It's a Guy Thing

Six Series Substitute?

BMW M850i Coupe

The resurrection of the 8 Series badge after a lengthy hiatus has seen a busy BMW invent and refine several now-mainstream segments, including the ubiquitous SUV no less. Yes, it’s been that long – the X-range wasn’t even a twinkle in BMW’s eye when the original 8-Series was conceptualized. 

Numerically this is the brand’s new halo model and the price certainly nibbles at the ultra-premium space, yet wisely undercuts doyens like the Bentley Continental GT. Regardless, the new 8 Series sees BMW return to the elite clientele whose wealth and status had hitherto outgrown the BMW family.

The previous 8 Series bestrode a period of gorgeous wedged-shaped supercars like the Ferrari Testarossa. If you look at Ferrari’s evolutionary styling since then, you’ll have accurate context to compare the M850i’s rounded design. But it’s hard to find one really interesting design element, so while attractive, ultimately, the M850i is a pair of gullwing doors shy of making a statement. This is because the 8 Series has been designed to spawn several iterations (convertible, Gran Coupe and of course the M8) so styling and therefore packaging is recognizably modular, even compromised. This taints the 8 Series’ purity – leave the model proliferation to 5 Series and 4 Series, we beg you. 

In the past, it was as though BMW assigned and funded an elite team to the 8 Series badge with a whole new framework of accountability but this version isn’t nearly as creatively unhinged.

Behind the very conventional doors is an understated 2+2 cabin that lacks the baroque craftsmanship or novelty luxury car. We drove the BMW X5 a week before this and seating position aside, it’s difficult to split the two cabins. Exceptionally well-engineered and on a long journey I can’t think of quieter, smoother places to sit but its elegance is prejudiced by carbon fiber and orange jet-fighter dials. This is not a cockpit of beautifully sourced veneers or a Swiss center-placed chronograph. It’s a digitized cabin for speed.

This 8 Series made a world debut at Le Mans meaning that there’s veritable merit to BMW’s claim that it has racing underpinnings – but reimagined to be a flatteringly easy car to drive fast in a pair of suede loafers. The motor has been revised with new heat shields, better cooling and a new crankcase. This is an engine that we know can produce considerably higher states of tune but 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds is hardly shabby, is it? During our drive, I’m reminded that BMW conceptualized the M8 first, then reverse-engineered into slightly less aggressive models like the 850i. But the connection between M8 and M850i is never too far away.

Looping back to the headline, the new BMW 8 Series feels like a replacement for the current 6 Series rather than arching above it. Soon you’ll be able to buy the 8 Series as a Gran Coupe which will render the remaining 6 Series model null and void – joining the fate of other 6 Series models. Showroom floors are crowded, so the potential choice between 6 Series and 8 Series has been removed which suggests to us that the difference between actual and perceived quality is smaller than many would like. The 8 Series has always surrounded itself with drama and theatre… the success of BMW’s other models depends on it. John Page