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2019 BMW 8-Series Review

LIKES
  • Slinky shape
  • Natty cabin
  • Explosive power
  • Supple ride
  • Engaging road manners
DISLIKES
  • Curb weight: It’s the X7 coupe, essentially
  • Interior volume ≠ exterior length
  • So the M8 will cost more?
  • Insert Apple CarPlay gripe here
BUYING TIP
  • Blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control aren’t standard with the 2019 8-Series, and we wouldn’t leave them off.
Bigger, bulkier, bawdier: The 2019 BMW 8-Series bucks all Bavaria’s typical instincts and revels in its life choices.

The 2019 BMW 8-Series revives a badge that’s been dormant for 20 years. It replaces the former 6-Series, and takes a spot at the top of BMW’s numeric charts, while it takes up rent-free space in our head.


The coupe or convertible is lovely to look at and to drive, though it’s as chunky as a BMW SUV and more expensive than most of them.

In the overall picture, the 2019 8-Series scores a 6.8 out of 10.

With the 8-Series, BMW offers two maiden-year models, both dubbed M850i xDrive, with or without a fixed roof. Both are ravishing, inside and out. BMW’s bettered its own coupe and convertible history with a shape that’s both languid and energetic, with a cabin that’s draped in screens and shapes and textures that could command twice its price. Yes, it’s massive and decidedly thick from some angles, but so were classics like the Lincoln Continental and Olds Toronado. This shape’s one for the ages.

The 8-Series lines up fitting firepower. Both versions tap a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 rated at 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, shot out of all four wheels via an 8-speed paddle-shifted automatic and standard all-wheel drive like water from a high-pressure fire hose. The 4,700-pound 8-Series convertible nails a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds and a top end of 155 mph, astonishing numbers for a non-M car (well, non-M in all but badging).

The 8-Series has to come to grips with all that mass and length when it takes to the road. Its grippy and resolute when it has to be, relaxed and muted when there’s no need to be. BMW suits up the 8-Series’ suspension with adaptive dampers and adds a few degrees of rear-steer at lower speeds to dictate more nimble behavior than it could otherwise deliver. It’s not the sharpest tool for a Malibu canyon run, but the 8-Series positively loafs down coastal highways, stings like a hornet when it’s floored, and sticks through deep esses thanks to adaptive dampers, massive staggered wheels and gummy tires, and anti-roll bars that counteract the usual lean.

If it only had two seats, no one would be the wiser, but the 8-Series feints at four-seat capability. You’ll have to trick adults into the back seat and fold their legs until they fit. The front passengers will marvel at their multi-contour chairs while anyone in back will need chiropractic care.

No crash-test data will ever come to light, we think, but the 2019 8-Series has automatic emergency braking and a surround-view camera system, though blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control cost extra. Other standard equipment includes a head-up display, Harman Kardon audio, supple leather upholstery, navigation, 20-inch wheels, and LED headlights. Among the options, we’d pay more than the base price of  $112,895 for the coupe, $122,395 for the convertible, for the pure and crisp sound that issues from 1,325 watts of Bowers & Wilkins audio.

Styling
The 2019 BMW 8-Series throws its styling weight around.

BMW’s never drawn a coupe and convertible as big as the 2019 8-Series. Suffice it to say that scale works in its favor.

With two extra points each for its exterior and its interior, we rate it a 9 for styling.

Long, low, and wide, the 2019 8-Series wouldn’t look out of line in an American muscle-car lineup from the past half-century—or with a price tag twice its $112,895 base. It’s turned its extravagant length and curb weight into visual assets, like a Toronado from a different mother.

The 8-Series has the latest BMW snout with enormous twin vertically ribbed grilles, which are maybe our least favorite details. They go far to mask the tall front end and trim out well with slim daggers of LED headlights. Angled fender vents and sculpted doors take some of the mass out of the side of the shape, while the teardrop curve of the roof pillar lays perfectly in repose. (Convertibles are even nicer when the roof’s lowered.) It’s truly interesting at the rear end, where the trapezoidal cues of the front end intersect in letter-X shapes that frame the car’s wide tailpipes and brake ducts. Never mind the 8-Series of the last century, this one’s more meaty and more sinister.

The cabin’s crafted with the usual BMW wraps of gauges and banks of controls, but as it’s done with the latest X7 and X5 SUVs, BMW’s hit upon a way to frame controls with wider metallic trim that balances out the design. Especially in lighter leathers and trims, the contrast-stitched seats and wide panels of digital displays knit together in a cockpit that’s both effective and evocative. On the M850i, a sport steering wheel and ambient lighting dress up the dash, while contrast stitching and rich tones of sienna brown or ivory go more casual than the super coupes from Great Britain. BMW’s latest textured aluminum trim is the knockout punch: It’s a dead ringer for high-end watchbands of the 1960s, and looks gorgeous when paired with lighter trim and leather.

