Review and road test of the BMW 6 Series GT [G32] (2017 - 2021)
By Jonathan Crouch
BMW's 6 Series Gran Turismo, sold between 2017 and 2021, aimed to bring SUV, large estate and luxury saloon qualities in a package that offered executives something very different. There's nothing quite like it.
5dr executive hatch (Petrol - 4 cylinder 258hp [630i] / 6 cylinder 340hp [640i] / diesel 3.0 6 cylinder 265hp [630d] - trim levels SE, M Sport)
If you want a large, luxurious versatile BMW from the 2017 to 2021 period, you've lots of options - saloons, estates, SUVs. What though, if you want a model combining the best bits of all these kinds of car? Well this is the product we'd direct you to, the 6 Series GT.
The 'GT' tag stands for 'Gran Turismo', a 'Fastback' style of design that by 2017 had become quite popular in luxury circles since being revived for the modern era. The idea here was to offer executive buyers something more visually appealing and aspirational than a conventional saloon - as Mercedes did when they kick-started this century's interpretation of the concept with their first generation CLS four-door model back in 2005. This BMW's predecessor, the 5 Series GT launched in 2009, was the first five-door contender in this newly-fashionable niche, pre-dating more familiar products of this sort like Porsche's Panamera and Audi's A7 Sportback.
That early-to-market approach should have given the Bavarian maker an advantage over rivals of that sort, but the 5 Series GT was awkwardly styled, heavy and uninspiring to drive. As a result, it failed to hit its sales targets in most of BMW's international markets and probably wouldn't have been replaced had it not been for the enthusiastic reception that the Chinese give to almost everything the company makes. Thanks to the folk in Beijing and Shanghai though, UK customers were, back in 2017, given a chance to see what BMW's designers could achieve second time round with this concept. The change from 5 Series to 6 Series badging reflected the company's latest naming logic that saw sportier coupe-like models featuring even-number designations. And the car in question was a big step forward from its predecessor, lower, longer, roomier, better-looking and more lavishly appointed.
Despite the more generous dimensions, potential customers for this car were also promised a much better driving experience than before too, thanks to an average weight reduction of around 115kg across the range compared to the old 5 Series GT: and more dynamic underpinnings that used a mix of much more sophisticated hardware from the company's latest 5 and 7 Series models. There was also some quite astonishing technology, including another step towards semi-autonomous driving. And state-of-the-art levels of media connectivity too. A base four cylinder 620d diesel variant joined the range in 2018. Sales though, remained slow and the car was finally deleted from BMW's UK price lists in 2021.
What You Get
If the old 5 Series Gran Turismo model had served up styling looking a little more like this, there's little doubt that its sales performance would have been transformed. It didn't - and in many ways it couldn't thanks to the need for an unusually high roofline to satisfy the designers' insistence that the rear seats should be raised 30mm above those at the front. All the chairs were at the same level with this 6 Series GT, so the vehicle height was lowered down by 21mm, while the rear end was lowered by 64mm. It further helped that this 6 Series Gran Turismo was 87mm longer than its predecessor, creating a sleeker, more rakish shape.
Once in the cabin, you'll find yourself sitting a little higher than you would be in an equivalent 5 or 7 Series model, delivering at least some of the imperious feel you'd get at the wheel of the company's X5 luxury SUV. Ahead of you is a dash layout that's much as it would be in a 5 Series from this era - which means that it's very sophisticated. Virtual dials cosset your eyes through the beautifully tactile three-spoke wheel, while at the top of the centre stack lies a big 10.25-inch colour iDrive screen that welcomes you on first name terms to the 6 Series Gran Turismo driving experience. Those may be the first things you'll notice, but shortly after, you'll be struck by the sheer quality on offer here. All the materials used - even those lower down - feel great to touch, with proper leather and metal finishing that feels very special indeed.
