We put BMW’s new 8-Series to the test as it revives the much-loved luxury coupe 20 years on

A spin around a race track may well deliver a more exacting appreciation of the full potential of BMW’s new flagship 8-series Coupe sports car, which has racing DNA in its body and soul – a ‘gentleman’s racer’, as one executive put it.

But frankly it’s as a grand tourer, swanning along a sunlit beach road, spinning up into the mountains, and munching up miles on a motorway that it really comes into its own.

And I tried all of this near Lisbon in Portugal in the feisty cruiser that is the new BMW M850i xDrive, which goes on sale from November.

'Soft-focus supercar': Ray Massey puts the BMW's new M850i xDrive to the test 'The fun increases immeasurably when you play with the manual paddle-shift controls on the steering wheel for added involvement,' says Ray Massey The new BMW features the thinnest LED headlights the firm has produced to date The roofline has a double bubble sculpted design reminiscent of classic racing cars Smart but functional interior, with the grabbable crystal gear-controller The chunky steering wheel packed with finger-tip controls matches the muscular drive The chunky steering wheel packed with finger-tip controls matches the muscular drive

The chunky steering wheel packed with finger-tip controls matches the muscular drive

Fuel economy is easier on the pocket at 46.3mph with CO2 emissions down to 160g/km – a lesson perhaps to those short-termist politicians who think it’s clever to kill off cleaner diesel engines, as both comply with the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.

BMW expects to sell around 1,400 8-series Coupes in the first full year.

Nor is this the end of the story. Following on from the Coupe will be an open-topped cabriolet version set for sale around next March, with a range-topping Gran Coupe to follow later next year. Expect even more powerful motorsport inspired M8 versions too.

New sales and brand boss Pieter Nota said: ‘We’re right in the middle of the biggest model roll out ever in BMW’s history.’

BMW bosses want to get back to the firm’s values as pioneering producers of the ultimate driving machines with sporting dynamics.

All in all, the 8-series Coupe is not a bad start.

An unnerving bit of safety 

The 8 Series is a very clever car but one bizarre incident did rather unnerve me. 

Heading downhill on a wide, straight country lane in dappled sunshine and shadow light with absolutely nothing in front of me on either side of the road, the emergency braking system suddenly kicked in of its own volition and made a near full emergency stop.

The seat belt tensioners pulled me back into my seat, as my jacket and contents were propelled out of the passenger seat onto the floor and a loud alert and flashing lights emanated from the dashboard.

‘A ghost in the machine?’ said one colleague.

BMW engineers admitted it can happen – rarely –  if conditions, such light conditions or a steep incline, trick the car’s sensors and the computer into thinking that a collision is imminent. ‘It’ll probably never happen again,’ I was reassured.

But with cars being fitted with evermore self-driving autonomous and safety features, once is one time too many in my book.

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