It’s back! Last year, BMW revived the 8-Series after a 20-year absence. The return of the new flagship is complete with the 2020 BMW 8-Series. The full lineup now comes as coupe or convertible in 840i, M8, M8 Competition, as well as a four-door Gran Coupe full-size sedan. Luxury is all about choice. The coupe and soft-top convertible are stunning inside and out, where some interior options evoke some of the finery from the Rolls-Royce brand owned by BMW. They are designed to be grand tourers meant for grand tours to be had by two, despite the rear seats.
They are powered by either a 3.0-liter turbo-6 or a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 that is tuned from 523 horsepower in the 850i with up to 617 hp in the M8 Competition. Power is delivered to the rear wheels or the rear-wheel-biased xDrive all-wheel drive system through an 8-speed automatic that is in nearly every new BMW. The power is prodigious and the fun is bewildering. At its best, this beast of 4,300 pounds can hit 60 mph in just 3.0 seconds and a top speed of up to 189 mph.
BMW’s 8-Series recognizes its place as a beauty that can be a beast, but is able to soften up for comfort on the long and winding road, or hunker down on demanding drives thanks to adaptive dampers and an anti-roll bar to prevent body roll. The 8-Series pretends to be a four-passenger car, but these rear passengers won’t be very comfortable for very long. Up front is the kind of wide and low comprehensive comfort that will make more than the rear passengers jealous. The 2020 8-Series has standard active safety features such as automatic emergency braking and adaptive LED headlights, but active lane control and adaptive cruise control is bundled as an extra package.
The 2020 8-Series is long, low, and lean looking. Coupes are beautiful, convertibles are always enticing, and the supersized 8-Series defines both of these qualities. Long, low, and wide, the 2020 8-Series looks like a pony car stretched at the base and pinched at the rear. This is a compliment to them both. The muscle car look is classed up from Bavaria, as it should be to match the six-figure tag of the 8-Series. Even the Gran Coupe is a sharp four-door flagship sedan.
The 8-Series has a long nose and short tail, with small overhangs and a roofline that might be the new definition for the modern coupe. At the front, BMW’s latest iteration of the ribbed kidney grille gets larger and broader, which defines the surprising buffness of the front. There are no supercar angles here, as there are in the wedge-shaped i8 electric car. The angles come in on the corners, where the hawkish LED headlights stretch into the fender over the 20-inch wheels. A deep crease down the doors extends from the side vents toward the rear, where more vents open up over the dual exhausts. The large coupe is gracefully powerful, and what the 8-Series offers in its muscular heart it carries on its long and low exterior sleeves. The soft top on the convertible is fine, but lopping off the greenhouse of the 8-Series makes it that much more striking.
At the top of the lineup, the peerless M8 Competition that was our test vehicle, hits 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. The return of the BMW 8-Series puts performance front and center, from the base 840i to the blistering M8 Competition. Whether in the turbo-6 or twin-turbo V-8, the 2020 8-Series provides plenty of power and impressive handling for a large car. The starting power for the 2020 8-Series Coupe, Convertible, and Gran Coupe is the 335-horsepower 3.0-liter turbo-6 with an 8-speed automatic that is ubiquitous across the BMW lineup. Even though the paddle shifters can be on the smaller side, they let you drive a little further into the red than the no-paddle automatic, which is quick and smooth. This B58 engine with the twin-scroll turbocharger is a perennial award winner and powers everything from the X7 SUV to the Z4 M40i roadster. In the 840i Coupe, the powertrain makes 368 lb-ft of torque at just 1,600 rpm, and hits 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. All-wheel drive lowers that 60 mph time down to 4.4 seconds.
The 850i with all-wheel drive in the coupe, convertible or Gran Coupe uses a 523-hp 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that makes 553 lb-ft of torque from 1,800 rpm through 4,600 rpm. It is quiet and composed as it should be in a large touring car, but then growls with German V-8 muscle under open throttle. Power delivery is delightful. It’s best for touring and straight-line acceleration to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds in the coupe. The Gran Coupe takes just 3.7 seconds and the convertible takes only 3.8 seconds. It can be tracked, but it takes a lot of effort to hold the line and the cornering leans a bit because of its heft.
If a blindfolded passenger were to ride in the 840i then the M8, they could believe the M8 is a different vehicle. It behaves like a car half its size, but the large size instills the kind of sure-footedness that makes you push it harder and harder on each successive lap. The additional engine cooler and transmission cooler dissipate the heat enough to make it a bona fide track car, unlike the 850i, yet with the same grand touring capabilities of all the 8-Series. The 600-hp 4.4-liter turbocharged V-8 with the 8-speed automatic makes 553 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm, good enough to hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. The 617-hp Competition does it in 3 seconds flat with the added 17-hp. Top speed can be boosted from 155 to 189 mph with the optional M Driver’s Package.
Even with xDrive and the M Sport rear differential, the large coupe behaves like a rear-wheel-drive car by sending the torque to the rear axle, then delivering the torque to the rear wheel with the most grip in slippery situations. The front double wishbone and five-link rear suspension with adaptive dampers give the 8-Series this dual personality of being a larger tourer and a nimble performance coupe. The 850i in particular is a lovely driver for your favorite long and winding road, and the convertible can soak up the sun and miles equally. The available active steering system allows the rear wheels to turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels at speeds below 55 mph. It effectively shortens the wheelbase to make it more flexible. On the track, opened up in Sport Plus mode and with wide space to fling it around, the 850i proves that it really is a beauty and a beast. Steering feedback is on the light side, and even with the rear-biased all-wheel drive system, the weight creates some understeer that can’t be overcome by the 245/35 front and 275/30-series rear tires.
