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Review

FIRST DRIVE: BMW 640d SE Coupé car review

11/10/11

FOR A CAR that after two successful generations still has no direct competitors, BMW could have been forgiven for adopting the old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach.

But they haven’t. The third incarnation of the 6 Series Coupé is better looking, more powerful, more efficient and altogether a really well sorted package.

Let’s start with the outside. The old model was a bit questionable in the styling department, shall we say, but the new one has returned to more classic proportions; proportions BMW says are ideal for a large coupé. The new front and rear light clusters are quite pretty, too, which nobody ever said about the last one.

BMW also says that the inspiration behind much of the new car’s design is the flow of water. You’ve got to be a design student to notice it on the outside, but in the cabin, the dashboard and centre console do flow around you beautifully.

One of the reasons the 6 Series has no direct rivals is because by far the most popular engine choice with buyers has been the 3.0-litre diesel ever since it was first offered in the car. If you look at the Jaguar XK, the Maserati Granturismo and other two-door coupés, they’re almost exclusively petrol-powered. The 6 Series adds to that with extra practicality – one of the first points BMW made about the car was about it having enough space for three golf bags in the boot… The latest tax laws are hammering a bundle of rather large nails into the coffins of petrol GT cars of the 6 Series’ ilk, because the company directors that once had a new one every year or two are now faced with annual tax bills of anything up to about £20,000. This is where diesel engines score major points.

And what a diesel it is, with the new 640d being a bit more powerful and torquey than the old 635d, along with more than 10mpg more economical on the combined cycle – 51.4mpg to be precise. A big, six-cylinder diesel in a 1700kg car averaging over 50mpg? There will be sceptics.

It also sounds quite un-diesely, which isn’t to say it sounds like a petrol V8, but it has a gruff rumble that’s not at all unpleasant.

On the soaking wet test route around North Wales, two things were apparent about the car’s pace. The first is that it really does produce 309bhp and 465lb.ft of torque – the relative eagerness of the rear wheels to start spinning is testament to that.

But the second is that it doesn’t really feel that quick, partly because the car’s weight dampens any immediacy of acceleration, but also because of relatively tall gearing within the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which slows down acceleration at higher speeds but increases fuel economy. Eighth is a very tall ‘overdrive’ that keeps revs low on the motorway.

The 6 is designed for covering lots of miles across all sorts of roads in a way that could frighten the odd ‘proper’ sports car. It does that magnificently, being poised, agile and responsive, even if its steering does fall behind the chassis in terms of directness and feel.

It’s comfortable, quiet and has enough gearbox and suspension settings to keep keener drivers happy, although the latter come only as part of the optional, expensive, Adaptive Drive system.

So it’s more than good enough for cruising duties with some sporty driving thrown in, but is the interior somewhere you actually want to sit? Well, it’s a mixed bag. For a near-£70,000 car, adding fake stitching to the soft-touch, decidedly un-leather dash materials was the wrong choice. Real leather can be specified via the options list.

But the actual design and look of the interior is modern and stylish. The only real issue is a practical one, in that the cowl covering the speedometer and rev counter display is very tall, meaning if you’re much less than six feet tall and want to be able to read the road closer to the front of the car, as you need to on smaller, tighter roads, you’re going to have to raise the seat to un-sporting heights.

Build quality is very high. The feel of the leather upholstery and the solidity of the buttons, dials and levers all add up to an expensive-feeling product. It’s worth noting, however, that the 6 Series’ designation as a 2+2-seater is generous. Behind a six-foot driver there isn’t really enough room for any legs, even small ones.

The latest 640d is a mighty fine car, offering in spades everything that a good sports tourer should. The fact that it looks great and is tax-friendly as well makes it very difficult to see why, among £70,000 two-door GTs, you’d buy anything else.

FACTS AT A GLANCE: Model: BMW 640d SE Coupé.

Engine: 3.0-litre in-line 6-cylinder turbodiesel.

Transmission: 8-speed automatic gearbox driving the rear wheels.

Performance: Top speed 155mph (limited), 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds.

Fuel economy: 51.4mpg.

CO2 rating: 145g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power4 (higher than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups2 (higher than average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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