Gran Illusion

Farewell Gran, I didn’t even know you were gone.

(c) BMW

As a younger man, I used to marvel at the enthusiasm with which my more elderly relatives would pounce upon the obituary section of their local newspapers. At the time it seemed a rather morbid pasttime to seek out those amongst one’s number who had most recently entered the spiritual realm, but as I’ve entered middle age and become a little more empathetic, (not to mention closer to time’s scythe), I’ve realised that this habit stems more from a not unreasonable concern that a neighbour or acquaintance might depart this mortal coil without them having the opportunity to pay their respects.

You probably didn’t open DTW this morning to be confronted with meditations upon mortality and for that I can only apologise. But having recently been placed in something of a similar position, I am by way of redress donning belated black to mark the passing of a vehicle which perhaps deserved a more timely obituary. You see, the F06 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupé was phased out as long ago as last October; a matter to which I was blithely unaware, assuming it would be retained in production until closer to the announcement of its successor. Not so.

First introduced in 2012, the Gran Coupé marked Munich Milbertshofen’s rather belated response to the success of Mercedes’ W219 CLS and Audi’s A7 in the four-door personal luxury saloon/coupé sector – one which Daimler rather fatuously claimed to have invented back in 2004.

(c) DTW

To all intents and purposes, a stretched four-door version of the F13 6-series which had debuted the previous year, the Gran Coupé was, like its sibling, no design paragon, yet despite sharing nose and tail styling, it contrived to appear considerably more resolved and elegant – no doubt attributable to the longer, more rakish canopy, defined boot volume and relatively restrained surface treatment.

Indeed, the F06 was (certainly by the time the second generation C218 CLS arrived on the scene in 2010) the most visually attractive of the three German luxury saloon-Coupés, although if you were to suggest that Ingolstadt’s contemporary A7 provided more in the looks department, I probably wouldn’t argue with you.

Moreover, the BMW was to some eyes at least, a car which came close in conceptual terms to the template embodied within Jaguar’s original XJ6, which is both high praise and yet at the same time more credit than it really deserves. Certainly however, the GC represented a broad hint as to where Mr. Callum perhaps ought to have directed his design team’s attentions.

The Gran Coupé proved a successful (and highly profitable) model line, in the US market in particular, but its four-door format probably allowed it to make an impression upon newer, far-Eastern markets as well, places where the 2-door 6er might have encountered more potential buyer resistance.

But time and nomenclature wait for nobody and BMW’s product strategists (who really do have an awful lot to answer for these days), clearly established from their focus group work that while Sechs was good, Acht was better still, from a transaction price perspective if nothing else.

More Hofmeister horror (c) Autocar

This has precipitated a redrafting of numerical nameplatology culminating in the forthcoming 8-Series Gran Coupé, which was shown in moody-lit teaser form last week. Scheduled to be revealed in full within a matter of weeks, the Achter GC is unlikely to deviate dramatically from the stylistic template established by the current 8-Series Coupé, joining virtually all its putative rivals in adopting the fastback silhouette now considered de rigueur. But given the corpulence of the existing 8er, one can only guess at the scale of its Gran Coupé version.

But while we have donned our best mourning apparel, not only should we bid a tardy farewell to the already departed GC, we ought to prepare ourselves for the fast approaching day when nothing BMW produces has any redeeming aesthetic qualities whatsoever – a state of affairs which is edging perilously close to reality.

With this in mind, a more assiduous scan of the auto-obituaries would probably be in order.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

11 thoughts on “Gran Illusion”

  1. In all likelihood, the recent trend of replacement models from BMW (and Audi) reprising the basic silhouette of the outgoing model, but overlaid with fussier and uglified detailing will continue. In the image above, one can see that the new model will sport a different variant the “improved” Hofmeister kink that debuted on the 3 Series, thus robbing it of a key marque identifier. At first glance, it could be a Volvo (S90), a Kia (Stinger) or anything, really.

