Road test: posh BMW 640i Gran Coupe

Prices for the BMW 640i Gran Coupe start Prices for the BMW 640i Gran Coupe start at $76,895. Photo Credit: Handout

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The BMW 6 Series coupe is the essence of a grand touring car -- a ride that's sporting, luxurious and not completely practical.

Now that BMW offers the 6 Series in coupe and convertible forms, it's hard to imagine that BMW could improve on an already stellar automobile. But they have, with two new 6 Series models that should lure buyers into indulging in the joy of six: the 640i Gran Coupe and the M6 Convertible.

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If you don't think that German automakers are capable of designing and building cars that value form over function, look no further than the so-called "four-door coupe" class, an automotive form established by the 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS and later copied by the Aston Martin Rapide, Audi A7 and Volkswagen CC.

This class usually sports low, come-hither lines that recall a coupe, while four doors give the illusion of practicality. I say "illusion" because while you can actually use the rear seats, getting to them calls for the skill of an Olympic gymnast.

The newest entrant arrived in BMW showrooms in June: the 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe. Looking somewhat like a squashed rendition of a 7 Series sedan, the BMW eschews the curvaceous lines of competitors, opting instead for a tastefully conservative style that should age gracefully.

There are three variants of the Gran Coupe, of which only one, the rear-drive 640i, is currently available. With a 315-horsepower 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission, the 640i can reach 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Next is the rear-drive 650i, due in the fall, with a 445-hp twin turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 engine.

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BMW offered a 640i for an afternoon of driving around the hills of Santa Barbara. Immediately, the BMW showed off its luxury credentials. There's a 10.2 inch-high definition display trimmed in a galvanized chrome surround nestled in an instrument panel finished, along with the doors and center console, in sinfully supple Nappa leather with contrasting stitching.

The twin turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine provided ample power for tackling hills with gusto. The eight-speed transmission is seamless, always seemingly in the proper gear. The steering is nicely weighted. The suspension does a fine job of dispatching all but the worst bumps, which pound through.

You'll immediately feel at home in this car; it drives with a similar sporting flair topped with a patina of posh comfort. The driving position is perfect; the ambience, opulent. It's easy to pass the hours behind the wheel of this lovely six machine.

And of course, there's a suite of electronics to keep you safe, entertain you and guide you to your destination. There's even a rearview camera.

With the 640i starting at $76,895, and the 650i expected to start at $87,395, it's easy to see that, with options, these cars can easily approach six figures.

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Given that the 640i starts at a significantly higher price than the 5 Series, yet boasts similar driving manners, you'll have to decide if its incredibly elegant looks are worth the extra scratch.

I say yes. But then again, I'm always captivated by a pretty face.

2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe

ENGINE: Twin turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder

POWER: 315 horsepower

0 TO 60 MPH: 5.4 seconds

WHEELBASE: 116.9 inches

LENGTH: 197.2 inches

WEIGHT: 4,190 pounds

CARGO SPACE: 13 cubic feet

EPA FUEL RATING: 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway

BASE PRICE, BASE MODEL: $76,895

BOTTOM LINE: Motoring in Gran style

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