2016 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Review
I love variety. Variety makes business sense too. After all, it’s difficult enough for car makers to get folks onto their websites and then down to their dealerships, so it would be best if they had the majority of bases covered when you arrive so as to fulfill your individual wants and needs. Such variety can be expensive, however, a much cheaper solution being to somehow coax everyone into a single model and therefore enhance economies of scale. It’s worked so far for Tesla, albeit in limited numbers, with even that niche EV automaker needing to expand its product offerings in order to grow its numbers.
Tesla sold a record 26,608 cars in the U.S. last year, most from a single mid-size four-door model (sales of its new SUV started in August but really didn’t get underway until December, the four months only combining for 208 units). Considering BMW sold just 44,162 5 Series into the same mid-size luxury space (the lowest tally since 2010), and Audi could only pawn off 22,850 A6 sedans (hardly a record either), that’s pretty impressive. Then again the mid-size luxury sedan segment is one of the slower selling categories in the auto sector, a problem Tesla hopes to at least partially answer with the aforementioned crossover SUV as well as an upcoming compact sedan, although an issue BMW has long addressed by providing more unique individualized automotive solutions than any other premium carmaker with a total of nine car series and five CUVs, 22 unique body styles in all, not including trim levels, long-wheelbase varieties and special M branded versions, these resulting in a record 346,023 unit sales last year alone. And the U.S. division doesn’t even come close to offering everything BMW has available globally, never selling a four/five-door 1 Series at all (this missed opportunity should be remedied soon). Fortunately we’re a massive market so therefore it’s not difficult to make a business case for something that might only sell in low five figures, unless we’re talking halo models like the Z4, i3 and i8 that sell in the very low four figures (very low five figures in the case of the i3) yet sufficiently enhance the brand’s overall image. Without doubt the 6 Series fits this mold too.
BMW’s U.S. division sold a mere 8,146 last year, and it took three body styles that are all available with very unique M upgrades to make that happen. I can’t tell you how many 6 Series Gran Coupes got the nod compared to two-door Coupes or Cabriolets, but by the numbers of each I see in my part of town I’ll take a stab at guessing it’s a fairly even spread. Most that I see are in their highest M trim levels too, giving those who buy into BMW’s 6 family a rare kind of exclusivity normally associated with Ferrari or Lamborghini ownership. These exotic manufacturers don’t offer four-door models, mind you, at least not yet.
The four-door coupe is a concept that defies logic, but it works. Really, only the name is strange as most are little more than sleek, low slung sport sedans; the 4 Series Gran Coupe a particularly stylish five-door liftback, but you get my point. Like that smaller model which is really based on the 3 Series sedan but features some 4 Series styling details and a ritzier designation to add appeal, this 650i Gran Coupe is really a stretched, lowered and 6-ified 550i, but of course to say such a thing wouldn’t be doing it honest justice as this is one of the most elegantly penned and opulently adorned four-door sport sedans on the planet.
True, its frontal styling is getting on in years. The Coupe and Cabriolet arrived in 2011 as 2012 models and their key styling elements haven’t changed much since inception, only ushering in new lower front fascias when the 2013 Gran Coupe arrived. This means that, like the 5 Series, its widened twin-kidney grille doesn’t butt directly up against BMW’s near brand-wide headlamp cluster redesign, making these models look slightly dated compared to the rest of Munich’s offerings. It certainly has aged gracefully though.
Nowhere is this more apparent than inside where you’ll only find a nicer interior in the ultra-premium sector and then we’re only splitting hairs. The Gran Coupe was a full step ahead of expectations when introduced and it remains an absolutely stunning example of how to do luxury right. Make no bones about it, at 4,570 lbs this is a luxury car, not that it isn’t endowed with an intoxicating dose of performance. My particular example is capable of sprinting to 60 mph in a shockingly quick 4.3 seconds, but BMW doesn’t want you feeling the least bit discomforted during the process.
It starts with the exorcism of hard plastics, the only such surfaces being the steering column cover and lowest panel under the legs of driver and front passenger, the bottom portions of the B-pillars, and some small trim pieces like the window, lock and mirror switch surrounds. The rest of my tester was as beautifully finished as anything in the class, with black psuede covering the roofliner and upper pillars, contrast stitched leather surfacing the dash top, much of the instrument panel, the lower console and center armrest all the way back to where it meets up with the leather-covered rear seats, as well as the door uppers right down to the armrests, pillars connecting the doors, and then onwards into the back.
BMW continued this luxe experience with piano black lacquer detailing, although it’s not covering cheap plastic like the majority following this industry trend, but actual piano-like wood getting the shiny, inky surfacing treatment. It looks as richly applied in this car as in one of the Rolls-Royce Ghosts I tested last year, as does most every other detail. Only the nicest lightweight metal finishings are used inside too, while BMW has earned a reputation for some of the luxury segment’s best quality switchgear.
The primary gauges are almost completely digital except for a number of info and warning lights that surround the usual quad-dial speedometer and tachometer plus fuel and oil pressure gauge setup, these being high-resolution TFT displays incorporating clear, crisp graphics in an almost Machiavellian theme of misty reds on black backgrounds.
