The joy of six

The joy of six

Chris Manners, ICAEW regional director, gets his hands on the BMW 640d M Sport Coupe to the test whether it drives as well as its head-turning power suggests.

Y12 mots main2This latest 6-series is better looking than its previous avatars; the radiator grille’s now in proportion with the rest of the front, the lumpy haunches have been toned to pertness, and the curves sweep fast and low between the two.

It looks fabulous, especially in the blue of my demonstrator, crouching on the drive and begging to be off eating tarmac.

Inside’s a stateroom of cream leather and rich wood (though the back seats aren’t for the tall), full of gizmological toys; bumpermounted cameras to help avoid kerbs and lurking molehills; whole Britannicas crammed in the on-board computers.

It’s bigger than first sight. I drive a 5-series and thought the two would feel similar, but as I pulled away I’d have appreciated a tug boat towing me safe into open water.

Partly that was because the delivery driver set the seat low – once I was higher I had a better sense of the car’s corners – but even so there were some oncoming-lorry country lane moments that had me inhaling sharply.

The 3 litre V6 is creamy smooth and very quiet, with only the rev counter maxing at 5500rpm to betray that it’s a diesel.

Just once, crawling in low revs and low gear through Skipton, was there even the faintest echo of a school bus. On open dual carriageway, when there’s chance to plant a foot, there’s a sense of enormous unstrained power.

BMW claims 0-60 in 5.4 seconds, which I well believe: the steering wheel hauls on your arms like a Great Dane straining after next door’s cat and in no time I was queuing behind a loose box across Blubberhouses Moor.

Processions are for May Day. Turning off toward Pateley Bridge on empty B-roads gave me the chance to switch from comfort into sport mode (tighter suspension, quicker throttle response). The 640 corners flat and taut, and grips like a Dales farmer clutching a £50 note. But the ride, oh the ride.

BMW fits run-flat tyres – for which I had cause to be thankful only last week – and on good roads they’re fine.

But the stiff sidewalls grumble about every pothole and pebble. Running over cat’s eyes on the narrow lanes in North Yorkshire wasn’t enough to jar bones and rattle teeth, quite, but was definitely unsettling.

The gear box is Sudoku fiendish. The simple thing is to leave it in automatic, when it’s smooth if a tad languid, but there’s a manual option either with stick or wheelmounted paddles.

I think I counted 13 forward gears, of which I managed to use 8, with the first few close-ratioed for low speeds; in auto it changes up four times before 20mph, in manual your fingers are playing Yakety Sax. And the engine keeps mum about what’s going on.

I was reading the rev counter for clues. There’s also BMW’s trick of cutting the ignition when the car’s foot-on-brake stationary - worthy and eco-friendly at traffic lights, but it makes nipping into small gaps at roundabouts a dicey experience; you want to be across the road, but the motor’s still coughing back to life.

I was certainly impressed by the 640. It has looks, power, even a trace of majesty. But it’s not smooth enough to be a cruiser, and not direct enough to raise goosebumps. One foot’s in spikes, the other a slipper, and I didn’t like it enough to want one.

Chris Manners is ICAEW regional director for Yorkshire & Humber.

The BMW 640d M Sport Coupe that Chris test drove is priced at £74,750 and was provided by Stratstone Leeds, Sheepscar Way, Leeds, LS7 3JB For Further details contact, John Hill Tel: 0113 262 0641,