BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe: First Drive
The BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe looks good and packs a punch, but should you consider buying it over a 7 Series?
After a two decade long hiatus since the E31-generation, BMW has brought the 8 Series back! This new BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe (G16-gen) is actually a successor to the earlier 6 Series Gran Coupe. But this 8 Series GC is bigger, more luxurious and is the flagship in the BMW range. This 840i Gran Coupe sits alongside the savage BMW M8 Coupe, and since the Gran Coupe is not available as a full-blown M car in India it isn’t packing a fire-breathing V8 or massively flared arches. This Gran Coupe is a way to cover distances in style, at speed and in comfort. So, let’s see whether it ticks all of those boxes.
Styling of the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe
The BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe breaks away from the traditional BMW designs of today, and perhaps its closest sibling is the only other Gran Coupe in the range, the 2 Series. Of course, the 8 Series would absolutely dwarf the 2 Series – it is very long, but it balances it out with a low roofline, and even when painted in this shade of Black Sapphire, it stands out among the run-of-the-mill cars around it. The first thing that stands out is the bonnet which seems to run on for a few hundred metres and has all the appropriate creases and bulges to make the BMW 8 Series look fast even when it’s parked. The coupe roofline which neatly tucks into the ducktail spoiler on the bootlid adds up to make a harmonious, glorious silhouette. The 18-inch rims might sound small, but they don’t look tiny in profile, although their design is a bit boring. When looked at squarely, the 8 Series looks purposeful, appearing to be just inches off the ground. It also looks very wide, and that’s because it is — it’s 30mm wider than even the mahoosive 7 Series! This width is best taken in from the rear-end, with its sleek LED tail lights flowing into the muscular haunches, and the necklace of chrome uniting the exhaust surrounds from either end.
Take the long walk around to the front and you’ll be happy to notice that the grille isn’t unparliamentary like on other BMWs that command this much money. It is pinched nearly all the way to the headlamps, but more importantly it isn’t elongated down to the tarmac. In fact, there aren’t any unholy gaping aero elements anywhere on the 8 Series, at least on this standard variant. The ‘M Sport Edition’ has larger vents in the front bumper and a sharper rear-end.
Interiors of the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe
The style continues on the inside too. The 8 Series breaks away from BMW’s traditional dashboard layout that’s carried through from the 3 Series to the 7 Series, the 10.25-inch central display is nestled in the central stack, instead of being a free-standing piece. The display is clear, crisp, like we’ve seen on other BMWs, it fires through menus without a stutter and it also supports gesture controls. Now to us auto journos, these seem gimmicky but I suspect that if you spend enough time getting used to them, they could make life easier. There’s also a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that’s the same unit across the BMW lineup now, it works well and is quite crisp but isn’t as configurable as the one in the newer Mercedes-Benz models or even the VW Group cars.
Let’s turn back toward the 8 Series’ dashboard which has a different layout compared to the stubbier centre console of other BMWs. This has an almost waterfall effect as it flows into the central tunnel. The materials used all around the cabin are high quality, from the thick carpets, to the glorious touches of aluminium infused with soft, supple leather. There’s even a crystal-like finish, named ‘CraftedClarity’ on the gear selector, volume knob, iDrive controller and the engine start/stop button, these do look cool, especially the gear lever that shows an illuminated ‘8’ at night, an element that appears to be suspended in the glass. However, I can see some customers find these details a bit tacky. The 8 Series’ interior also has some of the best ambient lighting I’ve seen. BMW has tucked away these strips of LEDs in so many places that it brings the whole cabin alive at night, and although the lack of custom colours takes away some configurability, it supports the dynamic light function which uses the ambient lighting to throw up alerts. For example, if you open a door, the ambient lighting on that entire door will flash red to warn cyclists and oncoming traffic.
At the rear, the two outer seats are sculpted out to offer almost as much support as the front seats do and while you could theoretically seat someone in the middle, space for their legs is taken up by an exaggerated tunnel, which houses two air-con vents, a pair of Type-C chargers and if you get the M Sport variant, you also get two additional climate zones back here. Rear seat passengers also get a dedicated moonroof which adds to the sense of space. Style? Check.
Performance of the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe
This BMW 840i Gran Coupe is powered by a 3-litre straight-six turbo-petrol engine, producing 335bhp and a colossal 500Nm of torque. Acceleration is brisk, BMW claims a 0 to 100kmph time of just 5.2 seconds and if it weren’t for the rear wheels spinning up, it could hit that mark even faster. For reference, the all-wheel drive variants sold internationally are four-tenths faster to 100kmph, with the same power output. But I’d rather hit 100kmph slower because the front-engined, rear-wheel-drive setup of this Gran Coupe is magical. It doesn’t have overwhelming reserves of power, but it's just enough to send the rear wheels in a frenzy if you’re a bit greedy.
