It may be the nichest of the niche but the new 6 Series Gran Turismo has a certain quirky charm...
Looking at the sheer diversity of cars out there, you could quite plausibly write a book solely focusing on the number of new segments and niche car models that have been added to the automotive industry during the 21st century.
A fascinating example of this niche-creation arms race is between Germany’s Big Three as they try to outmanoeuvre each other. As every competitor brings something fresh to the scene, the other releases a similar model a couple of years later in an attempt to grab a lucrative slice of the pie. None of BMW’s rivals, however, have tried to take a direct tilt at the defunct 5 Series GT or its successor, this 6 Series GT.
Initially, its looks could well explain why rivals have chosen not to tread the same path. The exterior is an acquired taste, having neither the flowing lines of a beautiful sedan or station wagon, nor exuding the visual strength of an SUV. But, to its credit, the new car does look more purposeful and interesting than its predecessor. Our test unit was also fitted with a long list of options, including bi-tone 20-inch wheels, a Chrome Line exterior, panoramic sunroof, M Sport brakes and an M Sport package.
While the exterior is an acquired taste, in countries such as China (an important market for this type of vehicle), rear space in a car is of utmost importance and this is one of the 6 Series GT’s most crucial features.
Aboard the GT, the impression of luxury is pervasive and you’d be justifiably forgiven in mistaking it for a 7 Series. Thanks to the car’s wedge shape, the GT is packaged in such a way that taller rear occupants will have no problems with leg- and shoulder room. Even with the fitment of a headroom-robbing sunroof, there’s plenty of space between scalp and headliner.
Our test unit was fitted with a number of luxury, technological and comfort options. These included Parking Assist Plus (with all-round cameras) and remote-control parking, a rear-seat entertainment system, anthracite roof lining, ConnectedDrive services package, BMW Individual interior trim finishers with piano black as well as adaptive LED headlights with high-beam assist. Taking into account several other options fitted to the car, the result is an increase in price from the standard car’s R1 123 900 to our test unit’s whopping R1 480 000.
That outlay feels somewhat justified when you view the interior at night, when the ambient lighting makes the cabin look especially luxurious and relaxing. The thick steering wheel, covered in optional M Sport leather trim, leaves you in no doubt you are driving a BMW. Climb into the rear and the soft cushions attached to the outer headrests comfortably cradle the heads of two (or three) adults seated abreast.
The optional two-axle air suspension (air is standard on the rear) is one of the most impressive features of the car. Choose the comfort plus setting from the drive modes and the ride becomes indulgently absorbent. The GT floats down the road with a level of composure befitting its luxury proviso. Although the appearance of a small wing that pops up from of the car’s tail at speed does lend the exterior a sporty flavour, you’re never in any doubt you are driving a large, comfort-oriented car. Pressing the sport button does, however, firm up the suspension, making the car feel reasonably nimble for its size and weight.
Under the bonnet sits BMW’s smooth 3,0-litre, inline, six-cylinder turbodiesel. It’s a powertrain that suits the car perfectly, serving up lots of power (195 kW) and 620 N.m of torque from 2 000 r/min, which lends the car an effortlessly powerful air, especially when you plant the throttle to overtake. The surge of speed is both impressive and quiet owing to the excellent suppression of noise, vibration and harshness.
On our test strip, the performance-test results were equally remarkable. Despite tipping the scales at 1 977 kg (fully fuelled), the 630d hit 100 km/h from standstill in 6,68 seconds. The braking times were also impressive: the best time of 2,67 seconds is comparable to that of some serious sportscars.
With its size and packaging, the GT is a remarkably adept family car, more so than a lot of large SUVs. Its levels of luxury and comfort also border on that of the 7 Series, which is another feather in the 6 GT's rather awkward-looking cap.
That said, the concept remains an acquired taste and we suspect many buyers won't quite know what to make of the 6 Series GT's hybridised body. Still, if you prefer to sit closer to the ground than in an X5 but aren't willing to sacrifice space or comfort, the GT could well fit the bill.
*From the September 2018 issue of CAR magazine