BMW 8 Series coupe
"The luxurious BMW 8 Series coupe is most at home on a long, fast motorway trip, but it's competent on a twisty route home too"
- Economical diesel
- Luxurious interior
- Smooth ride
- Not a true four-seater
- Divisive styling
- Not as sporty as it looks
The last time BMW offered an 8 Series, it was the late 1990s and the car industry was very different. Luxury SUVs had yet to really take off, and the sleek, square-shouldered BMW 8 Series was the ultimate embodiment of what the German brand knew about making cars. Now the 8 Series has returned - it still assumes a flagship role, but does so with company from the BMW X7 SUV.
There's no shortage of luxury two-door coupes available today, and the 8 Series faces competition from rivals as diverse as the Lexus LC, Mercedes S-Class coupe, Audi R8 and Porsche 911, not to mention the Aston Martin Vantage and Mercedes-AMG GT. Perhaps wisely, BMW seems to have ploughed its own furrow; rather than trying to beat any one specific rival for handling, speed or luxury alone, the 8 Series has its own character that promises the best of all worlds. But as a result, the 8 Series seems a bit confused and doesn’t manage to feel quite as special as its price tag implies.
The two-door 8 Series coupe is joined by a four-door Gran Coupe version (reviewed separately) to take on the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door, and a convertible model. All three are available as a 316bhp 3.0-litre diesel 840d that boasts a 500 mile real-world range, or a sporty 523bhp 4.4-litre petrol 850i. Both feature BMW's xDrive four-wheel drive system as standard and, with even the diesel managing 0-62mph in under five seconds, speed isn't in short supply. There’s also an 840i petrol (the least expensive model and the only one with rear-wheel drive), plus an M8 Coupe and M8 Convertible too.
There's no lack of visual presence, either. The 8 Series’ front end is quite derivative, with its hallmark BMW double-kidney grille and hungry-looking air intakes, but the car gets more distinctive around its sides and rear. Its shoulders are broader than those of any BMW of the past, and its proportions are more muscle car than luxury coupe. There are details that nod towards illustrious models from BMWs past too, such as the 'double bubble' roof, to create a far more athletic look than that of the elegant Mercedes S-Class coupe.
Inside, the design may not be anything like as imaginative as the space-age BMW i8 coupe, but the layout is thoroughly up to date and the materials used create a real upmarket feel. Every gadget you'll find in the BMW 7 Series saloon is in the 8 Series, with BMW's 'live cockpit' digital dashboard, touchscreen infotainment system and head up display. You can tailor the 8 Series to your requirements with a few choice options, too – 'laser light' headlights and a self-parking feature can be added at extra cost.
Despite being very much a "2+2" (the rear seats are as cramped as those in front are luxurious), the 8 Series is far more at home on a fast, wide road than a race track or country lane. BMW fans in search of driving involvement would feel more at home in an M4 or M5. However, those used to the rather more sedate Mercedes S-Class Coupe may appreciate the BMW's greater agility.
As a fast car that doesn't scrimp on day-to-day practicality, the Porsche 911 remains the one to beat. However, the surprisingly economical 840d makes an interesting and fine-handling choice if you want an indulgent, distinctive car for fast, long distance trips and don’t need to take more than one person with you.