Vehicle Comparisons

BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo

BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo

The BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo is a uniquely styled five-door executive car that certainly won't be for everybody but it is pretty unique. And a great deal more appealing than this model was in its previous 5 Series Gran Turismo guise thanks to smartened styling, improved efficiency, an updated cabin and extra boot space. Choose it over a 5 Series Touring estate if you want more generous rear legroom and extra exclusivity.

For our market, three engines are being offered - two petrol units and one diesel. Most buyers will choose the single diesel model, a 630d variant powered by a 263bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine. The petrol options are the 630i and 640i derivatives, which use a 255bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo and more potent 335bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo respectively.

The engines all feature the usual BMW TwinPower Turbo technology and all variants have to have an eight-speed Steptronic auto transmission with paddles as standard. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit in the 630i Gran Turismo manages zero to 62mph in 6.3 seconds. The 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line petrol engine in the 640i xDrive variant improves the sprint figure to 5.3 seconds. The 630d version accelerates from zero to 62mph in 6.1 seconds.

BMW's xDrive four-wheel-drive system is available on all but the entry-level petrol model. All versions feature self-levelling air-suspension on the rear axle. Two-axle air-suspension plus adaptive dampers are available as an option. As usual with BMWs, there's a 'Drive Performance Control' system to adjust the car's settings according to the driving conditions. As well as an efficiency-minded 'ECO PRO' mode, the set-up has 'COMFORT' and 'SPORT' settings, while customers who choose the 'Adaptive' and 'Executive Drive' options that include adaptive damping add 'COMFORT+' and 'ADAPTIVE' modes to the Drive Performance Control selection.

In place of the lumpy, clunky looks of the old 5 Series Gran Turismo model, there's a more eye-catching profile this time round. The 6 Series Gran Turismo is 87mm longer and 21mm lower than its predecessor and 64mm of height has been shaved off the rear end to give the car a sportier stance. The A-pillars are much more heavily raked than before and the flowing roofline and sweeping side window design gives more of a coupe look. This model is 150kg lighter than its predecessor too.

Inside, the cabin's more spacious. At the wheel, a raised seating position optimises the driver's all-round view and the dash is dominated by a freestanding 10.25-inch touchscreen for navigation, communication and infotainment functions, featuring optional gesture control, which allows certain functions to be operated with simple movements of the hand or fingers. These are registered by a 3D sensor in the centre console and translated into the relevant commands. Customers can also opt for the new-generation BMW Head-Up Display. The rear has three full-size seats and customers can opt for electrically-adjustable chairs where the backrest angle can be altered at the push of a button. Boot capacity has increased by 20-litres to 610-litres, while folding the 40:20:40 split rear bench increases space to 1,800-litres - a 110-litre improvement.

t's hard to fault the thinking behind this 6 Series Gran Turismo. You'd think, after all, that there would be a significant number of luxury saloon buyers wanting SUV-style road presence, plenty of SUV owners needing something a little less in your face and even a fairly large-sized batch of executive estate customers wanting something a little more interesting this time round. Now all of these people had options before this GT came along of course, but these always required compromising on the core values that each group held dear. In contrast, this BMW offers more of what they want with none of the concessions normally needed.

Of course, there's always the danger that in trying to be too many things to too many people, you can end up pleasing nobody, but then this German brand has never been a company averse to taking a few risks. In this case, that's brought us a fascinating blend of upmarket class, refinement, and practicality that once more proves the Bavarians' mastery in making large heavy cars handle like much smaller, sportier ones. It's over long distances at high speeds though, that it really comes into its own. A Gran Turismo - just as BMW promised.

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Mercedes-Benz CLS

Mercedes-Benz CLS

The Mercedes CLS was the original 'Gran Turismo'-style four-door coupe model in the full-sized Executive segment and its always been the only choice if you only want four doors in a model of this sort. This third generation version reprises much of the style of the original and showcases the brand's most cutting-edge engine technology.

As expected, both the 350d and 400d CLS models both come with the new in-line six-cylinder diesel engine that Mercedes first launched in the revised S-Class saloon. It produces 286bhp and 600Nm of pulling power in the 350d and 340bhp and 700Nm of torque in the 400d. The 350d variant can sprint from rest to 62 mph in 5.7 seconds, while the 400d takes five seconds. Both have an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.

The CLS 350 features a four cylinder petrol unit putting out 299hp and 400Nm using the brand's clever EQ Boost technology, consisting of a 48 volt inline starter generator. Next up is the CLS 450, which uses a six cylinder engine, this one a 3.0-litre in-line biturbo petrol unit also with EQ boost. It has an output of 367bhp and 500Nm of torque, with an extra 250Nm and 22bhp available thanks to the EQ system. 4MATIC all-wheel-drive comes as standard across the range. Plus you can have 'AIR BODY CONTROL' air suspension. More technology is provided by the optional autonomous driving set-up that when activated, allows the car to pretty much drive itself, working with the adaptive cruise control and active steering systems to keep this CLS rolling in its chosen lane at any chosen speed up to 130mph.

