BMW 6-Series GT: Beemer's new king of the road
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BMW has revealed its first 6 Series Gran Turismo at a global launch in Portugal, with the luxury sedan incorporating a unique collaboration of vehicles and technology from the German brand.
Globally replacing the 5 Series Gran Turismo, the 6 Series will arrive in New Zealand late next month and is priced from $155,600.
We'll get the top-spec 640i Gran Turismo (GT) with xDrive and M Sport performance pack, powered by a 3-litre, six cylinder, in-line petrol engine, producing 250kW of power at 5500-6500rpm, and 450Nm of torque at 1380-5200rpm.
The GT has a top speed of 250km/h with 0-100km/h at 5.4 seconds. The 6 Series GT is paired with an eight-speed steptronic transmission, and gets an automatic self-levelling rear air suspension system plus dynamic damper control and BMW's xDrive system.
But what makes the 6 Series Gran Turismo unique is the combination of vehicles from BMW's line-up that creates it's design DNA.
The front is from the 7 Series concept, while the rear is shared with the 5 Series Touring. Its boot space is nearly as big as the X5 large SUV.
The 6 Series GT is 5091mm long, an increase of 87mm over the 5 Series GT, while remaining the same width as that vehicle (1902mm). It's lower by 21mm to 1538mm to create a flowing coupe-style roofline thanks to a rear that is lowered by 64mm.
The frameless doors add to the coupe styling but that look is deceiving as the front seats have been raised, making entry easier and the vehicle more SUV-like than sports car.
And, despite the lower roofline, the space inside the cabin is impressive, with the legroom so noteworthy that not only did our 187cm (6 foot 2in) passenger sitting in the back have plenty of space, but a BMW staff member at the Portugal launch quipped that he'd like a 6 Series GT as his new work car to prevent his kids from being able to kick the back of his driver's seat as there was so much space in the rear.
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Though I don't think those kids would deserve the optional electronic adjustable seats that can recline, creating a limousine feel, especially with cushion headrests.
But head to the back of the GT and you could easily have this 6 Series as a family vehicle, thanks to the huge boot space.
The rear capacity is 610 litres (up 110 litres over its predecessor) and X5-like. It provides enough room from all the equipment for a young family but, following its name, Gran Turismo, it's the vehicle for a long road trip.
There is enough space for suitcases for five passengers and room left over, especially if you remove the two boot covers. But fold down the rear seats, and the space is an impressive 1800 litres.
Examining the space at the launch this week at Sintra, Portugal, I joked with another BMW staff member that you could use it for a trip to Ikea.
"It's true, I went there and bought a shelving unit and it fitted no problem," he said.
To aid a boot full of suitcases, or Ikea goodies, is the automatic self-levelling rear air suspension that it a practical addition to the tourer.
The 6 Series GT has lost 150kg over the 5 Series GT, and has improved aerodynamics because of the coupe-like silhouette, active air flap control, air curtains, and an automatically extending rear spoiler that flips up at over 120km/h -- which I often did during our scenic loop around Lisbon and the coast.
The 6 Series GT could slot into BMW's "niche" product line-up. You can look at it this way, odd numbers (3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, X1, X3, X5) are conventional vehicles, while even numbers (2 Series, X6 and now 6 Series GT) are more lifestyle products.
But there is more to the 6 Series than just being a niche, as our drive programme proved.
We left the Penha Longa resort in Sintra, heading to Cascais at a maximum speed of 90km/h along the curving, stone wall-lined narrow roads, before hitting the cyclist-dominated coastal drive then nipping inland then on to the Portuguese motorway system -- which allowed the GT to come into its own.
With the 120km/h speed limit, and the route taking on long periods of straight stretches then hill accents, our 640i's 3-litre, six cylinder engine effortlessly hit that speed with plenty of grunt left for overtaking.
I easily sat at 130km/h in the fast lane before tempering back to the speed limit.
Our passenger joked that we should keep going to France -- and, in all seriousness, the GT was built for that type of road trip.
It wasn't only the engine's performance, the xDrive handling or the interior space, but also the often forgotten aspect in a vehicle -- acoustics.
Each driver also had a turn as a rear passenger, initially to appreciate the legroom and recline seats, but it soon turned into an appreciation of the 6 Series GT's acoustics. We decided to do the 130km loop twice, not just because we had the time, nor because of the scenery, but also because the GT made it an enjoyable drive.
Sure, the road surface in Portugal is smooth -- unlike New Zealand bitumen on our motorways and don't even mention our secondary routes -- but even at 130km/h we could easily hold a conversation between front and rear passengers without having to lean forward to hear what was being said up front. Impressive.
Though, if you had young kids as rear passengers -- as the BMW staffer was considering -- you may need to wind down the front windows -- or turn up the volume on the stereo via gesture control -- to drown out their demands. The 6 Series GT also gains BMW's co-pilot, which impressed in the new 5 Series.
I appreciated yet again that the control for this semi-autonomous system is activated via buttons on the steering wheel -- though you are limited to how long you can have your hands off the wheel before it deactivates.
I also appreciated the 6 Series GT's high front seating position. It means you slide across, rather than slide into your seat as you would a sports car.
When it goes on sale here, competition could come from Audi's S5, but also from within, the BMW 7 Series, due to the ease of driving, performance and leg/luggage room.
The 5 Series GT had limited impact in New Zealand as a new vehicle, though you'll see a few grey imports, but the first 6 Series GT is set to change perceptions for Kiwis.
Sure, it won't sell in the same numbers as BMW's other sedans because of its price, but it is set to make an impact on our roads.