The 6-series Gran Coupe, is in my eyes, the sexiest four-door on the road right now.
Emphasis on form over function can be a superficial thing. Words such as “pointless” are often used to describe vehicles that follow this philosophy, and in the case of certain examples (such as the BMW X4), I’ve often agreed. There’s an exception to every single rule though, and this is it. The 2016 BMW 650i Gran Coupe is simply marvelous in every sense of the word. This model year marks the mid-cycle facelift for the current 6-series, which, in BMW lingo, is “Life Cycle Impulse”. We borrowed the car for a week’s worth of testing to see how it stacks up against the revised Audi A7 and the Mercedes-Benz CLS.
There’s no argument about it – the 6-series Gran Coupe, is in my eyes, the sexiest four-door on the road right now. Some may argue that it’s a lengthened 5-series with less interior space and a higher price tag, but just look at it! The lines are sculpted beautifully, with the precision of a fine scalpel, and the Frozen Grey matte finish (a BMW Individual option) sets off the design even more. The four-door coupé is sleek and stunning from every angle, with my favourites being the front and rear 3/4 views. The low roofline may compromise headroom, but it adds to the stealthy look and is a must-have on a beast like this. BMW’s Adaptive LED lighting is just as crisp as the rest of the car, giving the 650i a sinister look at night.
On the inside, the appeal continues. Our Gran Coupe tester came finished in Cognac Extended Nappa Leather, with beautiful upholstery throughout, and an Anthracite Alcantara headliner. Fit and finish is up to par for BMW standards, and the only cheap-feeling plastic bit was above the armrest on the door panels – the car could use some additional padding here. The stitching is stunning, and looks meticulous enough to be hand-done; this is definitely the interior of a car worth six figures. Ceramic controls are absolutely required for those opting for higher-end BMWs – they make all the difference in everyday operation. The optional M-Sport Package adds interior bits such as the large, meaty sport steering wheel and Comfort Seats.
The Comfort Seats themselves are worth discussing – the 650i’s seats are adjustable in what seems to be infinite permutations, with heating and ventilation for front passengers (the rears are heated). Front seat occupants are also treated to the BMW Active Seat feature, which is a very slow but effective massage that reduces fatigue and stimulates the muscles on long drives. I particularly enjoyed the adjustability of the upper half of the backrest, which is a great touch for those (like me) who don’t have ideal posture. Butterfly headrests that also can be moved fore/aft are wonderful, but could be softer.
At the end of the day though, the 650i Gran Coupe is just that – a four-door coupé. This means space is compromised, especially in the rear seats. The center console fron the front is extended right up through the rear cabin, eliminating the fifth seat and replacing it with climate controls for the two passengers in the back. Legroom in the back is less than ideal, and at 6’1, I found myself unable to sit behind myself, and my head was right up against the headliner.
On course with BMW’s change to making little sense with their numeric naming, the 650i does not pack a 5.0L engine. Under the hood of the 4500-lb beast lives a 4.4L twin-turbo V8. This is one of the most understated engines out there right now, and it’s one of my personal favourites too. The magic numbers are 445 horsepower peaking at 6,000RPM, and 480 lb-ft of torque, available at just 2,000RPM. Even in the default “Comfort” drive mode, the 650i is a honed missile. With standard xDrive all-wheel-drive, it attacks the roads with the intensity of a cheetah and the precision of a sword.
The phenomenal engine is made even sweeter through the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. With lightning-quick shifts in the Sport and manual modes and unnoticeable ones otherwise, this gearbox complements the motor in perfect synergy. It really is a match made in heaven – the 650i has the smoothness of the most delicate whipped cream, and is able to drop like a sledgehammer almost instantly when asked to. In automatic mode, there’s a tiny bit of turbo lag, but when the turbochargers kick in, it’s like a dark knight. The gears can be manually shifted through paddle shifters on the wheel (left for down, right for up) or on the shifter itself.