I suppose this devilish design element makes some sense for a car infused with 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of twist via a twin-turbo V8, all that power requisite for shifting its aforementioned mass at the rapid rate also noted earlier. It really is breathtaking off the line, the 650i xDrive more than anyone could ever need and certainly capable of fulfilling all of my personal performance wants and then some. Its eight-speed automatic delivers its power more smoothly than the M6 Gran Coupe’s seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, with cog swaps that may be a tad slower albeit imperceptibly to most, steering wheel paddles making either car’s human/machine interface more engaging.
Likewise the 650i GC is an outrageously adept handler, something its size and girth shouldn’t allow. It’s probably best suited to the long high-speed sweepers of Germany’s various autobahns, where setting its adaptive cruise control at 150 mph and keeping it within one of numerous expansive lanes is child’s play, but it loves to slice its way through circuitous backcountry two-laners too, while standard dynamic dampers with Sport and Comfort settings automatically adjust the suspension for optimal ride and performance, as well as steering and throttle responses, while everything benefited from optional xDrive all-wheel drive on my test car, all of this high-tech kit coming together so that the 650i Gran Coupe’s considerable heft was kept in comforting check by unbelievable levels of 245/45R18 grip.
My loaner was shod in Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D rubber too, not the even more highly adhesive standard 245/40R19 summers, while its multi-spoke wheels are nowhere to be found on this year’s standard or options menus, BMW adding the rims and winter rubber for the winter months. It’s better safe than sorry this time of year, I suppose, whereas the winters allowed a little more sideways slip, and slip, of course, adds to the fun quotient. Either way the GC was absolutely dumbfounding through the corners, its ability to execute seemingly impossible tasks with such effortless ease that it only makes me wonder how much better this big BMW could be if the automaker were only to utilize its new carbon-fiber manufacturing capability when it rethinks this mid-size four-door coupe for its second generation. I can’t imagine this car weighing half a ton less, but my fingers are crossed that its design and engineering team can. It’s brilliant as it is, but it’s about as efficient as a private jet.
Maybe that’s not fair. After all, I used just slightly more fuel than BMW’s EPA estimated average of 18 mpg during my test week, and most of my driving was done in the city where it’s rated at 15. Its highway number is 24 mpg, again impressively low for such a large, heavy, powerful car. The 650i makes use of various EfficientDynamics technologies to make this claim, auto start/stop and regenerative braking being just two, the latter unnoticeable although the former a bit abrupt during restarts, enough so to make uninitiated adjacent drivers take notice and furrow their brows at the oddball restarting his car before leaving the intersection, but I didn’t care. It makes for a cleaner local environment and is EV-quiet while waiting for the light.
All the better to enjoy my 650i’s standard 600-watt 16-speaker Harmon/Kardon surround-sound audio system, superb incidentally, with satellite and HD radio included, while its optional $4,500 Executive package added various ceramic controls, a quad-zone auto HVAC system, useful head-up display, three-way ventilation to go along with standard three-way heat, powered rear and side sunshades, plus soft-close doors. My tester also included a very helpful surround-view camera, this part of a $1,700 Driver Assistance Plus package that also featured active blind spot detection with lane departure warning, frontal collision warning, city collision mitigation and pedestrian protection, my tester also tacking on the active cruise control with stop and go functionality for $1,200.
The seats were beyond brilliant, by the way, with superb lateral and lower back support plus every conceivable powered function. Even the headrests get the first-class winged treatment, these chairs making me feel as if I was ensconced in some futuristic flying machine, although one with a bit of parlor club air. They’re 20-way powered, with four-way lumbar adjustment and the ability to extend the lower squab for long legged comfort, while high-end leather in a wide assortment of possible colors also comes standard, mine done out in Cognac Exclusive Nappa with black highlights.
The previously noted piano black wood accents were $1,080 extra, while the unique matte-finish “Frozen” exterior paint added a lofty $3,600 to the bottom line. My test car also included high-gloss black “Shadowline” exterior window trim at no cost, while its heatable steering wheel and heatable rear seats came as part of a $450 Cold Weather package. The available options list goes on and on and standard features menu at least as richly appointed with some yet unmentioned items of note being active LED headlamps with auto high beams, LED fogs, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, ambient interior lighting, a powered steering column, heatable front seats, navigation and a reverse camera in a very high-quality widescreen infotainment display, front and rear parking sonar, a large glass sunroof (although this car begs for a panoramic glass roof), everything noted pushing the 650i xDrive Gran Coupe’s base price up from $93,900 to $106,430 before adding freight and dealer fees.
The rear seat is quite confined, as you might expect, with only three inches of air left over in front of my knees when the driver’s seat was set for my five-foot-eight medium-build body, and about the same above my head. It’s better than what you’d find in the majority of two-door coupes including the 6 Series variant, while access to the back is a wholesale improvement. When equipped, rear passengers enjoy two sets of controls as part of the GC’s available quad-zone auto HVAC system just mentioned, keeping everyone content in their individual climates, while my tester’s separate rear seat heater controls were also fitted to the upscale interface on the backside of the front center console. Additional luxe kit includes controls next to the auto window switches for powering the rear and both side sunshades also just noted. It’s like a limo without the space.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a nicer four-door coupe no matter how much you’re willing to pay, other than the $117k 560 horsepower M6 version of course, whereas a more affordable 640i model is available from $79,500. It boasts the fabulously renewed and (in my opinion) conservatively claimed 315 horsepower twin-scroll turbocharged six and provides a zero to 60 mph sprint time of 5.4 seconds that’s still a force to be reckoned with, while its standard and available features set appears near identical to the 650i.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press