Imagine you’ve just won the lottery and are finally getting to scratch that long-held itch to own a big, powerful, prestige coupe that will make the sort of resounding style statement the new neighbours can’t help but notice.
The budget is circa $280K and it can’t be anything easily embarrassed by some punk in a hot hatch, so needs to nail 0-100km/h in sub 4.0-seconds.
What you really want is something with that just-right blend of power and luxury. That’s the stock-in-trade of Mercedes-Benz, right?
Narrowing the options
The SL 500 looks the part, and its apocalyptic twin-turbo V8 ensures you’ll never eat a WRX’s dust. But it’s a bit of an old stager these days and more or less supplanted by the AMG GT; which brings us back to that point about being too focused.
Over at Audi, the RS5 is ballistic and gorgeous, but at a mere $157K it’s not in the same realm – you don’t want people thinking you’ve fallen on hard times. There’s also the R8 supercar, but that’s a bit like bringing a nuke to a knife fight.
Who’d have thought that spending nearly $300K could be this hard? But what’s that sitting on the BMW forecourt? An M850i, you say? Do go on.
The new flagship
BMW’s M850i xDrive Coupe launched late last year as a replacement for the 6-Series coupe and also comes as a cabriolet, with a four-door GranCoupe and a hard-core M8 in the pipeline.
It’s a snip under the budget at $272,900; boasts continent-crushing twin turbocharged V8 power; covers the 0-100km/h sprint in a Porsche 911-humbling 3.7seconds; has a smattering of M performance enhancements; and it’s all clad in a long, low and sensuously-proportioned body.
With the rise of ever more powerful (and popular) coupe-style SUVs, like the BMW X6, some thought the market for big, German super coupes may have gone the way of the dodo.
But the Bavarians clearly believe there are enough well-heeled fat cats worldwide who prefer their luxury cars on the large side, with a dash of styling flair and lashings of horsepower.
That’s the M850i coupe to a tee: big, handsome, stupidly fast and insanely powerful, it’s capable of hunting curves with traces of the razor-sharp instincts of a ‘proper’ M car, while also being indulgently luxurious.
Beneath its long bonnet is a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that churns out an epic 390kW and 750Nm. It’s a close cousin to the engine BMW fits to the properly-bonkers M5 Competition sedan, producing identical torque but slightly less power.
Like the M5, the M850i is all-wheel drive and despite boasting two fewer doors plus weight-saving carbon construction in its roof and lower structure, it still tips the scales 100kg heavier than the M5 at 1965kg.
It’s also strictly a 2+2 proposition, despite being just 84mm shorter and 102mm narrower than the five-seat X5 SUV.
Driver and front-seat passenger are handsomely accommodated, but anyone inhabiting the scalloped rear pews should prepare for a cricked neck and bruised shins.
A yacht for the road
In this and other regards, the M850i is a car that doesn’t make a lot of sense – it’s a selfish indulgence, borne from the same mindset that might wonder, ‘why have a boat when you can have a yacht?’
With its stupendous power and eye-watering price tag, the M850i is designed to look great and go hard – and to hell with the mundane stuff in between. But if the latter amounts to a weekend away or a round of golf, the 420-litre boot will surely accommodate.
Out on the road, naughty numbers come up alarmingly quickly in the big Beemer, which feels as if hewn from billet and purpose-built to sit rock-solid at a speed-limited 260km/h – which is precisely what it has been designed to do.
Sadly, you’ll likely never see such velocity on these shores, unless on a racetrack, or just before going to jail; but the engine’s immense shove can be appreciated anywhere, as can the smoothness and intuitive shifting of the latest generation eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
So, too, the chassis smarts underpinning its powerful body: including adaptive M suspension, M Sport electronically-controlled limited-slip differential, rear-biased all-wheel drive, active anti-roll stabilisation and active steering. Collectively, it’s high-tech superglue, designed to ensure the big coupe sticks like a limpet in the bends and tracks like an Exocet at full whack.
And while you may never get to see 260km/h en route from Göttingen to Dresden, this is a car you can admire every time you roll out of the garage. Stand back and drink in the long wheelbase and lowered ride height, the 20-inch alloys, the wide kidney grille, the swooping double-bubble carbon roof, and the flared rear hips.
Open those big, wide doors and drop into sculpted and perforated sports seats, brush the lovely ‘Merino’ leather on dash and doors and the sensuous dark Alcantara on roofline and pillars.
Press the start button on the wide centre console and listen to the guttural sound of that epic V8 revving insistently for a half minute before dropping back to a relaxed, rumbling burble. Grasp the stubby crystal-topped gear lever, select ‘Drive’ and ease out into the morning peak hour... or not. Because you’ve just won the lottery, remember.