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First Drive: BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo

By / 4 years ago / Road Tests / No Comments

Can a new badge help BMW’s executive GT carve a bigger niche? Alex Grant finds out.

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SECTOR Executive   PRICE £46,810-£56,605   FUEL 34.4-55.3mpg   CO2 135-197g/km

Of its myriad niche models, BMW didn’t do the best job of positioning the old 5 Series GT. Essentially a 7 Series with a hatchback rear end and frameless windows, it was actually a very cheap way to get luxuries from two classes above the badge on its boot. However, with challenging styling, lumbering handling and pricing out of step with the rest of the 5 Series line-up, it never really found its corner of the UK market.

That its replacement has been slotted into the 6 Series family suggests that Munich hasn’t been blind to those problems. This is a similar proposition, except it’s now based on an extended-wheelbase version of the latest 5 Series, shedding not only visual bulk but actual mass too. While you’d struggle to argue that it’s a looker, it’s certainly an improvement on the 5 Series GT.

However, it still isn’t 100% tailored to European tastes. BMW expects almost 40% of global volume to go to China, which is ten times more than will ever land in the UK. Aimed at maintaining, rather than growing, the 1,500 annual UK sales of its predecessor, think of this as a lower priced alternative to a 6 Series Gran Coupe, a car-like X6, or a more flexible 5 Series saloon, and it starts to make some sense.

Trim levels match the 5 Series – SE and M Sport, with sales likely to be weighted towards the latter – but the engine range no longer includes a 20d version as offered on the old GT. The UK will get the 30i and 40i xDrive petrols, and a 30d diesel which can be upgraded to add xDrive four-wheel drive for an additional £2,050-£2,300. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range.

Unsurprisingly, the 630d is predicted to account for most volume; it’s a muscular six-cylinder engine that makes barely any noise on the move, offering effortless if not blistering straight-line acceleration. However, it’s no driver’s car. The GT offers a smoother ride over rough British road surfaces than a 5 Series but, with an extra 200kg on board, you never really escape the feeling of excess weight changing direction, even in its sportiest drive mode. But that’s not really the point – with its acoustic glass and heavily sound-insulated cabin, it’s a step up in luxury that’s closer aligned to the 7 Series than the 5, despite what it’s based on.

The added benefit is an abundance of space. With a wheelbase matching the standard-length 7 Series, even tall adults can stretch out in the back, and there’s room for three of them despite the sculpted bench seat. It offers around a fifth more load volume than a 5 Series saloon, extended through three sections of flat-folding bench, and the wide-opening hatch means it’s more accessible too. BMW sold a lot of the outgoing car to hotels and chauffeur companies, who will welcome the lower boot sill of its replacement.

The challenge is still to get customers to understand quite what’s on offer here – and the new car doesn’t solve all of its predecessor’s problems. However, being positioned at the right point in the range should finally give BMW a better platform to talk up its good points.

What we think

The GT offers space and luxury aplenty, but has its work cut out luring customers out of the ageing CLS and soon-to-be-replaced A7.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.