Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware
-Lyrics to Red Barchetta by Rush
As told in the rock band Rush's timeless classic "Red Barchetta," nary a man alive can resist the allure of a gorgeously engineered and well-appointed sports car — those four-wheeled vessel (not vestal) virgins of rapturous velocity that carry us back to a freer vanished youth.
Alas, if you own a sports car — specially a red one — and are anywhere north of your forties, you would probably have it paid off if you got a dollar for every time your wife or others accused you of a midlife crisis.
No tongue is more venomous than the one that tells an aging man that he is the living cliché of an aging man.
Alas, if you own a sports car — especially a red one — and are anywhere north of your forties, you would probably have it paid off if you got a dollar for every time your wife or others accused you of a midlife crisis.
Enter the antidote: The 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe that launched at this year's Geneva Motor Show to directly compete with the Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class in the four-door executive coupé market.
Historically, the coupé label for automobiles owes its name to 19th century four-wheel horse drawn carriages that had seats cut-out (hence the French verb couper meaning "to cut") leaving only the two-person forward facing seat inside the carriage.
While commonly used to describe a two-door sports car, the four-door coupé usage works just fine so long as it is assigned to a car that could never be accused of looking or behaving like a pokey sedan.
I recently test drove the very first BMW 2013 640i Gran Coupe to hit downtown Houston's sweltering, nearly molten streets. A rocket ride painted in the color of Imola Red, presumably named after the ancient fortress and town in north-central Italy.
In the words of the BMW 600 series creator, Nader Faghihzadeh, "its surfaces are inspired by the idea of an object cutting straight through a liquid medium and imagining the lines and forms that would be created in the process."
Fair enough, but let me expand on that. On the outside, its contours seem fashioned by the alignment of two grand geometric planes: one adrenaline, the other masculine. On the inside, it is like a refined mobile men's club where members happily welcome periodic visits by wives, children and friends.
My salesman, Advantage BMW Midtown's Kamal Mortada, asked where I wanted to go with this shiny new work of art. As a soccer fan who followed the UEFA EURO 2012, I suggested that we drive out to the Houston Dynamo's new BBVA Compass Stadium to kick the tires and turn some heads while cruising the pre-game day scene. Mortada, a retired big-time midfielder for one of Lebanon's national soccer teams, was more than happy to oblige.
On the inside, it is like a refined mobile men's club where members happily welcome periodic visits by wives, children and friends.
When something completely new becomes instantly familiar upon first touch — as if you've known it for years — you know something special has been achieved. That is how it felt driving the Gran Coupe; like I had always driven it, with all the muscle, man-hours and magic behind it done with only me in mind.
In other words, when I said "jump" it asked "how high?"
At a $76,000 base, this sweet ride was fully loaded with head-up display, navigation, 20" double-spoke wheels, a luxury seating package and knocked out M sports package that pushed the sticker price just past a weighty $100,000.
So if you want the intersection of great form with great function, then stand ready to pay for it. And keep it real because you're not buying a car, you're investing in an experience.
Its negatives are the bumps. The faster the eight-speed automatic 3.0 Liter turbo engine hurls you with its 315 hp and 330 lb-ft torque, the more you will feel the rough spots on any street or highway.
Other critics may report that the 640 rides pretty much like a 500 series. As an owner of a 2012 528i, I cannot agree, although a bang-for-the-buck argument might be made when comparing the 535i to the 640i.
To me, the Gran Coupe without question handles faster, tighter and finer than any BMW 500 or 700 series sedan. But if soft and cuddly is what you are after, then a traditional sedan may be the way to go.
Bottom line: The 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe is a car that artfully balances executive elegance and thrilling maneuverability with the practicalities of work and family life.
Its four-door readiness can take the wife and up to three kids across town or state as comfortably as it can pick up a distinguished guest at the airport or arrive in style with your team at an important business lunch or foursome golf outing. Plus, the back seats fold down to open into the trunk resulting in an impressive capacity to haul stuff.
Whereas a two-door coupe may have been met with a spousal snicker or kid frown, this 4+1 gem is certain to receive wife/kid approval. As proof, I offer the "thumbs up!" I received from a woman in a car next to us at a stop light near the stadium.
When we returned to the dealership, I was like a kid at the end of his favorite roller coaster ride, I wanted to go again. Mortada smiled knowingly while I reluctantly let go of what had become "my" steering wheel.
He followed with a comforting, "You know, the new 650i Gran Coupe will be arriving soon . . . I'll give you a call." It felt like a line straight out of Casablanca, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Of course, I didn't ask about BMW's first M6 Gran Coupe to be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September. I might have added, "We'll always have Paris."