The 6-series was among our favorite BMWs. Built for three model generations—two of which have been consecutive, starting in 2003—it was an upmarket and beautiful coupe (with a convertible and later a low-slung four-door derivative) with strong dynamic capabilities. Now BMW tells us its successor for the 6-series will revive the 8-series nomenclature, despite virtually identical market positioning. But that doesn’t mean the 6-series moniker will disappear. Henceforth, it will be affixed to a vastly different car: the BMW 6-series Gran Turismo.
While vaguely resembling the 6-series Gran Coupe, this new car is more directly the successor to the 5-series Gran Turismo, once breathlessly touted as a Progressive Activity Sedan. Recently put out to pasture, the 5-series GT had a high center of gravity and ungainly, tallish looks that took enthusiasts aback when it arrived in late 2009. Unsurprisingly, it has remained a rare presence on our roads.
The 5-series GT did not inspire the competition to come up with anything similar; it has comprised a one-car segment throughout its life cycle. Yet BMW wants to move the needle ahead and has left nothing untouched to make the 6-series GT a better and more attractive car than its predecessor.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we find the 6-series GT to be a vastly better-looking vehicle than was the 5-series GT. The front is dominated by high-end LED headlights, a finely sculpted hood, and elegantly integrated lower air intakes. The side windows feature a new interpretation of the Hofmeister kink that pulls the rear end down visually, and muscular rear fenders further break up the tall body. The long, slightly lower rear end is dominated by horizontal, three-dimensional taillights and an electrically operated spoiler.
It is a shape we could live with, particularly if we needed the extra room. The rear seats feel nearly as spacious as those in a 7-series, there is more headroom than in the 5-series sedan, and the cargo area has grown: It now holds 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up or 65 cubic feet when they’re lowered.
BMW has thrown out two utterly useless features that were supposed to define the predecessor but have remained unappreciated, according to the brand’s own research: The split tailgate, which could open as a traditional trunk or as a hatch thanks to separate hinges, and the foldable partition between the rear seats and the trunk. Nixing these elements opened up the space while lowering cost and weight considerably. We do like the new car’s frameless side windows, although the effect is somewhat wasted since the rear ones cannot be lowered more than halfway.
Slide behind the overly thick-rimmed steering wheel and behold the familiar sight of what is essentially the dashboard of the latest 5-series, a step ahead of its predecessor but still a relatively conservative cockpit in the context of other premium brands. BMW owners will feel at home immediately, although the tall seating position—a whopping 2.8 inches higher than that in a 5-series—is more SUV than sedanlike.
The seating position may remind drivers of the X5 and X6 SUVs, but under the skin, the 6-series GT is far closer to the 7-series whose floorpan it shares. Meanwhile, the compact rear suspension is taken from the 5-series. Despite the dynamic capabilities of the platform, the focus here is clearly on comfort.
The 6-series GT even walks away entirely from the artificially heavy steering of other BMW models; this one is definitely on the lighter side, reminding us of an Audi more than of its own siblings. As far as driving modes are concerned, there is a Sport mode but no Sport+; BMW instead offers a Comfort+ setting on 6GTs equipped with the optional adaptive dampers (as well as an Adaptive mode). Softer even than the familiar Comfort mode, Comfort+ is not recommended unless you regard vertical motion as the hallmark of a luxury vehicle (we hear that Chinese customers appreciate this kind of chassis tuning). Keep it in Sport mode, we say, and enjoy the surprisingly light-footed handling. It is capable and it’ll play along if you decide to flog it through the corners, although it doesn’t encourage you to do so.
The only available engine in the U.S. market will be the 335-hp turbocharged inline-six. It is torquey, strong, and it sounds silky, although there isn’t much sound that actually gets into the 6-series GT’s cabin. Sent through the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic, torque is distributed to all four wheels when needed. The 640i xDrive GT charges to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, BMW claims, and tops out at 155 mph when fitted with appropriate tires.
The future of the 6-series can be yours for $70,695 to start, and it comes nicely loaded with a panoramic sunroof and plenty of goodies. As capable as it is unobtrusive, this vehicle may be the least exciting 6-series but the sportiest and best-looking hotel shuttle ever built.