Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: November 5, 2019
In addition to the coupe and cabriolet, BMW is expanding the 8 Series portfolio with the Gran Coupe, a fancy term for a four-door coupe-like sedan with a sloping roofline, four seats, and grand touring attributes. BMW says everything from the windscreen back is brand new to the Gran Coupe, along with its 200 mm longer wheelbase and ducktail shaped trunk lid. The rear track has also been widened, giving it the widest hips of any BMW automobile. Much of that was to expand interior volume to comfortably fit four adults and as such, BMW expects more than half of 8 Series sales to come with four doors.
Like the 6 Series that preceded it, the M850i Gran Coupe carries the visual charm of a low-slung aerodynamic cruiser, and that elongated shape and appealing rear end really balances out the proportions, stretching the silhouette and making it easier and softer on the eyes than the coupe. Oh, and there are laser headlights too.
With an extensive outward view and a generously equipped cabin, the M850i interior gives off an upscale vibe. It may not appear as ritzy as an AMG GT 4-Door or as simplistic as an Audi RS7, but there’s no denying the functionality that went behind the meticulous design. There are hard buttons everywhere, leaving nothing to haptic touch like so many of its competitors. BMW has kept the array of eight programmable shortcut buttons as well. They join the liberally leather-wrapped steering wheel and metallic chiseled Bowers and Wilkins speaker covers on the door panels. The contrasting leather colours make for a nice visual too.
Technically there are five available seats, but do you really want to put someone in that middle seat without anywhere for them to put their feet? That rear center console with dedicated buttons for heating and ventilation will not make things easy for them. Squeezing two passengers back there is much more manageable, though the sloping roofline will force six-footers to slouch their back to avoid a hair redo. Legroom is pretty good and there is even a dedicated sunroof for the rear compartment. Much like the 7 Series, there are electronically operated rear and side sunshades, with only the rear one operable from the front seats. That said, it does lack some features found in BMW’s halo sedan, like two-panel adjustable backrests and massaging seats. On the bright side, the 8 Series gets that swanky crystal gear shifter that you won’t find in other BMW sedans.
Without diving into too much detail about the infotainment system, we can say it’s one of the leading units in the segment. Utilizable with both touchscreen, rotary dial, and motion-detected Gesture Control, the system is not only easy to use, but if you have driven any modern BMW of late, you will feel right at home here. We have constantly criticized BMW’s digital instrument cluster with its hard-to-read fonts and non-linear gauges, but turns out there is a remedy. Dive into the vehicle settings and you will find an option for ‘Reduced Mode’ that streamlines the entire instrument cluster so that the only thing displaying are the outlines of the tachometer, speedometer, gear position, and the speed. The head up display handles the rest of the infotainment, leaving you with a crisp and clean clutter-free view.
Aside from the upcoming hardcore M8, the Gran Coupe is only available in one spec, the M850i xDrive. Other markets will receive an inline-six-powered 840i but it was apparently never a popular option for Canadians, so they axed it. The M850i receives a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. An 8-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels, but the most amazing feat about this powertrain is how the V8 produces peak torque right at 1,800 rpm, so you can ride that boost all day long until plateauing at 4,600 rpm, covering the area that drivers spend the majority of their time. And while we have seen 4.4-litres of displacement before from BMW’s V8 engines, engineers have promised this unit has been redesigned and improved in a multitude of ways, addressing prior cooling concerns and reliability issues. As such, the dual twin-scroll turbochargers are still located within the V-shaped space of the cylinder banks, along with variable camshaft timing and variable valve control.
To those who don’t care for the nerdy talk, all you need to know is that the M850i xDrive Gran Coupe is one smooth and scintillating cruise missile. Hammer the throttle in any gear and the intelligent 8-speed will hastily wake from its slumber and slot you into the optimal cog, bursting forward with Saturn V levels of propulsion. Fast four-door sedans are nothing new - we’ve tested the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe and even the Porsche Panamera Turbo, but the M850i certainly doesn’t feel any slower, hitting 0-100 km/h in an impressive 3.7 seconds, rivaling dedicated sports cars like the Jaguar F-Type SVR and Mercedes-AMG GT C. It begs the question if the upcoming M8 Competition will feel any faster or any more powerful than this model, but going by its 0-100 km/h time of 3.2 seconds, we believe that this V8 engine has yet to hit its peak potential.
Not only is the M850i a riot in a straight line but it also lets out an exhilarating V8 rumble, justifying that pseudo M badge that is so liberally slabbed onto every nook and cranny. It rotates with agility and precision as well, belying its long proportions. Rear wheel steering and an impressive adaptive suspension pay dividends in that department. The M850i may not win any track awards or carve corners like an AMG GT 4-Door or Panamera, but it rides like a true grand tourer, soaking up bumps on the road and melting them without disturbing occupants. The steering and suspension are just too remote and distant for the 8 Series to feel decidedly sporty. That said, the ride control is sublime and transforms the M850i into one of the most comfortable sedans this side of a Mercedes S-Class.
And if the S-Class is a tightly fitted black tuxedo, then the M850i Gran Coupe is a sport jacket, allowing the wearer to be more athletic, taut, and move at a quicker and more agile pace without sacrificing aesthetics. If ferrying around back seat passengers is a seldom occurrence, I would take this 8 Series over the 7 Series any day of the week for its sleeker silhouette alone. The Audi RS7 is a compelling rival with a usable hatchback liftgate and similar levels of propulsion, and the same goes for the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4-Door. While each one of them are proud of their track credentials and power outputs, it’s the M850i that feels more at home on long stretches of road. We can’t stress enough just how smooth the powertrain is, demonstrating a cohesive marriage between engine, gearbox, chassis, and tire. The M850i does not drive like Part A and Part B have simply been glued together. Instead they feel like they were built together from the beginning, and are a honeypot of combustion delivering meaty low-end torque with a titillating soundtrack to match. Stick it into Comfort Mode where the springs soften, the muscular V8 relaxes, and the mood turns hypotensive. It’s at this pace that the M850i shines as a regal grand tourer with an insatiable appetite for cruising and turning heads wherever it goes.
Model: 2020 BMW M850i xDrive Gran Coupe
Paint Type: Black Sapphire Metallic
Base Price: $121,600
Price as Tested: $134,000
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 523 hp @ 5,500 - 6,000 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.4