2020 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe review, test drive
What is it?
With its low-slung sportscar nose, long, 'fast'-flowing roof and strong shoulders, the 8 Series Gran Coupe is a luxury grand tourer or four-door GT. A car that goes up against competition like the Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS, it is the third model in the reborn 8 Series line-up; the coupé and the convertible being the other two.
But unlike an everyday sedan or SUV, the 8 Series Gran Coupe's brief isn't simple. Part of its long list of must-haves is stunning low-slung looks, luxury, space comfort, and, of course, thrilling performance. In fact, the product brief clearly states the new 8 Series Gran Coupe should 'drive like a two-door sportscar'; no easy task for something that weighs 1,800kg. So it needs to have the right hardware: the right engine, gearbox, chassis, suspension, differential and good weight distribution – both static and dynamic. It's a big ask. But first, it has to look the part and be able to impress the swish set.
It's attractive looking for sure. The long, flat bonnet and tight-fitting roof lend a lot of elegance, and what also helps is that the 'frozen white' colour stands out in contrast with the black 'shadow line' wheels. It’s also long. The pillar-less four-door has a 201mm longer wheelbase than the two-door coupé, and at a massive five metres plus, the 840i is extremely long in beam.
Style-wise, it is happy blend of elegance and sportiness. China isn't listed as the number one market for the 8 Series range, so it doesn't come with a super-sized grille. Rather, the grille is wide, the headlights aren't fused with the grille as on BMWs of old, and what I particularly like is that the hexagonal LED accents in the headlights just hit the spot. The rear is probably the most attractive bit of the 840i. The integrated 'Ducktail' spoiler sets the theme here and reminds you of Porsche's famous 911 RS from the early '70s. And what makes it look even more attractive is that the 840i sits on a wide base, which of course helps give it a bottom-heavy look.
Under the hood of the 840i is one of BMW's superb straight-six petrol engines. The turbocharged unit puts out 340hp and a strong 500Nm of torque. And because BMW now uses an e-differential at the rear, it can avoid using 'xDrive' or four- wheel drive. This, according to BMW engineers, places this car in the sweet spot when it comes to driving pleasure.
What's it like inside?
Step inside the 840i and the low-set sportscar driving position is immediately apparent. It isn't as low as something like a Z4, and is a bit more comfortable to get into, and once behind the wheel, the driving position is just perfect. While many of the individual fixtures and fittings are common with other BMWs, the 8 Series Gran Coupe feels very different to any sedan. Yes, the leather-lined dash looks familiar and so do the door pads, the other chromed-over bits and the ‘crystal’ inserts. The ambience, however, is very different. The roof is low and the shallow windows give it a 'cockpit-like' feel, and this is further accentuated by the wide centre console that runs the length of the cabin. The four individual sport seats have headrests and come with loads of side bolstering.
The rear seat is more comfortable compared to earlier Gran Coupe and there's a bit more legroom in the back. You are seated a bit low and thigh support isn't ideal, but the sporty seats do hold you in place and prevent you from being thrown around when the car is being driven hard and that’s nice. The centre console, however, is a bit too wide, both at the front and the rear, and the boot sacrifices some space to style; 440 litres isn’t great for a car of this size.
What's it like to drive?
In a word excellent, and here’s why. The 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine is smooth and creamy, to begin with. It purrs at slow speeds, gets smoother as you spin it a bit faster and then when you really put your foot down, snarls, whoops and flies up to its 7,000 rpm redline. This makes it extremely enjoyable to drive at any speed. You do miss the urge of a larger V8 at low speed, especially that instant hit of torque, but once the motor gets spinning and momentum takes over, it feels almost as free-revving as an old-school, naturally aspirated BMW straight-six. And exploiting that high rpm performance is just fantastic. What makes the experience nicer still is that the 8-speed torque converter gearbox is fast and smooth, both in auto and manual modes.
With such a long wheelbase, BMW’s Integral Active Steering (rear-wheel steering) helps by virtually shortening the wheelbase and making it feel more agile. Despite its 1,800kg kerb weight, it feels superbly balanced in corners. Flick it into a corner and the car follows your instruction without hesitation, and what goads you into driving harder and faster is that it feels surefooted and comfortable attacking corners. Unlike the heavy-footed, four-wheel-drive cars, there’s a litheness and agility in way the 840i handles, and what also helps is that the steering is nice, direct and full of feel. In fact, as you come to the limits of adhesion, what you begin to enjoy is that sweet rear-wheel-drive balance – on the better setup cars, it allows you to gently tuck the nose into corners via the throttle.
The relatively long wheelbase and the adaptive damping also mean the 840i Gran Coupe rides with a fair amount of suppleness. This is especially true in 'Comfort', where the bumps are ironed out impressively. It, however, has short springs, and on its 20-inch wheels and low 35 profile rubber, the 840i does thud through some of the deeper and larger potholes.
Should I buy one?
If you are in the market for a four-door coupé, the 840i makes a great case for itself. It drives like a thoroughbred rear-wheel-drive coupe, has an energetic and willing motor, and sitting in the cabin feels special. The centre consoles (front and rear) may be a bit too wide, seat comfort at the rear is not great, and for India, we strongly recommend smaller 19- or even 18-inch wheels. Also, expected to make landfall here in India by mid-2020, the will be expensive at an expected price of Rs 1.40 crore. Still, if you are looking for a four-door coupé that both looks good and drives superbly, the 840i is right up there with the best.
BMW 5 Series
BMW 3 Series
BMW 2 Series Coupe
BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo
BMW 7 Series
BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo