If you go to an auto show, you’ll notice that German carmakers tend to have a lot of models in their lineups. Not so much Porsche, but Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and especially BMW have a dizzying array of cars to choose from. For those contemplating an Ultimate Driving Machine, you’ve got your 1 Series all the way through the 7 Series, the X models, the Z4, M models, and the i Series. The lineup looks straightforward at first glance, but it’s really not. Want a coupe or convertible? 2-, 4-, or 6-series. [N.B. this includes those four-door “coupes” that still confuse me—Ed.] How about a sedan? 3-, 5-, or 7-series. SUV? X marks the SUV spot, unless it’s an X4 or X6, which look more like a 3-series or 6-series GT. Hatchback? 3- or 6-series. And that’s where I found myself last week, behind the wheel of an $84,000 hatchback.
The 640i xDrive Gran Turismo is new to BMW’s lineup this year. Previously, BMW’s high-end hatchback was a 5-series car, but the German automaker decided to move the model a bit upscale while continuing to use the 5-series platform. The GT is also the least-expensive 6-series car, starting at $69,700 for the base model. The model I drove was maxed out with the M Sport package, Driving Assistance Plus, Dynamic Handling Package, and Executive Package. Add in the destination charge and a couple of other bits, and the sticker price is $84,010. That’s a big number for a body type that is not that popular in the US.
The mechanical bits on the 640i GT are compelling. Powering the car is a 3.0-liter inline-six engine, turbocharged to crank out 335hp (250kW) and 332lb-ft (450Nm) of torque. It’s gas only for the US, with a diesel engine available in other markets. An eight-speed automatic transmission is paired with all-wheel drive. The Dynamic Handling package adds active roll stabilization, height-adjustable air springs that are new to the 640i, dynamic shock control, and rear-wheel steering. All of that combines for a zero-to-60 speed of 5.1 seconds, according to BMW.
It’s a looker
All of the performance in the world isn’t enough if you don’t like the looks. I’ve always associated hatchbacks with the lower end of the car market—perhaps not surprising given that I used to drive a 1981 Plymouth Horizon. That car was hideous; the 640i GT is anything but. The forward-sloping profile gives an impression of readiness to run hard, and to me, the shape of the 640i is reminiscent of a Saab 900. There are also hints of the Alfa Romeo Montreal or maybe a Datsun 280Z 2+2. Obviously, the 640i is a four-door four-seater, not a 2+2, but they’re at least second cousins on the family tree… maybe a couple of times removed.
There are no sharp angles or unnecessary trim on the 640i GT. The front has what BMW calls air curtains and air breathers under the front license plate holder and below BMW’s familiar kidney grill. A side-skirt design element runs nearly from wheel well to wheel well down near the bottom of the doors, providing a bit of visual interest from the side. Speaking of wheels, you’ll roll away on 19-inch rims (alloy if you go with the M Sport package). All said, the 640i GT sports a very clean-looking design.
Frameless windows top the soft-close doors (with the Executive Package, at least, which also gets you BMW’s excellent heads-up display). Slide into the comfortable, 16-way adjustable driver seat (with extendable thigh support) and the terrain will look familiar to anyone who has sat behind the wheel a BMW. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, and behind it is BMW’s instrument panel, which combines an HD display with physical elements of an analog dial. The dials themselves differ depending on whether you’re in Eco, Sport, or Comfort mode. I love BMW’s heads-up display, except when I’m wearing polarized sunglasses. When I’m not, not only can I see my speed and the local speed limit, but I can see GPS directions, radio stations, fuel warnings, and driver-assist info.
The center console has the standard two cup holders positioned right up against the dashboard, a wireless charging pad, dual climate control for the driver and passenger seat, and the usual dial and buttons needed to interact with BMW’s infotainment system, iDrive. I covered iDrive (and the instrument panel) in some detail in my review of the X3, so look there if you want more thoughts on it. That said, the combination of dial, buttons, touch-screen, and a 10-inch display makes for a fantastic way to interact with the 640i.
If nothing else, you’ll be very comfortable inside the 640i xDrive GT. With lumbar support and bolster adjustment, the front seats are comfortable for longer trips. My only complaint is the cup holder at the bottom front of the door, which I noticed mostly when my lower leg would rest against it. There’s plenty of headroom and leg room, both in the front and back seats. The rear seats are spacious, with suede pads on the headrests and a motor to adjust the backrest angle. Even with the gently sloped roof and moon roof, there’s plenty of headroom for tall folks.
