by Karl Furlong
When BMW revived the 8 Series badge in 2018, it immediately conjured up nostalgic memories of the first-generation's pop-up headlights, silky smooth V12, and effortlessly cool design. The new 8 Series Coupe is also a luxurious grand coupe packed with the best of the marque's technologies and materials. Being a BMW, though, it isn't an all-out luxury cruiser like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe; rather, the 8 Series was designed to be both sharp to drive quickly, and a serene cross-country cruiser. It's here that the 8 Series' mission gets a bit hazy, because while it has magnificent engines (a barnstorming 523-horsepower in the case of the M850i), a supremely built cabin, and a great chassis, it's neither as opulent as the aforementioned Mercedes, nor as engaging as a Jaguar F-Type or Porsche 911. A slightly muddled identity aside, the 8 Series is a spectacular coupe that combines many of BMW's strengths into a high-end package that many will lust after.
Initially only available in V8 form as the M850i, BMW has expanded the 8 Series Coupe lineup for 2020 with the addition of the six-cylinder 840i and 840i xDrive, lowering the starting price to below six figures. Both 840i models use the same 335-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged engine - the 840i sends power exclusively to the rear wheels while the 840i features all-wheel-drive. Equipment levels between the 840i and M850i are similar, with both getting leather seats, BMW's Laserlight system, and a head-up display.
As BMW's flagship two-door coupe, the 8 Series needs to differentiate itself from models like the 4 Series Coupe. For the most part, it succeeds - the 8 Series' ultra-slim LED headlights and large kidney grille create an imposing facade, while the slim taillights and broad, muscular proportions work well. The 840i has 18-inch V-spoke alloy wheels, chrome-line exterior trim, power-folding mirrors, and a panoramic moonroof. With an 'M' in its name, it figures that the M850i is the recipient of sportier adornments like 20-inch alloy wheels, an aerodynamic kit, an M rear spoiler, and Shadowline exterior trim.
Although the 8 Series Coupe is often touted as a rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, the 'Benz is actually a full seven inches longer than the BMW, but the two are more closely matched in other key dimensions. The BMW 840i is 191.1 inches long, 74.9 inches wide excluding the side mirrors (84.1 inches wide including the side mirrors), and 52.8 inches in height. The M850i is marginally taller (53 inches) and longer (191.2 inches) than the 840i. The wheelbase measures 111.1 inches (4.8 inches less than the Mercedes), and while both Germans aren't spacious at the back, the BMW definitely suffers more with almost no rear legroom to speak of. In terms of curb weight, the 840i tops out at 3,933 pounds, increasing to 4,081 lbs for the 840i xDrive and topping out at 4,478 lbs for the M850i. The latter is still 262 lbs lighter than the comparable Mercedes S560 4Matic coupe.
Over ten colors are available for the 8 Series. Sonic Speed Blue is the only non-metallic choice, while metallics include Carbon Black, Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Sunset Orange, Bluestone, Blue Ridge Mountain, and Barcelona Blue. At $1,950 extra, you can choose between exclusive metallic shades like Dravit Grey, Tanzanite Blue II, and Aventurin Red. The priciest option is the $5,000 Frozen Bluestone Metallic. The M850i can also be had in Alpine White, a color that actually contrasts brilliantly with the darker M trim and Cerium Grey alloy wheels that are standard on this trim.
Every 8 Series delivers potent straight-line acceleration. In the case of the rear-wheel-drive 840i, its 3.0-liter 335-horsepower turbocharged inline-six engine also produces 368 lb-ft of torque, enough to see off zero to 60 in just 4.7 seconds. With improved traction, the all-wheel-drive 840i xDrive does the same sprint in 4.4 seconds, while both will reach a top speed of 155 mph when equipped with performance tires and a raised top-speed limiter. The M850i xDrive provides near-supercar performance, reaching 60 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds, thanks to its 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Both the 840i and M850i make the most of their power outputs, and provide performance that's near the top of the segment at their respective price points.
Both of the 8 Series engines are refined, smooth, and powerful. The 840i's 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder unit is one of the most extensively used in BMW's entire range, and for good reason. The TwinPower engine produces 335 hp and 368 lb-ft and features variable valve control, along with high-precision direct injection. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission with launch control and paddle shifters - this transmission is widely recognized as one of the best in the world thanks to its smooth, quick shifts. The 4.4-liter V8 turbo in the M850i is a beast, delivering peak outputs of 523 hp and a meaty 553 lb-ft - the latter figure identical to that of the BMW M8. It's also paired with an eight-speed automatic.
Both power plants get the big coupe up to speed without breaking a sweat, and each makes a refined snarl while doing so - although there is something particularly special about the V8's roar from the sport exhaust system. The M850i's turn of speed is magnificent and will make you question the need for the even more powerful M8. There is ample passing power in both models and the eight-speed 'box always seems to be in the right gear. In short, you can hardly do better than these two exemplary powertrains.
