Getting More Without Sacrifice

By Eric Peters

September 6, 2018 5 min read

American car buyers, for whatever reason, generally do not like station wagons. This is why you don't see many new station wagons, especially high-end wagons, even though high-end car companies like BMW sell a wagon version of almost every car it makes.

You just don't see them here.

Meanwhile, there are hatchbacks. These do sell, but there is a utilitarian connotation to them, which is why the 640i is a Gran Turismo, or GT, instead of a 640i hatchback. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

*What It Is

The 640i GT is a five-door/hatchback iteration of the midsize 5 Series sedan. It has 31 cubic feet of cargo capacity versus 18.7 cubic feet in the conventionally roofed and trunked 5 Series sedan. In addition, there are nearly 4 more inches of back-seat legroom.

There is also a lot more weight -- close to 700 pounds more of it -- and a higher starting price: $70,200 versus $52,650 for the base trim 530i. However, you do get more engine: It comes standard with a twin-turbo 3-liter six-cylinder that's optional in the 5 Series. And it comes standard with xDrive all-wheel drive, which is an extra cost when you shop the 5 Series.

*What's New

The 640i GT looks pretty much the same as before -- unless you look closely. It's slightly longer overall than the 2017 model and has a bit more first- and second-row legroom, as well as more cargo room that's more evenly distributed. The space behind the back seats is now double what it was previously, while total cargo space increased by about 5 cubic feet.

Also, the standard engine is stronger: The horsepower is up to 335, whereas last year's engine had 300.

*What's Good

For those who are tired of them both, it's not a sedan or a crossover.

There's better allocation of interior space.

It's a heavy-roller ride -- and quiet.

*What's Not So Good

The formerly available V-8 has been dropped.

The diesel you can get in the 5 Series isn't available.

The electric liftgate opens and closes slowly.

*Under the Hood

The 640i GT comes standard with the 3-liter straight six-cylinder uprated to 335 horsepower with all of its 332 foot-pounds of torque online at 1,380 rpm. As a result -- and despite weighing 4,409 pounds -- the GT can clear 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.

Mileage is 20 city and 28 highway, which, for context, is only slightly less than that of the much lighter and much-smaller-engined 530i xDrive sedan, which posts 23 city and 33 highway.

*On the Road

The 640i GT lives up to its Gran Turismo badging. It is supple, powerful and exceptionally comfortable for long trips.

The car weight and longer wheelbase are assets on the highway. And in the curves, the available adaptive suspension keeps that weight from sloshing around. The 335-horsepower engine, meanwhile, makes the weight disappear when you push on the accelerator pedal.

*At the Curb

It is a hatchback, but just don't say so out loud.

The slight wheelbase and length stretch compared with that of the 5 Series it's based on (120.8 inches and 200.9 inches versus 117 inches and 194.6 inches) transmutes into 41.4 inches of first-row legroom and 40.4 inches of second-row legroom versus the 5 Series' 41.4 inches up front and 36.5 inches in back.

And because of the hatchback layout, the 640i has double the trunk space of the 5 Series behind its second row (31 cubic feet versus 18.7) and an almost-SUV-sized 65 cubic feet with the second row folded. A full-size Chevy Tahoe only has 15.3 cubic feet behind its last row, and while that can be expanded to 94.7 cubic feet, you've got to drop the seats to get it.

The BMW -- which isn't a crossover, much less an SUV -- gives you more cargo room behind its second row without having to sacrifice the seating space.

*The Rest

While the 6 Series isn't quite a 7 Series, it's a lot closer to it than the 5 Series in terms of room for spreading out and otherwise.

You can get 7 Series-level features in this one, including massaging front seats, power-adjustable/reclining rear seats, electrically powered snug-fit door closers (you lightly close the doors; electric motors pull them and the frameless door glass tight), infrared night vision and BMW Gesture Control, which is the party trick of the season. Twirl your index finger to the right to raise the volume of the audio system; twirl left to turn it down. Touch nothing.

*The Bottom Line

Putting a hatch on the back might prove to be the sedan's salvation.

Eric Peters' weekly column, "Peters' Garage," can be found at creators.com.

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