Grand Touring is a rich man’s game and it’s played poorly. Cars like the Aston Martin DB11 and Bentley Continental GT serve a restrained purpose — namely looking beautiful and consuming large quantities of petrol. The likelihood of owners taking such ornate vehicles on extended drives is slim. Rather, their immense powertrains and sumptuous leather seats are utilized for occasional jaunts in and out of the city, where a critically acclaimed play or restaurant promise some cultural “awakening.”
Back on planet Earth, prospects for a comfortable, engaging two-door are scant. Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class Coupe is dauntingly large and lacks the finesse of a corner carver. Only Lexus’ LC500 combines extraordinary design with respectable athleticism. Still, the aspirational yet attainable GT niche is underdeveloped and begging for playmates.
BMW has been out of the grand touring game for some time. Following the retirement of the 8 Series in 1999, the German automaker revived its 6 Series moniker as a placeholder two-by-two coupe. The later four-door coupe introduced an element of visual flair, but the two-door was far from the sort of aspirational model BMW needed.
News of the 8 Series’ rebirth stirred some cautious optimism in enthusiasts’ hearts. The original car was truly special, after all, with sleek styling, V8 and V12 engines, and BMW’s characteristic “ultimate driving” dynamics. The successor looks promising too. Longer, sharper, and far more potent than the now-dormant 6 Series coupe, the 8 Series (in M-Sport guise) could give the GT segment new life.
The Barcelona Blue Metallic vision before us is a well-optioned case for BMW’s fortitude. Fetching from every angle, the M850i xDrive’s standout features include a set of striking LED headlights, sharp 20-inch wheels, and muscular rear haunches. This coupe has presence, yet doesn’t overwhelm its own aesthetic grace with angles and ridges. The exterior design is so successful, in fact, that we’ve already erased the underwhelming 6 Series coupe from our memory.
Inside, the 8 glistens with a crystal gear selector, metal mesh trim, Bowers and Wilkins speakers, and vivid digital displays. A duo-tone leather cabin affords the right amount of intrigue for a refined coupe. Though layout and material quality is shared with other BMW models, the 8 Series’ superior details are befitting a $112,000 halo product.
America’s only taste of the 8 Series (thus far) is a twin-turbo V8 delight. The 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque are sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. With sufficient thrust to leave the Lexus’ LC (and most other road cars) for dead, the M850i snaps through its gears without a hint of drama. Road and wind noise within the cabin is minimal, letting us appreciate the burbles and pops of overrun in Sport Plus driving mode.
Aided by a sophisticated rear wheel steering system and robust brakes, the 8 Series slips through curves and scrubs speed with nimbleness incongruous to its 4,500-pound mass. At moseying speeds, the adaptive suspension softens ride quality to fulfill the other requirement of a GT: comfort. The 8 Series’ letterbox visibility through narrow windows does create a few blind spots, but a complete suite of driver assistance features restores driver confidence.
There’s a just-right feel to the 8 Series that not only helps define BMW’s “performance lite” M-Sport brand but also renews the GT segment for driving enthusiasts. Leave the pomp for the Brits; this German has purpose.
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