Performance
With the 2019 8-Series, BMW straps drivers to a twin-turbo catapult—a hefty one at that.

BMW’s latest 8-Series coupe takes its two-door aspirations to the top of its lineup. The 2019 M850i xDrive has extravagant power and electronically agile handling, though it’s weighed down by all its complexity.

We rate the 8-Series an 8 for performance, with an extra point for ride and handling and two for its marvelous drivetrain. 

BMW fits a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 to both the 8-Series coupe and convertible. In either, it’s a scintillating hammer to hold. BMW rates it at 523 hp at 5,500 rpm and 553 lb-ft of torque, which peaks at 1,800 rpm and maintains that stronghold through 4,600 rpm. Silent until it’s irked, the V-8’s sensuous at higher speeds and full throttle, and in its more focused drive modes, crackles and rumbles with muscle-car authenticity.
All 8-Series cars shift power to all four wheels via an ideal bedmate, an 8-speed automatic with paddle shift controls. The 8-Series’ standard all-wheel-drive system sends more torque to the rear wheels in most situations, and the rear axle sports a limited-slip differential for superior traction.

All the hardware in place, the sonorous M850i xDrive rockets to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds in coupe form, 3.8 seconds as a convertible, either available through BMW’s pre-programmed launch control—an apt name for code that allows a 4,500-4,700-pound car to do anything this quickly. Both models reach a 155-mph electronically limited top speed.

BMW 8-Series ride and handling
The 8-Series’ adaptive suspension and trick electric power steering lend it size-defying moves, though it’s not always easy to see the corners the 8er loves to clip.

A front double-wishbone and five-link rear suspension get a helping hand from adaptive dampers that give the 8-Series a wider latitude of ride quality and handling capability. As it sits in base Comfort mode, it’s a prodigious mile-swallower that’s well-suited to roads like the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, where a convertible M850i let us soak up brilliant mile after mile with just an occasional quiver across its front end. (No roof means lesser structural integrity, so choose wisely). Through its drive-mode selector the 8-Series can stiffen its shocks to deflect bumps and to firm up its grip on tight canyon roads, where the car seems big enough to swallow more than the pavement. It never feels brutish.

That’s where its active steering helps: With the available system, the rear wheels turn 2.5 degrees in the opposite direction of the fronts at speeds below 45 mph (55 mph in Sport or Sport Plus mode). Those slight angles help the massive car pivot better in hairpins, while another optional active roll-bar system counters cornering force to let the 8-Series move with less lean through the same bends. The M850i doesn’t wallow in excessive lean or roll anyway, and doesn’t have copious amounts of steering feedback, but with all those systems engaged it’s a remarkably engaging car.

It’s truer on a racetrack, where we’ve driven the coupe at relatively unbridled triple-digit speeds, without worrying about skinny roads and its wide track. Dialed into Sport Plus mode, with relaxed stability and traction control, a wide-open sport exhaust system, and fully tensed dampers and weighty steering, the 8-Series does anything it’s asked, with a fair measure of understeer that even staggered 245/35 front and 275/30-series rear tires can’t overcome.

Comfort & Quality
Two people will find the 2019 8-Series without flaw; luggage and back-seaters will aver.

The 8-Series has fabulous seats for two and lovely fit and finish, but loses ground because its rear seats promise four-seat accommodations and don’t deliver.

We give the 2019 8-Series a 5 for comfort and utility.

The 2019 8-Series rides on a 111.1-inch wheelbase, and sits 191.2 inches long. It’s a massive vehicle for the limited interior space it offers, but two people in front may never notice. Wrapped inside a cocoon created by a low roof, a wide center console, and a curved dash, the front passengers in the 8-Series have all the room they need, and all the seat adjustment too from multi-contour heated buckets. The seats have deep bolsters but ample give, and adjustable lumbar in addition to a power tilt/telescope wheel puts any driver in an ideal position. That’s once they’re inside: the 8-Series’ long, heavy doors are anathema to tight parking spaces.

BMW carves out a smartphone niche and two big cupholders ahead of the shift lever, and hollows out a good-sized glovebox and a center console with a lid divided down its length.

