What Car? says...
It seems oxymoronic, doesn’t it? A coupe is something that traditionally has two doors, so adding two more seems to defy convention. But breaking the rules is not necessarily a reason to be poo-pooed, and four-door coupes, like the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe, have been a big hit ever since the Mercedes CLS burst onto the scene back in 2004.
Besides, BMW itself has form in defying convention; with the BMW X6, it created the even more mind-distorting coupe SUV concept. It could be argued that four doors on a low-slung coupe is still an agreeable blend of elegance and practicality, while a chunky-looking SUV coupe isn't. So, you could say that the 8 Series Gran Coupe belongs to a rarified club: a car that lets you ‘have your cake and eat it'.
Where, then, does the 8 Series Gran Coupe fit in the market? Well, according to BMW, it’s deeper into the luxury sphere than the previous 6 Series Gran Coupe (click here for our used review). The more powerful versions align with the Porsche Panamera on price, but throughout this review we’ll also be referencing its cheaper rivals: the Mercedes CLS and Audi A7 Sportback.
In essence, the Gran Coupe is a two-door 8 Series that’s been stretched on a rack, and both bodystyles offer the same engines. There’s a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine with rear-wheel drive, or a V8 petrol and six-cylinder diesel that come with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system.
Read on to see which of those engines we think is the best fit for the 8 Series Gran Coupe, and how it matches up to the competition. And when you’re done deciding, head to our New Car Buying page to find the best deals for the least hassle.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The M850i proves highly responsive, muscular and extremely rapid in any scenario (0-62mph officially takes just 3.9sec). It's certainly the engine to choose if performance is key to you. Meanwhile, the 840d should impress (we're yet to try it in the Gran Coupe, but know it well from drives in the two-door 8 Series) with effortless shove from the get-go; but, in case you haven't noticed, diesel isn't that popular these days.
So, for the best blend of performance and economy, we'd suggest the 840i. It pulls consistently at low to mid revs, but, compared with the M850i, you have to work it harder to find its absolute turn of pace. Still, in a sporty car, revving the engine is all part of the fun, and while a Porsche Panamera 4S is quicker, the 840i will dispatch the 0-62mph dash in a highly respectable 5.2sec. In any iteration, the 8 Series' standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is quick, smooth and highly adept at picking the right gear for any given situation.
The Gran Coupe isn’t quite as agile as the 8 Series Coupe on which it’s based, or as the flighty as a Panamera 4S; it’s softer and leans a little more through turns. It feels beautifully balanced on flowing roads, though, and compared with an Audi A7 Sportback it is way more fun. In the dry, the 840i is hardly compromised by its lack of four-wheel drive; there’s still good traction off the line and, as far as cornering is concerned, there's oodles of grip. That said, the M850i xDrive has four-wheel drive, as does a Panamera 4S, helping them to lay down their power more cleanly on very slippery surfaces.
The 8 Series' steering is sweeter than the A7 Sportback’s, if not quite as direct as the Panamera’s. It’s light (although you can ramp up its weight should you wish by engaging the sportiest of the driving modes), but because its weight builds progressively from the start of every turn, it still endows you with heaps of confidence.
Rather like the Mercedes CLS, the adaptive suspension’s Comfort mode allows the Gran Coupé quite a lot of float to help it deal with gently heaving roads in a relaxed fashion. If you fancy a bit more control, simply pop it in the midway Sport or most extreme Sport Plus mode and it’ll hunker down.
Sharper ruts, which are getting more prevalent on our UK roads, do cause it to jolt more abruptly, but nothing like as badly as the CLS can. If you want the best ride quality, avoid the stiffer-sided Performance Tyres (optional on the 840i/ 840d and standard on the M850i), which exacerbate any surface imperfections.
Also, if you like a smooth ride and are less bothered about handling prowess, try an A7 Sportback. It’s one of the Gran Coupé’s most cosseting rivals, and not only for ride; it’s quieter at motorway speeds, with less wind and road noise, although the Gran Coupé keeps those at bay just as well as a Panamera or CLS.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Gran Coupe is relatively understated inside. Its dashboard is more swooping than the angular designs found in the Audi A7 Sportback and Porsche Panamera, while being less flamboyant than that of the Mercedes CLS. The materials used are of very high quality, and it feels as solid as a mature oak. That’s not something you can confidently say about every element of the CLS.
The infotainment system is a masterpiece of integration and usability. BMW’s latest-generation iDrive betters its rivals’ systems by a mile in two important ways. Firstly, its menus are generally logical and very responsive; secondly, by sticking with a rotary controller and shortcut menu buttons (instead of the touchscreen-only interfaces that the Panamera and A7 Sportback employ), it’s far less distracting to operate on the move.
You can still use its 10.3in display as a touchscreen if it suits, or the optional gesture control feature instead. That enables you to turn up the stereo volume or answer a call, for example, with a flick of the wrist. But be warned: you might end up looking like a Harry Potter wannabe who’s lost his wand. There’s always BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant as another alternative; it’s like Amazon Alexa, except you shout out “Hey BMW” for a response. Apple CarPlay is standard, too, but you cannot get Android Auto.
As you’d expect, the 8 Series Gran Coupe’s driving position is tuneable to the nth degree. The steering wheel moves extensively and joins the comfortable driver’s seat in being electrically adjustable. The only omission is adjustable lumbar support, which is available only as part of the M Sport seat upgrade. Nothing feels out of kilter; the dashboard’s buttons are easy to see and reach, you get configurable digital dials and there’s a head-up display, which beams plenty of information into your sightline.
Visibility isn’t perfect, though. The front pillars are quite fat and tend to obscure your vision through tight corners (although its rivals aren't much better in this regard), while the rear screen is fairly shallow. Front and rear parking sensors are standard, though, as is a rear-view camera. You also get ultra-bright, adaptive LED headlights, or, if LEDs are a bit ‘last season’ for you, laser lights are an option.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Space in the front of the 8 Series Gran Coupe is fine for two taller adults and certainly on a par with the competition. It’s quite broad inside, too, so you can spread out across the centre armrest without spilling into your passenger’s space. There are also plenty of storage options for your odds and sods dotted about the interior.
Now for the important question: how spacious is the rear? Well, you get two proper seats and an occasional middle seat that’ll be quite awkward to sit on for long periods; its occupant has to straddle a large hump in the floor. The two outer seats, meanwhile, are supportive and offer similar space to the CLS’s. In other words, there isn’t a lot of under-seat foot space, but six-footers will have enough leg room to sit behind tall front seat occupants. Head room is marginal, but so far we’ve tried only examples fitted with a space-sapping sunroof. The Panamera and A7 Sportback both offer more all-round lounging room, though.
You can fold down the rear seatbacks in a 40/20/40 configuration using handy release levers in the boot. Doing so gives you a fairly flat extended load bay, and with the rear seats up there’s room for around five carry-on suitcases. That means the boot isn’t as big – or as unobtrusively shaped – as an A7 Sportback’s, and it also has a higher load lip and a narrower aperture.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The 840i is the cheapest version of the 8 Series Gran Coupe, but it’ll cost you more as a cash buy than the cheapest Mercedes CLS or Audi A7 Sportback. The 840d is marginally more expensive, while the M850i is a whole different ballgame, and more closely aligned on price with the Porsche Panamera.
All these cars are expensive, though, so whether you're paying cash or purchasing with a PCP finance deal, you'll need deep pockets. Long term, the 8 Series Gran Coupe will hold onto more of its value after three years compared with a CLS, but the Panamera has the most rock-solid resale values.
All three engines pump out enough CO2 to land them in the top bracket for benefit-in-kind (BIK) company car tax, but the 840d should be the cheapest to fuel, with a WLTP combined average of 39.2mpg. The official 33.2mpg for the 840i isn’t bad, either, but the M850i will struggle to break out of the mid 20s at best.
You get lots of goodies as standard. In the 840i and 840d, these include front and rear climate control, power-folding door mirrors, ambient interior lighting, a head-up display, Merino leather seat trim, 20in alloy wheels, an electric bootlid, keyless entry and heated seats front and rear. Options are plentiful, too, and include soft-close doors and cooled seats. The M850i has larger, 20in alloy wheels and adds a sports exhaust.
The Gran Coupé hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but it does get a good crop of safety features, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane change warning. Blindspot monitoring and lane assist (where it'll actively steer you back into your lane) are optional as part of the Driver Assistant Professional Package.
BMW finished a relatively lowly 21st out of 31 brands in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey. That’s one place below Audi but above 23rd-place Porsche and 24th-place Mercedes. The standard warranty is three years, with no mileage cap.