Porsche 911 2019 review
You're never going to mistake it for anything but a Porsche 911, but this eighth-generation version of one of the world's most iconic sports car is all-new, and all-brilliant.
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Can a car company show off? It seems absurd; the kind of embarrassing, unedifying behaviour that only ego-driven, status-obsessed human beings engage in. And yet look at BMW’s new 8 Series, with its shinily silly cut-glass gear lever, its laser headlights, its outrageously powerful V8 engine and its bullfrog-but-beautiful stance - surely this is showing off on a corporate scale?
A car as obviously ostentatious as the M850i xDrive Coupe (and Convertible) has to appeal to buyers, even if it’s only a small and wealthy target market. And there is plenty that’s appealing about this old-fashioned yet modern-looking grand tourer, from the incredible way it accelerates to its luxuriant ride quality and decadent interior.
It would want to be impressive, of course, with a price tag of $272,900 (or $9000 more for the Convertible).
So, has the new 8 Series BMW got what it takes to separate the very rich from their hard-earned megabucks? We donned our shiniest shoes and went to the launch to find out.
|BMW 850i 2020: xDRIVE|
|Engine Type||4.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It can be hard to use the word “value” when talking about a car that costs north of $270,000, and keep in mind that this 8 Series is thus even more expensive than a Porsche 911. And a car has to be very good indeed to be worth more than one of those.
We would respectfully suggest that this BMW is pitched a little high in price terms.
Staggeringly, while the standard equipment list is lengthy and the inclusions are high end, you can still spend even more on options, and fairly easily push the price past $300,000 - Pure Metal Silver pain, for example, will set you back $10,400, while a pack of external carbon bits will hit you for another $7500, or $6,600 for the Convertible.
Standard equipment includes, deep breath, 20-inch M-branded light-alloy wheels, a tyre-pressure indicator, M Sport Brakes, M Sport Differential, Adaptive M Suspension Professional with Integral Active Steering, Active anti-roll stabilisation, Comfort Access including a kick-open tailgate, wireless phone charging, Soft Close Doors, BMW Crafted Clarity Glass Application, Driving Assistant Professional, Parking Assistant Plus, including 3D View and Reverse Assistant, Laserlights, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch Control Display, metallics, paint, merino leather upholstery, heated steering wheel and arm rests, and seats, a 16-speaker harmon.kardon sound system, a Head-Up Display and the hugely pointless Gesture Control.
The Convertible model also gets an Air Collar, to keep your neck warm when the roof is down.
In terms of improving on the car it’s replacing, the new 8 Series pretty much smacks it out of the park. Time has not been kind to vehicles fitted with pop-up headlights and the previous 8 Series, which roamed the planet in limited numbers from 1989 to 1999, with now-unimaginable V12 engines, seems a strange-looking beast, with its tiny little kidney grille almost hiding beneath a BMW badge.
The new M850i is a simply stunning looking beast, particularly in Coupe form (the Convertible is not ugly, but it just doesn’t look as complete). Extremely wide and menacingly low, it seems to loom over whatever patch of ground its parked on, giving off an air of magnificent malevolence.
It looks fantastic when followed from behind, but it’s the front view - featuring the thinnest headlight design ever seen on a BMW for a sleek, Iron Man-like face - that really grabs your attention.
Proportion, poise and big old 20-inch wheels give it plenty of presence, while the way the glasshouse tucks in at the rear only magnifies its powerful hips.
BMW has also thrown plenty of design flair at the interior, where you’ll find the unusual yet fabulous-feeling glass gear lever (there’s more of this sparkly, cut-crystal-like stuff on the volume knob, Start button and iDrive controller).
Not only does it feel truly unique and expensive in your hand, but it has an 8 buried beneath it, which shifts and shimmers as you try and see it through the many angles of the glass.
Elsewhere, the cabin is swathed in merino leather and feels undeniably classy, with a touch of modernity via its big screen, but it’s still not quite as beautiful as the cockpit you’d find in an Audi of a similar price. Close, but not quite.
At the very least, you’d have to say the 8 Series is fit for purpose. The seats are hugely comfortable for long journeys, so that’s practical, there’s a handy tray for your phone, where it will be wirelessly charged, and there are two cupholders in front of that, and storage for bottles in the doors.
No human larger than primary school age will ever sit in the back, so there’s not a lot going on back there.
In terms of boot space, it’s reasonably capacious at 420 litres, or 350 litres for the Convertible.