When it's time to take a seat in the rear, you'll find that, as at the front, the doors are frameless and open to reveal a wide, tall aperture that doesn't require you to duck your head on entry, as is the case in quite a few other 'Gran Turismo'-style models. Once inside, it's really very spacious indeed, with far more room than you'd get in a 5 Series or in directly comparable Mercedes CLS or Audi A7 Sportback rivals. In a way though, that's what you'd expect. After all, this car is over 5-metres long and has exactly the same wheelbase length as a boardroom segment BMW 7 Series model from the next class up.
Finally, the boot. Standard trunk space increased by 110-litres of the old 5GT to 610-litres here. BMW reckoned you could get four full-sized golf bags inside the cargo area without having to flatten any seats - and we can believe it. If you need more room, your first option is to take advantage of the standard 40:20:40 'through loading' split fold for the rear bench that enables longer items like skis to be pushed forward between a couple of rear-seated occupants. If you need more space than that, then you'll need to activate the seat retraction switches on either side of the load area. Do that and as much as 1,800-litres of space can be freed up - which is even more than you'd get in BMW 5 Series Touring estate.
What to Look For
Most of the 6 Series GT buyers in our ownership survey were very happy with their cars but inevitably, there were a few that had issues. Check all the electrical features work as they're supposed to. Make sure there are no parking scrapes on the alloy wheels as these will be pricey to put right. And as usual, insist on a fully stamped-up service record.
(approx prices based on a 2017 630d GT ex VAT) An air filter costs in the £30 bracket. An oil filter costs around £11. Front brake pads sit in the £47-£95 bracket for a set; for rears, it's around £32. A wiper blade costs in the £4-£23 bracket. A starter motor is around £247. A rear lamp is priced at around £292. A pollen filter's around £70-£87.
On the Road
So what's BMW's idea of 'Gran Turismo' motoring? Well, this is a big car, there's no doubt about that, something certainly obvious in town or when manoeuvring. You feel more at one with it though, than was the case with the previous 5 Series GT, despite the fact that overall length rose here to well over 5 metres. It feels less cumbersome through the corners than that older model too. Losing 115kg in weight will do that for you. BMW told us that under the skin, this 6 Series GT used a mixture of parts from the 5 and 7 Series models it sat alongside in the showroom. The majority of these were from the 'Five' - the standard air-sprung rear suspension from the 5 Series Touring for example - but it's the heftier 'Seven' that, perhaps predictably, this GT more closely resembles in terms of its road going demeanour.
When it comes to engines, the majority of original buyer chose between a couple of six cylinder units, either the 340bhp petrol unit fitted to the 640i derivative - which got BMW's xDrive 4WD system as standard. Or, more likely, the 265bhp diesel in the 630d variant, which offered xDrive as an option. There was also a rear-driven 258bhp 630i petrol version with four cylinder 2.0-litre power. And a four cylinder 190hp 620d GT diesel model, also offered with an xDrive option. As for this car's dynamic attributes, well thanks to its size, weight and height, it can't be as agile though the corners as some of its Executive segment 'Gran Turismo' rivals from the 2017-2021 period. However, you can improve things by getting yourself a car whose original owner spent more on the optional 'Adaptive 2-axle air suspension' system which added front air suspension and the ability to vary ride quality via various 'Drive Performance Control' driving modes. If you want to go further, find a car whose original owner specified the optional 'Integral Active Steering' system that gives you rear wheel steering. Cars originally fitted with that could also from the showroom be fitted with an 'Executive Drive' package that includes automatically-adjustable anti-roll bars to reduce cornering body lean. With all this kit fitted, this car really does feel very 7 Series-like. It's certainly supremely refined.
In summary, you could argue that rival Audi A7 Sportback and Mercedes CLS models from this era more stylishly fulfil the 'Gran Turismo' remit than this 6 Series GT does - and that's probably true. But those cars are also less spacious inside and slightly more expensive. Certainly, this 6 Series 6 GT gave competitors like that far more to think about than its predecessor ever did. And if you were already looking at a BMW X5 SUV or the brand's 5 Series Touring estate from the 2017-2021 period, then we think you should also test this model before deciding. Like the car it replaced, it offers a different way to go - but in this case, that was a good thing. Try one and you'll see what we mean.
BMW 6 Series GT [G32] (2017 - 2021) review by Jonathan Crouch