The 840i Gran Coupe has a sporting presence for such a large car. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The 840i Gran Coupe has a sporting presence for such a large car. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

If ever there was a car that invites you to glance at its reflection in shop windows as you cruise past, it’s the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe.

One might cluck disapprovingly at it being overdesigned in some details, and I feel the styling team could have toned down the busy rear end, but there’s no doubting the silhouette and proportions of this big BMW have plenty of head-turning appeal.

With its flowing roofline and stretched silhouette it hits a sportingly elegant sweet spot, which is no easy task in such a large car, as many examples of bloated and frumpy luxury sedans have shown over the years.

The Gran Coupe is derived from the two-door 8 Series Coupe but is 231mm longer, with a wheelbase stretched by 201mm to expand its interior roominess. At 5,082mm the 8 Series Gran Coupe’s not much shorter than the long-wheelbase 7 Series, but radiates a vibe that’s anything but frumpy.

Beneath those coupe curves is a roomy cabin and a 440l boot that apparently swallows three golf bags. I have little trouble believing the latter claim as I was able to stash a bicycle in there after flipping down the rear seats.

Interior space is generous and four adults fit under that curvy roofline with ease, making this sporting Beemer a "sensible" family coupe rather than an impractical indulgence.

Four passengers and three golf bags will fit under those curves. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Four passengers and three golf bags will fit under those curves. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The family is pampered with BMW’s regular gamut of climate-controlled, cowhide-covered luxury, under a panoramic glass roof that is unshaded at the touch of a button.

The sophisticated setting places a digital instrument cluster and head-up windscreen display in front of the driver, and rear-seat passengers get their own interface panel for controlling their individual air temperature and two charging ports for phones.

BMW hasn’t gone for an all-digital interior like some rivals, and along with a touchscreen it still has an array of physical buttons to quick-access main functions. The long-serving iDrive knob presents existing BMW owners with a familiar interface and it’s complemented by voice control which, while still unable to fathom some seemingly simple commands, is at least getting better.

The 840i’s safety suite includes a lane-departure warning and a camera-assisted parking aid — the latter a particularly welcome feature in such an oversized car. Front and rear LED lights are standard fare, and the car automatically dims the brights for oncoming traffic.

A pedestrian safety function first warns the driver of an impending collision, and autonomously applies the brakes if the driver takes no action.

There are still some physical buttons in the highly digitised cabin. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
There are still some physical buttons in the highly digitised cabin. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The 8 Series Gran Coupe is also available as a diesel-powered 840d, but the petrol 840i on test here is a 3.0l twin turbo petrol engine with rear wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic.

We now live in a world where its 250kW power output seems almost tame in comparison to BMW’s various M-badged road missiles, but the 840i’s performance, while not brutal, is satisfyingly thrustful. Its 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.2 seconds is nothing to cluck at, and it is a punchy car all round with good midrange poke.

It’s not overtly thirsty either, with the test car averaging less than 12l/100km.

Using a body made of aluminium, magnesium and carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) has kept the mass down, but the big Beemer still weighs a substantial 1.8-tons which makes it a grand tourer rather than a slick-handling sports car.

Even so, it is more sprightly than its portliness suggests thanks to a low centre of gravity and balanced front-to-rear weight distribution.

Adaptive air suspension gives this grand tourer the ability to cruise comfortably or sharpen up for fast cornering at the flick of a switch. It is not as bipolar a car as some I’ve experienced, and switching from Comfort to Sport mode adds some urgency to the drive without turning it into a hard-riding beast that yearns for the racetrack.

Driving playtime is enhanced by a traction-enhancing M Sport Differential that allows earlier throttle thrusts when accelerating out of corners. For a large luxury car the 840i is pleasantly playful when the driver gets a hankering to push the pace.

The 8 Series Gran Coupe is a sports car in a tuxedo, straddling the divide between practicality and sporting glamour.


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Six-cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 2,998cc

Power: 250kW

Torque: 500Nm

Transmission

Type: Eight-speed Steptronic auto

Drivetrain

Type: Rear-wheel drive

Performance 

Top speed: 250km/h

0-100km/h: 5.2 seconds

Fuel Consumption: 9.3l/100km (claimed); 11.5l /100km (as tested)

Emissions: 170g/km

Standard features

Vernasca leather trim, electrically-operated bootlid, panoramic glass roof, Adaptive M suspension, M Sport differential, four-mode Driving Experience Control, adaptive LED headlights and LED rear lights, high beam assistant, collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function, lane departure warning, rear crossing traffic warning and rear collision warning, parking assistant, ABS brakes, cruise control, electric windows, climate control infotainment system with navigation and voice control, wireless smartphone charger, head-up display, digital instrument cluster

Warranty: Two years/unlimited km

Service plan: Five years/100,000km

Price: R1,547,230

Lease*: R32,968

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Competition

Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo, 243kW/450Nm — R1,673,000

Mercedes-Benz CLS 400d 4Matic AMG Line, 250kW/700Nm — R1,341,880

BMW 840i Gran Coupe

WE LIKE: Styling, practicality, grand touring performance

WE DISLIKE: Not much

VERDICT: A sports car for the whole family

Motor News star rating

Design * * * * *

Performance * * * * 

Economy * * *

Safety * * * * *

Value for money * * * *

Overall * * * *

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