ROAD TEST: BMW’s new 8 Series luxury flagship
WE have been here before. BMW's original 8 Series coupe debuted as a luxuriant high-performance big brother to the M3 and M5, arriving just before an early 1990s recession put the brakes on big-dollar coupes.
Reintroduced last week, the 8 Series has much in common with its forebear - positioned above successful performance cars, a swoopy and stylish large coupe, with sophisticated suspension, rear wheel steering and powerful 4.4-litre V8.
Where they differ is that there's no V12 option this time and the new car did not land in the fallout of a global stockmarket crash.
Priced from $272,900 as a coupe or $9000 more as a convertible, the 8 Series is available in one trim for now - the M850i xDrive. That means it's a sporty M Performance version (not a fully fledged M car, which comes later) with a twin-turbo V8 and all-wheel drive.
Standard kit is, as you would expect for the money, rather opulent.
There are crystal-like cut glass for the gearknob and infotainment controller; heating for the seats, armrests, centre console and steering wheel; laser-powered headlights; displays for driver, infotainment and head-up in widescreen format; and 16-speaker Harmon Kardon audio. Naturally, BMW's full suite of driver aids is here.
Dip into the options list and you'll find a choice of five 20-inch wheel designs for no extra cost, 10 free paint colours, six that cost a couple of grand and one (pure metal silver) that will set you back $10,400.
Seats trimmed in BMW's top-grade leather are also standard, though you can have more of it on the dash and doors for another $6700, superior Bowers and Wilkins sound is $8200 and carbon-fibre tinsel for the bumpers, mirrors and rear spoiler adds $7500.
The 8 Series has few natural enemies.
Porsche's new 911 Carrera 4S costs similar money, representing a more sporting if less luxurious way to spend the best part of $300,000 on a German coupe. Audi doesn't have an answer for this car, while the Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe is plusher but less sporting.
Think of the BMW as a discount Bentley Continental GT. Its cabin is home to beautifully trimmed soft-touch surfaces, well-placed controls and comfortable seats with a wide range of adjustment.
It's easy to sink into the chair, pop on some music and waft through long drives without worry - or you can sit up and grab it by the scruff of the neck.
The M850i is properly quick, employing 390kW/750Nm to reach 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds. Deep torque reserves endow effortless acceleration, sending the big coupe surging forward with every flex of the throttle.
It sounds glorious when doing so, broadcasting a deep-chested burble that sounds tougher than other eight-cylinder BMWs.
Better still, the 8 Series is great to drive. Four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars help keep its (not insignificant) weight in check. Planted and stable, the coupe keys into the road with immense traction from four fat tyres letting you make the most of that grunt.
There's a duality of character here - the 8 Series can be a high-performance bruiser when called upon, or isolate you from the road in a quiet cabin protected by expertly tuned damping.
Comfortable and quick, the 8 Series deserves to wear the storied badge. It looks, sounds and performs as you expect while delivering impressive luxury.
BMW 8 Series vitals
Price: $272,900 plus on-road costs
Warranty/servicing: 3 years/unlimited km, $3500 for 3 years
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 turbo, 390kW/750Nm
Safety: Not yet rated, 8 airbags, AEB, active cruise control, forward collision warning, lane keep assist
Spare: Inflation kit
There's only one 8 Series spec for now but that will change in the near future. Expect BMW to bring a high-performance M8 to Australia with outputs that at least match the 460kW/ 750Nm of the V8-powered M5 Competition sedan, with carbon ceramic brakes and other performance upgrades for a $300,000-plus price tag. A more modest six-cylinder variant should sit closer to $250,000. Neither is confirmed for Australia.