- What’s Best: Marvelous engine/drivetrain/suspension married to the highest standards of fit and finish that make this a delight to drive.
- What’s Worst: All this sophistication comes at a price of almost $100k.
- What’s Interesting: BMW retained a French scent maker to design signature in-cabin fragrances for its Ambient Air Package.
In all the years of road testing, this is the first time I’ve ever reported that a test car smelled.
But that’s the case with the 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo and it smelled great — thanks to specially commissioned cabin fragrances.
It’s all about the optional ($400) Ambient Air Package first seen on the 7 Series flagship sedan and now on the 640i.
BMW hired a French scent maker who worked for three years to create new fragrances, each of which is in a small container. Up to two containers a time can be inserted into slots inside the glovebox.
Each container is magnetized and clips into the receptacle when you select one from the iDrive menu; the climate control system does the rest.
Leave it to BMW to come up with something new like this.
So from the olfactory senses to the aural, the optional ($4,900) Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System is stunning.
The 16 partially illuminated speakers, the 10-channel amplifier, 1,400-watt system sounded so different from others I’ve tested recently, to the point I pulled down a little country road and stopped to check it out.
I was listening to Phlash Phelps on Sirius/XM, which meant I was hearing compressed digital files. But it somehow had that warmer tone from the vinyl years.
I don’t know how they did it, but this is the way music sounded back in the day and was as good then as it was last week in the 640i GT.
Having covered the senses of smell and sound, sight is next and I don’t know where to begin.
There is the cabin ambient lighting that can be changed at will or the huge standard panoramic power sunroof (1,065 mm x 900 mm) but it’s the new Head Up Display (HUD) that takes the cake.
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These things can be fussy with letters and numbers that blot out at the slightest blush of sunlight.
The BMW HUD was increased in size by 75 per cent and is in full-color with a resolution of 480×800 pixels and one of the many things is does is instantly show the speed limit and how fast you are travelling.
If the limit is 50 km/h, actual speed is shown in white if you are under. But the second you go over, it changes to red and in a bigger font.
Also new, at least to me, is how to categorize this car.
It’s definitely full-size with a wheelbase of 3,070 mm and a cargo volume expandable up to 1,800 litres. But after that, quantifying the 640i GT gets a little blurred.
It seats five, has a power rear liftgate and the suspension can be raised up 20 mm for rougher surfaces.
So is it a sedan, hatchback, CUV or station wagon?
Even BMW was hard pressed to put a label on it, so I’m going to call it a full-size, five-door sedan.
One thing there is no doubt about is the engine.
BMW inline six-cylinders have always been silky smooth, but the 3.0-litre Twin-Power is buttery in its power delivery and potent, too, at 335 hp and 332 lb/ft of torque — giving it a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 5.1 seconds.
Tied to it is an eight-speed automatic transmission and BMW’s famed all-wheel-drive, but my tester had the additional ($4,900) Dynamic Handling Package that blends Dynamic Damper Control and the two-axle rear suspension with Active Roll Stabilization and Integral Active Steering.
How it works is the dampers and suspension use a high-pressure air chamber controlled by wheel movement to keep the body as flat as possible even with an uneven load.
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The two-axle air suspension lets the driver manually adjust ride height, which above 35 km/h defaults to the normal setting.
The driver can lower the BMW by 10 mm at a touch of a button or it happens automatically at above 120 km/h. Conversely, another button raises it 20 mm for travel over uneven surfaces.
The 640i GT is the first BMW to come with a standard Active Driving Assistant that combines a host of driver/safety aids, such as lane departure warning, cross traffic alert and City Collision Mitigation.
But what you also find is Active Lane Keeping Assistant and Traffic Jam Assistant that operates between 0-210 km/h offering hands off the steering wheel driving for up to 50 seconds.
Now this is not autonomous driving, but a further step towards it which the driver activates by a button on the left spoke of the steering wheel.
On a deserted stretch of highway, I tried it and it worked but, folks, it’s still too much of a leap of faith for me not have my hands on the wheel.
The array of technology is more than I, or many, can comprehend, but the sum of all these systems makes for one of the most advanced driving machines on the road today.
It’s a combination of luxury and long-distance travel comfort that justifies BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” motto.
2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo
BODY STYLE: Full-size, five-door luxury sedan.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 3.0-litre, direct injection, twin-turbo, inline six-cylinder (335 hp, 332 lb/ft of torque) mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
CARGO CAPACITY: Up to 1,800 litres with second-row 40:20:40 seat folded
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 11.0/8.4/10.3L/100 km city/highway/combined.
PRICE: $76,700, as tested $97,150 not including $2,245 destination fee
WEB SITE: BMW.ca
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