Despite plans for the introduction of a four-wheel drive 650i Xdrive model in certain markets, all versions of the new BMW coupe destined for the UK will retain rear-wheel drive. Unlike the old model which came with the choice of both a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic, though, the new 6-series gets an eight speed automatic gearbox with remote shifting capability across the range as standard.
In keeping with developments in other recent new BMW models, it also receives automatic stop/start, brake energy regeneration, flaps behind the grille that close to improve the drag co-efficient on part throttle loads and on demand ancillary functions – all of which is claimed to lead to combined cycle fuel savings of up to 12 per cent on standard 17-inch wheels and 225/55 R17 tyres.
Although it is lumbered with 1660kg (or 130kg more than old 630i owing to its increased dimensions), the base engine endows the 640i with impressive straight-line performance. With 332lb ft of torque on tap at just 1300rpm, bursts off the line with enthusiasm and provides determined acceleration well into three figures. The delivery is terrifically linear; the twin scroll turbocharger spools up without any discernable lag from idle onwards, providing V8 like levels of shove all the way to the 7200rpm cut-out.
BMW claims 0-62mph in 5.4sec – a full second inside the time quoted for the 630i, with top speed limited to 155mph. There are no official in-gear figures just yet, but with an added 96lb ft developed 1450rpm lower in the rev range it always feels more eager than the model it replaces, even if the engine note, a less than appeal mixture of induction and exhaust blare, is nowhere near as entertaining as the old naturally aspirated 3.0-litre in-line six, whose raspy mechanical hum appears set to be resigned to history.
The 640i coupe devours big distances with great aplomb. High speed stability is one of its real strengths, making it a consummate grand tourer. And with combined average fuel consumption of 37.2mpg, it should be good for at least 500 miles between visits to the petrol station forecourt at normal motorway speeds.
In spite of its obvious heft, it also feels at home on challenging back roads. Accurate and well weighted electro-mechanical combine with a terrifically rigid and resilient body structure, to endow it with real sharpness, while grip levels are extremely high.
For such a big car the new BMW is easy to place on the road and terrifically agile, especially when running the optional Integral Active Steering, which introduces counter steer on the rear wheels, and Adaptive Drive, which suppresses roll though the use of hydraulically operated anti-roll bars.
In a bid to cater a broader range of driving styles than the second-generation model, BMW has provided the new 6-series with four different driving modes as part of a standard Driving Experience Control system: eco pro, comfort, sport and sport plus. Each provides the new car with its own individual character. In everyday driving it feels best in sport, though for those seeking added response, sport plus introduces even greater sharpness to the steering, throttle response and damping.
Should I buy one?
The new 6-series coupe is a highly accomplished car. It is a more harmoniously styled car than its predecessor – both inside and out, boasts heady performance even in base guise, packs added levels of agility, is impressively frugal when driven at the sort of legal limits imposed in the UK, is roomier all round and imparts a satisfying feeling of solidity.
But despite all this, it fails to connect on an emotional level. It gets the job done – determinedly, efficiently and without any obvious short comings. But it ultimately fails to really engage the driver in the way a car with such clear sporting pretensions should. Let’s hope the M6 puts it right.
Price: £59,550; Top speed: 155mph; 0-62mph: 5.4sec; Economy: 37.2mpg (combined); CO2: 177g/km; Kerb weight: 1660kg; Engine: 6 cyls in line, 2979cc, turbo, petrol; Installation: Front, longitudinal, RWD; Power: 315bhp at 5800rpm; Torque: 332lb ft at 1300rpm; Gearbox: 8-spd automatic;