BMW calls the G15 M850i a Grand Tourer, though there's also some mention of its credentials as a sports car. To be fair, seldom is a GT an outright sports car and the 8 Series, weighing in at 1890kg (add 115kg for the convertible), is too heavy to be the latter. Thankfully, it’s an amazing GT.
That’s not to say it isn't incredibly quick. The M850i features a similar engine as the mighty M5, with 390kW of power and 750Nm of torque from its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8. It’s quick enough to go from 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds in coupe form, or 3.9 if you prefer the roof down.
From the outside, the 8 Series represents the most luxurious take on BMW's new face. Here, we see a modern elegance befitting the best of the German brand, with its slimmest headlight design of recent times showcasing the fact all 8 Series models are fitted standard with laser lights that, on high beam, illuminate the road 500m ahead.
Interestingly, in what could be a sign of things to come from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG, the M850i is all-wheel drive. Its xDrive system can push 100% of the engine’s might to the rear (or front) as it needs, which means you get the benefit of rear-wheel drive when the time is right, but it'll still bring the front wheels to the rescue and help you out of a sticky situation.
We found the power and relentless torque from the V8 to be mightily impressive, though the noise is a little on the quiet side, even if it's artificially amplified in the cabin. It’s a hard balance to strike, wanting a glorious exhaust note with the creature comforts of a GT, and in that regard BMW has probably found a reasonable compromise.
At 4.85m long and 1.9m wide, the 8 Series benefits greatly from a rear-wheel steering system that turns the back wheels either in the opposite direction to the fronts (below 60km/h) or in the same direction (above 60km/h) to aid parking the vehicle, but also to keep its big frame super composed in high-speed cornering.
Around the Victorian countryside, we found the system works rather well and the M850i’s overall dynamic competency to be quite extraordinary for what is, in reality, a super GT. It rides well, too, no doubt thanks to an adaptive suspension that really changes the character. It goes from comfort to sport plus, giving the car a true dual-purpose personality for both daily driving and the occasional blast up a mountainous road.
Is it at home on a track? We haven’t had a chance to really explore its limits, but it’s certainly not the sort of $300,000 car one would consider if frequent track work is a requirement. Even if BMW says it's a competitor to the Porsche 911 and Aston Martin DB11, both of which are far more on the sporty side of a GT than the Beemer will ever be.
Perhaps that’s where the M8 will come into play, but expect to spend considerably more money if you want one. On the other hand, there will also be an 840i heading to our shores in due course. If you want to save some coin, and get the elegance of an 8 Series without the hefty price, it might be worth the wait.
In terms of standard features, the list is almost endless – and the options are not. The 8 Series comes with parking assistant plus (which can get you out of a tight spot by autonomously retracing the last 50m of your journey in reverse), connected package professional, a night vision camera with pedestrian detection, heated seats, a heated steering wheel and even heated armrests, along with a 16-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system.
If you buy a convertible, the roof will do its magic in about 15 seconds and you get the benefit of a neck warmer built into the seats.
That all sounds pretty reasonable, but one thing worth mentioning is that BMW remains the only company to charge for Apple CarPlay after its initial one-year ‘registration’ expires. What that means is after 12 months, CarPlay will stop working and you'll need to pay BMW to reactivate.
It’s somewhat absurd given this is a $300,000 car, Apple doesn’t charge carmakers for the technology, and cars as cheap as $12,000 have the feature standard for life. A bit of an own goal from BMW there.
Jump inside and the 8 Series is sure to impress. As is the case with modern cars, there are so many displays it can be almost overwhelming. In the BMW’s case, we have a 12.3-inch instrument cluster in addition to a 10.25-inch control display, plus a huge head-up display. There's gesture controls if you really don’t want to use the buttons, too.
There's also the option of no longer using a traditional car key, instead relying a credit-card sized NFC (near-field communication) card that'll fit nicely in your wallet. If you happen to have an Android phone, you can even use that as a replacement key. Apple doesn’t yet allow third parties to use the iPhone’s NFC chips, but it’s only a matter of time.
The interior itself is covered in the best merino leather BMW has to offer, which is soft, sumptuous and very nice to be in. There’s the jewellery-like glass highlights for the gear lever, starter button and other parts of the interior that certainly set the mood.
There are also two seats in the back for kids or the occasional unlucky adult. It’s nice to have, but they're not awfully practical. Taken on its own, the 8 Series interior is gorgeous and very well put together, but it doesn’t feel as luxurious as what Mercedes offers with the S-Class Coupe.
In saying all that, our biggest gripe – and perhaps the ultimate first world problem – remains the commonality of 8 Series parts readily available in ‘lesser’ or, at the very least, significantly cheaper models. The glass jewellery, the instrument cluster, the latest version of BMW OS7.0, the credit card key replacement, the engine itself… the list goes on.
Yes, the 8 Series has it all, but none of it is really unique and in a car that'll set you back about $300k, we feel that it may lack the sense of ‘special’ you get in, say, a Porsche 911 or Aston Martin DB11 (the latter uses Mercedes parts for its interior but in its own way).
Overall, the new 2019 8 Series is a terrific GT that'll be a delightful choice for long distance drives or the daily commute. It’s jam-packed with the latest technology from BMW and won't disappoint even the most discerning buyer... so long as you don’t mind other BMW owners having some of the same features for a fair bit less.