Able to switch between grand tourer and a corner-carving sports car at will, the 8 Series offers a neat balance between these two spectrums. Three driving modes can be selected: Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport, each catering to various needs. Although not quite as wafty as the S-Class Coupe, the 8 Series still rides really comfortably when Comfort mode is selected, soaking up bumps and rougher surfaces with composure. It's a car that prefers space to do its best work, so high-speed cross-country drives see the BMW most in its element.
The steering system is responsive and accurate, and especially in the M850i, feedback through the helm and via the chassis is better than has been the case on some other modern BMWs. It doesn't match a Porsche 911 in this respect as the 8 Series is still quite isolating, but it's also a lot more involving than the S-Class coupe. In xDrive models, more power is sent to the rear wheels so you never entirely lose that RWD feeling. When Sport mode is activated, the traction control system is a bit less conservative, and you'll need to be paying attention in the wet, whereas Comfort mode is always incredibly secure. The xDrive models' four-wheel steering (integral active steering) also helps to make the coupe feel more agile and stable, but overall, BMW has done a fantastic job of masking the car's size. It also helps that refinement is top-notch - wind and road noise are well suppressed. While some have criticized the 8 Series for not being exciting enough, this is ultimately more of a grand tourer than a track tool like the M4 coupe. In that context, we think BMW has done its homework.
As expected, the RWD 840i is the most fuel-efficient model in the range, returning a commendable 23/30/25 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, according to EPA figures. With the heavier xDrive system, economy dips to 21/27/23 mpg. As expected, the burly M850i drinks juice at a much faster rate, returning 18/25/20 mpg. Fitted with an 18-gallon gas tank, the base 840i should be able to achieve a combined cruising range of about 450 miles. Your range will drop to 360 miles with the M850i. Regardless of the model you go for, premium gasoline is required.
Whereas the S-Class Coupe cabin wows you with its sheer opulence, the 8 Series cabin is more restrained, but no less modern. While this simplicity works well in the 2 Series, some may expect more flamboyance in something of the 8 Series' stature. Still, it's an interior with plenty of substance; everything you see and touch is top-class. The Live Cockpit Professional and the latest version of the iDrive system display all key information, and BMW's reluctance to completely dispense with physical knobs and buttons is appreciated when you need to make quick adjustments to controls at high speeds. It's best to think of this as a two-seater with some extra packing space at the back, though, because the tight rear seats represent the cabin's biggest failing. Other than that, with features like heated armrests, power-adjustable seats, and gorgeous ambient lighting, it's a cabin you'll be happy to spend lots of time in.
Although described as a four-seater, you wouldn't want to put adults of even average height in the back seats. Legroom is dismal and headroom isn't much better. And, unlike an S-Class Coupe's frameless side glass, the 8 Coupe has a bulky B-pillar that further adds to the claustrophobic feel.
Things are a lot better in front. Seating comfort is excellent and there is a wide range of adjustability. The driving position is low and sporty, and because the seat drops down as low as it does, it frees up just enough headroom. It's also easy to get into and out of the front seats (the back seats are a different story), although as with many coupes, a longer front door necessitates extra care in tighter spots. The thick pillars do obscure rearward visibility to an extent, but the BMW's class-leading camera displays help to overcome these issues.
Every 8 Series enjoys smart leather upholstery, with the 840i getting Vernasca leather and the M850i getting extended Merino leather. On the 840i, black, Ivory White, and Cognac are the standard colors. For an additional cost of $1,500, you can get extended Merino leather seats in color combinations like Night Blue/Black, Fiona Red/Black, and Tartufo/Black. Full Merino Leather adds the upholstery to additional areas of the cabin and costs $3,500. There are some truly posh color combinations like Ivory White/Tartufo that also changes the color of the dashboard and door panels. On the M850i, black Merino leather with distinctive M piping is standard and there are a similar range of optional colors. This upholstery option is also available on the 840i, although only when the Driving Assistance and M Sport packages are added as well.
The 840i gets Ash Grain Grey Metallic wood trim and both models get an instrument panel with a Nappa leather finish, while the M850i exclusively employs stainless steel fabric interior trim.
Although the standard interior's fixtures and fittings are of an outstanding quality, you can opt for a few trim upgrades that further elevates the impression of quality, from an Alcantara headliner to BMW's bespoke and opinion-splitting glass controls.
For what it lacks in rear legroom, the 8 Series partially makes up for with a spacious trunk. It measures 14.8 cubic feet. The trunk's opening isn't the biggest, but a couple of medium-sized suitcases will fit and folding down the rear seats exposes an almost-flat load floor that can accommodate snow-boarding equipment and the like. A power trunk-lid opening and closing mechanism is standard, along with hands-free trunk-lid operated by a swipe of the foot under the rear bumpers with the key in close proximity.