There was a certain delicacy to the styling of the first CLS. It was almost as if a basic shape was decided on early in the design process and then all the details and extraneous gewgaws were pared back. Less really was more. The second generation model decided that more was, after all, more. The styling was busier with a more muscular bulge to its wheel arches and a front end that was more pit bull than its slightly feline predecessor. This MK3 model is classier and more desirable, its character marked by a forward-slanting front section and a grille contour that widens towards the base. Other features include wide, low-set headlamps and two-section tail lights.

At first glance, you'll take in the arching waistline, the flat side window lines and low roofline, all contributing to a Cd value of 0.26 that's positive proof of this design's sleek aerodynamics. Inside, it feels more spacious than the previous model and, as with the latest E-Class and -Class models, the brand delivers a 'widescreen cockpit' design that sees two 12.3 inch displays arranged beneath a shared, continuous glass cover. Move to the back and you'll find that this CLS Coupe is a five-seater for the first time. When required the backrests can be folded down in a 40/20/40 ratio, expanding the generous 520 litre luggage compartment.

There wasn't much wrong with the previous second generation CLS, so not too much needed to be done to fix this MK3 model. The introduction of class leadingly-efficient six cylinder engines represents the key change. That and styling that rests a good deal easier on the eye than it did before.

Ultimately then, this is for self-made business people an appropriate reward for a lifetime's endeavour - and a very complete car indeed, provided you can afford its significant price tag. Once upon a time, people like this could admire a Mercedes, aspire to ownership, or respect what it did but they rarely formed an emotional bond with one. But then the CLS arrived and changed all that. As it still does.

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Audi A7 Sportback

Audi A7 Sportback

The second generation Audi A7 Sportback has been carefully but comprehensively updated, with smarter styling, revised engines, a hi-tech all-digital cockpit and a range of intelligent driver assistance systems. It's still a beautifully constructed thing but now offers just that little bit more polish in the face of some very talented rivals.

A7 Sportback buyers choose between four engines. There's a 204PS four cylinder TDI engine in the '40 TDI' version, offered with either front wheel drive or quattro 4WD. Then there's a 340PS 3.0 TFSI petrol unit in the '55 TFSI' variant, which comes mated to a 7-speed S tronic auto gearbox. Many customers though, will want either the 231PS '45 TDI' or the 286PS '50 TDI' variants, both of which use a 3.0-litre diesel using Audi's MHEV mild hybrid technology, this unit mated to 8-speed tiptronic auto transmission. Both six cylinder derivatives feature quattro 4WD and buyers choose between four suspension options, including updated adaptive air suspension that makes the car feel supple and luxurious during cruising without curbing its ability to iron out more challenging roads.

Through the corners, you'll appreciate a new 'Progressive steering' system, which features a ratio that becomes more direct as lock is applied. And for optimal ability through the switchbacks and increased lower-speed manoeuvrability, dynamic all-wheel-steering is also available from the options list, as is the quattro sport differential which actively distributes drive torque between the rear wheels for maximum cornering adjustability.

As usual with Audi models, there's a 'drive select' driving modes system that activates different drive profiles that tweak steering, throttle response, steering feel and ride characteristics. Audi says that this time round, the differentiation between comfort and dynamic options is more pronounced than in the previous model.

With its large surfaces, sharp edges and taut, athletic lines, the second generation A7 Sportback draws inspiration from the Audi prologue concept study that spearheaded the introduction of the latest Audi design language. Like the larger A8 saloon, one of this model's key defining features is a flat light strip which creates a continuous light pattern across the rear.

The digital cabin's completely new and very futuristic, with a sleek instrument panel adding to the feeling of airy spaciousness. Compared with the previous model, interior length has increased by 21 millimetres, resulting in more rear knee room. Rear passengers also enjoy more head room. A three-seat rear bench is standard for UK models, and when its backrest is fully stowed, the luggage compartment capacity expands from 535-litres to a generous 1,390-litres.

As with the A8, the communications hub of this A7 Sportback is Audi's latest MMI touch response' operating package which is based around 10.1-inch upper and 8.6-inch lower touchscreen displays which appear to blend into the dashboard when switched off. The two large, high resolution touch displays replace the rotary controller and satellite button system used by the previous model. They provide haptic and acoustic feedback as confirmation when a fingertip triggers a function.

This second generation Audi A7 Sportback is clearly a car that a massive amount of thought and development budget has been ploughed into. It's a very considered thing, a car which pushes boundaries with its styling and engine technology but which feels reassuringly familiar to drive. The latest model improves the oily bits while at the same time keeping the look fresh and the technology indoors bang up to date.

Every part of this car has been designed with a thoroughness that's deeply impressive, if sometimes rather clinical. Of course, the end result is hardly inexpensive - and you'll need to spend plenty on options to fully sharpen its driving manners. Still, if that's not an issue, then you're likely to find this A7 very desirable indeed. It is perhaps the definitive expression of how Audi wants you to perceive its brand. Not all executive decisions should be difficult. Here's one you should enjoy making.

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