The 650i handles like a dream for a car of its size. The steering is electric, but has a good amount of heft to it and is a joy to corner with. A unique trait shared with other newer BMW models is the configurable instrument cluster. The gauges are digital, and change with the various drive modes. For instance, when in the “Eco Pro” setting, they’re a great blue hue that motivates the driver to light-foot. In the “Sport” and “Sport+” modes, the gauges morph into a hot red with a digital speedometer, bringing out the athletic nature of the stealthy Gran Coupe.
Most of the lesser BMW models get away with a few simple drive modes. The default is “Comfort”, there are “Sport” and “Sport+”, and of course, the green-friendly “Eco Pro” setting. Each of these modes tweak a variety of settings from throttle response, steering feel/weight, suspension damping, and transmission shift points. For maximum comfort on those long distance drives, the 650i Gran Coupe has a “Comfort+” mode. We also experienced this on the 740Ld I recently took on a road trip down south, and it’s fantastic for eating up the mileage.
Speaking of mileage – the fuel mileage is the only thing about the 650i that I wasn’t head-over-heels for. The 70L tank drains quite quickly, especially if you’re enjoying the intoxicating noise that the V8’s exhaust makes. The majority of my week with the Gran Coupe consisted of highway driving; approximately a 75% bias in this direction. In cold temperatures with a light foot, I averaged a very conservative 11.9L/100km on premium fuel. It’s worth noting that rather than the 20” wheels, our car was equipped with winter tires mounted on a smaller setup. For a twin-turbo V8, this isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. When I tested the Alpina B6 Gran Coupe earlier this year, I averaged 13.6L/100km in a similar cycle.
The exhaust isn’t the only thing on the 650i Gran Coupe that brings music to your ears. The Harman/Kardon sound system has a full manual equalizer and a series of presets, which allow the audiophile to tune the audio specifically to his or her individual tastes. There is also a Bang & Olufsen option available for just under $5,000 extra, but with how good this setup is, I don’t see a need to upgrade. The 6-series is an excellent sound stage for a car too – the cabin is almost completely isolated from exterior sounds, allowing for full enjoyment of entertainment.
The 6-series Gran Coupe starts at $89,900 for the 640i model, which is powered by a six-cylinder engine and competes directly with the Mercedes-Benz CLS400 and Audi A7 3.0T. The eight-cylinder 650i Gran Coupe has a base price of $101,000, and can be optioned in almost unlimited combinations. Our car included the $8,300 M-Sport Edition package, which adds a serious arsenal of equipment. This is including but not limited to 20” wheels, soft close doors, Nappa leather, M Sport Package, M Aerodynamics Package, ceramic controls, Active Blind Spot Detection, Comfort Seats, electric rear window and side window sunshades, Driving Assistant, Surround View, heads-up display, and Harman/Kardon sound. An extra $2,500 for Adaptive Drive and $1,000 for Black Piano interior finish brings the sticker to $112,800.
My biggest gripe with the 650i Gran Coupe is that even though it packs this much equipment, albeit a lot of it optional, it’s missing a few things I would like to have. For instance, BMW’s ConnectedDrive suite is not on board here, and neither is adaptive radar-guided cruise control. To make a comparison; at the time of this testing, our VP Louis Vo was testing a 2016 Honda Civic with a sticker of approximately $26,000. The Honda had adaptive cruise control as standard equipment on the Touring trim level, but the $113,000 BMW requires you to check off additional packages to have it.
The price tag puts the Gran Coupe out of reach for many, but it still remains hugely appealing both inside and out. More practical-minded buyers will opt for the traditional 5-series, also available in 550i guise with the same powertrain. Personally, I would forego the matte paint finish because of its difficulty to maintain, and opt for a more traditional colour like BMW’s Sapphire Black. Regardless, for me, the 2016 BMW 650i Gran Coupe is the perfect combination of style, performance, and meticulous attention to detail. This is a car I would be very happy to call my own, and it definitely stands out to me over its fierce competition,