    The casual indifference with BMW designers treat the company’s iconic design details such as the twin nostril grille and Hofmeister Kink is evidence of both arrogance and ineptitude, and pretty depressing for this of us who admire the company’s back catalogue of great cars.

    1. You are entirely right.

      RIP BMW design DNA. Challenged by Bangle, but destroyed by his successors.

      I’m not a big fan of the 6 Gran Coupe, but in comparison to the forthcoming 8 it will be seen as a paragon of sharp design and assertive good taste.

    2. Daniel mentions the Kia Stinger in his comment above. I had a good look at one of these recently and I have to say that from a purely visual perspective, it puts BMW’s stylistic meltdown into the sharpest perspective imaginable. Notwithstanding this, it is a very accomplished piece of work and a genuinely desirable product. Brand snobbery will of course be its undoing – and one imagines (for now at least) the Veirzylinder’s salvation.

  2. In other news, BMW has this morning announced that the 3 Series Gran Turismo won’t be replaced. I assume that this is because it would be simply impossible to make any replacement even more ugly than the current model.

  3. I was aware of the demise of this car. I also felt a twang of sadness as this was the only current BMW that I would like to own. Maybe a 2 series coupe might still be desirable but it’s rear doesn’t sit right for me. It looks a little unfinished. You mention again the 8er and it’s shortcomings. They are many but I don’t often see it’s largest (in my view) problem: it has a b pillar and the rear windows are fixed. Surely this type of car at this price point should offer frameless windows with an option of opening all 4 windows ? Terribly disheartening stuff.

    1. I didn’t even know the current 8-series couldn’t lower its rear windows. As there is a convertible version, they had to engineer it pillarless and with an opening mechanism anyway.

      This is sloppy, a 1998 CLK managed it.

    2. I saw my first NuAchter convertible on the street the other day. It’s astoundingly ungainly – the wheels like tiny and the rear suggests a folding metal roof where there is none. The mind boggles…

    3. Outgoing 6 Series convertible for comparison:

      Perhaps there’s a secret plot afoot at BMW to make us appreciate that the outgoing models weren’t that bad, relatively speaking.

  4. Aren’t photos of a new car in moody lighting normally a signal that the manufacturer’s marketing people are a bit worried about how the public will react to the design? Ford Scorpio anyone?
    I rather like the 6 series Gran Coupe and bought a two year old 650 a little while ago. It is elegant, comfortable and fast. They are also good value just now.

    1. Jeremy, pleased to hear you are happy with your 6er. Would be interested to know (as a former BMW owner) what it is like to own.

      I saw a new 8 in the street at the weekend. It was black with black wheels, so hardly capturing the light to best effect, but it really didn’t look very special at all.

  5. I find the vehicle category of the four door coupé quite attractive, I must admit. Fast, luxurious, comfortable, elegant and also (seemingly) practical. Motoring like in the early days of the car, when it was more sport and past time for a very chosen few and unapologetic futursim was the name of the game.

    Stylistically I still find the clean lines, the strong stance, the beautiful fastback silhouette of the A7 the best of the German 4-door GT-trio.

    However, my crown for the overall most convincing interpretation of the theme goes to the CLS Shooting Brake.

    I know, there are many grounds on which to reject it’s appearance. But I think it pulls off the lavish, Gatsby-esque, futurist, slightly cartoonish, roaring 1920s flair that appears to be engraved in the DNA of this sort of vehicle most convincingly. It also is genuinely practical as boot space is not much less than in an E-Class T-Model.

    Has it received its due DTW obituary? It was phased out a year ago and will NOT be replaced. I’d put one in my imaginary car collection without hesitation. I had the pleasure of driving a CLS 500 Shooting Break for one short weekend. Oh, what a pleasant form of motoring it was…

    As to the 6er GT: Hmm… Looking at it, I think all the cues leading BMW in the wrong direction are already there. It’s a beautiful shape – but the details don’t really work for me in a similar (but much lesser) way they don’t work on THE 8.

    The redeeming feature of THE 8 may then be that it makes its predecessor look a little better, in the same way the new THE 3 makes the current gen 5 look a little better too.

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