In-depth reviews

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 is a big beast, and as a result has nothing like 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, but put the BMW up against the Mercedes S-Class Coupe, and it feels less wallowy and better tied down.

There’s certainly no shortage of grip from the BMW’s meaty tyres, while Sport driving mode stiffens up the dampers, brings a bit more edginess into steering and throttle responses, and feeds fake engine noises into the cabin for a bit more drama. We suspect most owners will settle for Comfort mode which gives a softer ride, but doesn’t make the 8 Series any less impressive 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 best sports cars to buy now

The ride quality is generally excellent, although some larger imperfections can introduce a bit of crashiness. The 8-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 does not dilute the experience much. It still feels remarkably composed for such a large car and is better to drive than the more comfort-focused Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet.

The M8 Competition models offer remarkable grip and turn-in considering all weigh around two tonnes. Precise and quite quick 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.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

There are four models on offer: three petrols and one diesel. The latter is a 3.0-litre straight-six diesel, badged 840d, with 316bhp and a hefty 680Nm of torque. It may be something of a hard sell post-dieselgate, but there’s little doubt that its performance characteristics suit the big BMW well. It’s a unit that feels unstressed and unstrained, and while it has a lazy, easy-driving feel, a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds and 155mph top speed are pretty muscular.

The mighty M850i is a different kettle of fish altogether, with a roaring twin-turbo 4.4 V8 making 523bhp and 750Nm. That delivers 0-62mph in 3.7 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).

The entry-level petrol engine is found under the bonnet of the 840i. It’s a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six, producing 316bhp and does without xDrive four-wheel drive. 0-62mph takes 5.0s in the Coupe, with the Grand Coupe and Convertible a few tenths slower.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    840i sDrive 2dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £71,725

Most Economical

  • Name
    840d xDrive MHT M Sport 2dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £77,260

Fastest

  • Name
    M850i xDrive 2dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £101,290

Most Popular

'MG's sales must rank as the success story of the year, possibly the decade'
MG 2020
Opinion

'MG's sales must rank as the success story of the year, possibly the decade'

Mike Rutherford says plenty of big car brands could learn from MG's focus on cheap cars
17 Jan 2021
Hyundai i30 vs Volkswagen Golf
Hyundai i30 vs Volkswagen Golf - main
Car group tests

Hyundai i30 vs Volkswagen Golf

Can the updated Hyundai i30 provide tough competition for the latest Volkswagen Golf?
16 Jan 2021
Best electric cars to buy 2021
Electric cars

Best electric cars to buy 2021

There are more electric cars than ever to choose from, so we've picked some of the best you can buy in the UK now
4 Jan 2021