Since the mid-00s the Germans have been trying to out-niche each other. We’ve got four door coupes, SUV coupes, and whatever the BMW 5 Series GT was meant to be. It’s getting out of control. Now we’re presented with the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe, a four door coupe based on a ‘regular’ 2 door coupe based on an old fashioned four-door sedan. Still with me?
Gone are the days when an 8-Series stood for a rather handsome range topping coupe in BMW’s lineup. Instead we now have no less than three different body styles for the one model and a dizzying array of engine choices, trim levels, and optional packages. The one I have here is the M850i Gran Coupe. You can’t have the 850i without the M in the beginning of its name so you’re stuck with the sort of M car lite. To see what it’s like I took it on an appropriately grand tour north of Tokyo deep in the mountains of Saitama Prefecture.
Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the M850i Gran Coupe.
Five Things I Like About The BMW M850i Gran Coupe
Very capable grand tourer
It does what it says on the tin perfectly well. It’s a very good long distance cruiser. You could happily cover great distances in this thing for days on end without too many complaints. The ride is teetering on the firm side, sure, but it’s forgiving and dampens bumps well. It balances the fine line of sporty and comfort much better than the M5 for example.
The 4.4-litre twin V8 is a peach of an engine. With 390kW and 750NM of torque on tap you really don’t need much more than this. It pulls like a freight train and has so much flexibility in the real world, it’s just a shame you can’t hear more of it.
The ZF 8-speed auto is excellent
That engine paired with the only transmission available, an 8-speed ZF auto, is a match made in Bavarian heaven. These ZF 8 speeds are getting really good and in BMW tune are one of the best autos in the business. The shifts are seamless, you barely feel them when left to their own devices and in manual mode offer near-DCT levels of response.
Surprising amount of rear leg room
For a “four-door coupe” the 8GC has a surprising amount of space in the back. I could comfortably sit behind my own driving position for a couple hours as the 8GC ate up miles. Headroom was a bit more of an issue due to the sloping roofline but hey, if you wanted more space you’d just get a 5 Series. If you’re looking at an 8GC you clearly want style. But at least with this you get style and some substance too.
I’m a sucker for matrix headlights
That’s all. The matrix headlights in this car are cool.
Handsome looking thing
Given the current state of BMW design, the M850i Gran Coupe is a handsome car by all means. It’s got most of the traditional BMW styling cues; quad angel eyes, appropriately sized kidney grilles, L shaped taillights, and blatantly obvious rear-wheel drive proportions. It’s certainly their least offensive car on sale right now. I just wish it had a Hofmeister kink.
Five Things I Dislike About The BMW M850i Gran Coupe
Awful fake noise
It didn’t even seem like BMW tried to hide the fact the noise coming into the cabin is fake. It sounded like I was driving around in a simulator of a BMW. Which is frustrating because from the outside the noise from that wonderful V8 is so much better than the rubbish being piped through the speakers.
Shiny centre console
Under direct sunlight (even with the sunroof shade closed) the damn thing kept blinding to the point of it actually being dangerous. Who approved the use of shiny knobs and dials on the centre console. It’s dumb.
Middle seat is useless
Almost as dumb, it should be said, as the middle seat. Sure they can call this a 4+1 all they like but I’d rather do away with the useless pretend seat altogether and make the two rear seats more comfortable. Throw in a massive armrest there or something.
This is a stupidly pricey car. At $271,990 it’s more expensive than both an Audi RS7 (which is more powerful) and AMG GT 53 4 Door which is more exclusive as it doesn’t have two other body styles to get confused with. I want to know who in their right mind would pick this over the superior RS7, or better yet, the RS6?
Someone forgot to program the fun
Just don’t mistake this for a sports car or an ultimate driving machine by any means. At a smidgen over two tonnes this is no E30 M3. In fact, at a smidgen over two tonnes it weighs as much as most SUVs. You’d think that would make this feel like Boaty McBoatface around corners but it doesn’t. It eats up curves surprisingly well. That sleek body and lower centre of gravity and rear wheel steering means it is rather agile for such a heavy thing. But it’s not what you’d call fun or engaging. On some of the twisty roads I took it to I just knew if I was in an older BMW or even a M2 I would’ve had more fun. This just isn’t a fun sporty car. What is, is a very capable and very serious gran tourer.