There’s the slightest hint of turbo-lag just above idle, but the turbo quickly starts to spin and above 1600rpm there’s enough low-end torque to easily overtake slow moving traffic. It delivers the power smoothly and makes everyday driving absolutely effortless. The throttle response is spot on, providing a progressive way to communicate with the powertrain in Comfort and Eco Pro modes, then sharpening up significantly in Sport and even further in Sport Plus. The engine is mated to an 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission which always seems to have its ears perked up to listen for your commands because no matter the speed or the mode, it always knows exactly what gear to deliver. You can also take manual control via the paddles which lets you be the conductor to the sweet symphony from the straight-six, as well as the raspy exhaust note. The exhaust lets out plenty of pops and crackles in Sport/Sport Plus and resorts to a hum when you leave it in Comfort on a highway cruise. Refinement levels in the cabin are great and while the engine does get fairly audible when ragged, I suspect some of the noise is artificially piped into the cabin to add to the experience, and I’m not sure if I’m a fan of that. It does sound good though. While it’s almost silent at idle and silky smooth at low-revs and it only requires you to drop a few gears and give it a poke to play the soundtrack. The powertrain sure helps you between the corners but when you get into a corner, the 8 Series impresses even further. This big, heavy luxury coupe could fool you into thinking it is just a coupe, with its unnatural ability to corner flat at serious speeds, supported by good amounts of grip from the massive 275 section tyres (rear, 245 front), and augmented by the tight chassis and stiff suspension setup. The 8 Series doesn’t disguise its size too well, you can feel the weight when you corner hard, but it never feels like you’re trying to defy the laws of physics and it is surprisingly playful on the limit. The front-engined, rear-wheel-drive setup allows for unfiltered feedback from the front tyres, and also lets you use the rear to rotate the car in corners. You can’t really do that in an SUV, can you?
How comfortable is the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe?
This is where the real test for the 8 Series Gran Coupe stands. The Gran Coupe isn’t meant to be a stiff thoroughbred for the weekend, that’s what the M8 is for. This is supposed to be a car that you can drive every single day, but the question is can you? In a word, yes. Let’s start with the suspension setup. It is stiff, communicative, but not uncomfortable. The short travel means that larger potholes result in a thud and a bumpy patch taken at speed does unsettle the car. But if you’re a little careful over craters, it is easy to live with. You do have to crab over some of the pointier speed breakers because of the 8 Series’ low ride height and long wheelbase, but it isn’t too much of a hassle.
Unlike the M8 Coupe, there are also two extra doors so you can take your friends along for the ride. They won’t curse you for putting them in the back either, there’s enough knee-room, adequate headroom and good lateral support from the seats. The 8 Series can also swallow up your groceries, golf clubs or a weekend’s worth of luggage with ease thanks to an adequate 440-litres of boot space. So, yes you can indeed use the 8 Series everyday, but that will also depend on the roads around you. If you’re in a city with a majority of great roads and a few bad ones, the 8 Series would be just fine as a daily driver. But if your city has more of the latter than the former, you’ll probably be better off with a more traditional sedan or an SUV. The other drawback is that India is not a country for glamorous grand touring, which is one of the selling points of the 8 Series Gran Coupe. While the Gran Coupe would be happy on the smooth Mumbai-Pune and Delhi-Agra highway runs, on a longer road trip you will inevitably end up on a bad patch of road, which will bring you to a crawl.
BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe Verdict and Price
The 8 Series Gran Coupe is pitched as an alternative to run-of-the-mill luxury sedans like the BMW 7 Series. At Rs 1.32 crore for the standard 840i Gran Coupe, it is actually Rs 5 lakh more affordable than 730Ld and that’s not the only thing it has going for it. The 8 also feels special from behind the ’wheel, the low driving position and high beltline makes it feel like a proper coupe, the powertrain is enthusiastic, it handles better than most luxury cars can and it looks drop-dead gorgeous doing so.
Sure, when compared to even the base 730Ld, there’s not nearly as many creature comforts on the 8 — no massage seats, no ventilated seats, no rear-seat entertainment, the list can go on. It isn’t nearly as comfortable as a 7 Series either. But, if you’d rather drive your Rs 1 crore indulgence than be driven in it and have good roads around you, the 8 Series Gran Coupe is a compelling choice. And on a day when you can’t be bothered, you can still unwind in the rear seat, not too many cars can offer that.