MY COUSIN and her husband and her daughter and husband drive Audis. They have three between them.
I went to see them in BMW’s new 6-series coupé, the 640d. There was Ingolstadt-infused bravado about the merits of their Audis, vis a vis a BMW, but this one took their breath away – though their admiration was controlled.
“I don’t like the dashboards of BMWs – they’re all angular,” said the elder woman. I forgot to ask when she last looked at a BMW dashboard, but guess it must have been in the 1980s.
Her husband and her son (VW Polo, pending enough money to move to, I suppose, an Audi) are big men. The biggest did fit into the passenger seat and the younger man sat behind me (11st, restricted height blamed on post-war privation, early bronchitis etc, an early diet of rabbit and hare).
Until recently, BMWs were delivered for testing with a printed synopsis, full of answers to those quick-fire questions: how fast, how powerful, how much, etc. Progress means that one is given all this in an e-mail, which of course is ignored until the time comes to write about the experience. At least one’s mind is not clouded by expectations but it isn’t half embarrassing when you nip into the Camshaft Arms and are asked the series of “how” questions about the 640d.
I sort of inferred it may have a 4-litre engine but hedged and hopped a bit, because BMW does mess with numbers, no more so than with the BMW 1-series where every engine is 2-litre but, depending on power output, badged 116, 118, 120.
The 640, gadzooks, is only a three-litre whether a petrol or diesel straight-six motor and, in case you are in the slightest bit not too bored by this numerate discourse, the 650 is 4.4 litres but does have a V8 mill. This mucking about with numbers is misleading and should be stopped. Volvo once had a neat system, where the first number was the series, the second signified the number of cylinders and the third told us how many doors it had.
Enough. This latest BMW coupé looks like the first one should have looked. It is three inches longer, a couple wider and slightly lower. It is graceful and gorgeous and gets those “gorr, wass that?” glances from other motorists — even some in Audis.
Like a few other real cars the power goes to the rear wheels and I know they can be abysmal in snow so this one was already in with a chance, wearing Dunlop Winter Sport rubber. Except where’s the snow. Severe winters have awoken us to the gain from winter tyres. They sold out far too early last winter. This time the carmakers and the tyre depots have doubled or trebled stock. Thousands of us had them fitted in good time. They do “help” on dry roads at low temperature but in most of Britain it is what the weather girls call unseasonably mild. There are flies in the garden (the house is probably too cold for them to survive).
Well, don’t fret. Winter tyres are fine in good weather. I find they have a softer ride. I know people who leave them on all year but high mileage drivers may find the rate of wear a bit expensive.
Things I liked about the 640d included the masses of power, the comparative quietness, the electric steering column adjuster, the almost huge navigation and info display screen, the M logo on the sills telling anyone who stepped in that it was a sporty version, getting 40mpg on a long journey, the refined stop-start engagement. The front seats run forward by tapping a switch.
This car costs a lot of money and so major disappointments are not expected. General “running about” returned 30 to 32 miles a gallon. It seats four people, not five. The rear seat does not fold flat, which prevents through-loading from the boot. However, you can get a “ski-hatch” aperture. «
ON THE ROAD
It is: BMW 640d. Diesel coupe with a 308.7bhp 3-litre six cylinder engine and sequential turbochargers, developing 464 lb ft of torque.
Performance: 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, claimed 51.4mpg combined and 144g/km CO2.
Price: £62,080 for the SE and £66,745 for the M Sport. Petrol models from £59,565 to £71,840. All have Dakota leather upholstery, eight-speed Sport automatic transmission, BMW Professional multimedia navigation, Xenon headlights, LED front fog lights and front and rear park distance control. The M Sport package adds aerodynamic body styling, 19-inch light alloy wheels, various trim colour changes, black brake callipers, sport seats and multi-function leather rimmed steering.