worked in our favor. So did the added luxury and technology our interior offered five occupants.
You step over backlit M Sport doorsill kickplates and find a 5 Series interior, here done in stitched black leather over mocha with wood on dash and doors, separated by alloy strips with light accents adjustable into many colors. The GT’s ground clearance is about the same as the sedan, but bucket seats with dark stitching sit a bit higher. That higher hip point makes the seats easy to slide into, very firm and form-fitting, comfortable with 12-way power adjustments and heat. The wheel power tilts and telescopes, a thick leather rim and alloy paddle shifters behind. On the left, controls for the active cruise control, plus lane departure warning and lane keep assist. On the right, stereo, an easy-to-use voice command system and Bluetooth phone. Straight ahead, a purely digital gauge package with designs depending on the driving (SPORT, COMFORT or ECO PRO) mode chosen. The BMW defaults to COMFORT at start-up, showing a classic orange-tinted 160-mph speedometer and 8,000-rpm tach. ECO PRO shows a simplified speedometer with animated needle and economy gauge lit in blue. SPORT goes red with simplified speedometer, digital speed read dead center, then tach. All keep lane departure and active cruise status displayed as well as gas and temperature gauges.
More technology dash center – a wide 10.25-inch display screen for a superb Harmon Kardon AM-FM-CD-SiriusXM sound system, plus navigation with traffic backups and speed limits, phone, MP3 and Bluetooth audio, surround-view camera and parking sensors, trip computer, owner’s manual and BMW Connected App. BMW Connected sets up a digital personal mobility assistant with an Apple iPhone or Watch. Androids like mine are supposed to Bluetooth as well, but phone and car searched, yet never hooked up. Online search capability could access weather, news headlines, a Wiki search or even Flickr, ParkNow and manage mobile devices.
The head-up display is larger, showing speed, stereo, navigation info and posted speed limit, but my polarized sunglasses blanked it out. Under the center screen, basic stereo controls and CD slot. Under that, climate control with dual-zone controls. The wood-accented center console has a sliding door that covers dual cup holders, with a 12-volt and USB port and an inductive charging nook for a smartphone. Then comes more tech around the electronic gearshift.
There’s gesture control with an overhead sensor, a bit silly but cool. Circle your index finger and you raise or lower volume. Finger gestures answer or hang up your cellphone, or you can assign a gesture to a limited number of tasks. Pinch index finger and thumb in reverse with brake on, and a 360-degree camera system shows a 3D image of the car and immediate surroundings. Move left or right and “circle” your parked car, showing what’s around it – the Christmas lights on my house looked fine. The iDrive with master menu button as well as radio, media, navigation or telephone surround a twist/tap controller with a finger-touch input to trace letter or number. It falls easily to hand and works well. Voice control acted on direct address or point of interest requests – say “Find Disney World,” select from the list, and we were on our way.
Those in back get 7 Series-like room with panoramic sunroof above, and leather and wood below. Long doors access ample headroom despite a sloping roof, with tons of leg room. We had three adults there and plenty of room. Plus, the 40/20/40 split seatbacks power recline, outboard seats heated. The single-piece tailgate, vs. 2-piece design in the first GT, opens with a wag of a foot under bumper. The 31-cu.ft. space swallowed two suitcases, gym bag, cooler and briefcase on our trip. That expands to 65 cu.ft. when the rear seatbacks power-drop, creating a flat floor. The hatch has a power close. There’s segmented storage underfloor.
· Grand Touring – The BMW 640i Grand Turismo gets a twin-turbocharged 3-liter in-line 6-cylinder gas engine with 335 hp and peak torque of 332 lb-ft between 1,380 and 5,200 rpm. That’s 35 more than the last-generation 535i Gran Turismo, for a U.S. limited top speed of 130 mph. The 8-speed Steptronic transmission has a regular and sport mode. The car has three driving modes that adjust drivetrain, steering feel and suspension to SPORT, COMFORT or ECO PRO. ECO Pro backs off throttle, defroster, climate control and steering assist, resetting shift characteristics to net us the best highway average of 26 mpg. We used it on highway jogs, and passing power was just fine. COMFORT had normal throttle response, precise shift-down and better power allocation. But my favorite was SPORT, which let the engine sing, while slapping gearshift into its sport mode kept gearbox in a lower gear for quicker passing, and faster downshifts if more was demanded.
