Graceful poise with M Performance dynamite
BMW M850i goes toe-to-toe with exclusive GT alternatives at a good price
I’ve been waiting since the 1990s for this moment. The majestic and chiselled shape with understated brashness of the V8 and V12 powered E31 8 Series was an assault on all of my youthful senses.
Twenty-nine years later I have the keys to a brand new iteration of one of BMW’s most illustrious and elusive badges in my hand and I’m recoiling. It’s the fault of the garish Sunset Orange hue and blacked out wheels fitted to our test unit.
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I honestly think it’s a colour more suited to a Friday night drag car belonging to a care-free, pimply 20-something than on a gentlemen’s chariot which will frequent the respectable confines of a golf club.
Ok, maybe I’m being dramatic. Beyond the zany colour the deliciously sculpted shape oozes exquisiteness. The nose is full of menacing character. The slimmest BMW headlights ever chaperone a wide and low BMW kidney grille.
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But it doesn’t end well. The 8 Series rear is truly overdesigned and there are too many gaping crevices, folds and diffusers.
Make no mistake, some find it quite appealing but I feel it doesn’t speak the same minimalist and elegant design language currently espoused by today’s luxury Grand Tourers all too well.
Things start to look up once you open the driver’s door, and the steering wheel lifts up out of the way for easy entry. The seat is low, so you flop in gently and then get shocked by the sheer size of the car.
BMW M850i xDrive Coupe
WE LIKE: Looks, pace, handling, good quality ride
WE DISLIKE: Paint scheme, rear end design
VERDICT: A large 2+2 coupe with a spoonful of charm
You get a sense of trepidation that you are about to take charge of a cumbersome freight liner you can’t actually see out of, with the car a sizeable 4,851m in length.
But close the door, configure the electric seat and the car and cabin start to wrap around you. The seats are sumptuously comfortable and feel ready and able to work with your torso rather against it on long trips. Mind you, this is the sole purpose of this class of vehicle — to tour, grandly.
Then there is the surroundings and specification. The dash and features are very obviously from the current BMW family but the panels are elongated and vast in accordance to its size.
A 26cm digital command screen with touch control works in conjunction with another 12cm display in direct view of the driver to display navigation and other features. It’s all very tech-savvy and heightens the experience behind the wheel.
The ergonomics are very good. The steering wheel is perfectly sized and the gear-change flaps generous and easily accessed. Space wise, let me say it’ll suffice but the sharply raked roof has eaten away some head and legroom for rear passengers. The 420l boot is pretty reasonable and the rear bench can fold down to increase loading space.
The M850i’s twin turbocharged 4.4l V8 has been given an interesting new breadth from the norm. In Sport and Sport + mode it spits malevolence through its big bore tail pipes even at a slow 20km/h.
On steady progress it drawls like a classic British V8 but turns whip-crack sharp when you floor the throttle, feeding the nonadjustable all-wheel drive and eight-speed Steptronic transmission with the ability to hit the 100km/h mark from standstill in a claimed of 3.7 seconds, and I believe this.
The all-new BMW 8 Series Coupé.
Persist with the loud pedal buried and it’ll cover ground with startling quickness. You really need to have your speed bearings in check or you’ll get into trouble very quickly. I felt that the standard fitment M Sport brakes are not quite strong enough to withstand the formidable speeds it’s able to churn out, and I’d choose the optional carbon ceramic units.
The car also benefits from a carbon-infused core that debuted with the 7 Series. The discernible lightness is the reason why it carries its mass into corners and everywhere else really well but it also becomes apparent pretty quickly that the M850i is not entirely perfect for a point-and-squirt driving style.
Though its 1,902m width fills up the road space it can confidently claw its way past sharp bends. Judicious throttle is needed on blind apexes lest you drift onto oncoming traffic on exit.
Once you’ve decided you’ve had enough heart palpitations, you’ll find it’s a lush cruiser. Individual mode lets you design your preferred settings but in Comfort mode, or even Eco Pro mode at that, the car settles into a silkiness where the dampers are at their floating best, the transmission at its gentlest and the cabin fills with an air of executive silence. In these settings the M850i shines as a GT car as you swiftly and quietly gobble up the kilometres at high speed effortlessly.
The new BMW M850i Coupe is very much the GT recipe we know and, for the most part, love. The script of duality in elegance and certifiable gung-ho may not be to everyone’s tastes but it doesn’t upset its appeal. It’s only that ridiculous orange colour that disturbs the peace.
Type: Twin-turbo V8
Type: Eight-speed automatic
Type: xDrive AWD
Top speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 3.7 sec
Fuel Consumption: 10.5l/100km (claimed) 13.6l/100km (as tested)
Stability control, ABS brakes, Start-Off Assistant, xDrive all-wheel drive, DDC, Driving Assist Professional with camera and radar, Active cruise control, Stop&Go function, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Warning, Speed Limit Info, Steering and lane control Assist, Lane keeping Assist, crossing traffic warning and rear collision prevention warning, electronically controlled rear-axle differential lock, M Sport brakes, Adaptive M suspension, 19-inch M light-alloy wheels with high-performance tyres, Sport exhaust system, M Leather steering wheel, gearshift paddles, eight airbags, tyre pressure indicator, Integral Active Steering, automatic boot lid operation, BMW Operating System 7.0 display, BMW Live Cockpit Professional with 26cm control display, touch-oriented menu structure, steering wheel buttons, voice control, BMW gesture control
Cost of Ownership
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Service plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R40,205 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Mercedes-Benz S560 Coupe AMG Line, 345kW/700Nm — R 2,517,915
Aston Martin V8 DB11 375kW/675Nm — R3,500,000
Bentley Continental GT V8 Coupe, 404kW/770Nm — R3,395,000
Lexus LC500 351kW/540Nm — R1,892,500
Motor News star rating
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