As heavy as an SUV but as roomy as a coupe, the BMW 8-Series puts performance first. The lack of electrified powertrain options across the lineup means efficiency gains come from lighter-weight engines and more potent turbochargers. It tries to appease the fuel economy gods, but speed prevails. The EPA rates the 840i Coupe at 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined, and that’s the best it gets. The 840i Convertible and Gran Coupe lose 1 mpg, while the xDrive versions drop 1 more mpg to 20/27/23 mpg. The M850i xDrive coupe is 18/25/20 mpg; the convertible gets 17/26/20 mpg. The M8 and M8 Competition get the kind of fuel economy reserved for full-size SUVs at 15/21/17 mpg. Stop/start on all 8-Series helps save some fuel that would be otherwise wasted while idling, and on AWD models power can be sent to the rear axle only when all-wheel traction isn’t needed.
Odds are as long as the 8-Series that it will ever be crash tested, at least intentionally. Large, expensive luxury cars that don’t sell in large numbers typically don’t get crash-tested. What we do know is BMW equips all 8-Series with standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and adaptive LED headlights. The Driving Assistance Package ($1,100) comes with a surround-view camera system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, and some parking helpers. It’s a good step but BMW encourages the step up to Driving Assistance Professional Package, which adds another $1,700 and must be bundled with the aforementioned safety package to bring you active lane control, adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assistant for hands-free driving at low speeds in congested areas. The active lane control in the 8-Series tracks great with fairly well marked lanes, although it works better in congested areas at low speeds or highways without tight curves.
Inside, the cabin balances chrome and soft-touch dash pieces with horizontal controls and vents that emerge from the center stack as the rest of the dash retreats in the corners. The 10.3-inch touchscreen headlines the driver-oriented dash. Contrasting leather interior encourages owners to indulge in their six-figure purchase. It’s a place you could sit in traffic and not be bothered. The aluminum trim takes it to the next level, and the available carbon fiber trim complements quilted leather and ambient lighting in a cross-textural transcendental experience. Comfort is key in the 8-Series, and front-seat passengers are swaddled in the finest 14-way power leather seats surrounded by gorgeous metallic wood trim and soft leather dash pieces. A power tilt/telescope wheel affords good outward vision. BMW doesn’t extend that comfort to the rear seats, but hauling loads of people really isn’t the mission of the head-turning 8-series. It’s a massive vehicle for the limited interior space it offers, but two people in front may never notice.
The cockpit has plenty of storage and space, with a wireless charging tray and two big cupholders where the console meets the stack. Glovebox and center console storage is good enough for tablets and pocketbooks. In all but the four-door Gran Coupe, which provides over 6 inches of additional rear leg room, the back seats of the 8-Series are just to show off the car for brief drives around the block.The rear seats are best at folding down for greater cargo volume, which, in the trunk alone, is 14.8 cubic feet in the coupe, and 12.4 cubic feet in convertibles. The soft top convertible can be raised or lowered in 15 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. An inconvenient snap-in, fold-up windscreen diminishes buffeting, but also takes up some precious storage space in the trunk when not in use. The optional neck warmer with small vents in the front seats is a must.
The 2020 8-Series is loaded with standard features with options like heated front armrests showing just how opulent you can get. A slew of features ranging from the technologically advanced to the sumptuously pampered, and an excellent warranty with service plan are standard with every 2020 BMW 8-Series. Upstart makes such as Genesis and even the gorgeous interiors of Mercedes-Benz have proven that luxury and value are not mutually exclusive. They are for the 8-Series. All of the 8s get a 10.3-inch touchscreen with haptic feedback on the controller in the center console. BMW wants you to access vehicle info and media lists in every way imaginable, but the best is through the cloud-based voice control. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, along with gimmicky gesture control.
The new touchscreen is complemented by a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that pushes the gauges to the outskirt and opens the central real estate for a map or other goodies, such as the twin horsepower and torque gauges. The standard head-up display is pretty sharp at night, too. A Harmon Kardon 16-speaker surround sound system is standard, but the available Bowers & Wilkins might be the best on the market. Soft-close automatic doors, wi-fi hotspot, Bluetooth connectivity, wireless charging, XM radio for one year, two USB ports, keyless entry, and leather surfaces with heated front armrests complete the standard feature list.
All of this comes standard with the 840i at $88,895, including $995 destination. To go topless, the wallet might need to be bottomless; the convertible is a $9,500 upcharge across the lineup. You get a power retractable soft top and available seat vents that heat the neck. All-wheel drive adds $2,900 to coupe or convertible. Or you could just add another $21,100 and get the M850i coupe for $112,895 or convertible for $122,395. The standard equipment on the M8 ($133,995) and M8 Competition ($146,995) is mostly related to performance, such as the carbon fiber roof on the M8 Coupe and 20-inch wheels. If there is a value buy, it is the four-door Gran Coupe, which starts at $85,895. The options list for any 8-Series is dizzying, and standalone choices range from glass controls on iDrive and the shifter to ash black silver wood trim on the M8. Then there’s all the tech-heavy packages. No matter which 8-Series comes home, BMW provides all 2020 vehicles with an impressive 4 years or 50,000 miles of warranty coverage that includes free maintenance.
The 2020 BMW 8-series is impressive in every way; with sumptuous styling, dizzying performance, and cutting edge technology, the 8-series is stand-out with few competitors. Excellent standard features, luxury-loaded options, much-improved infotainment, and a solid warranty are all reasons that the new 2020 BMW 8-series is the pinnacle ultimate driving machine.
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