The BMW 8 Series family is brand new. It is part of the rejig in the company's model line - which saw the 6 Series being replaced in a sense by the new 8 Series. So what you get are the 8 Series Coupé, Convertible, Gran Coupé; and then each of those in their potent avatar badged M8. The latter has just broken cover, while the 8 Series Gran Coupé was revealed in mid-June. And we reviewed the 8 Series convertible in April. At the time I had told you that India will not get the coupé/convertible twins - but instead will get the Gran Coupé. This now stands as confirmed by yours truly and so expect the car to come to us in 2020. It will arrive as the BMW 840i sDrive Gran Coupé. And that is the test car I have with me!
Also Read: BMW 8 Series Convertible First Drive Review
While BMW does offer the car in 3 other specs that are all-wheel-drive only, the thinking is that buyers in India will be happy with the rear-wheel drive. The inline-six petrol makes 333 bhp and had 500 Nm of peak torque in a generous 1600-4500 rpm band. I am in Portugal's beautiful Algarve region to test the new Gran Coupé - interesting since I was here just a few months ago to drive its 2-door convertible alter ego. The area is perfect for the car - not only in terms of the lifestyle its buyers sport, but also for the good mix of broken and smooth, fast expressway and twisty mountain roads.
What is the Gran Coupé all about?
The new 8 Series Gran Coupé certainly looks like it belongs to the luxury set. And that it must - given it will take on everything from an Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS to even a Porsche Panamera. It borrows most styling elements from the 2-door family members - especially the aggressive face with a wide and bold kidney grille, and very slim headlamps. The bumper is sporty, and the muscle in the hood establishes the 8 Series' sports car credentials visually. Of course, the Gran Coupé is bigger in all ways over the coupé and convertible. It is 231 mm longer with a 201 mm longer wheelbase; it is 61 mm taller and 30 mm wider than the coupé. The roof is taller mainly owing to providing generous headroom to the rear passengers - an area that is severely compromised on the 2-door anyway.
And yet the roofline is rakish, fast and stays elegant too. It, along with with the lines along the sides, and the gorgeous taillights, makes the car look very attractive. BMW likes to show the high-end cars; especially the Gran Coupés in its 'frozen' matte finish metallic shades. So it was fitting that my test car also featured one - the Frozen Brilliant White! I am not a fan of white cars usually - especially white sports cars! But I have to say the paint finish with the black alloy wheels, black grille and air vents, as well as the window line trim, looks pretty hot! That is courtesy the optional M Sport trim; the regular trim would be the Chrome Line. But inherently this is a good looking, proportionate and sensuous looking design that really comes together well.
Interior and trim
On the inside, there are options on colour and material palettes - and it is still too early to know what BMW India will choose. But I can safely say expect a fully-loaded, premium and luxurious trim, with the split panoramic glass roof, crafted clarity crystal finish iDrive controller, start-stop button and gearstick, and more.
The car also gets a near 4-seater configuration, since the central tunnel carries through and meets the rear seat to offer a small console with climate control, 2 USB C charge points and the AC vents for the rear passengers. Of course, there is a three-point seatbelt provided for a middle passenger if someone does choose to sit there anyway, with legs straddling that console. It won't be comfortable! The other two seats in the back are fashioned like individual sports seats, with contoured backrests and inbuilt headrests. This may not be as comfortable as a comparable sedan, but in sporty and dynamic situations, it will keep you very comfy - and not have you thrown about. Nice touch.
Leg and headroom are impressive, and the increased wheelbase shines through, as does the smartly executed roof design. You get the virtual assistant, BMW's latest iDrive 7.0 and connectivity options galore. The touchscreen and virtual cluster feature the brand's new look graphics and readings. It all looks very very cool to be really honest.
How does it drive?
The company is calling this a 4-door sports car. Having spent a lot of time driving it on everything from smooth express highways, to twisty (and sometimes horrifyingly narrow) mountain roads, I am happy to let them make that claim. The great news is that the Gran Coupé does not feel terribly different from the 2-door siblings in its driving and handling character. Sure you know it's a bigger car, but it is massively responsive, sports a stiff and very finely tuned chassis, and has an excellent steering setup. The same was largely true of the coupé/convertible anyway and so it is glaringly obvious that after the 6 Series experience, BMW had always imagined the 8 Series family to feature 2 and 4-door avatars. This explains the approach to making it a driver's car before anything else. The car gets active rear-wheel steering as standard on the xDrive models, and so on the 840i sDrive, it is optional. The M suspension is standard, and the 840i gets the M Sport differential too. You get the usual drive modes - Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+.
The more powerful 519 bhp V8 variant - the M850i gets an M-Performance engine, which means it gets a sporty character while staying less mad than a full-fledged M model. Yes, there is an M8 Gran Coupé on the way while the M8 coupé and convertible have already been revealed. Having enjoyed the 'humbler' 840i I can already say if this is so good, the thought of an M8 Gran Coupé is making me salivate! So yes, the 840i will do plenty to get your juices flowing. The car is almost as taut as the 2-door and will nip through corners with ease, stays on line, and won't flinch even a millimetre on a narrow road, as you come around a blind corner. Back to that steering and it's a key takeaway for me yet again.
This engine is six kgs lighter than the one it replaces, and that helps the car's agility. The motor's chief characteristic is the instant response to any slight tap on the accelerator, and continued delivery of power through the higher revs. The gearbox is sublime and there is an instant response, no lag at all from the engine. The gears are so quick to up or downshift that you rarely feel the need to use the paddle shifters - though they are very fun to drive with anyway. The Steptronic Sport not only responds to your driving input, the surface and speed of travel and steering pattern - but also hooks up with the navigation system to keep monitoring the road ahead. This is for both road and traffic data - that allows the car to stay in the optimal gear - for both performance and efficiency reasons. The car's DSC or Dynamic Stability Control system will send the appropriate power to either the left or right rear wheel, to maximise the right traction required. The car's M Sport differential doesn't only help the car's performance to be on point, but also helps it maintain its composure - having a solid positive effect on the sense of control you get driving the car at speeds over 120 or 150 kmph.
Being a luxury offering that is also sporty, is not always easy. That a car can excel in both areas is also remarkable. The 8 Series Gran Coupé does pull that off. It will be the car that helps you make a statement as you get out of the back, and also as you put your foot on the gas and disappear from view quickly. The 840i sDrive is plenty good for the Indian buyer, and I think it is wise not to pile on the cost by going for a bigger engine or all-wheel-drive. The BMW 8 Series Gran Coupé shall certainly be a welcome addition to BMW India's portfolio. It is not a car for everyone, and yet is versatile enough to please many. The launch is expected between April and June next year. It may be followed up by the M8 Coupé by the end of 2020.