Say the words "BMW 8 Series" to any car enthusiast, and you'll probably get wet shoes when they melt in a puddle, babbling about V12 engines and pop-up headlights.
The modern 8 series is not as direct iconic as the original, but it's an important step for BMW. It's a car that can challenge extremely luxurious offers like the Mercedes S-Class Coupe, but in genuine BMW mode – by placing driving dynamics and passenger enjoyment at the top of the list of priorities.
What is new?
The 8 Series is a brand new car. While it shares well with other BMW models, under the skin, the package is nothing else in the assortment. Initially, it is exclusively available as two-door coupe, but BMW will also introduce convertible and four-door "Gran Coupe" variants to line-up. Everyone will share the same trio engines. It also occupies a new BMW market segment, located between sports cars like the Porsche 911 and luxury models like the S-Class Coupe. Upcoming four door models will also compete with Porsche Panamera.
What is under the bonnet?
While there is a 40d diesel model, we drove the M850i - one step down from a full-fledged M-car but still packing a 4.4-liter V8 with 523bhp. It is paired with an 8-speed torque converter, automatic gearbox, and the combination is brilliant.
The effect is plentiful and the 8-series always feels like it has more to give. The gearbox is silky when you sit around at low speeds, but lower your foot and hit it in Sport mode and the changes are very fast. It is backed up by the numbers: 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds and a peak speed limited to 155mph.
Even though it is turbocharged, V8 gives a lot of impact through the reef range. In the upper echelons it roars like a tiger, but how much of this is artificially generated, we are not safe.
What is driving like?
BMW's sports heritage is clear to note as soon as you start pushing. The 8 Series is not a dartsy fast sports car like a Porsche 911, but the fluidity of its handling means it's incredibly satisfying to drive.
Two aspects assist in the corners – four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. The former is BMW's xDrive system, which is pre-stressed in the 8 series, but all power can be pressed on the front wheels.
The latter works by turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction for faster and tougher turning at low speeds, or in the same direction for increased highway stability.
It also works – this feels like a much smaller car than its 4.85 meter long length would suggest, although the feeling of the rear gear itself takes a bit to get used to.
Riding comfort is a good mid-range between the softness of an S-Class and the sports suspension of a Porsche 911.
How does it look?
The 8 Series has seriously elegant proportions, a long bonnet and rear tire, floating lines and a compact passenger cabin. Some styling details are not so happy on this frame. The Ngurgalls look a bit too stylized and do not play naturally with the slender LED headlamps, while the backside's complex interplay of surface coatings, shutdowns and aerodynamic controls is a little messy. Nevertheless, the overall shape and some features, like the double bubble roof, are just wonderful.
It is worth mentioning the look is spec-dependent. Our vehicles were covered in black detailing on the windows channel and front grating, as well as having black alloys. Models with chrome details look different – less sporty and a bit nicer.
It's classic BMW, which is a good and a bad thing. The driver's focused cottage is easy to use. All controls are good and iDrive infotainment is one of the best in the industry. There are some intricate touches just for the 8-series, such as a screen switch and infotainment selectors. The driving position is also perfect and infinitely adjustable.
If we are critical, however, there is some of the "wow" factor that you get with some rivals. This cabin would be home in a 5 or even 3 series, and we would love to have a little more than just a shiny gear selector to mark it as a branded flagship.
Practically, a big coupe has never been the most spacious of things, but we'd liked a bit more legs on the back. Thank you, the upcoming Gran Coupe will solve it and bring extra doors.
What is the specialty like?
As expected for a car that costs just over 70,000 pounds (almost 100,000 pounds in 850i shape) there is a good level of spec. Climate control, cruise control, electric seats, adaptive LED headlamps, a full range of safety aids and a wireless charging plate come as standard, but the options list has a few things to offer. We are big fans of M-striped seat belts, front seat ventilation and soft closing doors.
The 8 Series is an impressive coupe, one that shows BMW's ability to mix the luxury with the sport is still alive and good. It does not feel as special as some rivals. A Porsche 911 is still much better to drive and a Mercedes S-Class Coupe drips it on luxury. The 8-Series appeal will depend on whether you see it as the best of both worlds or an uncomfortable middle. We lean against the previous one.
Fact at a glance
Model tested: BMW 8 Series M850i xDrive Coupe
Price: £ 100,045
Engine: 4.4-liter double turbocharged V8
Top speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 3.5 seconds
fuel economy: 29mpg
release: 224g / km