BMW is one of the manufacturers that has always been at the forefront of designing high end Grand Touring automobiles. This market segment continues to grow in popularity with many enthusiasts because it’s simply the best way to get the performance of a two-door coupé and the practicality and comfort of a sedan in one package. The BMW M850i sits atop the BMW lineup of sedans as the flagship of the brand. Although performance, comfort, and handling are important characteristics of a car in this category, its “road presence” is what ultimately turns heads. The M850i does not disappoint in this regard or any other. One glance tells it all: sleek and opulent, yet sporty.
The BMW 8 series Gran Coupé offers a stunning and powerful 4-door body with wide flanks and sharp, creased modern lines. The active kidney grille on the M8 is slim and very refined looking, somewhat restrained as compared to other models. It slightly curves up to the sides and integrates into the headlights that then gracefully wrap into the fenders. The body folds in the fascia are on point and the lines in the massive hood scream “velocious.”
Down the side and along the door panels, the soft body curves together with a roofline that defines this sport back, which then merges into the trunk lid and finishes with a graceful fin that creates the visual of a long, swoopy body. The slim LED rear lights are superb and the two vents on either side of the trapezoidal twin exhaust pipes give this coupé an unmistakably muscular look. The glass of the panoramic roof stretches from the front windshield all the way to the back window that also houses the multi-functional antenna, maintaining the sleek exterior lines by eliminating the need for a “roof shark” antenna. The M850i sits on standard 20-inch wheels with the intimidating look of the M-powered brakes peering through. Simply put, BMW has done a remarkable job of designing, in our opinion, the perfect exterior for a performance luxury coupé. That’s what this car is all about; pure luxury, a sporty character, and everyday utility, all combined in one BMW.
From the moment you open the door, you’ll notice the fine details that have gone into every aspect of designing the M850i. The backlit badging on the door sill is strategically placed on the lower rocker panels, which prevent scraping and scratches as you get in and out. The LED ambient lights not only create an exclusive mood, but they also serve as a safety feature when the door is opened; the embedded LED optical fibres in the door panels flash red to warn cars and bikes approaching from the rear of an open door. All switches and controls have been designed and placed with the utmost thought to ergonomics.
The M850i includes a deluge of driving and safety technologies, all of which I defined in my writeup of the 2020 X6 M50i; some as standard features and some as optional, but all designed to make your drive safe, relaxing, and stress free. Every surface inside, including the seats, are detailed with sumptuous materials. Even the metal elements are finely crafted and nothing — I mean nothing — feels ordinary. The centre console of the M850i sets the foundation of the interior. It travels down the centre and all the way to the base of the back seat, making this 5-seater more of a 4-seater with a part-time 5th seat. It’s a compromise I am more than happy to accept as it provides a unique and lavish look as well as an impressive control centre for your rear passengers, with each having their own heated seat controls and dual zone climate controls as well as two USB-C outlets. Comfort is a common narrative throughout this car, and although the back seats are not exceedingly generous in space, I found them to be just right, especially since any more room would compromise the exterior contours of this coupé.
Rear sunshades, the panoramic “moon roof” shade, seat ventilation, and climate control can all be triggered by simply asking your BMW to activate different experience modes (Executive, Expressive, Well-Being, and more) during your drive. The BMW intelligent personal assistant learns your routines and habits and subsequently applies them in the appropriate context. The voice recognition software is flawless and there is no need to remember specific commands because it responds so well to regular speech. Some may find the feature menus and the iDrive controller a bit complex, but let me tell you: once you get accustomed to using them, it is simply painful to operate features in cars without.
The 16-speaker, 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system provides sound quality at its absolute apex, and if I had to be critical of anything in the interior, there are only two things: the canopy over the instrument panel could be a little less conspicuous or a little better integrated, and the absence of Android Auto — something I don’t understand, since there are so many Android users like myself. I am told, however, that it is coming. The feature I’ve grown to appreciate most out of the numerous available is the “automatic proximity lock and unlock” that eliminates the need to push buttons or touch handles to activate locking and unlocking, making the process of getting in and out the vehicle all the more minimalist.
Powered by the latest generation of BMW’s TwinPower 4.4-litre charge air cooled V-8 turbo, this BMW Gran Coupé belts out a dizzying 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque and accelerates our tester from 0 to 100 km/h (60 mph) in an astonishing 3.7 seconds. This new M-Performance drivetrain serves up an enthralling soundtrack or an effortlessly relaxed cruise depending on your mood. Selections ranging from Comfort to Sport+ stage varying adjustments to power output, transmission shift points, suspension dampening, steering, acoustics, and more, constantly delivering an exhilarating driving experience. The active steering system combines steering of the front wheels with variable steering in the rear axle and provides impressive turning ability, stability, and handling through all speeds. The chassis is extremely well sorted and nicely balanced, and with hardly any body roll, the overall stiffness and composure is impressive, given its size. That said, the ride in this luxury sedan is simply magnificent.
The 2020 M850i Gran Coupé sets a distinctive standard in its class. It combines practicality, comfort, elegance, and competitive sportiness in an impressive package that I certainly enjoyed driving. I find it to be a remarkable piece of automotive engineering and an inspiring work of automotive design.