BMW 8 Series Review
Thanks to the wedge-tastic 850 Ci that became such an icon in the 1990s, many BMW fans will have a soft spot for the 8 Series name. So when the time came to replace the 6 Series, BMW decided to reinvigorate the moniker. Although this car might not be quite as striking as its predecessor, it’s still a handsome beast, and there’s no avoiding the unquestionable capability. The modern design is just the garnish on a dish laden with powerful engines, lively handling and a beautifully built cabin.
Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5
The 8 Series is a luxurious, well equipped and well-built grand tourer that simply eats the miles with ease. The line-up is simple, with one specification for the ‘cooking’ 3.0-litre 840i petrol and 840d diesel models, while the V8-powered M850i and M8 Competition versions get their own special specifications. There is no ‘basic’ version to speak of, with plenty of equipment across the range.
The M8 Competition offers heart-stopping performance and stellar handling characteristics, but it isn’t like the rest of the range is slow. Whichever car you choose will be an incredible long-distance cruiser – it’s just the M8 Competition will also blow your mind on your local B-roads.
Aside from the striking image and the plethora of brilliant, potent engines, the 8 Series carries many of the traditional BMW characteristics. Not only is it great to drive, but it has quality in spades and some well thought-out features, such as the Live Cockpit Professional infotainment system.
It can be used as a touchscreen, or you can control it using the rotary dial in the centre console if you don’t want to take your eyes off the road. Or you can use the gesture control system that allows you to dismiss phone calls with a wave or turn up the volume by rotating your finger in the air. Quite a party piece.
Across the board, the 8 Series is a much more agile car than you might think. It’s a big car, but the handling is stunning, with great balance and stunning body control, while the engines are all more than powerful enough to hide the bulk. Only the slightly woolly steering of standard models lets the side down slightly, but the top-of-the-range M8 is a driver’s dream.
Finding a ‘basic’ engine in the 8 Series range is a tough ask, but the 840i sDrive boasts the lowest list price. That version combines a 333hp 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, allowing a 5.2-second sprint from 0-62mph and the obligatory top speed of 155mph.
Alternatively, you could opt for the marginally more powerful 840d xDrive, a 3.0-litre mild-hybrid diesel engine with 340hp and four-wheel drive as standard. It’s very slightly quicker to 62mph, managing the dash in 4.8 seconds, and it’ll achieve the same top speed. Or you could have the M850i xDrive, which gets a 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine with 530hp. That’s enough to bring the 0-62mph time below four seconds.
Then there’s the M8 Competition, which is frankly insane. It’s a big, motorway mile-muncher from Munich that can keep pace with the world’s supercars, and that beggars belief. Even on a race track, it can hold its own, with more accurate handling than the standard 8 Series and a whole lot more power. That’s thanks to the tuned 4.4-litre V8 engine that churns out a gargantuan 625hp, as well as a clever four-wheel-drive system and sportier suspension. It has sharper, more accurate steering than the standard 8 Series, too.
While it’s unlikely any 8 Series drivers will care too much about fuel bills, there is an easy way to keep fuel economy palatable: go for the diesel. Where the 840i manages around 34mpg on the official efficiency test, the 840d uses mild-hybrid technology to get you around 44mpg. Both are very respectable, but the 840d’s mix of economy and performance is hugely impressive.
If you must opt for one of the V8s, you’ll soon be on first-name terms with your local petrol station staff. The M850i will do about 26mpg, while the M8 cuts that to about 25mpg. Neither will be ruinous on paper, but you do have to remember the intoxicating performance that’ll make achieving that economy an exercise in restraint. And do you want to be restrained? Really?
If you’re running an 8 Series as a company car, we’ll channel our inner Will Smith and ask what you do and how you do it. If that is you, then prepare for some sizeable tax bills. Even the most efficient model – the 840d – is in the top 37% company car tax bracket, despite its 168-171g/km carbon dioxide emissions. If you’ve gone off the idea of diesel, though, you’ll be looking at the 840i, which emits 188-192g/km.
Again, the V8 petrols are the most polluting, pumping out way in excess of 200g/km. It’s also worth noting the convertible and ‘Gran Coupe’ four-door versions of the 8 Series are a little more polluting than the equivalent coupe models.
BMW’s interior design has taken some flak over the years, but we think the brand’s refusal to change is no sign of weakness. In fact, BMW has honed its cabins to ergonomic perfection, and though the design isn’t especially exciting, the quality and finish is very impressive.
With the more luxurious models – including the 8 Series – BMW has tried to jazz things up with a slightly awkward crystal-effect gear lever and some smart trims, but it’s still as much about function as form.'
It gets quite dark in there, too, what with the standard black roof lining, although the Gran Coupe’s bigger rear windows make it feel a little less claustrophobic and the convertible always offers the chance to lower the roof whenever the British weather is playing ball. Thankfully, comfortable seats are standard no matter which model you choose, so it’s a perfectly pleasant place to while away the hours.
That’s particularly true if you opt for the M8, which gets some sporty red touches on the steering wheel and adds a whole new gear lever to the equation. Sure, it’s all stuff we’ve seen on other BMW M cars, but it makes the car feel much more tactile, as well as ramping up the excitement factor.
The 8 Series cabin centres around the standard-fit BMW Live Cockpit Professional infotainment system, which pairs a central touchscreen with a digital instrument cluster. The instrument display isn’t the clearest system on the market, but it works well even with the sun beating down, and it gives you all the information you might need. You can customise it, too, so you get the display you want. Better still, it comes with a crystal-clear head-up display that will show you most of what you need on the windscreen.
But the real highlight is the central screen, which is the gold standard for in-car infotainment systems. It’s logically laid out, and despite having more settings than most of us would know what to do with, it’s quite intuitive to use. And it has the advantage of being controlled either through touch or through a central control wheel, which is the best way to use it. Learn your way around and you need never take your eyes off the road to operate most of the settings.
The 8 Series comes with other tech, too, including wireless phone charging and a cubby hole designed to boost phone signal. There’s a good reversing camera, too, and it has the gesture control party trick that allows you to change the volume by waggling your finger in the air. It isn’t particularly reliable, but when it works it’ll impress your mates.
Despite being quite large, the 8 Series isn’t especially practical as a family car. The rear seats are too cramped and access is tricky with only two doors. The boot is relatively commodious, though, so if you’re taking a two-person road trip, it’ll fit the bill perfectly. If you want to bring the kids, though, you might want to consider the four-door Gran Coupe model, which provides plenty of room for rear-seat passengers and a slight increase in boot space.
Either way, because the 8 Series cabin is quite similar to that of any other BMW currently on the market, you get plenty of storage, with bins in the door cards, a cubby hole under the arm rest and a handy phone cubby at the foot of the dashboard. The glove box is a good size, too, and you get the usual array of cupholders.
The 8 Series has not yet been tested by the Euro NCAP crash test organisation, but don’t go thinking that’s a problem. It’s an exclusive car, so it’s low down the body’s priority list, and there’s plenty to suggest it’s as safe as BMW can make it. The car is loosely based on the 5 Series, so we can take some encouragement from that executive saloon’s five-star safety rating. And the 8 Series’ predecessor, the 6 Series, scored well too. The GT version also cruised to five stars when it was tested back in 2017.
Hopefully, it shouldn’t come to that, because the 8 Series has plenty of on-board technology designed to prevent accidents happening in the first place. There’s the Active Guard system with automatic emergency braking that will slam on the anchors for you if it detects an impending crash and lane departure warning that tells you if the car is drifting over the white line.
If you want more, you can take a look at the Driving Assistant Professional system that comes with the Ultimate Pack. That takes some of the strain in what BMW calls “monotonous” situations such as traffic jams or motorway journeys.
The 8 Series hierarchy is relatively flat, with just one trim level covering the 840i and 840d models, while the M850i gets a trim level all of its own, as does the M8 Competition. That means every model in the range comes with plenty of equipment, including satellite navigation, leather upholstery and a digital instrument display, not to mention two-zone climate control. You get 20-inch alloy wheels, too, and a Harman/Kardon sound system.
If you plump for the M850i xDrive, that specification grows further, with Cerium Grey trim marking out the grille, mirror caps and model designation badging on this V8-powered variant. You get a model-specific alloy wheel design, too, and there’s some extra aerodynamic features, plus a sports exhaust at the rear.
But the M8 Competition holds all the performance cards, offering not only a more powerful engine but also more motorsport-orientated equipment. The obvious additions are the big bodykit and the massive quad exhausts, but there’s also carbon-fibre trim and suede roof lining, as well as M Sport suspension and a trick four-wheel-drive system.
The options list is quite long, with a massive choice of paint finishes that include a stunning metallic blue and a rather bold shade of orange. The pale Barcelona Blue is a classy choice, too, offering something attractive and stylish without attracting unwanted attention.
Scroll past the plethora of wheel options and you find the Ultimate Pack, which will probably appeal to the majority of customers. That gets you a Bowers & Wilkins stereo system, gloss black exterior trim and a host of other goodies, including carbon trim and suede roof lining.
Other appealing packages include the Comfort Pack with front seat ventilation and soft-close doors, and the M Sport Pro Pack with bigger brakes and snazzy seat belts. But as nice as all these extras sound, you don’t need them. There’s more than enough kit to be going on with on a standard 8 Series.
The new 8 Series blurs the lines between sports car and luxury coupe in such a way as to maximise its number of rivals. Depending on what you’re after, you could consider it alongside cars as varied as the Audi R8 (bear with us on this one) and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe.
On the face of it, the 8 Series should go toe-to-toe with the other German coupes – the E-Class and the Audi A7 would be the obvious comparisons. You could consider the utterly gorgeous Lexus LC, too, or even the larger S-Class Coupe. But because BMW has insisted on fitting only the biggest engines to its big coupe, you could also consider cars such as the Porsche 911 or the Jaguar F-Type. You might even look at the Ford Mustang.
And if you look at the M8, which comes with a six-figure list price, you could also consider the V8 versions of the Bentley Continental GT, Aston Martin DB11 or – if you go for the convertible – even the Ferrari Portofino. But the M8 is also a four-wheel-drive coupe with a 3.2-second 0-62mph time, and that means it can stake a claim to nabbing the crown for practical supercars from the Audi R8.
If you want the practicality of the four-door Gran Coupe model, that opens the floodgates once more, bringing the Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin Rapide and even the Bentley Flying Spur into contention. But they say you’re judged by the strength of your enemies, and on that basis the 8 Series is very, very strong indeed.
The 8 Series is one for the drivers, offering customers a luxury coupe that doubles as a sports car. In some ways, the M8 Competition could even be the most practical, all-weather, user-friendly supercar on the market, although Porsche might say otherwise.
Either way, the 8 Series’ breadth of capability is just as astonishing as the way it looks. Opt for the 840d and you’ve got an efficient, good-looking motorway cruiser that can still perform the way a sports coupe should, no matter what the weather. There is no downside.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the BMW 8 Series
**Correct as of 11/01/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,367.44 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.