Haute Auto : BMW & Bentley

Sleek Sedan

The 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe

There must be over 20 current models of BM Ws, what with the 1s, 3s, 5s, 6s and 7s, all the X-variants, the SUV types and the M-model hot rods, not to mention the Alpina B7, the mother of all Big Bimmers. Into this assemblage gracefully slides BM W’s newest body style, the Gran Coupe (note the lack of the “D” and the absence of an accent mark). While others (like Mercedes-Benz and Audi) have had a sleek touring version of their four-door sedans for a while, BM W just joined the svelte party but, to the eye of many, it was worth the wait.

The Gran Coupe currently comes in two main variants — the 640i and the 650i. As you might have guessed, the major difference between them is felt in the go pedal – a six-cylinder engine with 315 HP (base price about $76,000) or a 445 HP twin-turbo V-8 (base price about $86,500). (Next year’s M6 Gran Coupe is slated to have 560HP.) There’s also an all-wheel-drive version, the 650i xDrive Gran Coupe (about $3,000 more).

You can talk amongst yourselves about whether to call it a “coupe ” (rhymes with “sloop”) or a “coupa y”— I’ll be up on Mulholland Highway.

Being a red-blooded American male, I requested the 650i for my test drive but, alas, all were spoken for during my scheduling window so I resigned myself to drive the 640i, its “weak sibling” – or so I thought. With a slick eightspeed automatic transmission and several driver-adjusted options which make important changes in the suspension, shifting and steering rates, the 640i moves (0-60 is just over five seconds – with a 6-cylinder engine in a 4,300-pound car!). This is a looker with the performance and handling to make it a great driver.

You can talk amongst yourselves about whether to call it a “coupe” (rhymes with “sloop”) or a “coupay”—I’ll be up on Mulholland Highway.

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Topless Elegance

The 2012 Bentley Continental GT Convertible Twin-Turbo V-8

 The GT convertible Twin-Turbo V-8 – an elegant drop-top that can cruise effortless yet can kick some serious asphalt when asked (politely, of course).

Bentley and Rolls-Royce were inti mately intertwi ned for over 70 years — since 1931 co-ownership forced by the Great Depression — until they parted company in a complicated Volkswagen-BM W deal early in this millennium (VW now owns Bentley and BM W runs Rolls). So what tack did VW take? The first Bentley GTs, which returned Bentley to its roots as the “silent sports car” and built on Bentley’s amazing racing legacy, started out quick and have gotten quicker, with available fittings like carbon-ceramic brakes and 12-cylinder engines. Recently, Bentley began to offer their GT coupes and dropheads with an optional twin–turbo V-8 but you won’t feel less-than on the road. The V-8 twin-turbo pumps out 500hp and almost 490 pounds of torque, propelling the GT from 0-60 in well under five seconds. It has a great roar when asked to perform yet during “proper” driving is as quiet as its 5445-pound heft would indicate. The headliner of this convertible has the plushness of a fine hardtop, as befits a car of its stature (base is $191k+). Fitted with the optional “Mulliner Driving Specification” (add $7,155), the knurled gear lever and drilled metal foot pedals, this GT harkens back to the Blower Bentleys of yore. The GT convertible Twin-Turbo V-8 – an elegant drop-top that can cruise effortless yet can kick some serious asphalt when asked (politely, of course).