Return of the 8 Series to sit atop BMW tree
Sleeker, slicker, smarter, faster flagship coupe for BMW, writes Michael Taylor
It’s out with the old and in with the new as BMW’s 8 Series coupe replaces the little-loved 6 Series at the top of the brand’s style tree. But is a 3.7 second 8 Series really 33% better than a 6 Series?
The 8 Series moves the Bavarian grand touring coupe scene upmarket and has clear links to the Concept 8 Series from last year’s Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza on Lake Como, Italy.
Due to be launched officially in November before going on sale in SA in the first quarter of 2019, the coupe will eventually sit alongside the 8 Series four-door that was shown at the Geneva Motor Show this March. Its arrival will leave the Gran Coupe and Gran Turismo as the only remaining 6 Series models in the line-up as BMW pushes toward a higher profit model mix and a reduced focus on volume at the bottom end of its range.
Its mechanical package is based on the architecture of the 7 Series, with BMW planning to move the price point up to north of the limousine and beneath the Rolls-Royce Wraith.
While the concept car ran a twin-turbo, 6.6l V12, that won’t be one of the four-seat, two-door coupe’s two launch engines.
It will instead initially launch with either a 390kW, 4.4l V8 petrol motor for the M850i xDrive or a 235kW, 3.0l twin-turbo diesel straight six under the 840d xDrive’s nose. At this stage, only the M850i is planned for sales in SA.
Both versions will use variable all-wheel drive and will use variations of BMW’s ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. While both launch cars run the same gear ratios, with direct drive in sixth gear and two overdriven cogs above that, the faster car uses a slightly shorter final-drive ratio.
It is believed that the coupe will eventually include the V12, a 40i straight-six turbo petrol engine and a plug-in hybrid variant as well.
IT’S LIMITED TO 250KM/H WHEN EVERY FIBRE OF ITS POWERTRAIN WANTS TO KICK ON BEYOND 300KM/H, EVEN WITH A 1,890KG DRY WEIGHT.
The V8 is a big step forward from the 650i’s version, with another 50kW of power from the same capacity and at the same weight and it serves up more performance in an all wheel-drive package.
The two hot-vee twin-scroll turbochargers are new and join forces with a new 350-bar, multi-hole direct fuel injection system and a thermal engine shield blanket. Other technical highlights include variable valve timing and lift on both the inlet and exhaust sides of the cylinders and a flap-controlled exhaust system.
Down deep in the V8, there is a new crankcase, new pistons, new conrods, new main- bearing shells, new cylinder head gaskets and a new chain drive, while there is also a particulate filter to ensure it meets WLPT real-world driving emissions regulations.
Its 750Nm of torque arrives at only 1,800r/min and hangs on in a plateau until 4,600r/min, while its power peak hits at 5,500r/min and stays on station until 6,000 revs.
It’s limited to 250km/h when every fibre of its powertrain wants to kick on beyond 300km/h, even with a 1,890kg dry weight.
The engine is fractionally oversquare, with an 89mm bore diameter and an 88.3mm stroke length, hinting at enthusiastic rev hunting from the 4.395cc V8.
BMW claims the M850i will hit between 10 and 10.5l/100km on current fuel consumption tests (depending on whether the stock 245/35 R20 front and 275/30 R20 rear tyres are chosen, or the larger 21-inch units). It claims a CO2/km figure of between 228 and 240g, draining a 68l fuel tank.
Like the M5, the M850i carries an electronically controlled rear differential lock that effectively stops the rear wheels from compensating for their speed differentials and acts like a locked diff. This promises to deliver strong corner power-down, just like the current M5.
The M850i is actually shorter than the outgoing F13 6 Series by 44mm, shrinking to 4,851mm, and its wheelbase is also shorter, pulling in from 2,855mm to 2,822mm. It’s also 1,902mm wide but just 1,346mm high, with 420l of luggage capacity.
Both models share the same basic suspension layout of a four-link double-wishbone setup in the front and a five-link rear end, active electromechanical steering and four-piston front brake calipers.
Inside, the 8 Series cars run BMW’s 7.0 operating system, with a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, digital instrument cluster and touch control to deliver faster access to menu items.
It retains the iDrive scroller for people who prefer the tactile touch, though it can also use gesture control, steering wheel buttons or voice control to operate its functions.
The more expensive Live Cockpit Professional finally brings in a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a larger full-colour head-up display with improved graphics.
It’s now capable of Over The Air software updates, and can receive hazard warnings from other connected BMW vehicles. It also integrates Microsoft Office 365 and Skype For Business, while drivers can start the engine from outside the car on its digital key.
The sleek bodyshell starts with the thinnest full LED headlights BMW has ever made (laser lights are an option) and finishes with LED tail lights.
The double-bubble roof is (for the first time in a full-line BMW core brand model) made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) to reduce weight and lower the centre of gravity.
It won’t be the first 8 Series on BMW’s books, with the company building 31,063 versions of the original E31 8 Series from 1989 to 1999. Like the new concept car, the E31 8 Series was conceived not as a successor to the then outgoing E24 6 Series coupe, but to open up an entirely different market segment further upstream.
BMW has quietly slipped the 8 Series onto the 6 Series’ Dingolfing production slots, bumping the third-generation 6 Series coupe into retirement after a seven-year production run.