2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe: First Drive

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This is not a good time for the indecisive. Just when you thought that BMW couldn't fragment the performance-luxury choices any more—with the X6 and the 5-Series Gran Turismo already appealing to the niche shoppers who are torn between pre-defined vehicle types like coupes, sedans, wagons, and SUVs—BMW is introducing yet another unusually packaged vehicle: the 2013 Gran Sport, which is depending on how you look at it, either a stretched-out version of the 6-Series Coupe or a sultry alternative to the 5-Series sedan.

This is already a well-populated field. There's the Porsche Panamera, the Aston Martin Rapide, the Mercedes-Benz CLS, and the Audi A7. They're all very fashionable, and they all—in some cases more than others—try to merge a coupe's roofline and proportions with a sedan's sensibilities.

Gorgeous curves, frameless doors

What makes the Gran Coupe worth the long look over those other models? First off, it looks good in photos, but keep in mind that the photos don't even do it justice; this vehicle is drop-dead gorgeous in person. And dare we say that the Gran Coupe is a better-looking car than the 6-Series Coupe itself? Consider details like the Frozen Bronze semi-matte exterior and the extroverted white-and-brown interior of our test car—as well as frameless doors—and in this guise the Gran Coupe is a knockout.

But this eye-opening package bears some explanation. Compared to 6-Series Coupe and Convertible models, the Gran Coupe has a significantly longer wheelbase—4.4 inches longer—with most of that length going to back-seat legroom. And that, incidentally, adds up to the same wheelbase as the 5-Series—although again, officials caution that the Gran Coupe is no 5-Series with a curvier body.

Nearly everything from the dash forward to the front end of the car are the same in the Gran Coupe as in the 6-Series coupe. So too are the front seats, which are superb, and the sort that almost any size driver could be comfortable in all day, whether cruising on the Interstate or taking the mountain backroads as a shortcut. And the Gran Coupe's instrument panel layout, borrowed directly from the 6-Series Coupe, is one of the best in this competitive set, with its soft-touch surfaces, fine details, and center stack canted a few degrees toward the driver. You of course get a wide screen for iDrive, top and center.

One surprise result of this is these added inches of length and wheelbase somehow push the Gran Coupe beyond a vehicle-size tipping point. While the 6-Series Coupe and Convertible manage to feel like hefty albeit maneuverable models, the Gran Coupe's 197-inch length can make it feel like a large car. BMW notes that the Gran Coupe ends up four inches longer and 1.3 inches wider than a 5-Series. And while that's just short of a short-wheelbase 7-Series, the Gran Coupe's much lower roofline and overall height somehow serve to build the impression that the Gran Coupe is sprawling.

Feels expansive—but not from the back seat

From outside the vehicle, too, you see all that sprawling legroom in back, but the impression is quickly annulled the moment you try to get into the back seat. BMW refers to the Gran Coupe's seating layout as '4+1'—meaning that there are two full-size outboard seats, with a middle position that's workable in a pinch—but to be fair, those outboard positions are hardly adult-sized. For those over six feet tall, even after you duck your head to get in, you'll likely not have enough headroom, leaving you to hunch forward uncomfortably. Trunk space is pretty small, too—definitely coupe caliber.

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