BMW is back, baby. It sort of started with M3 CS, and then continued with M2 and M5 Competition – our second- and third-place finishers at last year’s Performance Car of the Year – and gathered pace again with the new G20 3-Series and now, the BMW M850i.
So what’s changed? It’s hard to say, but the latest generation of BMWs have a certain, new dynamic vigour. Like they’ve learned a few things and have gotten ‘better’. Have they changed the food in the engineering canteen in Munich? Climate change making the local weather warmer? Whatever it is, it’s working – a lot of the latest BMWs I’ve personally driven lately, I’ve thought a quiet ‘wow’.
M850i is one of them. Now in Australia and basically replacing 6-Series, the 8-Series is BMW’s latest grand tourer, built off the brand’s modular Cluster Architecture platform underpinning everything from Z4/Supra to new 3-Series, 5-Series and even X7. A platform that appears to be inherently very good.
In this 8-Series, the M850i xDrive, the now familiar 4.4-litre N63 twin-turbo V8 is up front, sending its significant 390kW/750Nm via the equally familiar ZF eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, the whole shebang working to fling 1965kg of leather-lined, hulking grand tourer to 100km/h in just 3.7sec.
At nearly 5m long and 2m wide (but just 1346mm tall) it’s an imposing car in the metal. Slink inside and BMW’s latest generation interior awaits, a delightful pit of expensive-feeling materials. Build quality feels super solid, ergonomics are sound and aside from some slightly garish touches that may or may not be intended to appeal to a growing Chinese market, gripes are few and it’s a smart, special-enough place to sit.
In other news: 8 Series Gran Coupe revealed
The M850i is special to drive, too. Super smooth at any speed, the all-wheel drive acceleration is clean and potent, the V8 snarling in a pleasantly unexpected way. BMW has really stepped up its Active Sound Design game, which plumbs artificial intake noise through the speakers. If you like your V8 notes, you’ll find the M850i’s noise really hits the spot.
It’s a big car but an accurate front end and subtle rear-steering make it easy to place and there’s a sense the M850i, with huge grip and ability, is keen to hustle. A default understeerer, explore deeper and there is a lot of handling talent to be discovered, including power oversteer. Joy.
At $272,900, indeed this is not a cheap car. They won’t sell many, but if this is the ability of the M850i, we’re twisting ourselves in a knot at what the M8 is going to be like. The Munich forecast is looking good.
2019 BMW M850i SPECS
Engine: 4395cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 390kW @ 5500–6000rpm
Torque: 750Nm @ 1800-4600rpm
0-100km/h: 3.7sec (claimed)
Like: Revels in being driven harder; ballistic acceleration; ride quality; interior; V8 snarl
Dislike: Can’t quite fully escape its weight; for $300K interior could feel more special
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars