by Karl Furlong
As the brand's halo coupe, the BMW 8 Series Coupe has the tough job of convincing buyers that it's worth double the value of the 4 Series Coupe. More than this, the 8 Series needs to fend off serious competition in the US from the likes of the all-conquering Porsche 911 and luxurious alternatives such as the Lexus LC. Fortunately, the 8 comes well prepared for the challenging questions asked of it by being blessed with a range of overachieving powertrains, topped by the 523-horsepower 4.4-liter V8 in the M850i, which allows it to rocket from 0 to 60 in a mere 3.5 seconds. Unlike that divisive new 4 Series, the 8 looks good from most angles, too. Inside, there is an immaculately trimmed cockpit, and BMW's big coupe effortlessly blends refined road manners with athletic handling. Starting at $88,000, it's far from affordable, and those minuscule back seats are really just for show. But, in almost every other measurable sense, this accomplishes precisely what's expected of a flagship coupe.
Although it isn't an all-new model, a few equipment enhancements have been made to set apart the 2021 lineup from the 2020 BMW 8 Series Coupe. For the latest 840i, an Anthracite headliner has been added. Across the range, lane departure warning becomes standard and SiriusXM with 360L and a one-year all-access subscription replaces SiriusXM. The color palette loses the option of Sonic Speed Blue, while inside, black extended Merino leather with black M piping falls away as well. There's greater value to be found in the optional M Sport Package; its price drops by $300 while receiving enhancements like M Sport Brakes with black calipers. Some other small changes have been made to the list of standalone optional features, such as the deletion of night vision with pedestrian detection.
The BMW 8 Series Coupe is long, wide, and has plenty of presence. Although that kidney grille is far from petite, it's much better integrated than on some other new BMWs. The base model 840i rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and comes with chrome-line exterior trim, Icon adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight technology, and programmable LED daytime running lights. The M850i is differentiated by its 20-inch wheels, an M aerodynamic kit, darker Shadowline trim, and an M rear spoiler.
Key dimensions provide evidence of the 8 Series' large footprint. At 191.1 inches in length, the coupe is over 13 inches longer than a Porsche 911 Carrera. It has a width of 74.9 inches excluding mirrors, while height works out to 52.8 inches. All models have a 111.1-inch wheelbase, although the M850i is slightly longer (191.2 inches) and marginally taller (53 inches) than the 840i. The curb weight ranges from 3,933 pounds for the rear-wheel-drive 840i to 4,478 lbs for the M850i.
On the 840i, customers can choose from one non-metallic color in Alpine White or seven metallic options, including Carbon Black, Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Sunset Orange, Bluestone, Blue Ridge Mountain, and Barcelona Blue. However, both Carbon Black and Barcelona Blue can only be specified in conjunction with the Driver Assistance and M Sport add-ons, adding a combined $5,650 to the final fee. For an additional $1,950 each, three more metallics become available. These are Dravit Grey, Tanzanite Blue II, and Aventurin Red. Finally, Frozen Bluestone metallic is the most expensive color at $5,000. The coupe generally seems to wear darker shades better, so we'd opt for one of the blacks or even the Tanzanite Blue II. The M850i has an almost identical range of colors, although Blue Ridge Mountain falls away for this range-topping model. Carbon Black and Barcelona Blue won't cost any extra on this model.
Traditionalists will be happy to see that BMW still offers rear-wheel-drive propulsion for the entry-level 840i, with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system fitted to another version of the 840i and the M850i. All variants offer smooth and exceptionally rapid acceleration, with even the 840i needing just 4.7 seconds to reach 60 mph, aided by the quick-shifting automatic gearbox, while the AWD-equipped variant is three-tenths quicker. The M850i is a beast, with a heady 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque at its disposal from that mighty 4.4-liter turbocharged V8. Sending power to all four corners, it'll zip to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and will reach a limited top speed of 155 mph when fitted with performance rubber. The Porsche 911 is quicker, but you'll need a Carrera S and the optional Sport Chrono Package to beat out the much heavier M850i.
BMW's six-cylinder turbocharged engine is widely used across the brand's lineup, and it's no less impressive in the 840i and 840i xDrive. The 3.0-liter unit churns out 335 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque and is mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and launch control. Its creamy smooth power delivery is a BMW hallmark, and is immediately apparent during a test drive. Turbocharging ensures that passing power requires minimal effort from the driver, too. The six-pot pairs beautifully with the eight-speed gearbox, which executes quick shifts in sportier driving modes but is just as capable pottering around town.
