Two years ago, we saw a magical comeback happen. 20 years after BMW retired the 8 Series nameplate, they finally decided to bring it back and they did so with a vengeance. Whereas the original was available solely in 2-door Coupe format, the new 8 Series is available in no less than three different body styles.
The 8 Series Reborn
The first one to come out was, sort of naturally, the Coupe. That’s the original shape of the 8 Series and it was only normal to expect the revival of the model to bear the same style. However, unlike nearly 30 years ago, we live in a quite different world. It’s a world where a wider assortment of possibilities is welcome and manufacturers struggle to fit into every niche.
That’s how we also got the Convertible not long after the Coupe and, late last year, the Gran Coupe assortment. This last body style is seen by many as the best-looking of the three, yours truly included. By all metrics, the 8 Series Gran Coupe is easily the best-looking BMW made in the last 10 years.
A Marvelous Design
For one thing, it’s sleek, long and wide. The front fascia doesn’t look like it wants to bite your face off, like some other models from Munich seem to want to do these days. The kidney grilles are on the larger side of things, but they are still decent and have a shape that blends in nicely with the rest of the car.
The sleek headlights are marvelous and the blue accents laser-equipped ones have make them just that tiny bit more special. Then there’s the front bumper. The M Sport choice will most likely be the most popular one and for good reason. It has massive air inlets on the sides that tell you this car is not to mess with.
Get some carbon fiber bits on the car and things get even prettier – if carbon fiber is your thing. The side of the car is sleek. The roof hangs low and has a slight arch right above the rear seats but continues flawlessly to the massive boot lid. Massive wide hips enthrall you and create a feeling of power, oozing seriousness and demanding respect.
Even the rear end is impressive, despite having a few too many lines for my taste. In this instance though, it works because the slim taillights simply fit within this car’s silhouette, unlike on other cars, like the new X6 if you will. The fact that our tester was wearing Aventurine Red made it look even better, highlighting every crease and character line.
Inside the cabin things were similarly pretty. Whereas the outside was red, the interior was all white, with Individual Merino Ivory white leather covering the seats and Alcantara in the same hue covering the roof lining. As beautiful as this combo was, I couldn’t but cringe every time I got in the car.
White leather and white upholstery do look nice, but the weather was rather bad when I had the car for testing purposes and getting dirt on the floormats was inevitable. Luckily, I got some rubber floor mats to help keep things clean. They did ruin the feel of the interior to some extent but heck, it was only temporary.
The design is pretty much the same you’ll find on the Coupe model. The dash looks the same and the same technology is offered. Our tester came with the Bowers & Wilkins sound system which doesn’t just sound amazing but also brings the car to life at night. The speakers light up with beautiful patterns and the colors can even be matched to the interior lighting.
You can also adjust the intensity of the speaker illumination, which goes to show how much thought went into the making of this bespoke setup. The optional 1,400 Watts sound system delivers a crisp sound and has plenty of volume without distortions even at max volume.
However, while it is one of the best in the business, the Burmeister 3D system in the Porsche Panamera beats it in every metric except the design. The B&W system is still the better looking one and does create a beautiful atmosphere inside the cabin.
You also get all the tech found on the other 8 Series models, from the new digital instrument cluster to iDrive 7. The tester came with the latest driving assistant tech which now shows you the cars around whenever you’re driving on the highway or around town.
It’s quite clever too, turning the area between the rev counter and the speedometer into a live map, showing you even the size of the cars or objects around you.
The bigger difference between this 8 Series and the other two body styles comes in the back though. As we are all aware, the 8 Series Gran Coupe builds on the success enjoyed by the 6 Series Gran Coupe before it. The problem with its predecessor was that space in the back was rather limited.
I won’t even mention how ridiculous the seats in the 8 Series Coupe are, where you can’t really fit adults on a normal day. That’s no longer an issue on the 8 Series Gran Coupe.
That’s because the four-door coupe is 231 mm longer than the Coupe and 201 of those millimeters go into the wheelbase alone. That means you get more room in the back than ever. Sometimes though, despite the best efforts of the engineers, that added length doesn’t necessarily translate into more usable room for the occupants.
This is not the case on the 8 Series Gran Coupe though. You get enough room in the back for longer trips. I’m 6-ft tall and, with the driver’s seat adjusted to my comfortable driving position, I could easily sit in the back as well.
I have to admit I was impressed.
Leg room is more than decent while headroom is adequate. Our tester came with a panoramic sunroof though and that cut into the room for the occupants in the back. Overall though, I think four adults going on a longer trip, even cross country, would be comfortable all the way.
The rear seats also look amazing. They have profiled bolsters on the sides and are nice and soft. They can also be heated and ventilated like the ones up front and you also get two charging ports in the rear center console. These will be quite useful on longer trips. The frameless windows also create a nice effect whenever you open the doors and, to my surprise, they weren’t letting in nearly as much wind noise as I thought they would. As a matter of fact, the 8 Series Gran Coupe is a lot quieter than I expected.
