Test Driven: 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe (9/10)

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe

This is the new face of BMW, a big “do-everything” sort of luxury car aimed at a niche market. We enthusiasts love to complain about the direction BMW has been going, yearning for the days of the E30 M3 to come again. The truth is those times are long gone, and BMW’s new direction is now both well-established and quite successful. Many of BMW’s attempts at finding new segments have been regrettable, the X6 and 5 Series GT made me gag. So the big question here is, where does the 6 Series Gran Coupe stand? Is it finally a good product of the new BMW, or is it just another attempt by BMW’s bean counters to try and make themselves feel important?

The car I drove was a 650i xDrive, the second highest model in the Gran Coupe range (only the mighty M6 is higher). This is a car that sits right at the top of the executive car range, one that those who’ve ascended the corporate latter might buy with their holiday bonus.

One thing this car is not trying to be, though, is a supercar. That is the M6’s territory, and it brings with it further issues. The 650i, on the other hand, is just a luxury car, jumping into the coupe-sedan segment originally founded by the Mercedes CLS. It is in this context that we should judge it.

Appearance

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe

Put simply, the car I sampled was stunning. Fitted with all kinds of BMW Individual options, the exterior was painted in Frozen Bronze Metallic, a sort of flat brown color. Along with the Gran Coupe’s sleek lines, this makes for a car that stands out in the crowd. Many people will call it “beautiful” or “gorgeous”, and they will be totally justified in doing so.

Of course, all of the cars in the luxury coupe-sedan segment are quite good looking, but somehow I find the Gran Coupe to be the most elegant. It still has that sleek look to it, but it’s flavor is a bit more reserved than the striking swoop of the Mercedes CLS or the bold styling of the Audi A7. The BMW is just pure classy, it doesn’t seem to impose itself on the world. Instead of being that person who walks into a room proclaiming, “Hey everyone, I’m here!” the Gran Coupe is more like the person who stands casually off to the side, looking good, and lets people come to them.

Inside

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Interior 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Interior 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Interior 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Interior

If the outside of this car was appealing, the inside managed to turn things up yet another notch. More BMW Individual options, there was a tri-tone interior made up of Opal White leather, Amaro Brown leather and Piano Black wood trim. This car was anything but ordinary, and it is fantastic knowing that such combinations are still possible in our world of committee cars, focused on being nothing but inoffensive.

The seats themselves were extremely comfortable, both well cushioned and supportive. The back seats were comfortable as well, but head room was a little tight because of the sloping roof. Like most of these coupe-sedans, the Gran Coupe only seats four people in an effort to limit the unpleasantries of stuffing a fifth into the mix.

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Interior 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Interior 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Trunk 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Interior

In terms of technology, the 650i Gran Coupe comes with everything you would expect from a top-line luxury car. The optional Bang & Olufsen stereo system gave a wonderful sound quality, and the center screen was nice and large. Everything works pretty seamlessly through BMW’s iDrive interface, a system far better suited for driving than a touch screen. You can even keep up on Facebook and Twitter while you drive with BMW Apps. This way you can upload your photos from the side of the road, right after you rear-end someone because you weren’t paying attention…. like “OMG FML!”

Overall, the inside of the Gran Coupe is exceedingly nice. It’s interior feels well worth the six-figure price tag in both design and build quality. It is both modern and stylish, comfortable yet focused. The interior echoes the Gran Coupe’s larger character well, a testament to a well thought out design process by BMW.

On the road

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe

The 6 Gran Coupe feels a lot like you might expect. It’s quite a large car built by Germans, so naturally it is extremely solid at speed, making 80mph feel like 40mph. The 6 Series is based on a shortened version of the 7 Series chassis, so it comes as no surprise that it feels rather big on the road. This is a far cry from the nimble BMWs of old, and this new 6 Series absolutely dwarfs the original E24 6 Series from the 1980s.

Having said all that, the 650i Gran Coupe is no pig when it comes to dynamics. In fact, through all sorts of engineering wizardry, BMW has managed to make this 4600lb cruiser handle quite competently. Getting used to the large proportions takes a little time, but once you are, you can place this big 6er right where you want it in a corner. The chassis is quite competent, with great composure once set into a turn, although I’d probably stop short of taking this car to an autocross.

The adaptive steering is a little awkward because of its inconsistencies at varying speeds, but as you go faster the car gets a bit sharper. It turns in well, with surprisingly little roll from the suspension. The brakes are also extremely powerful, as they need to be to stop such a hefty mass at speed. The net result of all this is a noticeably large car that can actually handle well and be thrown around quite easily.

