The German manufacturer finally lets form lead function

by: BMW NORTH AMERICA - The 2013 BMW 640i Gan Coupe is perhaps the best looking of all the 'four door coupes' on the market.For many years BMW has produced a wide range of cars and crossovers that perform extremely well but don’t over-stimulate the senses. They are all well designed but slightly sterile, as though a committee of enginners must agree on every line and contour.

So what a surprising that BMW’s most drop dead gorgeous car in years is competing in the awkward category of four-door coupes. That’s right, sedans with sloping rear rooflines that are intended to simulate sportier two-doors. They include the Audi 7, Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class and Porsche Panamera, which is advertised as a four-door sports car.

Well, purely from an appearance standpoint, the all-new 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe leaves them in the dust. The exterior lines are sensuous, with just enough of a flare behind the front wheel wells to impart a sense of purpose. The designers have also pulled of the difficult feat of incorporating a perfectly proportional grill — not to big, not too small, not too pointy and not too blunt.

The leather-lined interior can easily be mistaken for that of a Jaguar, which has always known how to pamper its passengers. In fact, BMW would do well to incorporate the wrap-around dash and sloping center console into the rest of its products. It’s about time the German manufacturer let form lead function for a change.

Mechanically, the 640i is more of a Gran Touring car than a hard-charging Sport Sedan. The turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine is smooth but not brutally strong, with 315 horsepower and 330 foot pounds of torque. The eight-speed Sport Automatic runs up and down through the gears just fine, but does not provide instaneous responses unless pushed hard.

BMW says more performance will be available later this year in the 650i Gran Coupe, which will feature a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that generates 445 horsepower and 480 foot pounds of torque. It will also cost more than the 640i, which begins at $87,200 or 90,200 with xDrive, BMW’s all-wheel-drive system.

If you don’t need that much power, the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe is a pleasure to drive. It is a big car and feels like one, with a solid ride that increases driver confidence. There are two Comport and two Sport settings that change the suspension, throttle response and transmission shift points. As expected, the Comfort settings produce a softer ride and less aggressive accelaration, while the Sport settings increase the firmness and responsiveness of the engine and transmission. The differences are pretty subtle at slower speeds and much more noticeable at higher speeds, minimizing the number of changes drivers are likely to feel compelled to make in day-to-day driving.

As mentioned, the interior is sumptuous by BMW standards, with the deeply contoured leather seats providing comfortable rides for up to four passenges. That’s right, because of the size of the rear climate control system, there is only room for two passengers in the back. They will feel pampered, however.

Electronic features are everywhere, from the shift lever to the menu selector, display screen control knob and multiple connectivity options. Strangey, there is no written owners manual. It is only available through the display screen, and even then only when the car is parked. This means owners can’t bring it in the house to pour over, an odd decision, given the complexity of some features.

This proved challenging when trying to work around the car’s most annoying feature — the auto-stop feature that turned the engine off at dead stops. Restarts were surprisingly noticeable, undermining the 640i’s composure. The manual says this can be bypass by pressing heavily on the brake pedal when coming to a stop, releasing the pedal slightly, and then pressing on it again moderately. Or at least, it seemed to say that. It was impossible to practice with the text available and I never fully mastered the technique. Sometimes the engine died no matter what I did with the brake pedal, and others times it kept running smoothly without any conscious effort on my part.

Fortunately, the auto-stop feature can be completely shut off with a button on the dash. Once I did that, I didn't have any real complaint about the 2013 640i Gran Sport, the best-looking BMW in ages.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 640i Gran Coupe.

• Manufacturer: BMW.

• Class: Fullsize sedan.

• Layout: Front engine, front (as tested) and all-wheel-drive.

• Style: Four door car.

• Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6 (315 hp, 330 lbs-ft).

• Transmission: Eight-speed Sport Automatic with Driving Dynamics Control, automatic Sport and Manual shift modes, and streering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 20/30/24.

• Price: Beginning at approximately $87,200 ($97,695 as tested).

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