BMW aims to bring something different and more dynamically elegant to the market for large luxury coupes with this sleekly-styled 840d model. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
What should a top luxury sports coupe be? Sharp and driver-orientated like a Porsche 911? Or a luxurious Grand Tourer like the Mercedes S-Class Coupe? If you can't decide, this 'G15'-series BMW 8 Series Coupe might offer the perfect solution. Especially in this 840d diesel guise.
The 8 Series revives an 8 Series nameplate last seen with the 'E31'-series model sold between 1989 and 1999. That rather memorable contender was nominally replaced early on in this century by two 6 Series Coupe designs, the 'E63'-series model of 2003 and the 'F13'-series model of 2011. Both though, were less exclusive-feeling BMWs which merely plugged a gap in the Munich maker's line-up as the company experimented with other approaches into the luxury GT market. That's what brought us the 'F07' generation 5 Series Gran Turismo of 2009, the 'F06'-series four-door 6 Series Gran Coupe of 2012 and the electrified i8 sportscar of 2014.
Everything the Bavarian brand has subsequently learned has been channelled into this 'G13' generation 8 series design, which was launched in mid-2018 aiming to recapture the more exclusive feel of its 'E31' predecessor. It's much, much more than merely a stylised two-door version of the 7 Series saloon, even though it's built alongside that car at the company's Dingolfing German plant. Let's check this car out in 840d diesel form.
A 'Gentleman's Racer'. Is that what this is? BMW thinks so. For you, that might conjure up pictures of Brooklands in the Thirties but what the Munich maker means by that term is the kind of big sporty GT that Aston Martin has long specialised in. In terms of the driving experience, what BMW has aimed for here is something mid-way between what's served up by this car's two main rivals - the Mercedes S-Class Coupe and more powerful versions of the Porsche 911. And broadly, that's what you get. This car's 'raison d'etre' isn't primarily for the track; no 2-tonne luxury coupe is ever going to feel completely comfortable on a circuit. But it's a heck of a lot more comfortable there than the previous 6 Series models ever were. The brand's xDrive 4WD system is standard, as in 'Integral Active Steering', which gives you four wheel steering for extra cornering stability. Plus there's fantastic traction through the big bespoke Bridgestones and absolutely brilliant brakes.
I opted to try the 840d diesel variant. It obviously can't deliver the aural excitement of the alternative V8 petrol versions but the free-revving in-line 3.0-litre six still manages to sound rather good in its own way, with a deep gravelly note that's emphasised by the stereo speakers. It's got a lot of grunt too, the 750Nm torque figure 70Nm higher than the standard V8. And you get the same Launch Control set-up to hurl you away from rest, allowing an 840d to reach 62mph in just 4.9s. If you like your stats, you can see plenty more of them via a 'Sport' display in the 'Car' section of the centre-dash infotainment screen that as you drive can show you G-Force readings, plus torque horsepower, oil temperature and turbo boost read-outs.
Design and Build
It's been a long time since BMW brought us a large coupe that was really elegant, but most will agree that this modern-era 8 Series design really is. It's very much a BMW of course from the front, with one of the widest double kidney grilles yet seen on a Bayerische Motoren Werke model, which flows into the slimmest headlamps the brand has ever used. In profile, the roofline's low, fast arc is certainly striking, as are the wide shoulders and short overhangs.
Inside, the seating position is notably low, reminding you of this 8 Series model's more focused driving remit and you're surrounded by a cabin that's high in quality but perhaps lacking a little in terms of sheer specialness. Adding in little touches like the 'CraftedClarity' glass finishing for various controls helps quite a bit here. It's hard to fault the digital screen technology delivered by the standard 'Live Cockpit Professional' package that combines this 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display with a 10.25-inch centre-dash infotainment monitor, all of it accessible via touchscreen, the usual lower iDrive touch controller or voice control. And you're perfectly positioned in front of it all by brilliantly supportive multifunctional sports seats trimmed in white-stitched Merino leather that extends up on to the dash. The rear seats are very cramped, but you get a decently sized 420-litre boot.
Market and Model
There's quite a price gap between the two core 8 Series Coupe variants that were offered from launch. Pricing at the introduction of this model range saw this 840d diesel, with its 320hp 3.0-litre six cylinder diesel, costing from just over £76,000, while the alternative M850i variant with its 530hp 4.4-litre petrol V8 requires a budget pretty much dead-on the £100,000 mark. Though the Convertible version isn't our focus here, for reference we'll tell you that that body style requires a £7,000 premium in each case.
