Ever since Jaguar deserted the up-market coupe segment of the new car market, with its last XK8 and XKR line-up, highlights Iain Robertson, a convenient gap has been left open and BMW is now seeking to fill it with a beautiful alternative.
High-end personal transport has become BMW’s new focus, with its enticing and traditional 8-Series Coupe, as it is clear that the i8 hybrid model is much too niche for those customers desiring the style and verve of the former Jaguar XK-series. Opening a new chapter in BMW’s history of producing iconic sports cars, with high performance, showstopping design, state-of-the-art luxury and advanced equipment technology, the BMW 8-Series is one of the most exciting new cars to be launched in recent times.
The primary objective for the new BMW 8-Series was thrilling driving dynamics. Body, powertrain and suspension have been honed consistently to achieve the highest standards of agility, precision and poise expected of a top-class sporting coupe. Combining the German firm’s punchiest engines, with the xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system and BMW ‘Efficient-Lightweight’ design measures (through extensive use of lightweight metals and composites), BMW intends to set a new class benchmark.
Its exterior design just oozes sporting appeal, with a clear link to the BMW Concept 8-Series first unveiled at the Villa d’Este concours event in 2017, at its Italian Lakes’ home. Its new styling language focuses on clarity, modernity and emotional engagement. Low-slung and elongated, with slim side windows and a flowing roofline, with exterior dimensions of 4.843m in length, 1.902m in width, 1.341m in height and a wheelbase of 2.822m, the two-door coupé possesses a powerful on-road stance.
Set-off by an elaborate, jutting design of the front apron, large air intakes and the precise contours of the bonnet, the new 8-Series comes standard with the slimmest of LED headlights, without losing the all-important BMW lamp signature. Laser lighting, with variable road illumination recognisable by the blue accents inside the headlights, is an extra-cost option.
An almost fully-sealed underbody, active air-flap control, with adjustable kidney grille slats and Air Curtains including Air Breathers, are measures that reduce aerodynamic drag significantly. The exterior mirror bases are mounted directly on the frameless side window weather strips to further enhance the airflow.
The interior creates an harmonious balance between driver-focused dynamics and unabashed elegance. A seamless transition between the instrument panel and door trims is made smoother by the coordinated surface textures, a careful choice of materials and fine double-stitching on hide surfaces. The interior is the epitome of classical automotive elegance and, while it is technology-packed, it is not forced upon the driver.
Exquisitely comfortable, electrically adjustable, multifunctional sports seats offer high levels of long-distance comfort and excellent lateral support during fast cornering. Large door pockets, a roomy glovebox, twin cupholders and a large storage compartment below the armrest’s divided cover flaps, provide plenty of practical cabin storage. The 420-litre boot can be enlarged by folding forward the 50:50 split rear backrests, accessed by hands-free opening and closing of the rear lid.
Powering the 850i is a 530bhp, 4.4-litre, V8 twin-turbocharged petrol engine. It delivers firecracker performance, around 553lbs ft of torque and an impressive soundtrack, which can be altered via the driving controller adjacent to the transmission lever. It accelerates from 0-60mph in 3.4s, emits 221g/km CO2, achieves an Official Combined fuel return of 29.1mpg and a politically-limited 155mph top speed.
There is a new diesel derivative in the 840d, which is powered by a 3.0-litre, 320bhp six-cylinder in-line engine. Its performance is equally impressive and it can sprint to 60mph from rest in only 4.6s, sipping fuel at 46.3mpg, while emitting CO2 at 160g/km.
Both engines use an enhanced version of the eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, with reduced weight, a newly developed controller and a wider gear ratio spread. Shift paddles on the steering wheel are included for manual gear selection, while the transmission features a Launch Control function, for accelerating from a standing start, with maximum power and traction.
Both mechanical grip and handling stability are excellent. The 4x4 system splits torque in accordance with driver demand, although it is a rear-driven car under normal circumstances, to ensure that BMW can live up to its intrinsic ‘driver’s car’ focus. Integral Active Steering is fitted as standard to reduce the turning circle, when manoeuvring. It also increases agility at moderate speeds and optimises poise and assurance, when changing lanes and cornering at high speeds.
The driver assistance systems process camera images as well as data gathered by ultrasonic and radar sensors to monitor the vehicle’s surroundings and, thus, warn of potential hazards, while minimising the risk of an accident, with corrective braking, or steering inputs. It is a step towards automated driving and works in conjunction with the active sat-nav system. A larger, more informative, in-screen, head-up display is standard, as is automated parking. Naturally, the car is packed with safety and driver aids to expected high standards.
BMW’s new 8-Series drives impeccably well, with excellent feedback to the driver’s fingertips and the seat of his trousers. The default (and preferred) suspension setting is firm but provides a comfortable ride quality and toggling between the different chassis settings can result in increasingly sporty ride and handling compromises, according to personal taste. Deliciously communicative steering, despite the variable ‘electrickery’, allied to progressive and confident brake performance ensures that the 8-Series’ driving pleasure is total.
Interestingly, the new 8-Series provides a modern equivalent to the former Jaguar XK Coupe, which was renowned for its excellent balance and poise. When you consider that the British firm’s F-Type, which replaced it, has not been the commercial success that had been hoped for, the amount of internal backside-kicking that must be taking place in Coventry at present must be painful.
The BMW 8-Series is on sale immediately, with list prices starting from £76,270 (840d); the 850i being a ‘100 Grand’ car at £99,525. Naturally, good lease deals and judicious discounts will make the cars more business affordable over customary ownership periods. If you desire a business car that complies with ‘ultimate status’, the 8-Series fits the bill to perfection. It is probably the best-looking BMW of the modern era and, while meeting all dynamic safety and comfort demands, it manages to retain a familiar level of elegance.