This is the car you buy if you care about image, and want something flashy.
This is the 2020 BMW M850i Gran Coupe, and it joins the 8-series family of flagship coupés, which we have come to appreciate over the past year or so. The latest 8-series has had some large shoes to fill, considering the credentials and reputation of the last model to carry the name, just over twenty years ago. Now that the 6-series is out of production, the four-door version has morphed into the 8-series line for the current generation, so we decided to spend a week with it.
I absolutely adored the outgoing 650i Gran Coupe. It was a gorgeous car, with perfect proportions and a marvelous engine under the hood. While every generation of the Mercedes-Benz CLS (reviewed here) seems to date itself after a few months on the road, the 6-series Gran Coupe is aging gloriously. The M850i in our garage is equipped with 20-inch M-Sport wheels that suit its muscular stance nicely, but I’m not entirely sure it’s quite as pretty a car as its predecessor. The proportions all seem to work fairly well, and the frameless windows are a nice touch, but it’s not quite as shapely as the outgoing car.
Regardless, looks are subjective, and opinions tend to sway over time, so I’ll digress. The interior, however, is a scrumptious place to spend time. As in most modern BMWs, materials are top shelf, with excellent attention to detail and more of a rarity – physical buttons for climate controls and other major tasks. The seats on our tester were upholstered in Tartufo Full Merino Leather, both heated and ventilated. A console in the rear center area deems this is a four-seat configuration.
The driving position is superbly comfortable, with ample leg and headroom front and rear even with the raked coupé roofline. Visibility is adequate, though the rear window is a mere slit, which will take some getting used to. Adding two doors to the regular M850i Coupé (reviewed here), the Gran Coupe provides 7.1 inches of additional legroom and 3.4 inches of headroom to rear passengers. At six-feet tall with fairly long legs, I was able to comfortably sit in the rear seat of the M850i Gran Coupe, however headroom will be compromised for anyone even an inch taller.
Connectivity and infotainment is controlled via the latest application of iDrive, which is more functional and easier to use than rival systems from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. It can be controlled either using the controller on the console or by using the touchscreen, and is extremely fast to respond to all inputs. Apple CarPlay is on board, though BMW is soon beginning to charge for use, which may cause some users to forego it in favour of the native system. BMW also allows for wireless CarPlay, which is extremely nifty and allows you to leave your phone in your pocket where it belongs.
Under the hood is one of my favourite current motors. The engine that BMW has codenamed the “N63” is a 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 monster. It puts out 523 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 553 lb-ft. of torque at 1,800RPM. BMW is projecting a 0-100km/h time in the sub-four second mark, which makes this a serious machine. The beauty of the N63 isn’t even in the numbers – this engine is just so graceful no matter what the environment is. If you’re toddling around the city, it does so with poise and confidence. Hit the highway on-ramp and stomp the throttle; regardless of driving mode, the M850i will power forward like a cheetah in heat.
If you’ve set the drive mode selector to “Sport” or “Sport Plus”, this motion will be more urgent and complemented with angry sounds from the M performance exhaust. The xDrive all-wheel-drive system is rear-biased, and the rear wheel steering works imperceptibly to make for immense cornering confidence. Give it a bit more throttle mid-corner and the M850i will induce oversteer, too. Lastly, if you’re just cruising at highway speeds, the 8-series does so in near-silence, serene comfort.
Unlike most electrically assisted power steering systems of today, the one in the M850i Gran Coupe actually communicates some feel to the driver’s fingertips. This is obviously a digitally transmitted experience, but carving corners is a satisfying and special feeling. It appears relatively easy these days to make a car that can turn on a dime, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain that analog feel that so many enthusiasts crave in their performance machine. The eight-speed ZF-made transmission does a spectacular job keeping the Gran Coupe in the right gear, but should you wish to change gears yourself, there are paddles mounted on the wheel.
Canadian pricing for the M850i Gran Coupe starts at $121,600. This test vehicle is equipped with the Executive Package, which for $4,000 will add ventilated seats, Traffic Jam Assistant, Driving Assistant Professional, and a classy touch called the “Crafted Clarity” glass application for interior materials. Additional standalone options include the BMW Individual leather ($3,500), M Technology Package ($1,500), Bowers and Wilkins Diamond sound system ($4,900), and a BMW Display Key ($300). The grand total comes to a hefty $134,000 before taxes and fees.
While the M850i Gran Coupe is a spectacular car on its own, its problem is redundancy within BMW’s own lineup. The M550i starts at $83,000 and comes to just under $100,000 when loaded up with the same essentials on this test vehicle right here. That’s a price difference of between $30,000 and $45,000, depending on configuration. You’re probably now thinking “but that’s a 5-series”, and you’d be correct. However, the M550i has literally the exact same powerplant, technology, and most of the interior bits. I’ll say it’s 95% the car the M850i is at 70% of the price. It’s way more understated too, if that’s what you’re into – and I am.
That aside, the 2020 BMW M850i Gran Coupe is absolutely a statement vehicle. This is the car you buy if you care about image, and want something flashy. It’s a sport sedan through and through, with the thoroughbred pedigree BMW is known for. The 8-series Gran Coupe is effectively a 7-series (reviewed here) in a more aggressively styled, svelte package, and in this particular application, a 5-series wearing a racing tuxedo of sorts.