SU­PER 8?

BMW REVIVES THE 8 SERIES – READ OUR VERDICT ON

Leek Post & Times - - MOTORING -

■■WHAT IS IT?

Say the words ‘BMW 8 Series’ to any car en­thu­si­ast, and you’ll prob­a­bly get wet shoes as they melt into a pud­dle, bab­bling about V12 en­gines and pop-up head­lights. Now, the con­tem­po­rary 8 Series isn’t quite as in­stantly iconic or quirky as the orig­i­nal - but it’s an im­por­tant step for BMW. .

■■WHAT’S NEW?

The 8 Series is an all-new car, so while it shares plenty with other BMW mod­els, un­der the skin, the over­all pack­age is like noth­ing else in the range. Ini­tially, it’s ex­clu­sively avail­able as a two-door coupe, but BMW will also in­tro­duce con­vert­ible and four-door ‘Gran Coupe’ vari­ants to the line-up. All will share the same trio of en­gines, too. It also oc­cu­pies a new mar­ket sec­tor for BMW, sit­ting be­tween truly fo­cused sports cars such as the Porsche 911 and gen­uine lux­ury mod­els such as the S-class Coupe. Forth­com­ing four-door mod­els will also ri­val the Porsche Panam­era.

■■WHAT’S UN­DER THE BONNET?

Al­though there will be a 40d diesel model avail­able, we drove the M850i – a step down from a full-fat M car but still pack­ing a 4.4-litre V8 with 523bhp. It’s paired with an eight-speed torque con­verter au­to­matic gear­box, and the com­bi­na­tion is sim­ply bril­liant.

Power – as you’d ex­pect from such hefty num­bers – is am­ple, and the 8 Series al­ways feels like it has more to give. The gear­box is silky smooth when you’re just am­bling around at low speeds, but put your foot down (and whack it into ‘Sport’ mode) and changes are fe­ro­ciously quick. That’s backed up by the fig­ures: 0-60mph ar­rives in 3.5 sec­onds and top speed is limited to 155mph.

De­spite be­ing tur­bocharged, the V8 gives plenty of punch right through the rev range, and in the up­per ech­e­lons it roars like a tiger – though how much of this is ar­ti­fi­cially gen­er­ated, we’re not sure.

■■WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

BMW’S sport­ing her­itage is clear to note as soon as you be­gin to press on. The 8 Series isn’t a darty, quick sports car like a Porsche 911, but the flu­id­ity of its han­dling – the ease with which it grips in fast cor­ners and the way it sim­ply gob­bles up a twist­ing road – means it’s in­cred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing to drive. Two as­pects of the 8 Series help it in the cor­ners – four-wheel drive and four­wheel steer­ing.

The for­mer is BMW’S well-known xdrive sys­tem, which in the 8 Series is rear-bi­ased for greater poise but can push all the power to the front wheels if nec­es­sary.

The lat­ter works as most sys­tems do, turn­ing the rear wheels in the op­po­site di­rec­tion for faster and tighter cor­ner­ing at slow speeds, or in the same di­rec­tion for greater mo­tor­way sta­bil­ity. It re­ally works too – this feels like a far smaller car than its 4.85-me­tre length would sug­gest, al­though the sen­sa­tion of the rear shift­ing by it­self does take some get­ting used to.

Mean­while, ride com­fort is a good mid­dle ground be­tween the pil­lowy soft­ness of an S-class and the hard­ened sports sus­pen­sion of a Porsche 911.

■■HOW DOES IT LOOK?

The 8 Series has se­ri­ously el­e­gant pro­por­tions; a long bonnet and rear deck, flow­ing lines and a com­pact pas­sen­ger cabin. A few styling de­tails don’t sit too hap­pily on this frame, though – the tra­di­tional ‘kid­ney’ grilles look a lit­tle too stylised and don’t play to­tally nat­u­rally with the su­per-slim LED head­lights, while the rear’s com­plex in­ter­play of sur­fac­ing, shut­lines and aero­dy­namic con­trols is a lit­tle messy from some an­gles. Yet the over­all shape and a few fea­tures, such as the dou­ble­bub­ble roof, are just won­der­ful.

It’s worth men­tion­ing the car is ex­tremely spec-de­pen­dent, too. The ve­hi­cles we drove were all cov­ered in black de­tail­ing on the win­dow line and front grille as well as hav­ing black al­loys.

■■VERDICT

The 8 Series is a se­ri­ously im­pres­sive coupe and one that shows BMW’S abil­ity to blend the lux­u­ri­ous with the sport­ing is still alive and well. It doesn’t feel quite as spe­cial as some ri­vals, how­ever – a Porsche 911 is still far bet­ter to drive, while a Mercedes S-class Coupe trumps it on lux­ury. So the ap­peal of the 8 Series will de­pend on whether you see it as the best of both worlds or an un­com­fort­able mid­dle ground.

The 8 Series oc­cu­pies a new mar­ket sec­tor for BMW.

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