2019 BMW M850i Review – is it a worthy successor?

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By Nauman Farooq

BMW reserves the number ‘8’ for their most special models. For instance, there was the BMW Z8, a car James Bond drove in “The World Is Not Enough” – and despite being revealed two decades ago, is considered by many as the most beautiful car to ever come out of Bavaria.

There’s also the BMW i8 Coupe and Roadster models, a sports car that defies the norm, by being a a plug-in hybrid vehicle that combines electric drive together with a small three-cylinder gasoline engine, and together this powertrain produces the power and performance of much larger engined sports cars – but it consumes fuel like a subcompact!

The car that started the whole ‘8’ game at BMW, was the original 850i. It made its debut in 1989, and was the world first production vehicle to feature a six-speed manual gearbox with a V12 engine. It was also very technologically advanced for its era, and above all, it looked good enough to turn a 12 year old me to become a life-long fan of the BMW brand.

I’ve been fortunate enough to drive a 1990 model BMW 850i, and I can honestly say, I loved every minute with it.

Fast forward to present day, and 2019 sees the launch of the all-new BMW 8 Series. Currently, it is only offered in the M850i trim – in Canada and the US, other markets have a diesel option, too – but in the coming months, it will get an M8 Competition spec, as well.

Recently, I got to spend a week with a M850i, to see, if it’s worthy of being a successor to the car of my childhood dreams!

Styling: From the looks department, I think the new BMW M850i is a handsome looker, and there are lots of cool design touches to entertain your eyeballs; but, I think it could have been better! First of all, I think it could have benefited from features such as an active rear spoiler – a must have for high performance cars these days, plus the rear window (in the C-pillar) should have been able to go up and down, to give you more of an open air feel. Park it next to an old 850i, and the new M850i looks less special. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a nice car to behold, but just not as special as the model that started it all. It looks not that much different from the outgoing 650i coupe, so perhaps it should have still been a 6 Series, rather than an 8!

Interior: Open the door, and the first thing I noticed was that its very large door is single hinged. That means, you need a lot of space around you to open it properly, and if someone ends up parking too close to you, you won’t get in. Mercedes-Benz had double hinged doors on the CL500 nearly 20 years ago, so why didn’t BMW use this mechanism on their new luxury coupe? Room for improvement, I say.

Climb in, and you are greeted by a modern interior with all the tech you’d wish for – this is a very advanced car, with not only a very detailed infotainment system, but the whole instrument binnacle is a TFT screen, which is quite configurable. It also has other cool touches like a crystal shifter – which makes most people go “wow, that’s nice.”

But, the interior is not without its flaws. I don’t think I’ve ever complained about map lights on a car before, but I will here! The map lights cover looks impressive, but when you turn it on, its lit by a small yellow bulb, and not LEDs, which is a shame.

While it has an infotainment screen, it is far too small for a car of this type – this is a luxury coupe, not a no frills sports car, and it deserves to have an infotainment screen that should blow people away, and this one doesn’t. A short time after I had the M850i, I had the new Ram Sport pickup truck, and that has a 12-inch screen that was just spectacular – the 8 Series deserved something like that.

Same with the instrument binnacle, while it is very detailed, it is just a flat screen – I much prefer the look of the panel in the BMW 5 Series, which combines some metal pieces with the screen, which gives the dashboard a classier look.

On the plus side, its seats are fantastic, and the stereo system seemed to have been lifted out of a concert hall – love it.

Practicality wise, the back seats can fit anyone up to five-feet tall, and the trunk is absolutely massive. However, I do wish BMW had lined the roof of the trunk, exposed speakers and wires have no place in a vehicle of this price point!

Powertrain: Under the hood is the familiar twin-turbo 4.4L V8, which has been in BMW’s for about a decade now. In this application, it produces 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. All the grunt is routed to all-wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This powertrain might have been around for a long time, but it is still one of the best units you’ll find in any production car.

Driving Dynamics: BMW says they are the makers of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” – and that is fairly true. Pretty much every BMW model drives and handles well, and the new M850i is no exception. Even in “Normal” mode, the car is entertaining, but turn on its “Sport Plus” mode and you begin to pass other traffic very swiftly. Launch it correctly, and it’ll sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, and top speed is limited to 250 km/h.

But, it’s not the straight line speed that impresses, it is the way this nearly two-tonne car goes around corners. Thanks to four-wheel steering – a system that turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels at speeds up to 72 km/h, and in the same direction when speed increases past that – this big-coupe is very agile. It is shocking how little space it needs to turn around in a parking lot, and how stable it feels on the highway – this is a very accomplished performer.

As for exhaust sound –something enthusiasts look for in a car like this– well, it is fairly loud, but the noise is more digital than analog – I prefer the latter.

Fuel Economy: No one is buying a vehicle like this M850i if they are concerned about fuel economy. However, in my test cycle of 170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving, I averaged 13.5 L/100 km, which is not bad at all for a twin-turbo V8.

Pricing: The 2019 BMW M850i Coupe starts from $123,500. It is also offered as a convertible, and prices for those start at $131,500. That means, it is pricier than a Lexus LC500, but more affordable than a Mercedes-Benz S560 Coupe.

Verdict: The 2019 BMW M850i has a lot to offer! It is fast, comfortable, and has just about every gadget you’d wish for in a car.

However, it just didn’t win my heart, and I am more surprised about that than anyone. Maybe, BMW is saving all the thrills for the M8 Competition version, and if that’s anything like the new M5 I drove last year, it’ll be a car that the youth of today will lust after, and those who can afford would proudly park on their driveway.

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