The new BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo has arrived in South Africa and our regular Cars.co.za contributor Francisco Nwamba took it for a drive at the recent BMW M Festival held at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg.
When Mercedes Benz announced many years ago that the A-Class would no longer be a tall family orientated vehicle, we were all quite nervous. We had gotten used to its shape, but looking back, we will be forever grateful for the change – which has allowed for a new audience to be introduced to the brand. Will the BMW be able to pull off a similar act with its latest 6 Series GT? Will we one day look at the 6 Series and be thankful that it is no longer the sleek coupe it once was? We drove the new 6 Series GT to better acquaint ourselves with this new-look 6.
The 6 Series GT's styling plays into its role as a comfortable and practical long-distance hauler.
To call the new 6 Series GT revolutionary would be an overstatement. For those who know their BMW’s well, they’ll instantly notice that the car looks very similar to the old 5 Series GT. In fact, the overall design is basically the same as the facelifted 5 Series GT, with the number 5 replaced with a 6. The 6 Series coupe and convertible have been relegated, but it’s not all “gloom and doom” as the eagerly awaited 8 Series will be its replacement. It’s a give-and-take situation, as you can see.
On the outside, the 6 Series GT has been made 'softer' in appearance, with a streamlined rear taillight and boot lid design, as well as a refreshed front-end. Where the 5 Series GT looked a tad odd, the 6 Series cures that with a more palatable appearance. Despite that, the car still feels out of place and it's difficult to define. Is it an SUV? Or perhaps a crossover? The addition of xDrive in the South African market helps us understand who BMW wants to target — families.
The 6 Series GT's interior is near-identical to the 5 Series, while some tech from the 7 Series also features.
If BMW has the family buyer in its crosshairs, they may be onto something as the 6 Series GT offers copious amounts of space. With 610 litres of boot space, the car makes sense for those who have long-distance adventures in mind. The interior design is almost exactly identical to that of the new BMW 5 series, which is a car that's difficult to fault. BMW’s new iDrive infotainment setup has become one of the best systems to use over time and the Navigation System Professional is user-friendly too. With the optional Harmon/Kardon sound system specified, the car gives the right amount of punch to your playlist – a must have in my opinion.
Powered by a 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged engine, BMW’s new B58 motor is what powers all vehicles with the “40i” designation. This engine produces 250 kW and 450 Nm of torque and in the 640i GT, it feels stately and refined. This is a car that’s not meant to excite, but rather ensure that you have enough power for grand touring while also providing for everyday needs.
Good ride quality and ample performance make the 6 Series GT a comfortable option. The diesel-powered 630d is particularly efficient too.
The 8-speed automatic transmission remains one of the best setups out there, with seamless changes, no matter the mode – of which you can choose between Eco, Comfort and Sport. Comfort is clearly the goal here as the 6 Series GT borrows damping options from the ultra-luxurious 7 Series, namely the adaptive suspension mode which assesses your driving style and adapts to it.
Overall, ride quality is superb. Despite the size of 6 Series GT, it doesn’t feel cumbersome at all. Besides the sonorous advantages of the 640i, there is a 630d option available – which may be the one to go for. A diesel in this application has two advantages — torque and fuel economy. Where you lose over a second in the sprint to 100 kph, you gain 170 Nm, which is more important for those countless overtakes that will take place on a longer drive.
The 630d also averages 5.6 L/100km compared to the 640i’s 8.5 L/100km, which makes the diesel-powered 6 Series GT a more practical choice.
What the 640i does have over its diesel sibling, however, is xDrive all-wheel drive. The question is, do you need it? With 137mm of ground clearance, this is not a car suited for going offroad. I suppose for our European friends who have icy roads to worry about, this drivetrain setup seems logical, but for us South Africans, it's less of a priority, unless you want the added grip reassurance in all driving conditions.
The new 6 Series GT is more of a niche product, but its combination of comfort and practicality should find favour with some buyers.
BMW’s musical chairs has confused us for many years, as our understanding of the new numbering system is that the odd numbers were for the sedans and the even numbers for the coupes. Their justification could be that the 6 Series GT is a coupe due to its pillar-less doors and coupe-like styling, similar to that of a 4 Series Gran Coupe or Mercedes CLS.
Either way, the new 6 Series GT is a better-looking version of the 5 Series GT while offering similar technology found in the new 5 and 7 Series. Like many of the models wearing the BMW badge, the 6 Series GT will suit some buyers to the tee, but it won't appeal to everyone. As for the upcoming 8 Series, it has some big shoes to fill...
BMW 6 Series GT - Price in South Africa
BMW 630d Gran Turismo - R1 084 378
BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo - R1 123 350