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First drive: BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW M850i xDrive Coupe
BMW reckons its new GT is impressive enough to warrant rejuvenating the 8 Series badge. Well, is it?

 



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BMW M850i xDrive Coupe

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

BMW's new 8 Series Coupe arrives with a bang in the form of the distinctly sporting M850i xDrive model. It's almost good enough to warrant full 'M8' status, though it brilliantly manages to mix everyday usability and refinement with its manic M-fuelled alter-ego. As sporty GT cars go, this is certainly one to watch.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW M850i xDrive Coupe
Pricing: 100,045 on-the-road as tested; starts at 76,270
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, '2+2' coupe
CO2 emissions: 221-224g/km (VED Band 191-225: 1,760 in year one) *
Combined economy: 28.8-29.1mpg*
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Power: 530hp at 5,500-6,000rpm
Torque: 750Nm at 1,800-4,600rpm
Boot space: 420 litres
*: figures are quoted in NEDC-correlated from WLTP data

What's this?

Only the second generation of BMW 8 Series ever made. The first (1989-1999) is already a coveted modern classic and between them sat the BMW 6 Series, but the German company wanted to move its GT further up the automotive ladder, hence the switch to using the 8 Series name once more. Here we drive the two-door coupe, though BMW has already confirmed that Convertible and four-door Gran Coupe body styles will be added to the range in 2019.

In terms of models at launch, buyers choose between the 840d and the M850i driven here. Both use a new development of BMW's xDrive four-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic gearbox. The 840d is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six, delivering up to 320hp and 680Nm of torque, enabling a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph. It costs from 76,270 on-the-road, returns 46.3mpg on the combined cycle and emits 160g/km.

Until the BMW M8 arrives next year (in all three body styles...), the range-topper will be the M850i. Under its bonnet is a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8, which is massively different from the engine of the same layout employed by the BMW M5 (among others). Consider it a starting point for future installations, but it's hardly underwhelming with 530hp and 750Nm to its name. It helps catapult the 1,900kg coupe to 62mph from rest in just 3.7 seconds after all.

Both cars come with 20-inch alloy wheels on mixed size tyres, Integral Active Steer (four-wheel steering), M Sport brakes, LED lights front and rear, the fancy new two-screen BMW Live Cockpit Professional, climate control, adaptive damping, Bluetooth and a lot more, including the M Aerodynamic package. The M850i additionally gets a sport exhaust system with active flaps and an electronically-controlled M Sport differential, plus a few aesthetic changes.

The carbon fibre detailing on the test cars, incidentally, are part of the optional M Carbon exterior package, which doesn't include the M Carbon roof, the first time such a thing has been available on a non-pure-M car. That options list is long and tempting, allowing buyers to upgrade most aspects of the car to their preference and budget. If money is 'tight', you might want to wait for the proper entry-level variant, expected to be called the 840i and using a turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol engine sending power to the rear wheels only.

How does it drive?

One item of the BMW M850i's technical specification defines the car more than any other and that's the Integral Active Steer. It's not a new idea, not even new to BMW, but it has been deployed brilliantly in the 8 Series. By way of reminder, this system turns the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds, maintaining stability in fast corners and during manoeuvres such as lane-changes. That stabilising effect at speed allows BMW to fit a more direct steering rack to the front (it's a variable ratio and assistance item), so the car agile in the corners. That's enhanced at lower speeds by turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts, effectively shortening the wheelbase and making the 8 Series feel more compact than it is. It's a boon on the road and also while parking or negotiating tight city streets.

The beauty of this system in the 8 Series is that you don't feel it at work - it's seamless in operation, allowing you to just enjoy the drive. And there's more goodness too. Adaptive damping is standard for a start, and it's very well-judged, living up to the Comfort name in that default setting, allowing the wheels to move into potholes and over bumps smoothly. The firmness ramps up noticeably in Sport and Sport Plus modes, but it's never harsh or uncouth.

Yet BMW clearly intended to offer drivers a distinctly sporty side to the car. The Sport mode represents a noticeable sharpening up of all the systems (throttle response, gearchange speed and timing, damping, rear differential operation, exhaust), and it's probably the setting we'd choose by default, as it makes the car feel more alive and fun, without encroaching too much on its comfort and refinement. Press the Sport button again to switch into Sport Plus, however, and things get very interesting. The exhaust sets the tone by crackling and popping on the overrun in a gratuitous manner and the transmission plays along by holding onto revs much longer than is necessary - and also by dropping a gear or two every time you brake a little. It's perhaps a little too eager in that regard, which makes us grateful that BMW still allows a fully-manual mode of operation of the gearbox. It's otherwise a sublime unit, incidentally, creamy-smooth in normal operation and fast to respond to manual inputs.

The M850i's limits are, unsurprisingly, very high, though a few laps on a wet-but-drying race circuit allowed us find them and experiment with the car as we couldn't have on the road. We discovered fantastic balance, whether scything into the apex of a slow-speed corner or clipping kerbs flat-out through some of the faster kinks. Stability under braking was rock solid and the brakes themselves were unfazed by six hard-driven laps keeping up with a BMW M5 'pace car'. We know that few buyers will bring this car on track, but it coped well regardless. Scratch that; it didn't only cope, it was a lot of fun. The xDrive system is designed to retain BMW's usual rear-drive feel and only when trying to deploy all of the engine's output while exiting damp second-gear corners was it noticeably sending power to the front wheels.

Despite the use of a 'Carbon Core' and aluminium in the body and structure, the M850i still knocks on the door of two tonnes, which is a shame, but to be fair, it controls all that mass so well that it rarely feels like a big and heavy car.

Verdict

This BMW M850i version of the new 8 Series specifically rivals AMG versions of the Mercedes S-Class Coupe and even the Porsche 911 Turbo, but it's subtly different to both. It offers GT buyers a car that truly mixes continent-crushing comfort and refinement with engaging dynamics and a seriously sporty side when required. It's a special car, that's for sure.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 24 Oct 2018









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2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.

2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe. Image by BMW.








 

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