Pros and Cons on the new 8 Series, a 2020 Car of the Year contender
- Thunderous twin-turbo V-8
- Sharp handling for its size
- High-quality cabin materials
- Too-familiar interior design
- Cramped rear seat
- User experience of iDrive system
The 8 Series of the 1990s was gorgeous to behold but less so to drive. BMW has revived that flagship nameplate, which today includes a coupe, a convertible, and soon a four-door Gran Coupe model. Although it’s debatable whether the new M850i is as good-looking as its predecessor (international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie likens it to “Hulk Hogan in a Hugo Boss suit”), it at least offers plenty of driving thrills this time around.
That was the consensus the judges on our 2020 Car of the Year panel came to during evaluations. Contrary to what its roughly 4,400-pound (1,996-kg) curb weight might suggest, the BMW 8 Series is a nimble performer on the track.
“The M850i drives like force of nature—heavy, grippy, sonically awesome,” technical director Frank Markus said.
“This was actually a pretty fun car for the winding road,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said. “I was surprised how agile it felt around corners.”
“The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 has prodigious power, and it just keeps coming like a giant, unrelenting wave,” associate online editor Stefan Ogbac said. “It helps that there’s next to no turbo lag and it’s hooked up to a snappy eight-speed automatic transmission that puts power down to all four wheels exceptionally well.”
The notes go on and on like this. Judges had nothing but good things to say about the M850i’s 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, its rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, and how well it went around the winding track. But after those opening plaudits, the 8 Series left many unimpressed.
Part of that is due to the interior, which uses high-quality materials but looks like it was cut and pasted from lesser BMW models.
“The interior feels like a 3 Series with some crystal trim here and there,” Cortina said, referring to the $650 USD Glass Controls option that adds glass accents to the shifter, iDrive control dial, engine start button, and audio system volume knob. “If I’m going to pay for a car that costs this much, it better be worth it. And I don’t see the value or specialness in the M850i.”
MacKenzie called the interior “generic modern BMW, but with just enough glamor in the detailing to carry off the Gran Turismo shtick the exterior promises.”
But even if the 8 Series’ interior styling was unique and compelling, there’s the matter of cabin space, which is plentiful if you’re in the front seats but tight if you’re stuck in the back. At 29.5 inches, rear legroom in the 8 Series coupe and convertible is curiously down an inch from the 6 Series cars they replace. The same goes for rear headroom in the coupe (34.7 inches versus 35.7 inches in the old 6er). Cortina called the interior packaging “a disaster.” Detroit editor Alisa Priddle more or less agreed: “Such a big car yet so little room for people.”
Whoh, check out the 617-hp BMW M8 Competition here.
Large grand tourers like the BMW 8 Series coupe and convertible are first and foremost about coddling the person in the driver’s seat, however, and the M850i mostly succeeds in that mission. We loved the Harman Kardon audio system, which offers a crisp, clear listening experience that’s only heightened by the coupe’s exceptionally quiet cabin. Then there’s the Adaptive M Suspension, which delivers a smooth and compliant ride on the highway in all modes and handles rough road well when set to Comfort.
Given the shrinking nature of the large two-door GT market, BMW had the opportunity to set the benchmark in the niche class with the 8 Series coupe and convertible. Instead, the M850i is merely an adequate choice in a segment with not that many choices to begin with.
|2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe||2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible|
|Base Price/As Tested||$112,895/$119,295||$122,395/$126,395|
|Power (SAE net)||523 hp @ 5,500 rpm||523 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||553 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm||553 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||3.4 sec||3.9 sec|
|Quarter Mile||11.7 sec @ 120.4 mph||12.3 sec @ 113.7 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||111 ft||110 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.98 g (avg)||0.97 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||24.2 sec @ 0.85 g (avg)||24.3 sec @ 0.82 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||18/25/20 mpg||17/26/20 mpg|