That is if you keep the Bowers and Wilkins sound system to a whisper.
But those are just details. The moment you sit down in the driver’s seat you realize this car was created to allow you to enjoy yourself.
The Diesel Engine Is Still Great
This particular model wasn’t powered by the almighty 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 of the M850i variety, but the 3-liter straight six diesel with two turbochargers under the hood does its job brilliantly too. It delivers 320 HP and 680 Nm (501 lb-ft) of torque to all four corners of the car through an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
Those numbers might seem off compared to the 530 HP of the M Performance alternative, but they are more than enough for anything you might want to do with the 2020 BMW 840d Gran Coupe. The car will do 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.1 seconds which means you’ll leave a lot of cars for dead.
The best part? It’s efficient.
I know that’s not the point of a 100,000 Euros car, but it can’t really hurt either. For cross-continent trips, this would be a better choice than the M850i for the simple reason that it would demand far fewer stops and, consequently, less money.
The fuel consumption of the 840d xDrive outside city limits was around 5 l/100 km (56.49 mpg UK, 47 mpg US) with an average speed around 100 km/h (62 mph). That number went up to 8 l/100 km (29 mpg US, 35 mpg UK) when the average speed rose to 130 km/h (81 mph).
Even if you split the difference, you still get more than decent numbers for a car that’s this powerful and luxurious. Furthermore, the 3-liter straight six mill under the hood is well balanced and well isolated from the cabin so you won’t get any annoying sounds inside the cabin.
As a matter of fact, the Active Sound Design feature still pumps in some fake V8 sounds when in Sport mode. Naturally, that made me smile. I get why they pump fake sounds in the cabin, but the difference between the sound the engine makes and what I actually heard was too uncanny not to make me laugh.
The Driving Experience
Driving the 2020 BMW 840d Gran Coupe though is a really good experience, with or without the fake sound. The driving position is low and comfortable, offering good visibility on all sides, sans the rear. The low-profile window at the back does look cool, but the profile of the rear seats’ headrests does cut into your field of view out back. Not really a huge issue though except when parking around town.
Nevertheless, the BMW surround view cameras will help out. A lot!
Also, navigating around town should be a bit of a hassle with a car that’s over 5 meters long but, luckily for us, BMW adds Integral Steering to the mix and that means the rear wheels help out when turning. That makes a huge difference, especially when trying to fit into the tiny parking spots old Europe has to offer.
The rear steering axle also helps out outside town, when you can really get the most out of the car’s chassis. Despite being this long and wide, the 2020 BMW 840d Gran Coupe feels lighter than it is. The waves of torque from the diesel engine under the hood help out, but a lot of the credit goes to the suspension and integral steering. The whole car just feels agile and turns like you would never expect it too. You would be hard pressed to guess it tips the scale at exactly 2 tons.
The steering is nicely weighted and offers confidence when trying to place the car on the road. The feedback isn’t on par with hydraulic systems, but it’s not bad either for an EPS. The front axle also has plenty of grip and that adds to the confidence inspiring feel you get behind the wheel.
Then there’s the excellent body control and lateral grip which help out a lot when entering a bend with some speed. The car simply holds on while being pushed by all forces to the outside of the bend and keeps you on the perfect line. All the while you feel like nothing can set you off in the wrong direction or offset the extraordinary balance this car has on the edge. It is, by all means, remarkable and I can only imagine how good the M8 Gran Coupe must be.
Should I Buy One?
The biggest problem the 8 Series Gran Coupe has to face though is its competition. That’s where you’ll find names like the Audi A7, Mercedes-Benz CLS, or the remarkable Porsche Panamera. Out of the three I only had the chance to drive the Panamera and I have to say, they feel like different animals, both showing the pedigree of their respective brands in the way they drive.
Out of the two, the Panamera is the better driver’s car. It’s more poised and even more agile, feeling a lot more on the edge than the 8 Series Gran Coupe. It also seems a bit rougher around the edges and less comfortable over uneven patches of roads.
On the other hand, the BMW is the more elegant and comfortable choice here. It has a quieter cabin and, if you ask me, it looks better inside. Therefore, if you had to choose between them, you’d actually have to decide whether you want a more comfortable GT car or the sportier choice because at the end of the day, both cars can do the two tasks brilliantly, but each has a different focus.
Even so, the fact that the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe can compete with the Panamera in all key areas shows how good this new platform is. It allows you to enjoy your driving whenever you feel like it or just dial back and relax. Considering the 8er is also quite a bit cheaper makes it an even more appealing car.
In my book, the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe is one of the best cars to come out of Munich in the last decade and you should give it a good look over if you’re looking for a stylish four-door coupe.