The M850i's 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 serves up 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. It is also paired with an eight-speed automatic. Although not a full-fat M derivative, the M850i could have you fooled as it accelerates with a ferocity that pushes occupants firmly back into their seats. The stunning power is matched by a pleasing V8 burble - in fact, we wouldn't mind if the engine was a bit more vocal. You couldn't possibly need more power than what this car has.
The exemplary powertrains of the 8 Series aren't let down by the chassis. All versions receive dynamic damper control and an M sport differential. The setup does a brilliant job of disguising the bulk of the coupe, which feels lighter on its feet than you'd expect. The chunky steering wheel responds keenly to swift changes of direction, even if feel is merely okay without ever approaching the talkative and more natural feel at the helm of a Porsche 911. Three driving modes - Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport - are on offer, with the latter seeing the traction control system intervening later. The coupe feels more playful in this mode, but the majority of drivers will be happy with Comfort mode most of the time. In this setting, the 8 Series proves to be an adept cruiser, with a well-damped ride. It's matched by a cabin that remains quiet at speed. With standard integral active steering, the xDrive versions can turn the rear wheels too, adding to the coupe's agility. The brake pedal is firm and is allied to a braking system that brings the 8 Series to a quick and controlled stop. In any of the three available configurations, the 8 Series is a fantastic coupe to drive.
The most fuel-efficient 8 Series is the RWD 840i which returns EPA-rated figures of 23/30/25 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With its AWD system, the 840i xDrive's figures are 20/27/23 mpg. Although EPA figures for the 2021 M850i weren't available at the time of writing, we doubt these will differ from the 2020 version's 18/25/20 mpg. All versions have an 18-gallon gas tank, so gas mileage ranges between 360 miles for the M850i to 450 miles for the RWD 840i.
The classy and richly trimmed cabin may not be as flashy as some would like, but our previous BMW 8 Series review made it easy to see the difference between this and cheaper BMWs. All fittings and fixtures feel suitably expensive, and rattles and squeaks are notable only by their absence. Ahead of the driver is BMW's Live Cockpit Professional with its rather dark 12.3-inch display, while the familiar iDrive screen is positioned in the center of the dash. At base level, the 8 Series is equipped with 14-way power-adjustable and heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, soft-closing doors, and a heated and power-adjustable steering wheel. All versions come with advanced safety features such as lane departure warning, frontal collision warning, and a fatigue/focus alert function.
Technically a four-seater, the BMW 8 Series is surprisingly cramped in the back, considering its length. There simply isn't enough space back there for even smaller adults, with legroom in especially short supply. In front, things are much more accommodating and the sumptuous front seats are well-bolstered. Ingress and egress are simple for the driver and front-seat passenger, although as with many coupes, the long doors should be opened with care in tighter spaces. There are large pillars that partially impede the view out from the driver's seat, but other than this, the 8 Series affords a sporty and pleasing driving position for most.
On the 840i, Vernasca leather upholstery is standard along with an Anthracite headliner, Ash Grain Grey-metallic wood trim, and an instrument panel covered in Nappa leather. Ivory White and Cognac leather shades are on offer as well, while extended Merino leather requires an outlay totaling $2,250; however, ticking this box automatically adds multi-functional seats and additional color choices like Night Blue/Black, Tartufo/Black, and Fiona Red/Black. Full Merino leather costs $3,500 on its own, but is bundled with other upgrades which increase the price. For instance, if Ivory White/Night Blue is selected, extras like the M Sport and Driving Assistance Package are automatically included, taking the total cost to $8,300. Full Merino leather in Ivory White/Tartufo will add $4,900 to the bill but includes an Anthracite Alcantara headliner and multi-functional seats. All other full Merino leather color choices such as Cognac and Fiona Red/Black will cost a total of $4,250, as they automatically add multi-functional seats. A range of trim inlays includes stainless steel fabric, Fineline Copper Wood, Individual Piano Black, and Ash Black Silver Wood. The M850i gets extended Merino leather by default, while full Merino leather costs $2,000 more. Uniquely, carbon fiber trim is available here. Finally, BMW's flashy diamond-cut glass controls (for the gear lever, iDrive controller, and more) are optionally available, too.
