BMW 8 Series review - Engines, performance and drive
A luxurious cruiser that never lets you forget its weight, but is impressively rapid in M guise
The BMW 8 Series in Gran Coupe form occupies a similar footprint to the Range Rover Sport, so it’s fair to say it’s a big beast, and as a result doesn't possess the agility of smaller more focused rivals such as the Porsche 911. It can’t match the Lexus LC or Aston Martin Vantage for steering feel or responsiveness, either. Despite its size, it’s surprisingly easy to place on a British B-road.
There’s certainly no shortage of grip from the BMW’s meaty tyres, however, while the Sport and Sport Plus driving modes stiffen up the dampers, bringing a bit more edginess into steering and throttle responses, while also feeding fake engine noises into the cabin for added drama. We suspect most owners will settle for Comfort mode which gives a softer ride, but doesn’t really make the 8 Series any less capable through corners.
In particular, the BMW impresses with only nominal body lean, and the carefully balanced active 4WD system always gives the feel of a rear-wheel-drive car, while delivering spectacular grip under acceleration. The M50i variant has four-wheel steering for even greater agility, but it never masks the vehicle’s bulk.
The ride quality is generally excellent, although some larger imperfections can introduce a bit of crashiness. The eight-speed automatic makes seamless changes when left to its own devices, but shows lightning reactions if you choose to override the computer using steering wheel paddles. Opting for the drop-top 8 Series adds more weight, but doesn't dilute the driving experience too much, and it still feels remarkably composed for such a large car and even with a canvas roof, the refinement doesn’t suffer too much.
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The M8 Competition models offer remarkable grip and turn-in considering they all weigh around two tonnes. Precise and responsive steering does a great job of hiding that mass, at low speeds at least. There’s not much communication from the front wheels, though, and with such high limits, any spirited driving is probably best left for the track. You can also select ‘4WD Sport’ and ‘2WD’ mode, which in turn switches off the stability control system. In two-wheel drive mode, the M8 will happily lose traction at the rear but requires some effort to wrestle the mass back into line. There’s also an active exhaust system, although for a true M car we’d like the louder setting to be a bit more vocal.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
The 3.0-litre straight-six mild-hybrid diesel has been discontinued, but some buyers may still be interested in the oil-burner as a used buy. Badged 840d, it offered 335bhp and a hefty 680Nm of torque. The diesel may be something of a hard sell in today's electrified age, but there’s little doubt that its performance characteristics suit the big BMW well. It delivers more range than the petrol models and suits the 8 Series’ grand touring abilities. It’s also a unit that feels unstressed and unstrained, and while it has a lazy, easy-driving feel, a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds and 155mph top speed are pretty muscular.
The 840i petrol has a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six, producing 328bhp and does without xDrive four-wheel drive. 0-62mph takes 5.2s in the Coupe, with the Grand Coupe and Convertible a few tenths slower.
The mighty M850i is a different kettle of fish altogether, with a roaring twin-turbo 4.4 V8 making 523bhp and delivering 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds. A similar, more powerful version of this engine is offered in the M8 Competition, producing 616bhp, 750Nm of torque and a 0-62mph time of 3.2 seconds (or 3.3 in the Convertible).
In this review
- 1BMW 8 Series reviewMuscle car performance and proportions give BMW’s 8 Series old-school appeal, but it’s packed with the latest technology
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingA luxurious cruiser that never lets you forget its weight, but is impressively rapid in M guise
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsBMW 8 Series running costs are par for the course, but high enough to make most drivers wince
- 4Interior, design and technologyIt looks brutish and aggressive on the outside, but the design wraps a technological tour-de-force
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe 8 Series has a large boot, but if you're prioritising practicality then you'll need the four-door Gran Coupe model
- 6Reliability and SafetyThere’s no shortage of safety technology for the 8 Series, while Driver Power customer satisfaction ratings are improving