Competitors for this 840d are difficult to find. There simply aren't any large luxury two-door diesel Coupes available - not in our market anyway. The closest comparable models we can think of are four-door coupes which cost a lot less: the Audi A7 Sportback - in 320hp 3.0 BiTDI form; and the Mercedes CLS - in 340hp 400d guise. Both cars cost around £60,000 but are arguably more directly targeted by BMW's own 6 Series Gran Turismo, which in 630d xDrive form offers only 265hp but with 'M Sport' trim costs much the same as those top A7 or CLS diesel models.
Cost of Ownership
No rival in this segment can get anywhere near the readings you'd be able to achieve at the wheel of the 840d diesel model - up to 40.4mpg on the WLTP combined cycle (which makes possible a realistic 600 mile driving range) and up to 160g/km of CO2 (NEDC). A 1.5-litre petrol Ford Mondeo doesn't do much better than that. Both the stats we've quoted here were measured under the current 'WLTP' or 'World harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure' cycle, but BMW has converted them back to the less accurate 'New European Driving Cycle' 'NEDC2' spec, since that's what a lot of rival models are still using. The 8 Series powerplants of course comply with the current 'EU6d-TEMP' emissions standard, which dictates that they must have a gasoline particulate filter. On this 840d, BMW's 'BluePerformance' technology further adds a particulate filter, an oxidation catalyst, an Nox absorption catalyst and an SCR catalyst with 'AdBlue' injection.
You'll probably be familiar with AdBlue by now because most modern Euro6 diesel powerplants use it. It's a urea additive that mixes with the hot exhaust gases from the engine. As the urea combines with these fumes, it turns many of the harmful chemicals into nothing more noxious than water and nitrogen - and that's what makes up most of the Earth's atmosphere. Tell all that to bar stool experts who talk as if diesel cars are alone responsible for smogging up our cities.
There aren't many sporting models in this category that a really well-heeled buyer would consider running as an only car, but this is one of them. If you need it to be an old fashioned road smoker, it can do that; this '8' is certainly far happier on a track than its flaccid 6 Series predecessor. And then, at the circuit gates, it can change character into a classic Grand Touring GT. And deliver the kind of experience you might have previously thought you'd have to stretch to a Bentley Continental GT or an Aston Martin DB11 to get.
Are there things I'd change? A few. The interior is classy, well appointed and deeply impressive but it's not especially memorable. We think air suspension should have been included - at least as an option. And given this car's sheer size, it would have been nice to see the kind of rear seat space you get in a rival Mercedes S-Class Coupe. Otherwise though, I think this '8' is, in its own way, very desirable indeed.
BMW's 8 Series Convertible is a big step forward from its predecessor, thinks Jonathan Crouch
Ten Second Review
BMW's 8 Series Convertible is a properly desirable luxury GT cabrio that's more affordable both to buy and to run than its closest rivals, cabriolet versions of the Mercedes' S-Class and Porsche's 911. It may not be an out-and-out sports car, but it's the finest open-topped car of this kind that the Munich marque has yet made.
If every BMW is still to be the 'Ultimate Driving Machine' promised by the advertising, then that slogan must mean many things. Sharp, rewarding handling for most is what this brand is all about but in some market segments, other virtues are just as important. Take up-market large luxury convertibles. Cars like Mercedes' S-Class Cabriolet and the Porsche 911 Cabriolet are all about Grand Touring - fast, stylish cruising, something BMW has more experience in providing than you might expect, with a product heritage in such cars stretching all the way back to the 327 Sports Convertible of the late Thirties. And all the way forward to this car, the 8 Series Convertible.
This model's predecessor, the 6 series Convertible, was a relatively rare sight on British roads. Despite a hefty price tag, it offered performance, rear seat room and boot space all little better than a BMW 4 Series Convertible costing half as much. It was a car that sold on cachet - and that wasn't enough to tempt significant numbers of wealthy buyers from their Mercedes, Jaguar and Porsche models. This 8 Series model though, is a different proposition.
At the end of a day spent in pursuit of the kind of business that makes possible the purchase of a car like this, you want to be rewarded on your route home by a gloriously emotive soundtrack when you fire the engine and nose out into the traffic. That's certainly delivered by the M850i version, along with an alfresco driving experience free, as you would expect, from all the roof-down buffeting and bodyshake that you'd get in a cheaper convertible. Which means that you'll be tempted to lower the roof more of the time, especially as it can be done in just 15s at speeds of up to 31mph. Raising it again cocoons you in a cabin almost as refined as you'd find in the alternative Coupe and four-door Gran Coupe models that BMW also offers in the 8 Series range. Unfortunately, the ride is somewhat firmer than some will want.