The disappointingly small rear perches may lead you to believe that the 8 Series has a tiny trunk, too, but there is a useful 14.8 cubic feet of volume to play with. A small trunk opening aside, there is enough space for a week's worth of groceries or a few medium-sized suitcases. The rear seats can also fold down to free up a longer cargo area for lengthier items to slide through. As this is a luxury coupe, it's no surprise that the trunk lid is power-operated and that hands-free opening is possible by simply swiping your foot beneath the rear bumper, which is convenient when your hands are full.
For storing smaller items, the interior is equipped with a decently sized center console storage compartment, door bins, and the usual locking glovebox. Two covered cupholders are positioned in front. Rear-seat passengers don't get much more than front-seatback storage.
Before ticking a single option, the 8 Series is generously equipped with plenty of comfort and safety features. The 840i has power-adjustable seats with power lumbar support, heating, and memory settings for the two occupants up front. Finding the ideal driving position is made simpler by the power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, which also has an automatic tilt-up feature for easier entry/exit. Other features include an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, soft-closing doors, heating for the front armrests and steering wheel, a head-up display, wireless phone charging, keyless entry, remote engine start, a backup camera, and push-button ignition. The M850i has 16-way power-adjustable multi-function front seats which are also ventilated. Standard safety equipment includes automatic high beams, lane departure warning, and automatic city collision mitigation.
BMW doesn't compel you to control every function using its 10.25-inch central touchscreen, and that's part of the appeal of the iDrive infotainment system. A physical volume knob and a rotary dial are ideal for making quick adjustments on the move, while the touchscreen is useful when drivers have more time to safely take their eyes off the road. Standard features here extend to navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, HD Radio, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and both Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. Two USB ports are standard. The new BMW 8 Series receives SiriusXM with 360L and a full year subscription, replacing the SiriusXM featured previously. A 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system provides crisp sound quality, but more demanding music listeners will prefer the optional 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system with 1,400 watts of power.
The 2021 BMW 8 Series is so far recall-free, although the 2020 model suffered two knocks against its reliability record. One recall was for the absence of images on the central screen from the rearview camera, and the other was for a faulty seat belt sensor that fails to detect when a seat belt is being used, which could affect the correct deployment of airbags in the event of a crash.
Should the 8 Series need any attention, BMW covers it with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and four years of roadside assistance regardless of mileage covered. A 12-year rust perforation warranty is in place, as is BMW's solid three-year/36,000-mile maintenance coverage plan.
High-priced premium vehicles such as this often aren't evaluated by local authorities. Safety reviews by the NHTSA and IIHS are yet to take place for the 8 Series range, so an official safety rating isn't available for now.
The strong safety spec of the 8 Series lineup begins with visibility. The base price gets you Icon adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight tech, along with automatic high beams, programmable LED DRLs, and adaptive brake lights. The airbag count totals six, including dual-threshold, dual-stage deployment front airbags. Other safety gear includes a backup camera, lane departure warning, frontal collision warning, automatic city collision mitigation with braking, BMW's accident-detection system, post-crash braking, and a fatigue/focus alert feature. Of course, dynamic stability control and dynamic traction control are standard. Options include adaptive cruise control with stop & go, active lane-keeping assist, evasion assistant, cross-traffic alert, side collision avoidance, and steering/traffic jam assistant.
Although the 8 Series may not be a hot seller for the brand, it represents the perfect step up for BMW enthusiasts coming from smaller coupes in the lineup. As long as you don't need to carry rear-seat passengers, the 8 impresses with its wonderfully comfortable cockpit, athletic driving dynamics, and superb engines. All versions are equipped to a grand standard, making for a GT that can cover hundreds of miles without blinking. With BMW choosing not to import the M8 Coupe for 2021, the 523-hp M850i offers nearly as much performance for a lot less money. At close to six figures, some may argue that the 8 Series doesn't feel as special as luxury coupes like the outgoing Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and the current Lexus LC. But in terms of raw all-round ability, the BMW 8 Series is tough to match.
Starting at an MSRP of $88,000 in the USA, the 840i RWD is the most affordable 8 Series. It's followed by the 840i xDrive at $90,900 and, finally, the M850i xDrive at $111,900. All prices exclude BMW's destination charge of $995, along with taxes, licensing, and registration costs. By comparison, a Porsche 911 Carrera carries a starting price tag of $99,200. Although it's quicker than the 840i, the BMW is far more lavishly equipped out of the box. With all the options ticked on the M850i, the price of the BMW 8 Series will surpass $135,000.
