Driven: BMW 640d Coupe

Why is the BMW 6 Series diesel still without rival? The original 635d was launched in 2007 and in its first full year, it accounted for 63 percent of 6 Series sales. In the second, this leapt to 83 percent. Last year, 92 percent of all 6 Series sold in the UK sported a 3.0-litre diesel engine. You'd think that sort of sales domination would send a clear message to the competition, yet the 'diesel GT' remains a segment in which rivals fear to tread.

If anyone else does want to dip a toe in now, the task has become a damn sight more onerous with the arrival of a second-generation BMW 6 Series diesel. The goalposts have been moved again by a new BMW that will remain the choice of over 9 in 10 UK 6 Series buyers: the 640d, yours from ?62,080.

Just to rub salt into the wounds, BMW is also now offering it as an 'M Sport', the big-wheeled, M GmbH-bodykitted trim so loved by UK buyers that comes to the 6 for the first time (for ?4,665 more than base SE). So yes, it now even looks the part, and no - although the ride is more pattery as a result, it does not descend into resolute harshness.

Let's amuse ourselves by comparing 635d with 640d. Power of the new 3.0-litre straight-six? 313hp versus 286hp, a genteel 27hp boost. Not bad: torque is also up 37lb ft to a healthy 464lb ft, spread in the modern diesel way across a 1000rpm band starting from just 1500rpm. That's TwinPower Turbo tech at work: two different-sized turbos operating at different points to boost response and effectiveness throughout the rev range.

A sublime eight-speed gearbox is a further aid, ensuring less chance of being caught napping in the wrong gear. It is this, more than any power boost, that's responsible for chipping 0.8 seconds off the 0-62mph time. Yup, this takes just 5.5 seconds. The alternative 640i (at ?59,565, it's around ?2500 cheaper than the 640d) is only 0.1 second quicker. Mind you, it's also only 7hp up on the diesel, and a full 132lb ft down on torque. Even BMW's own petrol engines can't compete with the might of the 640d.

Economy is the clincher. The old one could do 40.9mpg: this one averages 51.4mpg. That's 10.5mpg more, despite all the extra pace and shove. It's barely comprehensible: nor is a CO2 drop of 39g/km, to just 144g/km.

Grand Tourer? You bet: with a 70-litre tank, this has a 790-mile range, 225 miles more than the 640i and 361 miles more than a Mercedes SL 500.

It doesn't even grumble like a diesel. OK, there's a bit of metallicism at start-up, and combustion clatter is also present during the first few revs of acceleration. Some resonance can be felt at tickover through the seat too (but this is stemmed whenever possible by standard engine stop/start).

Once in its stride though, it's not only more serene but staggeringly smooth and remarkably free-revving with it. The aural backdrop is, intriguingly, not dissimilar to the distant yet cammy growl of a water-cooled 911. There's more to appeal at 4500rpm than you'd ever expect.

And boy, is it a powerhouse. The torque-laden surge on tap apparently at all revs provides an amusing old-school muscle car feel. Even with DSC+ on, you can feel the strain on the rear wheels, made all the more convincing by the fact you don't have to wait for it to be generated. Turbo lag is virtually never an issue: power delivery is near-instantaneous especially when aided by a 'Sport' mode which means you're pretty much always in the right gear.

Selecting Sport is well advised anyhow, particularly on cars with the optional Adaptive Drive variable damper/active anti-roll bar suspension: It firms up the steering, sharpens the throttle and, crucially, tightens the suspension settings to cut roll and increase response. It should be default because in 'Comfort', there's too much softness and roll that makes cornering almost quirky. M Sport brings 19-inch wheels which further accentuate the big 6's inherent and surprising turn-in sharpness, so it's 'mechanically' turning in before the body's caught up, creating an odd two-stage sensation if the Sport settings aren't employed.

Otherwise, all that's missing is a bit more insight from the otherwise accurate and firmly weighted electric power steering. It's as clean and crisp as most other new BMWs, but you don't get a huge amount of detail. And what's with the over-large, over-thick, over-spongy steering wheel?

It's a fleeting chink for the competition, but relatively inconsequential. Where BMW has not faltered is over the fundamentals. Fast, effortless and satisfying, the 640d hits the spot like no modern 6 Series before it. A force-filled grand tourer that packs in the attributes of a diesel with few of the downsides, and possibly one of the most well-rounded BMWs on sale.

Words: Richard Aucock


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Comments (556) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Maldini35 10 Oct 2011

    Not a fan of the current BMW styling but this is BMW's prettiest car by a long way.

  • kambites 10 Oct 2011

    Makes a lot of sense, really.

  • petrolveins 10 Oct 2011

    Stunning car, pretty sure I'd take the diesel every time too.

    Also I think I spot a certain drift record holder doing what he does best in those photos. hehe

  • thewheelman 10 Oct 2011

    The styling looks very Korean to my eye, from the front & rear view. Bring back Bangle......all is forgiven!

    As for such a large coupe, if it was my money, it'd have to be a petrol engine. The sound of a diesel engine is the sound of disappointment.

  • OdramaSwimLaden 10 Oct 2011

    I wafted down to the south of France last September in a 635d, and it was a great machine for the job.

    This one has c.15% more power and looks fabulous....I like.

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