BMW baffles me with its dense, glossy thicket of model names and body styles that sound like German calculus – and I barely passed hillbilly algebra.
M, MSport, x, X, i, 3-sedans, 4-coupes, Gran Coupes, Gran Turismos. They can be tough equations to crack without a slide rule or a Bimmer decoder ring.
So, I admit I didn’t quite know what to expect from the 2018 640i xDrive Gran Turismo I got recently.
Aren’t 6-series BMWs usually slinky coupes and convertibles? Does the “40” signify the 3-liter six, the 4.4-liter V-8 or solar power?
I’m not sure, but as you can see, the 640 is a big, high-riding sedan with a bit of a crossover bustle, all-wheel-drive, a nose-bleed $84,000 price tag and fairly serious sporting aspirations.
OK. I think I get it. Maybe. Possibly.
While not as overtly strange as a BMW X6 – the automaker’s puffed-up, luxury crossover-coupe thing – the 640 needs to grow on you, like vodka and Red Bull or computer dating.
Bulky with a long wheelbase, my gray 640 kind of resembled a mix of sedan and crossover, which struck me as odd since crossovers are essentially car-like SUVs.
Does that make the 640 some sort of second cousin?
Beats me. Of course, it sported BMW’s signature kidney grilles sharing space upfront with sleekly stretched two-projector headlamps and capped by a long regal hood.
Short overhangs front and rear made the 640’s big doors seem even larger, while its high top glided gracefully down into a useful fastback.
Meanwhile, a character line up high and a slender aero panel down low brought a bit of chisel to the big body, joined by high-mounted tail lamps that wrapped deftly around the rear.
The 640 settled on 245/45 tires up front and 275/40s in back wrapped around good-looking 19-inch BMW alloy wheels.
In short, lots of fine parts and pieces sparkled on the 640. They just got placed, uh, differently.
Once I figured out though, that my 640 housed BMW’s excellent 3-liter straight-six beneath its hood, I knew there would be some dynamic in the drive.
Turbocharged and direct injected, the stout 3-liter supposedly produces 335- horsepower – not to mention 332 lb.-ft. of torque at a diesel-like 1,380 rpm.
I say supposedly because BMW seems to consistently underrate its engines – either that or it has figured out ways to defy the laws of physics.
Despite its 4,500 pounds of bulk, the 640 hustled away from stops with a California wave of low-end power and also is able to achieve 20 miles per gallon in town and 28 on the highway.
More important to me, the magical 3-liter motor pushed the porky 640 to 60-mph in a really rapid 4.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Moreover, its well-developed eight-speed automatic not only clicked off smooth, positive shifts, but also held the cross-dressing sedan in gear under acceleration and downshifted cleanly, and it didn’t stop there. Given the 640’s clumsy-looking height, I had presumed that curves might trip it up.
The 640 turned into moderately fast corners with surprising aggression and fairly modest lean, keeping its grip and composure.
In addition, its ride felt athletic and long-legged, absorbing bumps without jarring its occupants.
Even the steering – not one of Bimmer’s strengths of late – felt quick and well weighted, transmitting a bit of road-feel to the wheel.
Forget the slightly odd exterior for a minute, though. Inside, the 640 offered a tasteful cocoon of saddle-colored leather and wood trim.
A deep dashboard in pliable black plastic, for example, rolled down to a band of dark wood trim, joining a curved lower dash in saddle-colored plastic.
For the digital contingent, a highly rectangular 10.2-inch display screen shaped like an iPad included a Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay compatibility and possibly a primer on German calculus.
Below the screen, climate and radio controls with buttons and knobs resided in a horizontal band, and the 640’s broad console featured an electric shifter that worked surprisingly well.
Fine-looking door panels with wood trim and saddle centers nicely complimented the pleated saddle seats, which were bolstered by a back seat with Uber-like leg- and headroom.
Incidentally, the 640 provides 31 cubic feet of cargo space in back – two more than in a BMW X3.
Like every new BMW on the planet, mine was stuffed with options, including the Dynamic Handling package ($4,100); the M Sport package ($1,200); and an Executive package ($2,150).
Call it whatever you want – a sedan that wants to be a station wagon? -- But the 640 drives, rides and performs extremely well, filling another niche of a niche that BMW discovered.
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2018 640i xDrive Gran Turismo
- What I liked most: The 640’s surprisingly strong acceleration and agile handling.
- What I would change: Does a vehicle with such great capabilities really need to look so awkward? Couldn’t it just be a station wagon?
- MSRP: Base price, $69,700; as equipped, $84,010.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 28 on the highway and 23 mpg combined with filler on the right.
- Official color: Bluestone Metallic.
- Odometer reading when tested: 518 miles
- Weight: 4,548 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 200.9 inches long/74.9 inches wide/60.6 inches tall.
- Fuel tank capacity: 18.5 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not available.
- Spare tire: None – run-flat tires.
- 2018 BMW 640i Gran Turismo in a few words: More proof that BMW can pack sizzling performance and handling into just about any container it chooses.
- Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile overall protection.
- Final assembly location: Dingolfing, Germany.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.bmwusa.com
- E-mail me = firstname.lastname@example.org
- Up next: 2018 Honda Clarity