The new 8 Series is brimming with bling and driving sparkle, especially in M850i xDrive guise
Photos: BMW, Uwe Fischer
This is the new BMW 8 Series, and it marks Munich’s sporty return to the grand touring coupe segment.
Well, not that is was really away. Or it was, and then it wasn’t.
The role used to be taken up by the 6 Series, but that’s evolved into the current fourth-generation 6 Series Gran Turismo’s (or 6 GT) eminently practical proportions.
The last time BMW pulled out an ‘8’, it was in the 1990s and almost 19 years ago. It included the legendary 850CSi, an M car that wasn’t (badged as one), with a V12 and all-wheel steering too. Obviously this is where BMW gets the ‘M850i’ name from.
We should add that at the time we drove the M850i xDrive, BMW has not categorically confirmed the current 6 will not be available in Coupe/Convertible/Gran Coupe iterations, it’s obvious that the 8er is the coupe that now handles luxurious sports car duty for Munich.
Moreover, we’re told the 8 Series will spawn Convertible and Gran Coupe variants, in addition to the Coupe we tried, as well as a fire-breathing, full-fat M8 – the car here is the slightly lesser M Performance version, the M 850i xDrive.
If the current 6 GT is a mild-mannered reporter, the 8 is its muscular superhero alter-ego, bling bits, storming performance and all.
Carbonfibre is the stuff of sportscars and motorsports, and there’s a good amount of the stuff on the car, both inside and out.
For starters, the M850i’s optional contoured carbonfibre roof will be a familiar sight to fans of the M6 (the second gen V10-engined E63 Coupe and F06/F13 Coupe/Gran Coupe had something similar).
Our test-car also featured the optional M Carbon exterior package, with air-intake slats, wing-mirror covers, rear gurney boot-lid and rear diffuser in the gorgeous stuff.
Another ‘precious’ bit of bling inside includes a ‘crystal’ gear-shifter as part of the optional ‘glass applications’, while a newly-positioned starter-button sits beside the shifter, just like on the new Z4.
WATCH MORE: Here’s our video tour of the inside of the BMW M850i xDrive
BMW is eager for the lurid orange M850i to impress us as a thoroughbred sportscar, hence the track-drive at the 4.182km Estoril Circuit.
It is an agile performer that handles like a car smaller than its actual proportions and 1.9-tonne kerbweight, thanks in part to the Integral Active Steering, the latest all-wheel steering system that debuted on the current 7 Series.
Apart from endowing it with long-wheelbase stability at high speeds, it also has the effect of creating a ‘virtual short wheelbase’, where the rear-wheels steer in the opposite direction to the front wheels at speeds of up to 88km/h (up from the standard 72km/h in our preferred Sport/Sport+ driving modes), which contributes to its nimble handling on the tight winding roads.
However, the M850i xDrive packs a humongous 750Nm punch of torque from just 1800rpm, and that goes some way towards explaining the car’s four-wheel drivetrain as ‘safety-net’.
The latest M5 boasts a similar torque figure, and is also 4WD, but we should qualify the M5’s sophisticated drivetrain system can be configured to be wholly rear-driven, but not the M850i’s xDrive system.
The V8 heart of the M850i is touted as ‘all-new’ and features ‘hot-in-V’ turbochargers – it even features a higher compression ratio compared to the latest M5.
Interestingly, the M850i is about 40kg lighter than the M5, which can be attributed to the former’s use of aluminium and lightweight composites for suspension and body-parts, as well as the brand’s ‘Carbon Core’ chassis technology, which is also employed in the 7 Series.
It feels pleasantly rigid and light on its feet, even during quick direction changes, because the combination of quick-steering, rear-wheel-steer, big biturbo’d torque and adaptive M suspension makes light work of winding roads.
On the straights, forward propulsion is as stupendous and exhilarating as you’d expect for a car that’ll dispatch the 100km/h sprint from standstill in well under four seconds, but what’s surprising is how reactive and engaging it feels in the corners.
Around the Estoril Circuit, the 8 is surprisingly playful, and you can easily adjust its composure with the throttle, with the four-wheel-drive working to pull you out of long sweepers. Though not ceramic, the brakes offer powerful stopping power, with good pedal feel to boot, so it’s easy to modulate into the corners.
Where the 8 Series sits in terms of its competition is a little less clear. On paper, a grand touring coupe like this could compete with anything from a Jaguar F-Type to a Bentley Continental GT, or even any Porsche 911 in a similar price bracket.
To our mind, the closest competition would be the Maserati Gran Turismo – if it wasn’t so dated by now. Still, that combination of exciting design and naturally-aspirated engine can also be found in the Lexus LC 500.
READ MORE: Lexus LC 500 – the sexiest Lexus around with a high-revving heart
Those enamoured of Lexus’s now very sporty offerings and don’t require a Bavarian roundel on the key-fob for validation might look towards the LC 500 as a contender, particularly with its charismatic and very vocal naturally-aspirated, five-litre V8 and a similarly agile chassis – not to mention carbonfibre roof and rear-steer system.
At time of writing, we’re told the M850i will be priced under S$600k before COE and options, while the LC 500 falls just shy of S$550k all in. Like the BMW, the two-seats in the back of the Lexus are best left for the young’uns, although it might serve in a pinch for adults on short trips.
Despite the ‘8’ moniker, it’s not a Coupe derivative of the 7 Series in the same way the larger S-Class Coupe is of Mercedes-Benz’s flagship S-Class. However, even in S 63 AMG guise, the Merc behemoth is more comfortable and commodious, as it exudes decidedly plush, sports tourer vibes in contrast to the 8’s sportscar aspirations.
So, as far as superhero identities go, the M850i’s potent performance, incisive reflexes and carefully crafted aesthetics create a compelling enough aura for BMW’s latest sports Coupe.
BMW M850i xDrive
|Engine||4,395cc, V8, twin-turbo|
|Power||530hp at 5500-6000rpm|
|Torque||750Nm at 1800-4600rpm|
|VES Band / CO2||TBC / 223g/km|
|Agent||Performance Munich Automobiles|
|Price||Est. <S$600k (w/o options or COE)|