The reborn BMW 8 Series is a rush of blood to the heart | Top Gear
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The reborn BMW 8 Series is a rush of blood to the heart

Nearly 30 years after its debut, the 8 reclaims its mantle as the ultimate grand tourer

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  • Few life events bring about a time of reflection and change quite like a 30th birthday. A career change here, a year of travel there, and above all, a desire to establish your identity and really achieve. Perhaps that’s why, as it approaches a milestone anniversary of its grand unveiling at the 1990 Frankfurt Motor Show, the reborn BMW 8 Series seems hell-bent on boundless self-improvement. All the more fun for us then…

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  • First, let’s talk about performance. Coming in Sport trim as standard, The M850i variant boasts a zippy 0-62 mph in 3.7 seconds, thanks to its BMW TwinPower Turbo eight-cylinder engine. For the first time in its history, development of the 8 involved both BMW M Motorsport engineers and production engineers. Indeed, the 8 was developed in parallel with the iconic M8 GTE, which graced last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, giving it fearsome yet elegant racing pedigree.

  • But what use is power if it’s not channelled? If you’re sat in the M850i, that’s not a question you need worry yourself with. BMW xDrive all-wheel drive, together with Integral Active Steering and Damper Control, makes tasks like overtaking a total pleasure. Whether you’re in the coupé or convertible, the 8 wears its power so lightly that long-range cruising never felt so good.

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  • It quite possibly never looked so good either. Sleek, narrow adaptive-LED headlights lead from the front, and the 8’s precise lines follow close behind. Athletic contours and a double-bubble roofline serve as a subtle reference to the 8’s racing genes, as do 20" alloy wheels, kidney grille, M side gills and wing mirrors.

  • Inside it’s a similar story – Merino leather creates a distinguished look, while multifunctional sport seats position you perfectly for adventure. Beyond that, there is plenty to elevate the driver’s experience, including ambient interior lighting and a Harman Kardon loudspeaker system as standard, all easily accessible on the driver-orientated centre console.

  • The 8’s dashboard is your ultimate command centre from which to plot your assault on the world. The revolutionary new Operating System 7.0 takes personalised control to intuitive new levels, whether you’re being a DJ or an explorer. BMW Live Cockpit Professional allows you to tinker with the driving controls to your heart’s content on the 10.25" touchscreen.

  • Ultimately though, there’s more to it than shiny new features. The 8’s real crowning glory is the spirit it embodies – one of visceral beauty, one of unashamed enterprise and progress. That’s what makes it such a perfect companion for gran-touring. At the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the narrator Nick Carraway bemoans his forthcoming 30s as “a decade of loneliness… a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm”, but if he’d only fast-forwarded 100 years and driven the BMW 8 Series headfirst into the roaring 2020s, he’d have realised just how wrong he was.

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