Very good looking, very good to drive
Tall people won't like the back seats much
What is it?
It’s the latest car to join the increasingly well-populated sector that lies somewhere between saloons and coupes. Up until the Mercedes CLS first arrived – way back in 2004, just to make you feel wistful about the unstoppable passing of time – we had no idea the line between the two could be construed as so fine.
Yet 15 years later we look upon a motley crew of copycats that incorporate everything from Kias and Hyundais to Astons and Porsches. BMW represents one of the originals, though; its 6 Series Gran Coupe first launched in 2012 and has now been replaced by a car with a numerically greater name but the same ethos.
The 8 Series Gran Coupe arrives with an opportunity to grasp, too. The latest Eight – with big, pop-up headlight-equipped shoes to fill – has so far left us a little nonplussed. It’s a wonderful object, alright, but it’s simply too stiff to be a plush, distance-decimating GT car, while too big and bloated to act the sports car. We’re not sure which rivals it’s taking aim at, and it triumphs over nothing as a result.
Adding rear passenger room and a larger boot is sympathetic to both causes. Space is (traditionally) the ultimate luxury, after all, so it feels better equipped for cossetting you and yours over big miles, while the four-door shape shifts your expectations of how sporty it needs to be. So while the Eight’s general demeanour is largely the same, we’d argue it now occupies a more suitable shape.
It’s also cheaper, too. More car for less money. Who’d have bet on that? A four-door Eight is typically two grand cheaper than its equivalent two-door, with four engines to choose from. The range kicks off a whisker below £70,000 for the petrol-powered 840i (using the same 335bhp straight-six as the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra), which is the only one to offer the purity of rear-wheel drive as if it’s olden-days BMW.
Above that sits a trio of all-wheel-driven alternatives: the 316bhp 840d diesel, the 523bhp M850i V8 and the full-bore M car, the 616bhp M8 Competition, which tops things off at a mite over £120,000. Before options, naturally. All use a mighty eight-speed automatic gearbox and offer the usual plethora of driving modes that make every facet of the driving experience minutely adjustable. Sport mode comes with three sub-modes, for example. But is it all too finickity to be fun? Read on…
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The 8 Series Gran Coupe is probably the most handsome car in BMW’s current range – not a huge achievement, the crueller reader might argue – and it’s also among the most comfortable in its skin. Finally, the 8 Series’ Jack-of-all-trades approach to big posh fast cars makes sense, an extra pair of doors and more storage room yielding a much better GT while making it harder to be upset this isn’t the sportiest thing on sale.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have a bit of vigour about it, mind, especially at the bookends of the range: the entry-level 840i and monster M8 are the two we’d recommend, as both show BMW can still make a good fast saloon car. In a tumultuous 2019, that’s something we should all cling onto as a welcome good news story.