“Is that a 7 Series?” My wife is equal parts unnerved and confused by the question coming out of the blue from a fellow shopper in the supermarket car park.
“No, it’s an 850i,” she responds, hoping that’s the end of the conversation because at this point that’s the sum total of what she knows about the car,
“Jeez, it’s beautiful. You must be a rev-head?” This guy clearly wants to get his Woolies worth out of this chance encounter.
“Um, no. It’s on loan. But, yes, it’s very nice to drive,” she says, making a beeline for the driver’s door.
“Wow. You should keep it!” are the final words spoken in this brief but telling exchange.
You can’t blame innocent bystanders for spontaneously piping up. The BMW M850i Gran Coupe is a striking machine, especially in ‘our’ car’s matt ‘Frozen Bluestone metallic’ finish.
But before we talk about the first month behind the wheel, let’s get a few basics on the table. This is a close to 5.1m long, four-door (with a conventional boot rather than a hatch), powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8 sending 390kW (523hp) and 750Nm to all four wheels via an eight-speed auto transmission and BMW’s ‘xDrive’ all-wheel drive system.
It’s claimed to blast from 0-100km/h in just 3.9sec, and its coupe credentials are established via a distinctly sloping roofline, modest overall height (1.4m), frameless doors, and a ‘4+1’ seating arrangement.
It’s loaded with enough fruit to stock the local green grocer, including copious amounts of leather, mega harman/kardon audio, four-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch ‘Live Cockpit Professional’ digital instrument cluster (and colour head-up display), customisable ambient lighting, laser headlights (with adaptive beam), a giant glass sunroof, adaptive suspension, monster brakes… the list goes on, and on, and on.
And that’s without touching on any of the on-board active and passive safety tech, or sophisticated engineering underpinning its dynamic performance.
So we’re not at the economy end of the new car market here. Before on-road costs the price tag sits at $277,900. And this example features three ‘BMW Individual’ options - the matt metallic paintwork ($2600), full ‘Merino’ leather interior trim in ‘Ivory White’ and ‘‘Night Blue’ ($10,200), and piano black interior elements ($200). So, to replicate this specification you’re looking at $290,900.
And what you get for those dollars is a stealthily beautiful, physically imposing machine, executed with amazing precision, that’s supremely comfortable, and as fast as it sounds.
If a Hollywood foley artist ever needed to capture the sound of a menacing V8 growling into life, this is the car they should prop their microphone behind. A deep, full-bodied rumble that makes hitting the starter button a special occasion, every time.
And one word sums up the first 650-odd km covered in our first month with the car - effortless.
With so much torque available from so few revs, standard adaptive suspension smoothing out the corrugations, and the high-tech dash displays doing their thing, life behind the M850i Gran Coupe’s wheel is extremely pleasant.
Maximum pulling power (750Nm) is available from just 1800rpm, and remains at your disposal all the way to 4600rpm. So the mid-range is a vast ocean of torque ready to wash away surrounding traffic, and the eight-speed auto is ultra smooth.
Despite the standard 20-inch ‘M’ alloy wheels shod with high performance Bridgestone Potenza S007 rubber (245/35 fr / 275/30 rr), ride quality (especially in Comfort mode) is exceptional.
And the screen quota is filled by the configurable ‘BMW Live Cockpit Professional’ set-up running through a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, with the 10.25-inch ‘Control Display’ managing multimedia and vehicle settings. Toss in the sleek leather trimmed sports seats (heated and ventilated in the front) as well as adjustable ambient lighting, and the overall effect is positively theatrical.
A few niggles. Whenever we’ve filled the car with five occupants it’s clear the centre rear spot is the short-straw position. It’s obviously intended to be an occasional seat, but be aware that’s spelled with a capital O.
The 440-litre boot has proved ample for family-of-five grocery shopping, and the rear seat split-folds 40/20/40 if you need more space. The front seat heating is brilliant on chilly mornings (the front centre armrest is also heated!), the Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto set-up is simple, and 16-speaker B&O stereo system cranks.The nose is also quite low, so it pays to take an angled approach and departure when it comes to driveways and (if possible) ramps.
Plus, the price you pay for the power of an angry Norse God under your right foot is at the bowser. BMW claims 10.7L/100km for combined cycle fuel economy, but even in relatively benign urban conditions, that jumped to an at-the-pump average of 13.6L/100km. Still, not shocking considering the M850i's size, weight (1995kg) and performance potential.
Overall, so far, so (very) good with this stunning four-door. And now we’re a familiar with it, it could be time to explore its dynamic potential a little more thoroughly. Stay tuned.
Acquired: June 2020
Distance travelled this month: 651km
Average fuel consumption for June: 13.6L/100 (measured at the pump)