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe Wheels

It’s puzzling, because on the surface, it doesn’t seem like the 650i would be capable in this way. I’m not sure I would call the Gran Coupe “The Ultimate Driving Machine” due to its size, but at the same time I have to marvel at the fact that BMW has been able to make it as good as it is through corners. Physics say a car like this should not be this capable, and yet it is.

Adding to the perplexity is the ride quality, the 6 Gran Coupe is extremely smooth on the road. It has sport and comfort settings that change the very nature of the car, giving you the best of both worlds as you desire. This is a car that is equally comfortable just floating along as it is being pushed to a rapid pace. BMW seems to be trying to do away with compromise, making a car that can do any-and-everything you could ask of it.

In terms of speed and power, the 650i is basically a secret M-car. BMW’s claim of “445bhp”, as usual, is an extremely conservative figure. Real world dynamometer tests show the twin turbocharged 4.4L V8’s output to be more in the area of 500-530hp.

As far as my butt dyno was concerned, the 650i felt a little faster than my modified Subaru STi, which makes around 400bhp. There is no way a measly 45bhp will make up for a 1200lb difference in weight. I have beaten SRT-8 Chryslers that have similar weight and horsepower to what BMW claims for this 650i, yet the 650i is faster than my car. The official figures just don’t seem to add up in terms of physics.

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe 4.4L Twin Turbo V8 Engine

The point is that this car flies when you put the hammer down. There is loads of mid-range torque too, so acceleration comes effortlessly any time you want it. This is a proper sort of motor for a car like this, one with a lot of power, but power that is smooth. The all wheel drive of this 650i xDrive also helps you use all of the car’s power effectively, and no adverse road conditions will be able to stop you from going where you want to go.

The transmission in the 650i is BMW’s wonderful 8-speed automatic. It offers great, multipurpose functionality with auto and manual modes working well. If this were an M-car, I would want a dual clutch — which BMW does have on the M6 — but for this car the 8 speed is ideal. The only annoying thing I found was that the transmission will downshift on its own, while in manual mode, if you floor it in a higher gear. There was a point where I wanted to ride the wave of midrange torque in 4th gear, but then it threw me into 2nd and almost ruined my day — the car that was a good ways ahead of us got a little too close, a little too fast.

The 650i Gran Coupe proves to be a solid, do-everything, sort of luxury car. Its level of performance is quite a pleasant surprise, especially if you are operating under the assumptions of BMW’s official claims. It is everything you would expect of a big luxury car, but so much more than you would expect of it as a sports car.

Dollars and sense

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe 2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe

The base price for the BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe is around $91,000. Fully loaded with options, like this car, and the price jumps to $114,000.

I would like to start by saying that as an object, the 650i Gran Coupe feels like it is worth the money. It has that “special” aspect that makes it desirable, and its mix of style, luxury, performance, comfort, and craftsmanship make it one hell of a package. If it were a car-for-car comparison, with money no object, the 650i Gran Coupe would have a leg up on its rivals with its more elegant appeal.

Having said all of that, money is a concern in the real world, and the Gran Coupe becomes rather difficult to justify. With comparable options fitted, the BMW costs $13k-19k more than the Audi S7, and a massive $19-25k more than the Mercedes CLS550. While I personally think the Bimmer has a little more style than the Audi or the Merc, those are some massive price premiums to pay for a car that gives you basically the same thing.

I do think the BMW is worth its asking price in what it offers. However, the fact that its two main competitors are both substantially cheaper, we’re talking 10-25% here, makes it a bit of a ripoff. Especially when considering that BMW was the last entry into this market segment, you’d think they would’ve been smarter about their pricing.

Verdict

2013 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe

I really like the 650i xDrive Gran Coupe as a car. It winds up being a sort of secret, all wheel drive BMW M5 with an added stylish flair. As an object I think it is a little more “special” than an Audi S7 or a Mercedes CLS550, with a classier demeanor and a little more attention to detail. The hefty price premium, however, makes it extremely difficult to recommend as an intelligent purchase. That said, the Gran Coupe does have the “want factor” in high dosage, so if you have the extra money laying around, I couldn’t blame you for spending it.

As for the question of, is this finally a good product of the new BMW? I would have to say yes. The 650i Gran Coupe is a car that can please everyone. BMWs of old were great for enthusiasts, but didn’t appeal as much to those seeking luxury. It seems in their new direction, BMW has attacked this problem with intelligent design and engineering, making a car that is fantastic at doing everything. The 6 Gran Coupe is definitely a sure sign that BMW is starting to get comfortable in their new identity, and I’m sure there will be more like this to come.

WoM Score: 2014 BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe

Primary Function: Luxury: 2
Secondary Functions: Performance(2) Practicality(2) MPG(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 1

Final Score: 9/10

-Nick Walker

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