In either 8-Series, the back seat’s more a suggestion, and a wispy one at that. The front seats can tilt and power-slide out of the way, but the teensy seats won’t leave much leg room at all, and shoulder room tapers in tightly, especially in the convertible. At least the rear seats fold down to open more trunk space: It’s 14.8 cubic feet in the coupe, a less useful 12.4 cubic feet in convertibles.

The Convertible’s soft roof folds down or up in 15 seconds and can be opened or closed at speeds up to 30 mph. It protects passengers from most buffeting, and a snap-in, fold-up windscreen funnels away the rest. It fits in the trunk when it’s not needed, but say goodbye to some storage space.

BMW’s cabins have struck an elegant blend of late, and the 8-Series sidles up to our senses nicely with Merino leather, available glass-tipped controls, a neatly integrated touchscreen, and a general heft and substance to its controls. It’s not what we’d call opulent—it’s too restrained for that—but the 8-Series’ finishes and taste levels strike the right luxury note.

Safety
We’ll be shocked if the 8-Series ever is crash-tested.

Big, expensive, low-volume luxury coupes and convertibles rarely get crash tested. We don’t expect the BMW 8-Series to buck that trend.

We leave it unrated here, in the absence of data. 

BMW fits every M850i with automatic emergency braking, a surround-view camera system, lane-departure warnings, automatic park assist, and front and rear parking sensors.

The safety upgrade path includes pay-up blind-spot monitors, active lane control, night vision, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability up to 130 mph.

We’ve been annoyed by the intrusive nature of BMW’s active-lane control systems. Here in the sporty 8-Series, the system jerks away from right-side white lines on the road, but doesn’t behave the same toward way the double-yellow. It’s a distraction to needling through tight corners; we ended up disabling the system to get a better sense of its steering accuracy.

We’ll revise this score if the NHTSA or the IIHS put an 8-Series to the test, but don’t hold your breath.

Features
BMW lays out a fine feature spread with its 2019 8-Series.

Every 8-Series BMW that’s sold in the 2019 model year comes in M850i spec with all-wheel drive. All come with plentiful standard equipment, some lovely options, an excellent warranty and service plan, but neither the coupe nor the convertible is a great value.

We give it an 8 for 10 for features.

More pricey and less expensive versions will come, but for now, the base M850i xDrive coupe costs $112,895. The convertible’s $122,395.

The M850i coupe comes with power features, leather upholstery, LED headlights, a split-fold rear seat, a power-assisted trunklid, multifunction power front seats with heating, ambient lighting, shift paddles, navigation, 20-inch wheels, a head-up display, and a surround-view camera system. Convertibles add a power-fold top and air vents that warm the neck.

Options include a carbon-fiber roof on the coupe, a carbon trim package for the mirror caps and spoiler and rear diffuser, cooled front seats, a glass-tipped iDrive and shift lever, active roll stabilization, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and night vision.

The base audio system is a 16-speaker Harman Kardon system, and the top choice is a 1,375-watt, 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound setup.

All 8-Series coupes and convertibles have a 12.3-inch digital gauge display and a 10.5-inch touchscreen. BMW’s iDrive interface only recently gave in to touchscreen convenience, and in doing so it’s been vastly enhanced for its users. It recognizes voice commands very well, too. It doesn’t like at all to be set up to use Apple CarPlay, a feature which BMW charges for on an annual basis after year one. BMW’s set up CarPlay so that drivers must dig into iDrive menus to enable it, then connect it via Bluetooth, then pair to the car’s local network before it can be selected. Plug and play is not something BMW wants drivers to experience with the alternative operating system, and the annual fee for streamlined and we think, safer, smartphone use is shortsighted. CarPlay frustrating to set up, but works smoothly once that labor’s been induced. There’s no Android Auto compatibility.
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The sterling sound from the available Bowers & Wilkins system needs no apologies. It’s among the best we’ve heard.

BMW sells all its 2019 vehicles with 4 years or 50,000 miles of warranty coverage, including free maintenance.

Fuel Economy
A twin-turbo V-8 leaves no drop of gas unloved.

The hulking BMW 8-Series makes quick getaways behind the power of a twin-turbo V-8, not an electrified drivetrain. Gas mileage isn’t wonderful, even if performance is.

We give it a 4 for economy.

The EPA rates the M850i xDrive coupe at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 20 combined. The heavier convertible checks in at 17/26/20 mpg. Those are SUV-style numbers, and big SUVs at that.

The 8-Series does have stop/start to conserve some fuel, and its drivetrain can “sail” or decouple from the axles when the driver lifts off the gas.

We won’t hazard a guess at mileage for the upcoming M8, but mark our words, it’ll be lower.


View my Flipboard Magazine.

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