BMW's new 8 Series is at its best in its largest four-door Gran Coupe form.
The new BMW 8 Series is just over a year old, and it still feels fresh as a daisy. But no carmaker loves splitting its model lines into myriad variants like BMW, and in just this short amount of time, we now have the 840i, M850i, M8 and M8 Competition, all of which can be had as a two-door coupe, convertible or four-door Gran Coupe. That means there are 12 different versions of the 8 Series from which to choose, and I believe this M850i Gran Coupe is actually the pick of the litter.
The Gran Coupe is so named for its larger proportions over the two-door 8 Series coupe, with a longer wheelbase, a wider footprint and, most obviously, two more doors, allowing improved access to the larger rear seats. Managing Editor Steven Ewing put the base 840i Gran Coupe through its paces last year, and said the 3.0-liter turbo I6 engine offered plenty of grunt, but this M850i tester goes big with a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, good for 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque.
That's more than enough power for this four-door, even with the added 300 pounds it carries over the two-door coupe. The chassis is extremely well sorted -- there's hardly any body roll and the Adaptive M suspension strikes a good balance between firm and cushy. The level of overall stiffness and composure is actually quite surprising, given this vehicle's size.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is a dream, so much so that I never find it necessary to use the paddle shifters. This transmission never has to hunt for the right gear, it holds revs steadily in Sport and Sport Plus modes and eagerly downshifts under braking so there's always immediate power available while exiting a corner.
Cornering characteristics are made better thanks to the optional rear-axle steering, which helps the M850i Gran Coupe rotate through tight curves. This same tech, which can turn the rear wheels in or out by 2.5 degrees depending on speed, makes lane-changes easier on the highway, too.
This up-level Gran Coupe offers a number of other M goodies, including a sport rear differential, which keeps torque moving side to side between the back wheels as needed. The M Sport brakes are great, scrubbing off speed with ease, without being hard to modulate. I even like the $4,100 M Carbon Exterior design package which, combined with this car's 20-inch wheels, give the big four-door a really aggressive look.
Even when you aren't blasting around, the M850i is nicely sorted in its default Comfort mode, with a soft suspension that soaks up most pavement imperfections. Here, the transmission shifts so smoothly it's almost imperceptible. If this car had massaging seats, my commute would be heaven.
That said, it's not like the M850i isn't chock-a-block with features. I've got heated and cooled seats, heated armrests and a heated steering wheel. The diamond-cut glass gear selector is a cool if flashy bit of beauty, and the $3,400 16-speaker, 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system is absolutely divine.
In addition to being comfy, commuting in the M850i Gran Coupe is largely stress-free, thanks to all the available driver-assistance features. The only bad news is that most of them are optional extras, which seems silly on a car that starts at $109,895, including $995 for destination. I like the Traffic Jam Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control, steering assist and lane-keeping assist to help highway commuting. The system stays active for 30 seconds when traffic comes to a stop, too, so I don't have to keep flicking the "resume" toggle in order to reactivate this tech.
The M850i Gran Coupe also has parallel and perpendicular parking assistance, in addition to a back-up assistant that can remember the last 165 feet of your drive and automatically trace the same path in reverse. It's super helpful in tight, crowded parking lots. The 360-degree camera has a crisp, clear feed, and you can even view your car while parked from the BMW Connected app.
Cabin tech is managed by BMW's iDrive 7 software, housed on a 12.3-inch central screen, as well as a 10.2-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster. iDrive has a pretty steep learning curve, with a lot of menus for menus' sake, but a lot of other Roadshow staffers like it, and once you're used to the system, it's not so bad. Apple CarPlay is now included, and free (finally!). CarPlay is also wireless, which is awesome. And while BMW doesn't yet offer Android Auto, the tech is coming this July.
All of this tech is the same as what you'll find in the rest of the 8 Series Gran Coupe models, but the feather in the M850i's cap is its overall performance balance. The M850i offers a big step up over the lesser 840i Gran Coupe, but isn't as over-the-top as an M8. It's a full second quicker in the 0-to-60-mph run than the 840i, able to do the sprint in 3.7 seconds. And at no point does 523 hp and 553 lb-ft ever feel like it isn't enough -- the M850i's V8 has plenty of power for just about every situation. So much so, in fact, that I don't think the added cost to step up to the M8 is really necessary.
Even against competitors, the M850i Gran Coupe offers a compelling package. The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is softer, and the Porsche Panamera is way more expensive. In fact, the Gran Coupe is the least-expensive version of the BMW 8 Series -- if you want a smaller two-door, you'll have to pay more money.
The 2020 BMW M850i Gran Coupe offers the best bang for your buck in the entire 8 Series range. The M850i Gran Coupe has more than enough power, but maintains a level of composure that makes it suitable for daily driving. It's more functional than the coupe or convertible, and honestly, it looks better, too. Of all the new 8 Series models, this is definitely the one to get.