I must admit, the BMW 630i GT had me a little confused. GT to me imparts some sort of overtly sporty focus. As you have seen in previous months, Lexus calls the LC500 a GT; Kia has the rock hard Stinger GT as a GT. Both are overtly sporty and within my parameters as a GT.
BMW challenges that notion of the GT – and not for the first time is redefining the automotive world – and perhaps even brings us back to what is the true essence of a GT. The 630i GT is not outrageously sport, but it is touring car of great composure and capable to good speed… not blistering speed mind you, but good speed.
The 630i GT is part of the complex 6-Series range, which comprise the Coupe (which is the most traditional of the 6-Series) including the convertible, then there is the Gran Coupe (a sporty 4-door), the X6 (the odd shaped SUV that still makes little sense to me) and then the Gran Turismo. Then there are M versions (the really fast ones) of everything but the GT… although maybe that too will come with time.
The GT, if you like, is part way between the Gran Coupe and the X6. It offers plenty of head room and leg room while not carrying the weight of the SUV, and then it is tricked up with some pretty cool technology. I think, aside from the sheer beauty of the Gran Coupe, the GT is the pick of the litter.
In the old days, it was easy to pick what was under the bonnet of a BMW by what was written on the badge. A 630i would have had the magnificent 3-litre in-line six… these days though it means something altogether different. Peak under the bonnet of the 630i and you’ll see a fuel efficient turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine, pumping out a modest 190kW and driving through an 8-speed gearbox.
The six is available but it is badged the 640i and uses 20% more fuel and cuts the standing start to 100 time by one second. It has a few other tricks too, but unless you want to go fast, it doesn’t make a lot of sense when the 630i is also adequately rapid in our highly policed world.
The standard equipment list is impressive, as it should be for a $123,500 car. A lot of it is about luxury, a good portion is about safety and then there’s some for saving fuel. We’ll start there.
The drag co-efficient of the car can run as low as 0.25, which is an impressively small number for a big car. In essence, the lower the Cd the less fuel is required to slice through the air, and the quieter the car will be. The large kidney grille is active, which means when air is not needed for cooling, little flaps close it off and send the air over and around the car rather than into the confused air space around an engine.
The rear spoiler is also active and deploys at speed for stability and then tucks away neatly at other times. The cost of a slippery body is often aerodynamic lift, so the active rear spoiler is more than just a gimmick.
Attention was also paid to how air moves around the wheels too, with what BMW refers to as an air cushion. What they have done is put little lips here and there, along with air intakes a breathers pushing air around the wheels to smooth the flow. It is a pretty cool concept, even if you can’t see it.
The detail given to the smallest of features outside the car is impressive, and it is done for purpose.
Equally as impressive is the interior, this time for luxury and aesthetics rather than efficient. Up front, I’ll say now the chances of me ever wanting to own a car with white leather seats is pretty slim. The white makes it a very welcoming and alive cabin, you can see the intricate stitching on the seats and it makes the car feel bigger than it is, but wow it show any and all marks.
The infotainment system is interesting and surprisingly easy to use. Let’s talk functionality first. This part of the world is controlled by either the touch screen display that stands in the middle of the dash – which I still find astounding given BMW’s generally high standards of ergonomics and design, why does this look like a cheap add-on? Anyway, gripes aside… this car had gesture control, but I didn’t master that in my week with the car. I should have been able to wave my hand at it to get things to happen, so I’ll work on that next time. So from the screen, technically I can wave hands or touch for control.
Down on the centre console is the other main control tool, a dial near the gear selector with a touch pad in its centre. The touchpad allows you to write character-by-character to send commands to the system, it is amazingly easy to use even when you are on the move. See, this is clever and that attention to detail that has made BMW such a popular brand, and setting the navigation is a breeze.
The sound system itself is a pretty impressive thing. This model features a 16 speaker harman/kardon system as standard, but the test car was fitted with the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond system with some of the speakers lit at night, adding extra ambience to the interior lighting display. It kicks out the sound too… my new test track, Bible Camp by West Thebarton, has never sounded so good. Holy Mo!
We had seat heaters and coolers in the front and the electrically adjustable seats in the rear, also with heaters. It is the rear where the 630i GT really shines. I’ve told you my son is tall and that he either struggles now or will struggle soon with headroom in the rear if cars, so slotting him the back of this car was a pleasure. He had plenty of leg and headroom - perhaps more than most SUVs even – which is unusual for a sedan.
With its huge boot and carry space, it’d be easy to say this an Alt-SUV, a good people carrying five seater without the cumbersome bulk of an SUV. That also brings extra safety too, since a lighter car will always handle better than an SUV.
On the safety front, think of something that is in existence today, and the chances are it is here somewhere. The headlights have all the automatic gadgets to light the night, there are airbags everywhere and a similarly comprehensive array of sensors to help keep you out of trouble.
Let’s start with what piqued my curiosity, the various drive modes and the Eco function. In this mode, the display shows what appears to be an energy recovery system with a kilometre reading that is representative of the traveling distance saved while in Eco. This simple system is part of the BMW EfficientDynamics system, which in PR speak says ‘no driving manoeuvre consumes any more fuel than is absolutely necessary’.
They don’t tell you much about how this works in Eco mode, but a big dig on the internet reveals it takes all the charging tasks of the engine away from the drive train, taking energy out of the braking system and the drive train when not accelerating. When you hit the brakes, the kinetic energy - which in the past has only been useful for heat - released is captured and charges the battery instead of the generator which traditionally runs off the drive-train. The same happens when you lift off the accelerator. So the end result is that there is a reduced load on the drive train, which gives better fuel economy and a little more urge since it is taking power away from the rear wheels.
The end result is that if you use this driving to work, you will save money and work a little harder towards a cleaner world.
But Eco is just one mode in the system, you can flick it all the way up to sport and you can customise the settings at each step.
Out in the country, the car is great to drive. It is not a hard edge sports sedan like the Kia Stinger GT or the Jaguar XF that we drove earlier this year, but it is sharp. You can feel the light weight of the car when you change directions and it easy to get a nice flow no matter what the road is doing. There is heaps of grip and you are never wondering what is happening with the road.
The 2.0L engine is fine for most, but I think I’d need the bigger engine for a bit more poke out of corners. The 8-speed gearbox works well too, and in manual mode you have perfect control.
The glasshouse is big, so you have plenty of vision which is good in both city and country situations.
If you’ve been thinking of getting an SUV and you are this $100-150k market, make sure you check this car out. Because it is a car it is a better and safer drive than any SUV and it is just a damn nice place to sit for a while.
It has the size needed for a growing family and some clever tech that saves lives and trees. It this price and size range, you will find it hard to beat the packaging.
The BMW Range
This is too vast and complex to explain, check out the BMW website.
Jaguar XF – lower and sportier and a great drive.
Lexus GS & ES– give or take looks, if you like the looks the GS is awesome and the ES a little more sedate.
Mercedes E-class – traditional rivals for a reason and the sporty gap has decreased.
Alfa Romeo Guilia – much sportier, but also a little more unknown in terms of reliability and build. Stunning looks though.
Audi A6 – to many the third German but worthy of much more respect. The A6 range is good and tops out with the incredible Quattro models.
Hyundai Genesis – soon to be called Genesis at the top end and well worth a look. We’ll be driving the new generation soon.