2013 BMW 640i Coupe road test

 

2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe

Style Sometimes Tops Sense

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – Let’s make three things perfectly clear. The 640i is a stunning exterior design. It is not a coupe and is hardly Gran(d) in certain key aspects.

Despite the best efforts of designers and marketers to say a car with four doors is a coupe it is a sedan. Calling a day Friday when it is only Tuesday can’t mask reality.

It is my hunch that the 640i will turns heads sitting in the middle of a dealer’s showroom. Yet consumers will also have to put up with compromises dictated by the design.

One is the lack of interior headroom for anyone much over 6’ tall. Rear seat room is such that adults should only be packed there for short journeys.

Visibility is hampered by tiny windows all around and especially out the rear. Thick A, B, and C pillars do not aid the effort. And in an effort to maintain sporty looks, the front doors open so wide that they are a long stretch to close, even for someone with long arms.

Only on the highway does the new Bimmer sparkle. The 3.0-liter, inline turbo six provides more than adequate power, is very refined and a good and loyal partner to the 8 (!) speed automatic. From a standing start, all out runs to 60 should come up in the upper five to six second range.  Horsepower comes to 315 @ 5,800 rpm with lots of low end torque. The EPA rating, if it matters, is 20-30 mpg of premium.

Handling in day-to-day driving is all one could hope for. Yet like other recently test BMW’s, feedback through the (too thick) steering wheel falls short of older models. While   the 640i is smile-inducing on back roads, it also feels from the driver’s seat like a big and heavy car. The 640i tips the scales at 4,190 pounds. The most fun is found in the Sport setting on a small rocker switch on the center console.

Most interior materials match those of luxury models with lots of leather wrapping around real wood and attractive visible stitching.

 

Yet things go downhill from there. The seats, despite zillions of adjustments, were some of the worst I have experienced in almost a decade of writing about cars.

About two hours is the max one could endure without climbing out for a short walk. I could never really get comfortable in the non-bucket seat despite fiddling with every control there was on the side. The bathtub-like seating design didn’t help and side bolsters were inadequate. Despite a $3,000 charge for “Napa Leather”, the coverings had a noticeably low rent feel to them.

While I was able to adjust the ventilation and audio system intuitively (and that is no small thing today), the rest of the interior relied on the crazy idea that customers want to be baffled.

For example, one should not have to pull over and consult the owner’s manual to determine how the intermittent wipers work. Note to owners – the computers will determine when and how often the windshield will be swept. Plus, there is the BMW only design for selecting gears.

Options are not inexpensive and totaled $31,395 on the test car. That included lane departure warning, blind sport detection, side and top view camera, head-up display and parking assistance. The very nice Bang and Olufsen audio system alone totaled $4,650.

Disturbing were vibrations sent through the dash and the passenger’s door when the car encountered certain kinds of common road bumps – most un-BMW like.

While certainly sexy on the outside, the 640i wants the owner to make too many compromises in my mind. All the computer wizzes made me wonder if in the future when a car breaks down the owners would call “Computer Geeks” instead of AAA.

Bottom line? The seats alone would mean my dream shopping trip for a sporty sedan would be for the rival Porsche Panamera, despite its own huge array of buttons and knobs.

 Notes:

 

Thanks to my local auto writer’s club staging a rally that wasn’t I was able to quickly sample the following:

 

The new Ford Escape is certainly a quantum leap over the old one. It was very quiet on the road and had a nice interior. While the instrument pod was easy to read, it was too busy with an overabundance of information. When driving, I only want some basic facts. Yet you wonder about the $34K plus price tag for the top-of-the-line Titanium package.

 

The Mercedes GLK was certainly luxurious inside but $109K for a SUV, even if Motor Trend named it SUV of the year?

 

I liked the Ram pickup until one major design flaw reared its head. Due to the styling of the power dome hood, it was impossible to see the right front fender. That would be a major deal buster for me, especially when driving on the narrow streets of old town Alexandria. It was rock solid over an old cobble stone street.

 

Judging just from overall feel, which all one can do in these events, the Lexus GS was the winner. Comfortable, fast and well-laid out, the GS felt like it might be worth its $60K price. It felt more of a solid block, the handling was above average, and it was very quiet on the highway.

 

The Cadillac ATS made a good first impression. It felt as sporty as advertised with good seats and it was quiet on the road. The new CUE system, that controls everything in your life, is a disaster on first view. Nice as it was, the $48 K sticker seemed on the high side.

Hello world!

Welcome to my new blog. After nearly a decade of writing weekly columns for MarketWatch.com I have moved further in the Web World with this new blog featuring daily auto news and my Saturday road tests. Over the years this weekly feature has covered everything from a 1924 fully restored Ford Model T to Ferraris and compact gas sippers. All with an eye to what this vehicle is like to live with on a daily basis, and how it lives up to its intended purpose. Feel free to add your thoughts and comments.