The 8 Series comes in a choice of three trims for the new model year: 840i, 840i xDrive, and M850i xDrive. The top two trims are all-wheel drive while the 840i directs its power to the rear wheels. All versions ship with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Both 840i versions use a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine with 335 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. The M850i gets a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 with a muscular 523 hp and 553 lb-ft.
Every variant is comprehensively equipped. At the entry-point to the range, the 840i has 18-inch alloy wheels and has Icon adaptive LED headlights, power-folding wing mirrors, and chrome-line exterior trim. Inside, there are 14-way power-adjustable seats with heating up front, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Harman Kardon sound system with 16 speakers, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, soft-close doors, and remote engine start.
The 840i xDrive is identical to the 840i but utilizes BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system, making it quicker to 60 mph. It also employs the brand's integral active steering, which can partially steer the rear wheels.
Sitting atop the range is the M850i xDrive. Along with its bigger V8 engine allowing it to power on to a 155-mph top speed with select options, it comes with 20-inch wheels, Shadowline exterior trim, an aerodynamic kit, an M rear spoiler, extended Merino leather upholstery, and 16-way power-adjustable multi-function front perches with ventilation.
On the 840i, the $4,550 M Sport upgrade adds 19-inch M double-spoke wheels, Shadowline exterior trim, and M Sport brakes with blue calipers. BMW offers two Driving Assistance packages, with the first costing $1,100 while the Professional version of this package will cost $1,700 (although the latter requires upgrading to the more basic package first). The first package adds features like active blind-spot detection and parking assistance, while the latter includes an extended traffic jam assistant. The $1,050 Comfort Seating Package adds ventilated multi-function seats in the front of the cabin, but requires the extended Merino leather to be added at $1,500.
Unique to the M850i is the Cooling and High Performance Tire Package for $1,850. It includes extended Shadowline trim and high-performance tires. This model can also be upgraded with an M carbon roof for $3,000. All versions offer a superb Bowers & Wilkins setup ($3,400) and glass interior controls ($650).
The gap in performance between the 840i and M850i is great enough that if we could stretch to the V8, we would. But the 840i shouldn't be discounted, especially in RWD guise, as it's over $20,000 less expensive than the V8 model, while offering plenty of power and most of the same features. We'd equip an 840i with the Driving Assistance Package at $1,100, the Bowers & Wilkins sound system at $3,400, and the extended Merino leather upholstery - which automatically adds multi-functional seats - for a total of $2,250. These extras will keep the tag below $100,000.
Not every executive who buys a 7 Series sedan gets chauffeured around. For the customer who does the driving themselves, is the less practical but more stylish 8 Series Coupe a serious alternative to the 7 Series? Well, if you need back-seat space, this is a no-brainer - the 7 Series' plush and spacious back row is in a different league compared to the 8 Series' restricted quarters. Both BMW flagships are great to drive, but the 7 Series is undoubtedly quieter and smoother, whereas the 8 Series is the more agile machine. The two are both lavishly equipped, but the 7 Series has even nicer seats and more standard safety gear like a surround-view camera system. The V8-powered 750i has the same engine as the M850i but comes in at over $7,000 cheaper. If you already have an X7 for family duties, get the 8 Series for the weekends. But the 7 Series can simply do more than the coupe.
The BMW 8 Series plays more of a dual GT/sports car role than the 911, which is a far more focused machine. But the Porsche can also play the role of an easygoing daily commuter without kicking up much of a fuss. With its lighter weight and Porsche's knack for near-perfect chassis tuning, the 911 is much more involving to drive than the 8 Series. Both have peppy turbocharged six-cylinder engines lower down in the range, but the BMW is the only one of the two to offer V8 power, which is a unique selling point in favor of the 8 Series. Both have rear seats without much space at all, but the BMW's trunk is a lot bigger than either of the 911's luggage compartments. You also get many more standard features in the BMW, whereas Porsche is especially stingy with standard safety features. That said, the 911 is infinitely more customizable. As accomplished as the BMW is in most areas, it doesn't hit the same high notes as the incredible 911, which drives like little else on the road. We'd take the Porsche.