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Five questions our new BMW 8-series long-termer must answer

Published: 26 April 2019

► CAR lives with a BMW M850i
► V8, all-wheel drive and orange
► Six months with the big coupe

Expectation for our new BMW 8-series long-termer is sky high, as is the list price. Can BMW's comeback big coupe deliver? We have six months to find out.

1. Is this car proof BMW's got its big-coupe mojo back?

Regardless of whether or not it's a fair question to ask, the 8-series must – in a single car – undo decades of underachievement. That's the ball we're keenest to see the 8-series smash out of the park.

In the beginning there was the CSL Batmobile, a car so evocative (thank the countless race wins and spectacular paint jobs, not least Alexander Calder's art car) that BMW's yet to better it as a single-car manifestation of all it stands for. Then there was the '80s 8-series, for a whole generation (tellingly, a generation then too young to drive) a knee-weakening confection of wedge silhouette and pop-up lights.

And now, after too long trying to get really excited about a couple of generations of lacklustre 6-series, the 8 is back, excitedly twinned with its GTE endurance-racer sister in BMW's propaganda, and due in range-topping M8 guise at the end of the year. Priced as a flagship, can the M850i drive and feel like one?

2. Surely weighing in at 1890kg is a problem?

Whether you're glancing at the 850i's spec sheet or heading out for your first few miles behind the wheel, the sheer weight of the thing is hard to ignore. Yes it's big (4851mm from end to end) and four-wheel drive, but a kerbweight of 1890kg is pretty astonishing when you consider that the body claims aluminium and carbonfibre in its construction, and that the barely-any-less-roomy-in-the-back-Porsche 911 is some 500kg lighter.

BMW M850i door sill

Given the BMW is unlikely to lose weight over the duration of our loan, the best we can hope for is that it's a car no worse off for being a bit porky. Perhaps the engine's so outrageously gifted, everywhere, and the suspension so adept, that the weight simply won't matter. Perhaps it'll even work in the car's favour, helping it smooth out rough tarmac. Or perhaps we'll be endlessly frustrated by its dim-witted responses and debilitating thirst.

3. Is a 4.4-litre petrol V8 a good idea in 2019?

The 311bhp £76,270 840d has huge appeal, as much for being £20k more affordable than the 850i as for its promise of far less painful running costs. (BMW reckons on 39.2-40.4mpg combined for the diesel, versus 26.2-26.9mpg for the petrol V8). But, buoyed by a new credit card, the first joyous whispers of spring and the truth that no truly great driver's car has ever run a diesel engine, we've opted for the Super Size Me M850i: an outrageous 4.4 litres of twin-turbo petrol V8 decadence, driving all four wheels via standard xDrive (rather than the M5's switchable front-/rear-wheel drive – the flagship M8 will surely get that) and an eight-speed auto.

4. £108k...?

Clearly, BMWs pretty confident the 8-series is a seriously good car – how else can you explain pricing that's nudging six figures before you've ticked a single box (£99,525 for the M850i before options)? The 850i isn't a million miles from cars with badges synonymous with 'luxury brand' pricing, namely Bentley's new Conti GT (perhaps the 8-series' most like-minded rival, albeit for another £50k in W12 form, though a V8 is coming) and Aston Martin's V8 DB11, which starts at £145k.

BMW M850i gearlever?

Partly because it comes groaning with kit straight out of the box, 
and partly because taking the price any further north would quickly start to look entirely ridiculous, my 8-series 'only' boasts options to the tune of £8880. Of those the big hitters are the M Carbon roof (£2650: pretty, but on a two-tonne car?), the Technology package (£2800, and combining semi-autonomous Driving Assistant Professional and Parking Assistant Plus), the Adaptive M suspension Professional (£1895 – this car costs £99.5k and still you need to find more for clever suspension...) and BMW's £1500 Laserlights.

The grand total's £108,405, the elephant in the room Porsche's outrageously good new 992-generation 911, pricing for which starts at £93k for the Carrera S with PDK. It might be 79bhp down on power, but the Porsche is also almost 400kg lighter...

5. And, all that aside, what's it actually for?

Expensive, fast, pretty (I think), painfully cramped in the back and possessing of the longest bonnet and boot this side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom hearse, the M850i is a curious proposition when subjected to any kind of logical thinking. Perhaps tellingly, it has also prompted its maker to come up with a series of oxymoronic descriptors, including 'elegant racer' and 'luxury sports car'. You what? Maybe everything will make perfect sense by the time we hand it back after six months.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: BMW M850i xDrive

Engine 4395cc twin-turbo V8, 523bhp
Gearbox 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 3.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 224g/km CO2  
Price £99,525
As tested £108,405
Miles this month 3058
Total miles 3058
Our mpg 20.1
Official mpg 26.2
Energy cost 19p per mile

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three