What Car? says...
Big yet nimble, luxurious yet frugal, exclusive yet well priced. The BMW 8 Series is a super-luxury coupé that’s designed to offer several seemingly conflicting qualities and so is a suitably ambitious flagship for the Bavarian brand.
You can choose from powerful six-cylinder diesel or V8 petrol engines that are linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and send power to all four wheels on most versions. Plus, the 8 Series uses a mix of high-strength steel, aluminium, magnesium and carbonfibre-reinforced plastic in its construction to keep weight down and in turn improve both handling and fuel economy.
The promise of seating for four further adds to its appeal, as does the long list of high-tech features that you can have and the fact the range-topping version borrows its engine from BMW’s bonkers-fast M5 performance saloon.
But should you choose the 8 Series over hugely desirable rivals such as the Aston Martin DB11, Bentley Continental GT and Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé? And is it sporty enough to be a viable alternative to the Porsche 911?
Over the next few pages, we’ll look at everything from what it’s like to drive, to how practical it is and how much it will cost you. And before you buy any new car, don’t forget to check out what deals we can offer you via our our New Car Buying service.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Eagle-eyed BMW fans may have spotted that, despite using the same engine as the M5, the range-topping M850i doesn’t have quite as much power (523bhp compared with 591bhp). In effect, the M5’s engine has been detuned for this application, but don’t let that put you off.
The twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 in question still feels immensely strong. Plus, it sounds much better in the 8 Series – at least when you select Sport Plus mode – doing a good impression of an American muscle car that’s had a couple of firecrackers shoved up its exhausts.
It’s also quick to respond to accelerator inputs, no matter what speed you're doing. And thanks to traction-enhancing four-wheel drive, you can deploy all 523bhp with minimal drama when the road opens up.
We’re yet to try the 840i, which is the only version of the 8 Series with rear-wheel drive, but the 840d diesel also impresses. It’s power delivery is silky smooth and there’s oodles of low-down shove to make overtaking a breeze.
True, there will be a clear winner if you drag race it against the M850i, with the petrol model covering 0-62mph in 3.7sec, compared with the 840d’s 4.9sec. However, the difference will generally go unnoticed unless your everyday commute is more race track than motorway.
As a bonus, the diesel is throaty under hard acceleration and wonderfully hushed at a steady cruise. The 8 Series is pretty good at shutting out wind and road noise, too, even though it doesn’t deliver quite the stately progress of the S-Class Coupé.
There’s more good news on winding roads, because this big grand tourer positively shrinks around you, aided by four-wheel steering. It’s certainly more fun for keen drivers than the S-Class Coupé or Continental GT, but the steering doesn’t tell you a great deal about what’s happening between the tyres and the road, so those looking for proper sports car thrills should buy a 911 instead.
The ride, meanwhile, is firmer and more unsettled than the S-Class’s or Continental’s. But the 8 Series is far from harsh over poorly surfaced roads, even when fitted with optional 20in alloy wheels.
The interior layout, fit and finish
After you’ve absorbed the sleek exterior, with its flowing profile and taut surfaces, you might expect things to be equally dramatic inside. Instead, the 8 Series feels like a slightly plusher BMW 5 Series, meaning it falls some way short of the S-Class Coupé in terms of outright visual panache.
There are also some major plus points, though. BMW has traditionally focused on restrained visual design, preferring to focus on build quality over showiness, and it’s here where the 8 Series scores highly. From the stitching on the leather dashboard to the numerous brushed chrome trim pieces, everything feels sturdy and expensive.
The good news continues when it comes to infotainment. BMW’s latest-generation iDrive system is currently the best on the market, being responsive, intuitive to use and easy to operate while you're driving, thanks to voice control and an intuitive rotary controller. It works in conjunction with a 12.3in digital instrument display that’s standard across the range.
You also get a wide range or adjustment for the steering wheel and electrically operated driver’s seat. And while your view of what’s directly behind is quite limited, all-round sensors and a rear-view camera make parking easy enough.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There’s plenty of head, leg and shoulder room in the front of the 8 Series, along with lots of useful storage cubbies. However, the rear is much more cramped, with even smaller adults likely to find their knees are jammed against the seat in front and their head is touching the ceiling.
You can forget about getting most child seats in the back, too, because the gap between the folded front seat and the body of the car is small – much smaller than in the S-Class Coupé. And, unlike the 911, the 8 Series doesn’t compensate by having Isofix mounting points on its front passenger seat.
The boot is impressively long but has quite a narrow opening and a big lip at its entrance. So, while a set of golf clubs will go in with no trouble, a big box probably won't.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Although the 8 Series sits towards the expensive end of the coupé market, it still makes a decent case for itself when it comes to value for money, undercutting the S-Class Coupé by a significant margin and the likes of the DB11 and Continental GT by even more.
The fact that, unlike these cars, the 8 Series is available with a diesel engine also helps keep costs respectable. And while it could be argued that the reason the 840d has no direct rivals is because a luxury diesel coupé is somewhat out of touch with the current political landscape, an official average of 46.3mpg (not to mention around 600 miles between fill-ups) is not to be sniffed at.
You won’t have to spend a fortune on options, either; all versions come with dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, ambient interior lighting and a head-up display that projects key information onto the windscreen. The M850i adds a sports exhaust system, lightweight alloy wheels and an M Sport differential for added cornering traction.
Only safety kit is a little disappointing, because BMW charges extra for advanced safety aids such as lane-keeping assistance and blindspot monitoring.
|RRP price range||£80,095 - £133,050|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||26.4 - 33.6|
|Available doors options||4|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£5,807 / £9,677|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£11,614 / £19,355|