And of course, it's fast. Even in the base 840d xDrive diesel variant, you've a 320hp in-line six cylinder petrol unit capable of sixty from rest in just 5.2s on the way to a top speed that would be well into the lock-you-up-and-throw-away-the-key area of licence confiscation were it not for a limiter that cuts in a 155mph. There's also a rear-driven 340hp petrol 840i sDrive variant. Otherwise, this car comes with a 4.4-litre twin turbo petrol V8, developing either 530hp in the M850i or a stonking 625hp in the top M8 Competition variant. All the powerplants on offer are torquey, with more than enough pulling power to make unnecessary as many as eight ratios in the ZF automatic gearbox. Use them and you can access performance that in the case of the M850i will catapult you to 62mph from rest in a Porsche-worrying 3.9s. The M8 Competition trims that to 3.3s. Toupees will need to be very firmly tied down.
Design and Build
As you'd expect, the dimensions of this 8 Series Convertible body style match those of the 8 Series Coupe almost exactly. More of a surprise is that the weight of this open-topped variant isn't very much different either. A focus on body rigidity in the development of the 8 Series platform meant that only a small number of additional cabrio-specific and weight-increasing measures were required for this Convertible design. The roof is lightweight and provides superb acoustic insulation. When closed, it sits taut over the interior, thus retaining its coupe-like silhouette without compromising on design.
A wind defector is standard. This can be set up in the rear-seat area to reduce turbulence when the roof is down. When not required it can be folded to half its size and stowed in the boot. Neck warmers integrated in the front-seat head restraints are also standard. There's very little back seat space but the rear-seat backrest can be split 50:50 and, thanks to this through-loading facility, the capacity of the luggage compartment can be extended as required. With the soft-top closed, the stowage capacity is 350-litres. When the roof is open though, your luggage space falls to only 280-litres.
Market and Model
Pricing starts at around £79,000 for the 840i sDrive, rising to around £83,500 for the 320hp diesel 840d xDrive, around £107,000 for the 530hp M850i xDrive and around £131,000 for the 625hp M8. Expect all the usual executive luxuries of course - leather upholstery and the BMW Live Cockpit Professional package, which gives you a 12.3-inch instrument binnacle dial display and a 10.25-inch centre-dash infotainment screen.
All 8 Series Convertible models get xDrive 4WD, Adaptive M suspension and 'Integral Active Steering', which turns the rear wheels in either the same direction as the front wheels or the opposite direction (depending on vehicle speed). This allows for effortless lane changes, helps you dart through city traffic and facilitates a tighter turning circle with easier parking. Plus there's an M Sport braking system and you get the 'Sport' version of BMW's smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic paddleshift transmission, which means that Launch Control is standard.
Cost of Ownership
Just because you're spending £85,000-£130,000 on your luxury convertible, it doesn't mean you'll be paying through the nose to keep it on the road. Even the M850i with its turbocharged petrol V8 is capable of up to 24.8mpg (WLTP) and combined CO2 emissions of 228g/km (NEDC). The 840d diesel improves that to 39.8mpg and 161g/km.
Routine maintenance is dictated by 'Condition Based Servicing' that monitors oil level and engine wear, taking into account how long it's been and how far the car has travelled since its previous garage visit. To help plan ahead for the cost of regular work, at point of purchase you'll be offered a 'BMW Service Inclusive' package that lasts for three years and 36,000 miles. With this, after a one-off payment, you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that all normal work on the car has been paid for during this period, including items such as oil, spark plugs and filters.
On to the warranty package. BMW offers a warranty that lasts for three years, no matter how many miles you complete. You can also insure your car through BMW, though as most 8s will be funded with company money through a lease deal, this brokerage fees are likely to be bundled into that.
There are only two ways I could really imagine anyone being disappointed by this BMW. If you expect it to be an out-and-out sports car. Or if you can't afford it. The first is unrealistic. Buy a car of this kind and you're buying a Grand Tourer. That's what the target market wants. And this 8 Series is very good indeed at GT motoring. Yet at the same time, significantly more dynamically able than its 6 Series predecessor if you should want to start throwing it about. As for the prices, yes they're high but realistically you can't really have any complaints about that either, given that rival brands are asking similar sums.
Bigger, faster and sleeker than before, for me it's the most desirable convertible the Bavarian brand has ever made. A car you could comfortably choose over a comparable Porsche, Mercedes or Maserati? You'd better believe it.