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Driven: BMW 8 Series arrives Down Under

M850i Coupe, Convertible kick off BMW’s new 8 Series, with other variants to follow

10 May 2019

BMW Australia is preparing to add a more affordable ‘840i’ variant to the just-launched all-new 8 Series flagship sportscar range later this year, ushering in a sub-$200,000 entry point for the reborn two-door coupe and convertible.


While declining to confirm the exact engine type or variant nomenclature, BMW Group Australia product communications manager Adam Davis revealed that a broader array of models is in the pipeline for the newcomer.


“We will augment the 8 Series range with additional variants in the second half of this year,” Mr Davis told GoAuto at this month’s launch of the V8-powered all-wheel-drive M850i Coupe and Convertible in Victoria.


Expected to be powered by a variation of the 250kW/500Nm 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbocharged engine as found in the related Z4 M40i roadster, the 840i should come in well under the M850i pair priced at $272,900 plus on-road costs for the coupe and $281,900 for the drop-top.


The 840d diesel sold overseas is not anticipated any time soon, leaving other markets with the 235kW/680Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel.


The final quarter of this year should also see the arrival of the 8 Series Gran Coupe, following the four-door sedan model’s global debut next month.


All three body styles are direct replacements for the 6 Series-badged models produced at the same Dingolfing plant in Germany between 2011 to 2018.


One key difference between the 6 Series and 8 Series is size, due to a switch to BMW’s CLAR platform that has underpinned every all-new longitudinal-engined passenger car and SUV the German manufacturer has launched since the current 7 Series in 2015.


In fact, the latter serves as the 8’s platform basis, while the previous 6 was based on the 5 Series.


Dimensionally, the latest two-door models measure in at 4851mm long and 1902mm wide, resting on a 2822mm wheelbase, but the convertible is 1mm shorter at 1345mm.


Cargo capacity is rated at 420 litres in the coupe, or 70L less in the convertible due to roof-stowage requirements. Both have a 50/50-split backrest for longer items, while the cabrio’s roof can be lowered and raised in 15 seconds and at up to 50km/h.


Fabric roof colours are either black or silver, while the coupe’s standard carbon-fibre turret is also in black and features a subtle double-bubble shape that is meant to hark back to the company’s 1960s GT coupes. A no-cost body colour aluminium roof option is the alternative.


Other differences between the body shapes are the convertible’s use of beefed-up windscreen frames, the insertion of cross struts for greater strength and rigidity and rollover bars to help occupant safety in an inversion.


Positioned as the ‘Ultimate Grand Tourer’, the four-seater M850i has BMW’s M Performance division’s fingerprints all over it.


This is seen in the double-wishbone front end, five-link rear suspension set-up with adaptive dampers, an electronic limited-slip M Sport differential and active anti-roll bars, along with the variable-ratio electric power steering with four-wheel steering, which moves the back wheels a few degrees in either direction according to speed.


Brakes are M Sport items with inner-vented discs measuring in at 395mm in diameter and the exhaust is an enhanced sports arrangement.


Under the bonnet, the M850i shares some engine basics with the M5 Competition, though here the 4.4-litre V8 delivers 390kW of power from 5500rpm to 6000rpm (70kW less than the M5) and the same torque output of 750Nm from 1800-4600rpm.


It is enough for the 1890kg coupe to reach 100km/h from standstill in 3.7 seconds, 0.2s quicker than the 125kg heavier convertible. Driven gingerly, the coupe can average 10.4 litres per 100km for a carbon dioxide emissions rating of 224 grams per kilometre, which is 0.2L/100km and 5g/km better than the ragtop.


As with most big BMWs, ZF provides the gearbox – an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission with ‘ConnectedShift’ technology, which uses sat-nav to anticipate driver requirements and match gear ratio selections to real-time road environment and conditions.


As for the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, 100 per cent of torque can be apportioned to either axle as required for optimum traction and grip.


Wheels are 20-inch alloys, shod with 245/35R20 tyres up front and 275/30R20 tyres at the rear.


The 8 Series is fitted with BMW’s latest iteration of iDrive (Version 7.0), there is an all-digital instrument cluster with a head-up display, as well as a 10.25-inch central touchscreen offering gesture control in the coupe, as well as voice recognition, wireless charging, Harman Kardon premium audio and the availability of a digital key using near-field communications with smartphone control where applicable.


Apple CarPlay is a cost option.


Leather covers most of the interior including the instrument panel, prism-like glass embellishes the gear lever and other switchgear, the headliner is Alcantara in the coupe, all doors including the bootlid have a soft-close function, ambient lighting is fitted, and there is heating for the steering wheel, seats and all outer armrests.


The convertible also has neck-heating for the front seats.


The original 8 Series was a coupe-only affair available in V12-powered 850i or – later – as the 840i V8. Dubbed E31 and in production for 10 years, it was a sales disappointment for BMW, launching in 1989 just as a global recession hit hard; but time has since mellowed many dissenting voices, with the range now highly prized.


Among its many influences in the latest G15/G16 coupe/convertible series is the shape of the instrument panel and ‘laser light’ LED headlights, which – though not pop-up items – are the slimmest in BMW history.


2019 BMW 8 Series pricing*

M850i xDrive Coupe (a) $272,900
M850i xDrive Convertible (a) $281,900
M850i xDrive First Edition (a) $295,900

*Excludes on-road costs

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