The Great 8 is Back
Words by: Adam Allen
So what have we here?
Feast your eyes on the successor to what some consider among the best BMW models ever made- the 8 series. A little history: it was produced from 1990 to 1999 and was a tremendously beautiful car. If you stepped up to the range topping 850i you’d have had a silky V12 driving the rear wheels, its output channeled by a 6-speed manual gearbox. Fast forward twenty years and the car you see before you can’t match the E31 generation for timeless beauty, but this certainly isn’t something the valets will be reluctant to park front and centre. Automotive design has come a long way in twenty years and parked next to one another the low, sinewy 2019 vintage almost makes the old car look a bit stodgy, as beautiful to behold as it is.
It would be hard to argue that this car will excel at turning heads.
Big, luxury coupes are something of an endangered species these days but they endure for a variety of reasons- one of those is the presence and sense of occasion they impart. While sitting in a traffic jam on Highway 401, it became apparent to us that many sets of eyes were transfixed on the M850i as it inched along, looking properly visceral even at crawling speeds. The elongated hood and short deck proportions are still very relevant as exercises in styling- and the front quarter view of this car, which we think is its most flattering angle, is appropriately spectacular.
The interior is top shelf stuff too.
BMW is slowly updating its entire portfolio with the current exterior and interior design language, and at this moment in time you would be hard pressed to find a better executed example of that than the M850i. If there are any cheap materials or whiffs of cost cutting, we couldn’t find any. These are opulently trimmed environs ideally suited to the business of Grand Touring- expect to find such goodies as comfortable heated and cooled seats, the newest version of iDrive software being showcased on the biggest screen in the BMW arsenal and lovely detail touches like the diamond cut glass of the gear lever. While we lack the proper equipment to verify this claim, when you set up the M850i to its most relaxed settings it could keep pace with its 7-series cousin with respect to just how quiet, comfortable and refined it is.
I can’t wait to take mine to the track and see what this baby can really do!
While you could take this car to a track and have a great time doing so- 523 horsepower is a highly effective augmenter of fun- that isn’t going to be where the M850i is happiest. Those expecting a sports car will come away a bit disillusioned, but those looking for an incredible machine to facilitate the aforementioned Grand Touring thing will be right at home. The M850i has incredible turn of speed, an astute gearbox,tireless brakes and huge grip and is the perfect instrument for turning long distances between two points into short ones whilst being cocooned in decadent comfort. The xDrive AWD system- rear biased, by the way, so you won’t have to contend with soul-crushing understeer in the bends- means we Canadians can make the most of this car’s talents 365 days per year. The main competitors the M850i must do battle with are the Mercedes Benz S-Class Coupe and Bentley’s recently updated Continental GT, but you should know that the 8 is vastly more entertaining to drive than either one of those. A bonus: it’s $130,800 asking price is something of a bargain in comparison- it costs $25,300 less than a base model Benz and a knee-buckling $235,971 less dear than the Bentley.
What might go wrong?
We’ll start with the M850i’s looks. Not one person will deny that this car exudes that textbook big coupe swagger, but we’re seeing more fake vents and aggressive scythes on the bodywork which really aren’t necessary- one onlooker remarked how the rear end in particular looks a bit over styled. It doesn’t offer the rear legroom necessary to take along 2 other occupants on your province-smashing drive across our vast country and similarly, trunk space isn’t going to be classified as cavernous.
Should I buy an M850i?
There is no doubt in our mind that there is a captive audience for this car- however, if one of those folks is expecting the M850i to be a bonafide sports car, they’re barking up the wrong tree. This is a big, heavy thing and feels it, despite the very stout V8 churning out massive thrust. If your commute involves engaging, sinuous tarmac you would probably better served by say, a Porsche 911, or even BMW’s own M5. The M850i is most at home relishing in its role of an all-weather land based cruise missile, capable of swallowing vast amounts of kilometers in comfort and speed. BMW itself says that this is ‘the Gentleman’s Racer’ and we couldn’t have summed it up any better ourselves.
2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe– Specifications
- Price as tested: $130,800
- Body Type: 2-door, 2+2 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 4.4-litre twin turbo V8, DOHC, 32 valves
- Horsepower: 523 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 553 @ 1,800 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,996 kg (4,400 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Economy: 12.5/100km (19 mpg)