BMW M850i Review: The best fast luxury sedan you can buy?

BMW M850i Review

The BMW M850i is big, bold, will seat four comfortably and will get to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds. And it costs $277,000-plus.

The BMW lobbed Down Under back in 2019, sliding into that blurry segment between coupes and sedans. It’ll age you to know that this not quite a coupe and not quite a sedan segment began in 2004 with the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

To my eyes that thing looked like a pregnant skateboard and I thought the idea would die a death. But what would I know, because now there are a bunch of brands with blurry offerings. BMW wasn’t quite there at the beginning with its 6 Series Gran Coupe arriving in 2012. This 8 Series replaces the 6 Series and locally is offered as a Coupe (two-door), Gran Coupe (four-door) and Convertible.

BMW M850i Gran Coupe Review

And it’s the Gran Coupe version of the M850i that we’re looking at today. And it makes a whole lot more sense, in my mind, than either the two-door or convertible, but then I’ve never liked convertibles. See, being a four-door means there’s no “absolute” idea this has to be a rip-snorting performer and the extra set of doors and passenger room in the back makes it infinitely more appealing as a mile muncher.

BMW M850i Gran Coupe Review

Overseas, the 8 Series is available in a variety of different flavours (petrol and diesel engines) but locally we only get the one engine (oh, and our cars are all all-wheel drive too), a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 making 390kW and 750Nm of torque. And it’ll get to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds which, like the Audi S8 we reviewed, is crazy-fast for a four-door sedan. Sure, the Coupe is faster (0-100km/h in 3.7secs) but it also has a glorified parcel shelf pretending to be rear seats.

And beyond the three body styles, there’s only one variant of 8 Series in Australia, and that is the M850i, which in the Gran Coupe shape we’re testing is priced at $277,900+ORCs and that makes it the cheapest of the M850i family. And the best.

BMW M850i Review

Like plenty of other performance cars, the M850i has a bunch of driving modes that’ll fiddle with everything from throttle response, to the way the eight-speed automatic shifts gears, to the adjustable dampers. But, for me, the only ones you’ll use are Comfort and Sport. For a vehicle like this, Eco just makes no sense at all.

Performance is ridiculous. Put your foot down, in Comfort, and the thing grips and goes with a softened roar. Put it into Sport mode and the leash is loosened. A lot. The roar is louder and angrier sounding, the acceleration more brutal and the gear shifts become rapid fire and, before you know it, you’re in loss of licence territory. Even in Comfort mode this thing is no shrinking violet but it’s a lot easier to control.

BMW M850i Review

You expect this sort of raging bull acceleration from M850i, though. What you might not expect is just how agile the thing is. And I don’t mean agile for a five-metre long four-door sedan, I mean, agile. Just, plain old agile. Tip into a corner and the M850i’s rear wheels will give you a bit of steering assistance to keep the snout locked onto the corner (yeah, four-wheel steering)…helps at lower speeds too by tightening your turning circle.

And the all-wheel drive (xDrive in BMW-speak) which offers a rear-drive bias by default ensures ridiculous grip no matter the conditions. Some reviews I’ve read have claimed the combination of all-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering gives the M850i a slightly unnatural feel…does it bollocks. The steering is meaty and direct in its action with enough feel (at speed) to keep you dialled in to the car’s doings.

BMW M850i Review

There are paddles on the steering wheel but so good is the ZF eight-speed box that you’ll never ever feel like grabbing at them. Shifts, no matter the driving mode, are rifle-bolt precise and you’ll never catch the thing in the wrong gear. Ever.

As for the ride. Well, it’s not perfect but it’s pretty darn good. Roll around in Comfort and mid-corner bumps and rougher sections of bitumen are smothered but roll over a speed hump and the front end will collapse as the adaptive dampers (in Comfort) seem to struggle with that low-speed movement (probably understandable given the size of the engine). Above speed-hump-speeds and there’s no such bother. And in Sport mode it feels bang on. Not too hard and not too soft. For me Sport mode is the sweet spot for the adaptive dampers…and the rest of the car, too.

BMW M850i Gran Coupe Review

Climb inside the M850i and it feels special. There’s electric everything, just as you’d expect from a car costing more than $250,000. Be that the electric blinds on the back and rear windows, through to wireless Apple CarPlay with gesture control, to keyless start (with auto locking), powered leather (hand stitched, no less) seats, head-up display, and so much more.

BMW M850i Gran Coupe Review

The same reviews that criticised the way the M850i drives also claimed the interior felt like a parts bin special. Again, I say, bollocks. Sorry, but if you haven’t just jumped from an X5, X7 or Z4 and then into the M850i, you’d never know it shares some dials and controls with those cars. And, what’s the problem with that, anyway? I defy anyone to climb inside the M850i and not instantly feel special…maybe the crystal-esque gear shifter is a bit much; my kids loved it, though. Small things.

BMW M850i Review

Now matter whether you’re in the front or the back of the M850i (it only seats four) there are acres of room. With the driver’s seat set to suit myself, I was more than comfortable in the back with excellent foot, leg and head room. Raise the powered boot and you’re met with a shallow-ish but long and wide boot (440 litres). More than enough room for a family of four’s luggage for a trip away.

BMW M850i Review

Plenty of reviewers talk about the M850i as a mile muncher and that’s certainly the intention of it in places like Europe where GTs have a long history. But, locally, if we’re realistic, most M850is will be owned by inner-city types and munch no more than a few miles each day. And that’s a shame, because this thing really is a long-legged and comfortable continent crushing machine that it’s just as comfortable when doing the around-town stuff is icing on the cake.

2020 BMW M850i Gran Coupe Specifications

PriceFrom $277,900+ORCs
Warrantythree years, unlimited kilometres
Engine4.4-litre twin-turbo V8
Power390kW at 6000rpm
Torque750Nm from 1800rpm to 4500rpm
Transmissioneight-speed automatic
0-100km/h3.9 seconds
Dimensions5074mm long; 1932mm wide; 1401mm high; 3023mm wheelbase
Track1627mm front; 1671mm rear
Wheels20×8.0-inch front; 20×9.0-inch rear
Tyres245/30 R20 front; 275/30 R20 rear
Kerb Weight1955kg
Boot Space440 litre
Fuel Tank68 litres
Thirst10.7L/100km claimed combined

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.