We’re all patiently, or rather impatiently, awaiting the arrival of the BMW 8 Series. It’s the second generation and long-awaited return of the famous 8 Series nameplate. And it’s also a chance a redemption for BMW. The first-gen 8 Series had immense potential but it never quite ended up being the flagship that BMW had hoped it would be. Now, though, BMW has a second chance and it seems there’s a good chance it gets it right this time, as BMW is being very thorough in its testing to make sure the 8 Series drives like a proper Ultimate Driving Machine and it’s doing so by testing the BMW M850i xDrive in Wales with a handful of journalists on hand to sample it and give pre-production feedback.
There’s an old Top Gear episode where Jeremy Clarkson tests the E46 M3 CSL in Wales, claiming the small country to have some of the best driving roads in the world. And from what we’ve seen, he’s not wrong, despite us never having been to Wales. So it’s good that BMW is testing the M850i there, on a mix of both twisty back roads and a race track.
BMW is very serious about making the new 8 Series a very versatile car. It’s designed to be a sporty grand tourer and it needs to be exactly that; it must be sporty, emotional and fun while also being luxurious and comfortable. “The thing that always impresses when test driving the new BMW 8 Series Coupe is its adaptability,” said Markus Flasch, BMW 8 Series Project Manager. “Whether a driver expresses his or her wishes with regard to comfort and sportiness using the accelerator pedal or by pressing a button, the vehicle immediately adapts perfectly to each setting.”
But don’t mistake that for meaning it will be a comfy car with a bunch of power and some fake exhaust noise to trick you into being sporty. There’s proper work and thought put into the way the new 8 Series drives. “The new BMW 8 Series Coupe will be available exclusively with mixed tires. This gave us the possibility when coordinating the suspension control systems to exploit the potential of the wide rear wheels to attain particularly sporty handling characteristics,” said Jos Van As, head of Suspension Application. “Also, the higher camber values on all wheels and specifically tuned elastokinematics result in the realisation of exceptionally high cornering speeds prior to the intervention of the electronics. So those who wish can drive on the racing track with active DSC, too.”
A few things to note there: All 8 Series models will come with staggered tires, meaning wider ones at the rear, which is interesting on an all-wheel drive car such as the BMW M850i xDrive. And there will be a significant amount of negative camber, to increase cornering speeds and help quell understeer. He also mentions about driving it on the track, which is encouraging to hear about a grand touring car. So BMW seems very intent on making the 8 Series a sporty car, even with all of the luxuries and comfort. The 8 Series will be the real deal.
One of the main aspects of the 8 Series’ sportiness will be its engine. The BMW M850i xDrive will get what BMW is calling a “completely redeveloped V8 engine”, although we’re hearing that it’s just a heavily tweaked version of the M550i’s twin-turbo V8. Still, it won’t be a carryover unit from that car and that’s a good thing. “The new V8 engine offers exactly the right balance between performance and emotion, which is what also sets the new BMW 8 Series Coupe apart,” said Christian Billig, head of Drive System Integration. “Above all, the eight-cylinder harmonizes perfectly with the further developed Steptronic transmission during dynamic acceleration. At the same time, the sound development of the sports exhaust system authentically reflects the car’s power delivery. And thanks to BMW xDrive and active rear axle locking, the engine always transfers power precisely to where it can be best converted into driving dynamics.”
The new V8 won’t gain any weight over the previous unit but it will pack more power. That’s 530 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, to be exact. So it will make considerably more power than the M550i’s 456 hp and will share its claimed torque figure with the M5. Whatever BMW did, it seems to have worked.
As previously mentioned by Billig, the engine will have a sports exhaust system that should sound as emotional as its power output would suggest. We don’t know about the BMW M850i’s sound but we’ve heard the BMW M8 in spy videos and it sounds fantastic and unlike any other BMW V8 on the market. If anything, it sounded more like an AMG V8, which is a grand compliment considering the folks in Affalterbach might make the best V8 noises on the planet.
BMW is insistent that the 8 Series will be a dynamic and emotional car in their its releases, almost as if the people in Bavaria have been hearing the criticism of their cars recently and want to insure enthusiasts that the 8 Series is the real deal. From what we can tell, they seem to be right. It has all of the ingredients to be a truly special car. And if the most recent M Performance car to debut, the BMW X3 M40i, is anything to go by, the BMW M850i will be a superb car. We can’t wait.