Our 4,409-lb. 5-door hit 60 mph in a quick 5 seconds, xDrive grabbing all fours and going fast as the exhaust gently snarled, although I wanted more. xDrive directs power to the wheel that needs it, but was rear-wheel biased, evident on a full SPORT launch when we had brief rear wheelspin. Engine start/stop worked quietly to save gas, even using data from navigation, driver assistance cameras and radar sensors to prevent the engine shutting down at the wrong time.
The doors, trunk and tailgate are aluminum to lessen weight. There’s double-wishbone front suspension, while the five-link rear suspension has automatic self-levelling for a constant ride height regardless of payload. The car auto-resets to COMFORT when you shut it off. That gave a supple but nicely controlled suspension feel with low impact harshness over bumps. You can tap in COMFORT+ mode, which softens suspension more, but a touch of marshmallow crept in, so we avoided it.
Again, we liked SPORT when the roads began to curve. It gave us a supple and more firmly controlled ride, yet allowed some buffering at full suspension deflect. The 640i GT didn’t feel as sporty as a standard 5 Series. But it easily carved curves and remained neutral around expressway ramps, with a bit of body roll. You could feel its added height and a bit of weight, but xDrive made it sure-footed. The suspension is tuned for a more luxurious feel and a bit more play, but still offered precision with tight control. Understeer only appeared when pushed hard into a turn, then it powered out cleanly. Air suspension let us raise ground clearance by .78 inches to clear driveways; a .39-inch drop accessed for highway over 75 mph or in SPORT mode. The electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering was precise and well-weighted, with lots of feel in SPORT. The car had a tight turning radius. The brakes on our 1,600-mile-old test car had precise feel, great bite and solid stopping power without fade after hard use. Above all, this BMW was quiet, hardly any tire or wind noise at highway speed.
For safety, active blind spot detection, lane departure warning and lane keep, frontal collision warning for traffic and pedestrians, and cross-traffic alert when you back up. Active cruise control maintains speed and distance and fully stops, then restarts by itself up to 30 seconds later as traffic does. Add active lane keeping and the BMW is almost autonomous, nudging you back in lane if you drift as it gently vibrates the steering wheel as a warning. The car won’t steer hands-free, but it comes close.
· BMW bucks – The 2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo xDrive starts at $69,700 plus $995 destination and handling. Our M Sport option added $1,200; plus $550 for Glacier Silver Metallic; $1,200 V-Spoke alloy wheels and Pirelli rubber; $1,700 driver assistance with blind spot, collision warning, lane departure and cross traffic alerts; $4,100 dynamic handling package with active steer, dynamic damper and active roll control; $2,150 executive package with parking sensors, head-up display, gesture control, surround view and parking assistant; $875 Harmon Kardon sound system, $300 Apple CarPlay; $500 rear seat power adjustment; and $350 front/rear heated seats. Final price – $80,875.
There isn’t any competition in the full-size 5-door hatchback community– the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe is similar but smaller, while the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera are hatchback sedans.
· Bottom line – This is a long-legged luxury grand touring machine with 7 Series room for a bit less. It’s a niche model, and you probably won’t see many out there. But you can’t beat its rear seat and luggage room.
Just The Facts:
2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo xDrive
Vehicle type – full-size 5-passenger luxury 5-door sedan
Base price – $69,700 ($80,875 as tested)
Engine type –24-valve twin-turbocharged/intercooled alloy inline 6
Displacement – 3 liter
Horsepower (net) – 335 @ 5,500-6,500 rpm
Torque – 332 @ 1,380-5,200 rpm
Transmission – 8-speed automatic transmission w/sport mode and paddle shifters
Wheelbase – 120.9 inches
Overall length – 200.9 inches
Overall width – 85 inches
Height – 60.6 inches
Front headroom – 39.4 inches
Front leg room – 41.1 inches
Rear headroom – 38.5 inches
Rear legroom – 40.4 inches
Cargo bed – 31.4 cu.ft/65 w/rear seats folded
Weight – 4,409 lbs.
Fuel capacity – 18 gallons
Fuel mileage – tba