The BMW M850i in the real world

Earlier in 2019, I got the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the new BMW 8 Series.

The local launch took place in the picturesque Western Cape, the ideal setting for this car and it highlights the sporty characteristics as well as the Grand Tourer like aspects. As great as it was to experience a car in this setting, one always wonders what it would be like in the real world; driving in traffic, going to the shops and squeezing it into a garage. Well, the BMW M850i arrived for a week-long stay a few months ago and I finally had a chance to answer my questions.

History lesson

The first 8 Series model was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1989 and hit the showroom floors in 1990. Production lasted until 1999 after which the world started embracing SUVs more than low slung sportscars with pop-up headlights and twelve cylinders under the bonnet. Thankfully times have changed and although SUVs are still in high demand it seems as if luxurious sports cars have become popular again and that’s where the new BMW 8 Series comes into play.


BMW locally launched with the M850i coupe which features under the bonnet a 390 kW 4.4-litre Twin-Power turbocharged engine that sends all of its 750 N.m to all four wheels via BMW’s xDrive system. It is, in my opinion, the best sounding BMW on sale today and there is just something about how it delivers its sound, the best way to explain it would be like a storm. It ranges from low rumbles to sharp crackles, especially when you flick the gearshift paddle as soon as the digital rev counter kisses the red-line.

Real-world test

What is it like in the ‘real world’ when the power is reined in by traffic, uneven tarmac and the cost of a tank of fuel. Well, getting into the 8 Series is like getting into a capsule, close the door and the noise outside disappears. The dashboard is covered in leather, you sit low and the interior somewhat envelops you. Atop the facia is a large infotainment screen that offers touch-sensitive operation and one can also make use of the crystal rotary dial on the centre console. I particularly like the crystal gear lever although many reckon that it is a bit ostentatious. Being a two-door don’t expect much from the rear seats apart from them being great luggage holders.

On the road, the 8 Series continues its luxury feel with compliant suspension that is electronically adjustable via the various drive modes on offer. These modes also adjust the engine mapping as well as the gearbox and I found myself selecting Comfort mode more than any other. I know that the 8 Series features an M badge on the back in the form of the M850i but, the car does the comfort thing really well.

When you happen to select the Sport Plus driving mode the 8 Series completely changes in character. It gets louder, its adaptive M suspension firms up and the engine comes alive. Plant your foot to the floor and the M850i will hit 100kph in around 3.6 seconds. Blink and you will miss it. As for day-to-day driving, the M850i surprised me, it’s easy to drive despite its size and easy to park, thanks to all the semi-autonomous functions such as active cruise control, lane keep assist, blind-spot alert and 360-degree view parking cameras.


BMW will be introducing a few other 8 Series derivatives in the coming months. Despite the M850i delivering serious performance, there is a faster offering on the horizon in the form of the M8. Different body styles are also going to be on offer in the form of a convertible as well as GranCoupe (four-door coupe) body styles. The M850i Coupe as driven here will cost R 1 944 927.

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