TEST DRIVE: BMW M850i Gran Coupe — Great but not BMW’s Best Four Door

8 Series, Test Drives | January 8th, 2020 by 8
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Ever since the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe made its debut, I’ve been a big fan of its kind. Every Gran Coupe to debut after it, both the 4 Series and 8 Series variants, I’ve loved. The idea of having a car that looks like a sleek and stylish coupe but has the practicality of four doors and four seats is extremely appealing to me. So I went into my week-long test of the BMW M850i Gran Coupe over Christmas break with a ton of optimism and excitement.

Admittedly, it wasn’t my first time behind the wheel of the M850i Gran Coupe. I’d previously driven it, albeit briefly, during my trip to BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina plant back in November. However, my holiday drive with the big 8er was my first extended experience in its four-door variant.

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Prior to my week with big 8er, the BMW M850i Gran Coupe was the only M850i model I hadn’t spent a ton of time in. I’d previously driven both the M850i Coupe and Convertible quite extensively and liked both cars. After a week, and several longish drives, in the big four-door version, I can now say that it’s easily the best version of the 8 Series. However, after some contemplation, I’ve come to realize that, while it’s the best 8 Series, it’s not the best four-door BMW in that price range.

Style Meets Sensibility

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It’s not often that a car actually becomes better looking as it becomes more practical. Adding space, seating and capacity typically ruins its looks. Such is not the case with M850i Gran Coupe. Adding two doors and two usable rear seats actually made the Gran Coupe the best looking 8 Series in the lineup, oddly enough.

In person, it’s a stunner; big, long and imposing. Few sedans I drive from BMW can garner as much attention as my big M850i Gran Coupe. Its massive length, low roofline and muscular styling turned heads wherever it went. Its black paint and carbon fiber accents on its mirrors and front fascia didn’t hurt either. There’s no two ways about it — the BMW M850i Gran Coupe is a gorgeous machine.

Not only is it better looking but it’s also more practical than its two-door sibling. Sure, BMW markets the 8 Series Coupe as a 2+2 because it technically has two rear seats. But those rear seats aren’t actually large enough for, ya know, humans. I’m a little fellow (as my wife likes to remind me), standing at 5’9″ and yet I still couldn’t sit behind myself in a two-door 8er, and I like to sit rather close to the steering wheel. However, I could not only sit behind myself comfortably in the M850i Gran Coupe but I had plenty of knee room to spare.

More than that, I was able to fit a child seat in the rear passenger seat and my wife still had plenty of knee room in the front passenger seat. So there’s more than enough space for two car seats in the back of the Gran Coupe without making front passengers uncomfortable.

During my week with it, some friends took my wife and I out to dinner and I drove, of course, to further prove its usefulness. So I swapped the rear child seat for a pair of adults and we had a night out on the town in supreme comfort and luxury. Not only could our friends sit comfortably in the back seat but they had USB-C ports to charge their phones, heated seats, climate controls and enough ambient lighting to emulate a German rave. We also had the nicest car in the hip new restaurant parking lot. That was until a brand-new Aston Martin Vantage arrived. Had to concede the style victory, there.

Beauty Meets Brawn

The fact that the M850i Gran Coupe’s added practicality hasn’t ruined its styling is immensely impressive. Potentially even more impressive is how it also hasn’t ruined its performance. The four-door 8er uses the same 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8 as the Coupe, so it makes the same 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. In every application I use this engine in, I’m always astonished that it isn’t a full-on M car. The power and performance it delivers is truly remarkable and far more than anyone, and I really mean anyone, will ever need. If you drive an M850i and feel it’s just not fast enough, you’re fit for a straight-jacket.

Full-throttle acceleration in the M850i Gran Coupe is like being in the cockpit of an Airbus A380 upon takeoff; it’s just instant thrust, a big V8 growl (however artificial it might be) and a rapidly approaching horizon. In fact, passengers often claimed that it felt as if the car was going to take off during hard acceleration.

The twin-turbo V8 is also a masterclass in engine refinement. It’s not often punchy V8s are so silky smooth but the powerplant in the M850i Gran Coupe is as smooth as it gets. Powertrain calibration is also the absolute tops, with both the engine and ZF eight-speed transmission working in perfect harmony. Never once during my time with it was the car in the wrong gear and never once was a shift not perfectly buttery-smooth. At the same time, sport-mode shifts are slick and dual-clutch quick, without ever compromising on refinement. It’s also so good left to its own devices that I’m not sure I used the paddles once in my week with it. Never had to.

Sibling Rivalry is its Downfall

During my time with the BMW M850i Gran Coupe, I tried to find fault with it. It’s a remarkably difficult car to fault, as it does so very few things poorly. In fact, while there’s of course room for improvement here and there, it doesn’t really do anything poorly. Sure, it steering could weight up more while applying lock, its suspension is a bit firm for an M Performance car and its trunk opening is too small for most large items. These are minor gripes when you look at its incredible breadth of ability.

However, I did realize, rather suddenly at the end of my drive with it, that it had one big problem — price. My test car rang in at over $122,000, making it extremely expensive. And there’s another car from within the BMW Group that also offers four doors, for less money and is actually better to drive — the BMW M5.

Maybe that’s not fair, because the M5 is a proper M car and the M850i isn’t. And on paper, they aren’t cars that are supposed to be cross-shopped. However, the M5 is every bit as comfortable as the M850i Gran Coupe, is just as capable as a GT car, yet is far faster, much more enjoyable to drive and cheaper.

In a vacuum, though, the BMW M850i Gran Coupe is a great car. It’s shockingly fast, comfortable for four adults and stunningly gorgeous. It’s one of the best cars BMW makes and it’s the absolute best looking. However, it’s just not the best four-door Bimmer currently on sale. At least until I get to drive the BMW M8 Gran Coupe.

2020 BMW M850i Gran Coupe

Exterior Appeal - 10
Interior Quality - 9
Steering Feedback - 8
Performance - 8
Handling - 8
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 8
Price Point - 8

8.4

In a vacuum, though, the BMW M850i Gran Coupe is a great car. It's shockingly fast, comfortable for four adults and stunningly gorgeous. It's one of the best cars BMW makes and it's the absolute best looking. However, it's just not the best four-door Bimmer currently on sale. At least until I get to drive the BMW M8 Gran Coupe.

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