Test Drive: 2016 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe

I had to buy a tie. I had to iron my shirt. I had to hem my trousers. My usual laissez faire approach to dressing myself in the morning wasn’t going to cut it. It could have been the matte silver paint, the tan Nappa leather, or even the anthracite Alcantara roof liner. It might have been the swooping roof line, or the long bonnet, or the understated character lines. It might have been the low-profile 20-inch tires, wider at the back than the front.

This might not be the baddest 6 Series around, but it’ll still give you a clip over the ears if you mess with it. There’s nothing “soft” about a twin-scroll turbo V8.

The 2016 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe is too good for me. It’s too good looking, too sophisticated. It reminds me of my wife. And so at 9pm I was carefully preparing the next day’s clothes. Pocket square straight, I slid into the driver’s seat, turned on the massage function and pulled out into the world.

At the first set of traffic lights, someone asked me for stock tips. At the second, someone asked me why I bought the “soft 6 Series”. I assume they meant “why aren’t you in the M6?” I couldn’t ask them though, on account of I left them in a cloud of dust. This might not be the baddest 6 Series around, but it’ll still give you a clip over the ears if you mess with it. There’s nothing “soft” about a twin-scroll turbo V8.

The 445 hp isn’t soft. Nor is the 480 lb-ft of torque that whacks you in the back at a low 2,000 rpm and shunts you to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. Mass gets a bad rap in the automotive world, but when you’re sitting on 2,073 kg of it hurtling toward the next stop light at “hello officer” speed, it adds to the feeling of substance.

That the 650i can pull off such brute strength with such smoothness and grace is its great success. Steering is heavy and convincing, the wheel giving a good account of the road underneath the tires. It turns in not with gazelle-like agility but with a figure skater's grace, holding its line with smooth balance. The adaptive drive gives a wide range of suspension settings for comfort or for aggression. Active dampers and roll bars do a wonderful job of smoothing out the ride and keeping the four driven wheels connected to the road.

The 650i glides with a quiet confidence that lulls fellow road users (and passengers) into a false sense of security then POW. Vwhooompa and off you go. Expect to pay to play. I finished week with an average of 18.1 l/100 km. The official ratings of 14.3/9.3/12.1 L/100 km city/highway/combined are better, but still not wonderful. You’ll be putting the good stuff in the 70L petrol tank too.

Drive Hard: Test Drive: 2016 BMW M6

The eight-speed transmission seems utterly unfazed by the power of the two twin-scroll turbos, moving through the gears with pace, precision and poise. On the subject of the turbos, BMW calls this TwinPower, but with two sets of twin-scroll chargers shouldn’t it be QuadPower?

No matter.

The all-wheel drive system will allow a hefty amount of power through the back gate which makes for interesting leadfoot corner exits if you’re into that sort of thing. We’re not, of course. We’re very innocent.

The effortlessness of the BMW drivetrain is matched by the soothing interior environment. Comfort seats with massaging functions soothe the driver and front passenger and there is so much option for contouring the bolstering and thigh support it becomes a little ridiculous. Bonus points for the side bolsters which move outwards to allow for easier egress and ingress – nice touch, that.

The large dash-top screen is easily controlled by the touchpad and scroll wheel that falls effortlessly to hand. The buttons for shortcuts are terraced so you can feel them out with ease once you remember their locations, which takes mere seconds.

The menus and options are extensive but not complex; it’s easy to navigate through them even if some people find the sheer number of options overwhelming. All the basic functions for navigation and audio are completely easy to access and use – which is really the main point.

My only gripe with the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) is the instrument cluster. It took me some time to figure out the setting to make things display in the gap between the digital gauges, and in the end I just gave up. There’s a lot of information in the bottom of the cluster but that big opening between the dials really feels like it should be filled in.

Once I’d made peace with that I found little to fault. Especially given how much I enjoyed the “sport display” view on the main 8.0-inch infotainment screen. The head-up display even picks up the audio information when you’re tuning stations, so you never have to take your eye off the road.

At $101,000 you’d expect to get all the bells and whistles but with most luxury brands you have to give the options book a good massage to get things you can get in less expensive cars as standard. This tester had nearly $12,000 worth of extras including the good value adaptive drive ($2,500) and the $8,300 M Sport Edition package. This package gives you the driving aids like active blind spot detection, surround view, head-up display, M steering wheel and aero, 20-inch wheels and a few other feel good bits, including the curiously named “ceramic control”. That feature is an upgrade to the finish of the gear lever, audio and climate controls plus the iDrive knob giving them a weighted feel and “deep black glaze”.

Of note, the M Sport Edition package combines a lot of things you’d otherwise only get by adding both the $3,900 Technology package and $6,900 Executive package as well as some look-fast and go-fast bits. So in that context it’s a bargain.

Not that you care. If you’re buying a 650i it’s because you want a 650i. It’s because you want to feel power and grace in equal measures. In this Gran Coupe comfort and a commanding presence are backed up by prodigious performance and deep-seated quality. It is, in the words of one colleague, “a dream car”, one that spans two worlds and towers imperiously over both.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Audi A7
Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class
Porsche Panamera
Queen Elizabeth 2

2016 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe
2016 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe
Base Price $101,000
Optional Equipment M Sport Edition (20-inch wheels with performance tires 245/35 front and 275/30 rear), soft-close doors, M sport package, rear-view camera, sunshades, ventilated seats, active front seats, comfort seats, ceramic control, active blind spot detection, driving assistant, surround view, head-up display, SiriusXM, Harman/Kardon audio, multifunctional instrument cluster, M leather steering wheel, M Aero pack, high-gloss shadow line, Alcantara roof liner, speed limit info, Nappa leather) - $8,300, Adaptive drive - $2,500, black piano finish - $1,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,095
Price as Tested $114,895
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.6
8 Exterior Styling
9 Performance
9 Interior
8 Fuel Economy
9 Comfort