The only thing missing from the backseat is a USB port or two—in 2018, USB ports are more useful than cigarette lighters. Aside from that, it’s the ideal “black car” back seat. There’s also plenty of room behind the back row—31 cubic feet, and if you fold the rear seats down 40-20-40 style, that number more than doubles, to 65 cubic feet.
As an aside, the hatchback and height of the car makes for a perfect impromptu locker room. I had to referee a rugby match on a cold, wet Saturday morning, and I had forgotten to grab the fold-up lawn chair I use for changing. I popped the hatchback open, sat down, and put on my boots in relative comfort.
Fun behind the wheel
Driving the 640i xDrive GT is rewarding. The interior is quiet, blocking out most road noise. With the 5.1-second trip from zero to 60, the GT is very fast off the mark. Actually, it’s always fast when you want it to be. It’s one of those cars that makes you do a double-take at the speedometer because it doesn’t feel like you’re going that fast. Especially on highways; where I needed a bit of oomph to change lanes and pass a slowpoke, the GT felt instantly responsive.
BMW provides three ride options with the 640i: Comfort, Sport, and Eco. Put it in Comfort and the result is a stable and comfortable ride where you’ll feel connected to the road while remaining blissfully unaware of pavement imperfections and the like. There’s still plenty of zip when you open up the throttle, but the handling is more akin to that of a luxury sedan in Comfort mode.
Sport mode is where it’s at with the 640i. Not only is it blazing fast, with accelerated shift points, but the car is nice and grippy. And once you get over 75mph, the car will drop 0.39in via the adaptive suspension. Cornering is just plain fun, with the 640i leaning into curves with confidence. I may have even laughed out loud once or twice while tooling down a winding, hilly country road. The only downside to Sport mode for some will be the piped-in engine noise. I’m a sucker for the sound of a finely tuned engine and exhaust system, so I didn’t mind it too much, but it ain’t the real thing, either.
Unless you’re down to your last gallon of gas and far away from a service station, don’t bother with Eco mode. I tried it a couple of times, and not only did it make the car feel sluggish, but it sucked the joy out of the cockpit.
Speaking of gas, BMW touts 23mpg for the 640i xDrive GT: 20mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. In a week of (really fun) driving, I wound up averaging 21.4mpg on a combination of highway, suburban, rural, and city trips.
The 640i also offered my first opportunity to try out BMW’s driver-assistance tech, which requires the $1,700 Driving Assistance Plus package. That includes the usual adaptive cruise-control, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Lane-departure warning is on by default, and when you wander out of your lane, you’ll get a gentle vibration on the steering wheel. Lane-keep assist is activated by a button on the steering wheel, and the heads-up display will show that it’s active. It’s one of the better systems that I have tested. Should you drift over the line, the car offers gentle correction, just enough to recenter you in your lane. It also handles curves—the kind you’d see on an interstate with a speed limit of 65mph—very nicely. If you drop your hands off the wheel, you’ll be prompted to remedy the situation. Adaptive cruise control works well, too, even in heavy traffic. Off the highway, it will come to a complete stop at a red light if there’s a car stopped in front of you. Press the Resume button, and you’ll be back on your way.
BMW has built a very nice car with the 640i xDrive GT. It’s an excellent combination of style, comfort, and handling with little in the way of compromise. I’d even say that the 640i is BMW at its best, using its engineering experience and expertise to craft a vehicle that is an absolute blast to drive.
At the same time, we’re talking about an $84,000 hatchback here. I have a hard time recommending anyone buy anything this expensive. What’s more, the 640i is a body type that’s not the most popular to begin with—and virtually nonexistent at this price point. Price tag aside, hatchbacks aren’t for everyone, but because BMW insists on being all things to all people, we have the 640i at the top of the BMW hatchback heap, above the 3-series GT, X4, and X6. The top of the heap is rarified air, especially when the entry point is $70,000. If you like the styling of the 640i and want the ultimate driving experience, climb on up and breathe deeply. You won’t be disappointed.
Listing image by Eric Bangeman