Interior storage is pretty decent as well, comprising a center console in front with a well-sized storage compartment, storage compartments in the doors (which are long but not too wide), and an average-sized locking glovebox. A concealed compartment ahead of the shifter lever houses twin cupholders and a wireless charging pad.
As the most lavish coupe in BMW's range, the 8 Series gets an appropriately high standard specification. On the 840i, this includes 14-way power-adjustable front sport seats with four-way power lumbar support and a seat memory system. Not only are the front seats heated, but the armrests and steering wheel are also heated for those chilly winter mornings. Other standard items encompass dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, soft-close automatic doors, comfort access keyless entry, a hands-free trunk lid, and wireless charging. BMW's extended ambient lighting includes 11 different interior light designs, while an LED lighting carpet helps to prevent stepping into puddles when approaching the 8 Series in the dark. The M850i adds 16-way power multi-function front seats, along with ventilation for the front chairs. A rearview camera and automatic city collision mitigation are among the standard safety features, while options include semi-autonomous highway driving, an onboard dash-cam, and even night vision.
BMW's infotainment interface remains one of the best systems available, combining crisp displays with a level of user-friendliness that is often lacking. Ahead of the driver is the 12.3-inch Live Cockpit Professional digital instrument cluster and a head-up display, which combine to display vital information. In the center of the dashboard is the 10.25-inch touchscreen for the iDrive 7.0 operating system. The screen responds to inputs with smartphone-like speed and accuracy. The primary iDrive rotary wheel remains along with several hard buttons. Although Apple CarPlay is standard, Android Auto remains absent from every BMW, but the manufacturer has promised it's on the way later in 2020. Other standard features include navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, two USB ports, and Bluetooth connectivity. A 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system is standard, along with HD radio and SiriusXM satellite radio with a one-year all-access subscription.
As the 8 Series hasn't been around for too long, the jury is still out on long-term reliability, with J.D. Power not having rated this vehicle at the time of writing. A single recall was announced by the NHTSA, though - it applies to all 2019/2020 8 Series models, whereby the rearview camera may not display an image as it should, decreasing visibility of potential hazards.
If anything does go wrong, the 8 Series is covered by BMW's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, 12-year rust perforation coverage with unlimited miles, and roadside assistance for four years.
Local authorities have not crash-tested the 8 Series range, as it's rare that luxury cars get evaluated. We have no reason to doubt the 8 Series' safety credentials, though, as it has many safety features as standard and because other BMWs have performed well when evaluated by the NHTSA and the IIHS.
Along with eight airbags (dual-front, side-front, and head airbags for front and rear passengers),, the 8 Series also gets Icon Adaptive LED headlights with BMW's Laserlight technology, a rearview camera, LED daytime running lights, and a tire pressure monitoring system. The brand's Active Protection System is also standard and prepares the car for imminent accidents by closing the windows and moonroof, automatically pre-tensioning the seat belts, and activating post-crash braking. It also includes driver attention monitoring.
Driver safety aids include frontal collision warning, automatic city collision mitigation and braking, and daytime pedestrian detection. Two safety packages are available and integrate features like active cruise control, active lane keeping assist, cross-traffic alert, and partially-automated driving via the steering and traffic jam assistant systems. Active blind-spot detection and a surround-view camera system with 3D view (one of the best in the business) are also available, while for $2,300 a night vision camera with pedestrian detection provides ultimate night-time peace of mind.
The return of the 8 Series has been a success for BMW. The first-generation gained a cult-like following for its timeless styling and the over-engineering evident in its electronics and V12 engine, but it wasn't actually the most amazing driver's car. The latest 8 Series is, combining stellar handling with the ability to munch up the miles on the highway in comfort. It's also viciously fast, especially the M850i with that 523-hp V8. Along with the superbly detailed cabin and enough trunk space for a weekend away, the 8 Series ticks many of the grand tourer boxes it needs to. The only real criticisms are those minuscule back seats, plus the more intangible question of whether the 8 feels special enough as the brand's flagship coupe. Perhaps the Bentley Continental and the Mercedes S-Class Coupe make their driver feel even more pampered, and a Porsche 911 provides greater thrills, but the 8 Series strikes an appealing middle ground among these competitors - a task that is far easier said than done.
The starting point in the range is the 840i at an MSRP of $87,900, excluding tax, licensing, registration, and a destination/handling fee of $995. The 840i xDrive is next and costs $90,800, while the M850i enters six-figure territory at a price of $111,900. It's generally less expensive than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe - that car costs $130,150 for the S560 4Matic, and it's down on power relative to the M850i. The gorgeous Lexus LC 500, on the other hand, starts at just over $90,000 but also can't match the M850i's sheer power.
