When is a coupe not a coupe? If you're BMW, it's when the car in question is actually a Gran Coupe.
With looks inspired by the sexy two-door 8 Series on its four-door, five-seat body, the 2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe promises the best of both worlds – a blend of coupe style and sedan practicality. It comes close to delivering, save for a few foibles.
For those playing along at home, the 840i GC really is an 8 Series in name only. At 5082mm long with a 3023mm wheelbase, it's a whopping 231mm longer than the two-door. It's also 30mm wider and 61mm taller – although it looks lithe, the Gran Coupe is actually the widest car in the BMW line-up. Take that, X7.
The payoff for the car's extra girth is a spacious interior, especially in the front. Whereas my head is tickling the headlining in a two-door M850i, there's acres of head room up front in the Gran Coupe, even with its (surprisingly small) sunroof.
The front seats slide right back and drop low enough to have your bum skimming the ground, while the electrically adjustable steering column motors out into your chest. BMW is still the master of ergonomics, no doubt about it.
It also has the best infotainment on the market. At risk of angering Mercedes-Benz and Audi owners, the brand's latest OS7.0 system is the easiest of all the new-generation infotainment set-ups to operate for a novice thanks to its intuitive rotary controller, and backed by voice inputs and touch capability.
The mapping is crystal clear, the audio system dead easy to navigate, and the supplementary menus are unusually simple. Plus, the BMW head-up display is still a standard-setter. The only real complaint is the digital rev counter in the instrument cluster, which runs anti-clockwise.
Traditionalists will also miss the elegant simplicity of BMW's old dials, which were the best in the business.
Standard equipment is generous, too. The extended Merino Leather package is standard fit, along with heated/cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, two-tone seats, and four-zone climate control.
Tested price for our tester was $212,900 before on-road costs, up from the $199,900 sticker price.
Things aren't so rosy in the back. Although you technically get three seats, the transmission tunnel extends right through the cabin, making the middle pew utterly useless for all but the most dire of emergencies. BMW has described the Gran Coupe as a 4+1, and that rings true in the real world.
Thankfully, the outboard seats are lovely bucket-style units with neatly integrated headrests, and the transmission tunnel is home to a climate-control pod so second-row passengers don't feel like second-tier citizens.
There are also electric sun blinds on the rear screen and windows, and an individual shade for the fixed-glass roof section over the second row. Kids with busy hands will love all the buttons back there, but their parents might not be fans.
Leg room is actually acceptable with average-height passengers sitting behind average-height drivers, but toe room is seriously tight, and head room will be an issue for anyone knocking on the door of six-foot. If carrying adults around is one of the reasons you need a big car, the 5 Series and 7 Series are better suited to your needs.
Luggage space is also limited to 440L, down on the 530L offered in the 5er and 515L in the 7er.
There's no avoiding the colour scheme on our tester's interior, either. Colour and trim choices are always a matter of taste, but if you like the caramel-on-beige combo pictured here, I'm afraid you have poor taste, there's nothing more to it.
What's more, BMW will charge you $8900 for the privilege of ruining your cabin with that particular seat colour combination. The lovely Alcantara headlining on our tester was another $2200, while piano-black cabin trim added $200 to the price.
If nothing else, the materials are all lovely to touch, the crystal gear knob and infotainment controller ($1400) add the right amount of bling, and the extended heating package means your elbows and forearms will never get cold. Not that we spent much time with the seat heaters running, given the 8 Series was through our garage in a week where the mercury twice topped 40 degrees.
Power in the 840i comes from a classic BMW engine. It's a lusty 3.0-litre inline-six, turbocharged for good measure, outputting a handy 250kW and 500Nm. Those numbers sounds familiar for a good reason: the same engine is used in a range of other BMW models, sharing its state of tune with launch editions of the Z4 M40i (which has since been uprated) and the BMW-powered Toyota Supra.
All-wheel drive is offered elsewhere in the 8 Series range, but the 840i is rear-drive only. It's also auto-only – a smooth-moving eight-speeder is standard fit, as is the case throughout much of the BMW line-up.
You won't be surprised to hear it's a lovely powertrain, velvety smooth and packed with torque. It pulls effortlessly from idle, has a plump mid-range, and revs out happily, while the ZF transmission sharply plucks another gear and slots you right back into the meat of the engine's torque.
It also sounds nice – although the noise in the cabin is electrically augmented, it pushes all the right buttons if you're a BMW tragic.
We saw efficiency of around 11.0L/100km in town, and as low as 6.2L/100km on a highway cruise. BMW doesn't yet provide official fuel figures for the 840i Gran Coupe in Australia, but lists a 7.4–7.5L/100km combined figure overseas.
Despite its considerable size, the 840i GC is easy to pilot through the urban jungle. That's largely thanks to the standard rear-wheel-steering system – or Integral Active Steering in BMW speak – which virtually shortens the wheelbase, and makes tight garages a cinch.
If you do get caught in a bind, the car's Reversing Assistant is capable of self-driving you 50m in reverse... Along the exact same path you took driving in. Clever.
There is no getting away from the 8er's length when parking on the street, though, and those lovely 20-inch alloy wheels are eminently kerb-able.
The 840i GC rides with the sort of pliancy you'd expect of a long-wheelbase luxury car, in spite of its sizeable wheels. It feels relaxed in Comfort, smoothing out speed bumps and resurfaced roads with aplomb.
It's better again at highway speeds, where the Gran Coupe eats up highway miles with long-legged confidence. Although the car's radar cruise control is excellent, smoothly maintaining a gap to the car in front, the auto-steer is a bit too busy for my liking, constantly nibbling away with small (but noticeable) inputs.
There's also a sense it's fighting with you, occasionally trying to override the driver if they edge towards the outer reaches of their lane because of what's happening nearby. We left the 'distance control' switched on, and turned steering assist off.
Rear-seat passengers don't get quite the same ride, though. Ergonomic issues aside, the ride is a bit bouncy back there at low speeds. That's the price of fashion, though, and the 8 Series Gran Coupe is a car designed with fashion in mind. You could criticise it for the cramped rear seats, or the limited boot, or the fact it costs more than $200,000 before on-road costs.
But we're constantly complaining cars all look the same, and that SUVs are taking over the world. The 8 Series Gran Coupe, with its long and low body, and lovely interior, bucks both of those trends.
Although it has four doors and a boot, the 840i Gran Coupe isn't a rational car. It turns heads and makes the driver feel warm and content inside with its comfortable ride and creamy engine – the fact the kids can come along for the ride is an added bonus.
Oh, and unless you need to truly one-up the neighbours, the inline-six is more than enough engine. Leave the 4.4-litre V8 for the hooligans in their uncouth, two-door 8 Series racers.