The good news is that BMW heard all the years of griping from their most diehard fans. The bad news is that the seemingly spectacular return of the legendary 8 Series comes with a spectacular price tag. The model’s return places a renewed emphasis on driver enjoyment, with powerful all-wheel-drive performance and plenty of contemporary technology enveloped in a sleek sports coupe.
BMW’s purpose with the 8 Series is to resurrect the kind of driver-friendly performance that seemed to steadily wane in the last decade or so of their designs, and pair that enjoyment with blatantly future-facing design work. The exterior of the 8 Series clearly draws from the 6 Series Coupe that it replaces, with smooth lines, kidney grilles, and a raked profile. In terms of overall dimensions, the 8 Series is shorter, wider, and lower than its predecessor — all good signs for drivers hoping to find a sports car at their BMW dealer.
Large front air scoops hint at the drivetrain hidden beneath a long hood, while BMW’s recent side vent design has continued through this iteration. At the rear, large integrated exhaust tips combine with a relatively tame diffuser to continue the smoothness of the overall design.
Three-quarter windows behind the doors curve inwards to meet the rear window above aggressive haunches more in line with the spirit of power the car seeks to inhabit. The slightest of double bubble roofs (optionally available constructed out of carbon fiber) further points to the brand’s, and this specific model’s, racing lineage. Angular LED headlights, two-tone rearview mirrors, and sleek taillights round out the exterior’s statement that BMW has returned to the form and function of its earlier years.
Drivetrain & Mechanicals
At the heart of the 8 Series, a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 has been modified from its other uses (in the M5 and the potentially forthcoming M8) to produce 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque - with the latter available way down at only 1,800 RPM. BMW’s renewed commitment to performance at any cost means the M850i’s massive power figures will be routed to all four wheels through a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. (In the modern era, BMW purists hoping for a stick shift will have to recognize the sheer speed of shifting that today’s transmissions bring to the table.) A sprint to 60 miles per hour should take the 4,478-pound coupe only 3.6 seconds, on the way to a computer-limited top speed of 155 miles per hour.
Though outright power and speed have seen significant gains for the 8 Series relative to its 6 Series forebears, the real improvements that point towards a new ethos come in the form of suspension modifications. Adaptive dampers have fewer comfort-oriented settings, and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential comes standard at the rear axle. Extensive use of aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber (with plenty more carbon fiber available at additional cost) helps to keep the entire car taught, as do an industry-leading set of active sway bars to help minimize body lean in the tight twisties.
Interior & Technology
The M850i’s interior sets it apart as BMW’s new flagship model, further helping to justify an enormous price leap over the outgoing 6 Series. Dual tone leather seats, carbon fiber accents, and a 16-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system envelop the driver and passenger (and maybe two small children in the small, folding rear seats). Climate and infotainment comes by way of a 12.3-inch touchscreen, while the instrument cluster is a digital 10.25-inch display.
BMW’s latest cars have steadily improved on the user interface with the extensive technology that today’s cars rely upon. A driving mode selector allows for changes to the chassis control, steering settings, engine performance, and even engine sound. Driver’s aids include automatic safety braking for pedestrians and cars, including an alert whenever the car’s computer detects a bicyclist nearby. The car can also pick up speed limit information, announce No Passing zones, and an optional package allows for lane control and pedestrian evasion maneuvers.
PREVIOUSLY: BMW 8 SERIES WILL BE AT LE MANS
Pricing & Buying
As BMW’s flagship sports coupe, at least until the M8 hits—eportedly slated for summer of 2019—the M850i sure costs a pretty penny. Base models will start at $111,900 excluding destination fees and, of course, options packages. Those extra checkboxes will be certain to quickly bring higher-spec iterations well above $130,000. For context, the 6 Series started just below $80,000.
The M850i will go on sale later in summer, with deliveries expected to begin in early December. The European market will receive a diesel-powered version, while domestically convertible and four-door Gran Coupe iterations are expected to follow, as well.
The M850i xDrive slots in at a higher price point than an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which even in its highest optioned form barely cracks $100,000. Mercedes-Benz figures into the mix with the SL550 at around $90,000 or the elegant Mercedes-AMG GT coupe, which starts at $112,000. Straight up competition between the models becomes difficult, as we’re not quite at Porsche Turbo level until the M8 debuts, but no other options at the M850i’s price point power all four wheels.
NEXT: BMW I8-ROADSTER REVIEW