The BMW 8 Series Coupe range comprises three trims: 840i, 840i xDrive, and M850i. Newly introduced for the 2020 model year, the 840i twins use a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbocharged engine developing 335 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. The 840i is rear-wheel-drive, while the 840i xDrive features BMW's rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. The M850i, meanwhile, packs in a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 with a mighty 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. Every model in the range uses an eight-speed automatic transmission with launch control.
The 840i is well-equipped from the start, featuring 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome-line exterior trim, power-folding and heated side mirrors, and LED headlights with BMW's Laserlight technology. Vernasca leather upholstery is standard, as are 14-way power-adjustable front seats with heating. The armrests and power tilt/telescopic steering wheel are also heated. Facing the driver is BMW's 12.3-inch digital instrumentation cluster flanked to the right by the 10.25-inch touchscreen interface. A 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, and USB ports are all standard.
Next, the 840i xDrive mirrors the 840i's specification but features the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which helps it reach 60 mph in an even quicker 4.4 seconds. Like the 840i, this model features dynamic damper control, but also boasts additional rear-wheel steering.
Topping the range is the M850i, which is identifiable with its 20-inch alloy wheels, Shadowline exterior trim, M rear spoiler, and an aerodynamic kit. The interior features extended Merino leather upholstery and 16-way power multi-function front seats with ventilation. This model also has an adaptive M suspension, M sport brakes, and an M sport differential.
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
|840i xDrive Coupe||
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
|M850i xDrive Coupe||
4.4-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
It wouldn't be a BMW without the opportunity to upgrade via a couple of added-cost packages. On the 840i, the Driving Assistance Package costs $1,100 and bundles together safety gear like a surround-view camera system, lane departure warning, and active blind-spot detection. The even more advanced Driving Assistance Professional Package costs $1,700; its additions amount to extended traffic jam assist, along with the active driving assistant pro that allows for partially automated driving. For another touch of luxury, a Comfort Seating Package costs $1,050 - it adds front-seat ventilation and enhanced power-adjustability for the front seats.
Individual options on the 840i include night vision with pedestrian detection ($2,300), glass controls ($650), integral active steering ($1,150), and a Bowers and Wilkins diamond surround-sound system for $3,400.
The M850i shares the 840i's two safety package upgrades, but also adds an available Cooling and High Performance Tire Package for $1,850. This upgrade has 20-inch M V-spoke jet black wheels and high-performance run-flat tires. An available BMW M Performance Drive Analyzer costs $242 and allows you to record and view driving data like braking distances and peak values on your smartphone. You can also order an M Carbon Exterior Package ($4,100) and an M carbon roof ($3,000), both exclusive to the M850i.
As accomplished as the 840i twins are, the 8 Series isn't about compromising on power and performance. For that reason, we'd go for the full-fat M850i to get access to that magnificent V8 and the tasty M styling and performance upgrades. There aren't many driving aids fitted as standard, so we'd add the Driving Assistance Package at $1,100. The Carbon Black Metallic exterior paintwork looks properly menacing, and we'd pair it with the $2,000 Ivory White/Night Blue Merino leather interior. The total works out to $115,995.
Like the S-Class Sedan, the S-Class Coupe is one of the most luxurious and stately cars on the road. The S560 4Matic starts at around $20,000 more than the BMW M850i, but is down on power at 463 hp - the BMW is also faster to 60 mph by a full second and is a much more adept handler than the Mercedes. But it's the S560 that has the measure of its German rival with its ability to shut out every bump or noise long before they reach the incredibly refined passenger compartment. The S560's cabin is also a marvel of technology and extravagant design. Even if the Mercedes' interior isn't any better put together than the BMW's, it certainly feels a lot more special. Add in the sumptuous massaging seats and more usable rear-seat space than the 8 Series, and it's the S-Class that's the better grand tourer. It's not the sharper driving tool, however, and it's the BMW's ability to entertain and cosset simultaneously that is its unique selling point. Your choice will come down to whether you want your coupe to be more luxurious (Mercedes) or dynamic (BMW).
The Porsche 911 is the sports coupe gift that just keeps on giving. Its rear-mounted engine and Porsche's renowned chassis tuning combine for a driving experience that is second to none. From the superbly communicative steering to the car's lithe body control and the harmonious workings of every major control, it makes virtually everything else feel dull. That includes the 8 Series, which, although far from a disappointment, can't match the Porsche's electrifying dynamics. For sporty coupes, both of these cars are surprisingly easy to live with, although the rear seats are mostly for show. At $113,300, the 911 Carrera S is just $1,400 more than the M850i. Although the BMW has a lot more power (523 hp relative to 443 hp), the 911 is far lighter and offers comparable straight-line acceleration. The BMW wins points with a more luxurious cabin and a longer list of standard features, so its closer to a traditional grand tourer than the 911. For its superlative driving experience, we'd have to side with the Porsche.