BMW's best-selling coupes are actually sedans. The lovely new 8 Series coupe and convertible models have been on sale for a few months, but BMW says this four-door Gran Coupe variant, which hits dealerships as you read this, will soon account for some 50% of all 8 Series sales worldwide.
It's easy to see why. The Gran Coupe offers significantly greater utility, but doesn't give up any of the 8 Series' grandiose presence. Long and wide, svelte and low, the 8GC is beautiful to behold from all angles. In profile, your eye moves from the generous dash-to-axle ratio to the tapering, almost hatchback-like roofline. From the front or rear, the 8GC is curvaceous, with broad shoulders and hips, and perhaps the most restrained version of BMW's recently enlarged front kidneys.
The car's frameless rear doors are relatively large, allowing for easy access to the back seats. Once inside, you'll find a three-across bench, though oddly, a center console splits the footwell into two individual sections. BMW says its customers have asked for five-seat versions of its Gran Coupe models, hence the three seatbelts in back. That's all well and good, but I have a feeling those same customers didn't realize they'd also need to request a place to put their middle riders' legs.
Nevertheless, the 8 Series Gran Coupe provides surprisingly generous accommodations for its outboard rear passengers. I'm not exactly a great barometer for headroom, at just 5 feet, 8 inches tall, but I don't have to duck to get inside the 8GC, nor do I feel the need to slouch once seated in back. Legroom is on the shorter side of fine -- again, taller folks might feel differently -- but overall, I find it easy to get comfortable. The sedan's wheelbase is some 8 inches longer than the two-door coupe's, and all of that lengthening has directly benefited rear legroom.
Up front is, of course, the best place to be, with plenty of space for driver and passenger, and super-comfortable seats that offer appropriate amounts of support in all the right places. The 8 Series Gran Coupe's forward cabin basically carries over unchanged from the two-door cars, meaning there's a flat panel of controls near the electronic gear shifter (which can be rendered in crystal, natch), and an easy-to-navigate array of climate controls and shortcut buttons along the center stack.
The 8 Series Gran Coupe coddles you like a big luxury car should. Every single surface is covered in exquisite leather, and the real metal accents are as pleasing to they eye as they are to the touch. All of the 8 Series' controls have great tactility to their action -- nothing feels cheap or flimsy. Just do yourself a favor and spring for one of BMW's warmer interior color schemes, rather than the cold, German-bank-vault monochromatic look of the test car pictured here.
The 8 Series' plethora of onboard tech carries over, too, with a reconfigurable 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster positioned behind the steering wheel. I'm still not sure the black-and-red color scheme is my favorite, nor are the ultramodern fonts used on the speedometer and tachometer. That said, I like how easy it is to move through the various displays built into this digital setup. It's not as outright pretty as what you get with Mercedes-Benz's MBUX or Audi's Virtual Cockpit, but the functionality found within is just as robust.
Move to the center console and you'll find another 12.3-inch touchscreen, this one loaded with BMW's latest iDrive infotainment tech. You can use the rotary knob on the center console to move through iDrive's many menus, with helpful shortcut buttons arranged around said knob to get you back to home screens for things like navigation, media, Bluetooth telephone and vehicle settings.
The 8 Series' iteration of iDrive 7 is just like what you'll find in the new 3 Series, and includes the voice-activated AI personal assistant. A Wi-Fi hotspot is built in, with various BMW apps to connect you to local services. Of course, BMW continues to shortchange customers on smartphone compatibility -- Apple CarPlay is available, but Android Auto is a no-go. At least driver-assistance tech is in high supply, with everything from full-speed adaptive cruise control with steering assist, lane-keeping assist, parking assist, blind-spot assist and more all available -- as options, of course.
My first drive of the 2020 8 Series Gran Coupe is also my first drive of the 840i. This model uses the turbocharged, six-cylinder engine that's also available on the two-door coupe. The 840i uses BMW's tried-and-true 3.0-liter straight-six engine, tuned for 335 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque in this application. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with xDrive all-wheel drive available for an extra $2,900. The latter will surely make the 840i more appealing to folks who live in snowy climates, and in fact, the xDrive model is actually a stronger performer -- BMW estimates a 4.6-second 0-to-60 mph time, compared to 4.9 with rear-wheel drive.
Like the two-door coupe and convertible, the 8 Series Gran Coupe is available in M850i xDrive guise, powered by a 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V8 with a healthy 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. If that's not enough, there will soon be a top-dog M8 Gran Coupe, which we'll see at the Los Angeles Auto Show this November.
It may be the least-powerful 8 Series of the bunch, but don't write off the 840i. The straight-six provides strong power, with full torque thrust delivered at just 1,600 rpm. There's more than enough giddy-up-and-go to shoot the 840i Gran Coupe away from other cars at stoplights. The smooth-as-silk eight-speed automatic transmission is more than willing to drop a gear or two should you dig deeper into the throttle, putting the turbo-six in the heart of its powerband, ideal when dashing past slower cars on two-lane country roads.
If there's a complaint to register about this engine, it isn't even necessarily with the powerplant itself. Instead, it's the way BMW pipes 'enhanced' powertrain noise into the cabin. I've lived in thinly walled apartments where I've heard more convincing examples of faked excitement. The V8-powered 8 Series models do this, too, but at least there you're working with a heartier, eight-cylinder roar. Happily, the 840i can be had with a high-quality sound system so you can drown out some of that obviously fake straight-six sound.
On the road, the 8 Series Gran Coupe masks its size well. The sedan has quick reflexes, with steering that responds instantly to inputs, but generally feels numb at all times. The chassis itself is nicely sorted, striking a wonderful balance between cosseting grand tourer and taut sports car, even with the adaptive dampers set to their stiffest Sport setting.
My favorite way to drive the 840i Gran Coupe is using its Adaptive setting, which tailors many of the vehicle's performance parameters to suit one's driving style. Show some enthusiasm on a winding mountain pass, and the 840i will increase throttle response and hold gears for longer periods of time. As soon as you get back on the highway, it'll automatically settle into a more relaxed, luxurious state.
The 8 Series Gran Coupe definitely won't come unglued should you toss it through sharp bends, but I still think this car is best suited to daily driving and long-distance cruising. The ride quality is superb, the cabin is super quiet. Even in its hotter M850i guise, the 8 Series is a machine best suited to traveling great distances at great speed.
Unless you really dig the exclusivity factor of a two-door coupe, this 8 Series sedan (that's what it is, OK?) is by far the version to get. Without driving the two- and four-door versions back to back, I'd be hard pressed to find any major differences between then.
Did I mention it's also the less-expensive choice? The 840i Gran Coupe starts at $85,895 in the US, while the M850i xDrive comes in at $109,895 (both prices include $995 for destination). That means the Gran Coupes are $3,000 cheaper than their equivalent two-door counterparts.
Added functionality, with no tradeoffs in luxury, tech or performance. It's no wonder BMW's best-selling coupes are the ones with four doors.
Originally published Sept. 24.
Update, Sept. 26: An earlier version of this story stated the iDrive 7 system does not come with BMW's AI personal assistant. This is incorrect, and the text has been changed to reflect this.
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