First drive: new BMW M850i Coupe

By Hannah Elliott, May 2 2019
First drive: new BMW M850i Coupe

BMW’s new M850i Coupe has been a long time coming – BMW hasn’t made an 8 Series since the 1990s – but now that it's here, it's what you've been waiting for.

The original 8 Series reigned supreme in the best ‘90s way: a low profile, menacing shark nose and pop-up headlights that made it impossible to miss, and BMW only retired this beauty rather than update the engine to meet new emissions regulations.

Since then, we’ve looked to the BMW M3 and M4 Coupes to fill the need for a sports car that’s big enough– and comfortable enough – to tour in while strong enough to spike our adrenaline levels to the red-line limit.  Now, with the M850i, you can better those M cars (and even save some money in the process).

The M850i immediately attracts the eye thanks to smoothly sloped fastback rooflines and punchy, softly rounded front ends, while the tilted headlights are angled up on the sides so they look ready for some rather aggressive antics.

Spend 10 minutes with the M850i in the street, and the attention you get from admirers of all types will prove it’s vastly more distinctive than anything more ubiquitous.

I drove the US edition which comes in one blessedly simple engine variant: a twin-turbo 523-horsepower V8.

That, paired with the lightning-quick, eight-speed automatic transmission, is good enough to get you to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 250km/h. All this happens under all-wheel-drive, adaptive suspension, and active steering, which all come standard. 

The first leg of my journey took the M850i up toward North Salem, N.Y., on two-lane backroads cutting through golden fields and low-set lakes.

I loved how intimately the car anticipated directions from my hands and feet; there’s zero hesitation when you press the gas, total balance as you press the brakes on those 20-inch, V-spoke wheels, and vice-grip contact with the ground as you follow the road around tight turns.

Driving the M850i closer to home through rush-hour traffic became like a video game, rousing at every hint of a duck and weave as I sorted my way to the front of the pack.

At almost two metric tons, this is a big touring coupe, not a tiny sports car. If it were made by Porsche, it’d be not a 911, not yet a Panamera.

So along with driving it upstate to Hayfields, I also took it to Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and filled it with lamps and rugs and all the various dishes and home supplies typically used by civilized people. I wanted to see just how usable this grand tourer was. 

It turned out to be shockingly practical. It swallowed everything I threw into the ample trunk. The back seat, several inches longer and wider than those of the 911 or Aston Martin Vantage, is actually usable as more than just a ledge for bags - I daresay it would even fit human cargo.

That said, tall drivers such as me will need to recline the front seat to avoid looking the windshield header straight in the eye. And there are some blind patches over your shoulder around 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock.

But when combined with the superb interior BMW has given us here – elegant details such as the glass knob on the shifter, multi-function seats in full merino leather, and a “live cockpit” system that integrates the 10.25-inch central information display with the 12.3-inch instrument cluster - the M850i becomes a wonder to inhabit and a thrill to drive.

Hannah Elliott

Hannah Elliott is the resident motoring writer at Bloomberg.

26 Apr 2018

Total posts 12

Why can't BMW employ someone who understands what an interior should look like in a luxury vehicle? Apart from the tech advances, that car's interior isn't much better than the 633i I had in the '80s. Why is the central info display so narrow? And how bland does that steering wheel look? People with $AUD300K to spend on a car don't want it to have an interior befitting an $80K one.

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