Truly, there is one impressive engine sitting under that big, hulking bonnet. The M-fettled 4.4-litre V8 has two turbochargers located inside the V of the block for “immediacy of response”, and they certainly deliver that.
Peak power of 390kW is delivered between 5500rpm and 6000rpm while its hefty 750Nm of torque is on song, for effortless overtaking, from 1800rpm all the way to 4600rpm.
Looking at those rev figures it’s clear to see that you are initially launched by a huge wave of torque and then, while you’re still drawing breath, the power really kicks in.
All that grunt equates to 0 to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds, which is very fast indeed, and you also get to enjoy a growly, guttural soundtrack, thanks to the standard Sport Exhaust.
The Convertible has the same engine with the same figures, but it’s slightly heavier and thus takes 3.9 seconds to hit the tonne. Which is still stupidly fast for this much car.
Good luck ever matching these figures, with all that V8 temptation beneath your right foot, but the claimed number, at least, is 10.4 litres per 100km for the Coupe and 10.6 for the Convertible. During our launch drive we would have been absolutely nowhere near those figures.
There’s no ANCAP rating to go on for this car, and nor is there anything similar out of Europe to give us guidance, but you do get eight airbags - front, full-length sides and head protection on the sides and in headliner, plus knee airbags for the front seats.
The 8 Series also gets Driving Assistant Plus as standard, which includes Active Cruise with full Stop&Go function, which BMW considers to be “full AEB”, meaning it will bring the car to a standstill, automatically, when required.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
BMW is sticking with its not-very-industry-leading three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and says its customers are happy with that, rather than the five- or seven-year warranties some other companies offer. When you’re paying this much for a car, it seems a trifle mean, frankly.
Like all modern BMWs, the servicing requirements for your M850i are controlled by the Condition Based Servicing (CBS) system, which means that “advanced algorithms monitor and calculate the conditions in which a vehicle is used, including mileage, time elapsed since its last service, fuel consumption and how a vehicle is driven”.
That information allows the car to decide for itself when an annual vehicle inspection or oil service is due.
BMW offers two fixed-price servicing plans, under its BMW Service Inclusive (BSI), which is available in two packages: Basic - $2,290 for five years/80,000km or $5,170 for Plus.
There is a sizeable distance between driving a small, lithe sports car that can sprint from 0 to 100km/h in a scorching 3.7 seconds, and then piloting something that feels as large, and louche, as a cruise ship that can do the same thing.
Accelerating in the M850i is an experience that can only be described as hilarious. There’s just so much mass attempting to move so quickly that it defies belief. The way the nose rears into the air, and the rear end seems to dip towards the ground, brings to mind a bucking bronco, although a feisty polo pony would probably be more appropriate.
It’s easy to see why this car is all-wheel drive rather than the traditional BMW rear-driven layout, because there’s just no way you could get all that grunt to the ground with two wheels, or not without some serious power oversteer issues.
For a car that weighs more than 1.8 tonnes, the 8 Series is surprisingly fluid and involving on winding stretches of road. It feels hunkered down and hammered into the road, which is less of a surprise, but the steering is so perfectly weighted and the power delivery so well calibrated that it really encourages you to push on, and rewards you sense of adventure with smile-widening pace.
It’s quite something to suggest of a car that costs a quarter of a million dollars, but the M850i actually exceeds your expectations in terms of driving joy. On paper, it looks like a straight-line bully, or merely a very grand grand tourer, and it does eat up the miles on a freeway with class and ease, but when you want to point it at a mountain pass, it excels there as well.
We drove the new 8 Series back to back with BMW’s also-new Z4, and what really stood out was not just the gulf in power and poise, but the huge difference in the ride/handling balance.
The M850i really can soak up the worst our roads can throw at it with aplomb, while still making you feel connected to the ground beneath you, and inspiring confidence, and its abilities really did make the Z4 feel very brittle and hard indeed.
To be fair, we didn’t get to throw this big luxo-barge at any sections of really sharp S-bends, or 35km/h corners, and no doubt it would be challenge for it to change direction quickly, but through fast sweepers it really does excel.
And as far as its grand-touring design brief, it absolutely nails it.
Does the world really need a car as outrageously loud, over-the-top, exclusive and stupidly fast as BMW’s new 8 Series? Obviously not, but BMW clearly felt that its range, and its customers, could do with something like this. On paper, and even from the kerb, it seems a strange beast - luxurious and yet lightning quick - but from the driver’s seat it just instantly makes sense. And makes you smile. Scarily, there’s an even faster 8 Series Competition version to come…
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||9|