Cruising the Cape in a dynamic grand tourer

Luxury performance car designed for comfortable long-distance touring, a gran turismo (or grand tourer (GT) for us English speakers) makes the business of long-range driving satisfying and effortless.

The plush and dynamic BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo was the perfect pick to traverse the Western Cape’s winding coastal roads, sweeping mountain bends and long stretches of open road.

finweek experienced this trip in one of the two BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo models on offer in the country; the diesel version BMW 630d GT.

Beemer body

The four-door GT has a coupé-like silhouette, thanks to a longer roofline that swoops down at a sharp angle to a rear end 64mm lower than its predecessor. BMW’s trademark harmonious design that includes its signature kidney grille, LED headlights and fog lamps, adorn the front end. But the audacious concave rear feels slightly at odds with the rest of the fluid fastback design.

A fastback design and automatically extending rear spoiler speaks of an athletic machine, a look that is enhanced by BMW’s optional M Sport package. This package adds – at a cost – many external and interior features. Outfitted with 20-inch Pirelli tyres, large blue brake calipers and M Sport badges, the test car oozed agility.

This 6 Series grand tourer is 150kg lighter than its predecessor, but at 5 091mm in length (87mm longer than the previous generation) the BMW 630d GT is no small car.

Cabin comfort

This cabin was built for driving enjoyment and comfort, with the driver-focused cockpit featuring leather steering wheel, ergonomic soft Nappa leather seats, a raised seating position and panorama glass sunroof. Additional pampering in the form of heated seats and massage function with eight settings, come at added cost.

The driving set-up and infotainment environment is customisable via the BMW’s iDrive system, operated by means of either a 10.25-inch user-friendly touchscreen, a controller on the centre console or via voice control. Gesture control can be added as an optional extra.

As expected from a luxury premium vehicle, connectivity and infotainment offerings are in abundance, with satnav, real-time traffic information, a host of smartphone connectivity features including Apple CarPlay, bluetooth, wireless smartphone charging, USB ports, stereo system with six speakers and DVD player.

Latest advancements towards automated driving are also to be had. BMW’s Driving Assist option includes active cruise control with stop-and-go function, steering and lane control assist, lane change assistant, lane departure warning, collision warning and cross traffic warning system. Remote control parking using a BMW display key can also be ordered (and yes, that comes at additional cost).

The GT has a EuroNCAP 5-star crash rating. Standard safety fare includes multiple airbags for both front and rear passengers, door-integrated side impact protection, and a crash sensor that, aside from deploying airbags, activates the hazard warning lights, unlocks the doors and deactivates the fuel pump.

Traditional grand tourers are more commonly two-door coupés with two seats or a 2+2 seating arrangement. But the four-door BMW 630d GT, with its three full-sized rear seats, can more than comfortably seat five adults. The amount of legroom in the back is matched only by its 7 Series sibling.

Despite the vehicle’s 21mm height reduction and lowered roofline, rear headroom too is generous.

Tablet-sized screens at the back of the front headrests is an optional feature that makes rear seat entertainment a reality, while the standard automatic window screens provide shade from the sun or privacy from external prying eyes for those in the back.

No need to travel light in this grand tourer. The boot, already a generous 610?litres, can be increased to as much as 1 800 litres by folding the rear seats, easily brought about via a remote release system in the boot.

Country cruising

This grand tourer may be a diesel, but it’s the quietest diesel I have ever driven… and I have driven quite a few. It’s really quiet, both inside and out. Another plus for those who would turn up their noses at the diesel variant, is its immense range (well north of 1 000km) and the up to 15% reduction in both fuel consumption and CO2 figures over its predecessor. Then, of course, there is all that fabulous torque that makes overtaking – even on the steepest climbs – a doddle.

The 630d GT is refined, but dynamic too. It can effortlessly pilot in gridlock traffic (courtesy of the semi-autonomous driving features), yet comes into its own on the open road where, despite its stretched proportions, it is surprisingly athletic.

It is designed for long distance driving. The ride set-up is focused on comfort, the standard rear-axle air suspension with automatic self-levelling a standard feature. Two-axle air suspension, dynamic damper control, active roll stabilisation and integral active steering are optional.

There is an equal measure of agility, the pliant suspension tightening when dynamic sport mode is engaged.

A sweeping, low-slung aerodynamic body with active air flap control, air curtains and breathers helps the GT to cut drag and wind noise, while the automatically extending rear spoiler increases downforce at the rear to optimise driving dynamics and keep it planted at high speeds. You’d think given its long wheelbase that the back might venture out on the twisty bits. But you’d be wrong; it hugs the road.

The snarl from the twin chrome exhausts is heightened in sport mode. Put your right foot down in this mode and the car catapults forward, even displaying an impressive amount of wheel spin off the line. Automatic gearing from the 8-speed sport gearbox is faultless, but you can also peak the revs and performance manually by using the steering-mounted flappy paddles.

This car has loads of power, but because it is so refined, speed is deceptive (the optional head-up display fitted in the test car alerting me to this on many an occasion).

Piloting this performance grand tourer beats driving a high-performance sports car on long hauls by a country mile. The driving experience does not become a fatiguing one, while in contrast, really high-performance sports machines can be quite taxing to drive and thus draining over long distances.

The test trip took us all the way to the quaint fishing village of Arniston where fresh fish may be on offer, but fuel is not. It was a detail I was unaware of and could have run out of fuel. It was only the 630d’s impressive fuel range and a stint of languid driving in eco mode to increase the range that prevented what could have been an embarrassing faux pas.

Little did I imagine that driving long distance, let alone a car of considerable size, would be as relaxed and enjoyable as it turned out to be. Or as frugal on the pocket.

With a combination of “energetic” driving, a healthy dose of adhering to speed limits, and the odd stint in eco mode (which allows for speeds of up to 120km/h), the 630d GT managed an impressive 5.8 litres/100km – with a laden boot.

The BMW 630d GT is the quintessential touring car, one that features many elements offered by its executive 7 Series sibling. It is all things premium. And it is lighter, sportier and more efficient than its predecessor.

It’s no budget buy, but then this four-door Gran Turismo delivers on luxury, on comfort and space, and on performance and handling.


This article originally appeared in the 20 December edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

Brent Crude
All Share
Top 40
Financial 15
Industrial 25
Resource 10
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Do you think it was a good idea for the government to approach the IMF for a $4.3 billion loan to fight Covid-19?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes. We need the money.
11% - 1009 votes
It depends on how the funds are used.
74% - 6759 votes
No. We should have gotten the loan elsewhere.
15% - 1423 votes