The MH Motoring Minute: BMW M850i XDrive 8 Series Coupe

This modern muscle car does double duty: it’s both a tarmac-eating tourer and a high performance sports car.


Arthur Jones |

Review: 2 day launch
Engine: 4.4litre, twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Power: 390kW, 750Nm
Price: From R1 872 900 

America might have made muscle cars famous, but it’s the Germans who perfected them. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of pleasure to be gained from the likes of Mustangs, Chargers, Challengers and Corvettes, but if you want real driving pleasure in anything beyond a straight line – it’s ze Germans who lead the way.

And this long, menacing brute of a car has plenty of muscle, making it capable of a blistering zero to 100kph in 3.7 seconds. It doesn’t matter what car badge cult you proudly follow – that’s quick by any standard, especially considering the heft of this imposing saloon. The torque is available from only 1800rpm, so the ability to accelerate is astounding. The engine is a mechanical masterpiece, and along with the typical Beemer driving dynamism and steering feel, offers a real driver’s experience.

Related: The MH Motoring Minute: BMW 3 Series Sedan

What I am not going to try do is explain where this fits in with regards to the BMW model line-up – that’s beyond my reasoning ability. However, this is built to be both a grand cruiser and sports car with performance benefits, and while it’s not at the top of their model pyramid – that’s still reserved for the seven series (see what I mean about models?) – it is one of the most important cars they’ve build in recent times.

But forget the names and numbers, here’s what you need to know: this is a two-door super-saloon with limited rear passenger space, but with plenty of performance and a focus on the driver’s experience. It has smart aerodynamic tweaks (air curtains and a ‘double-bubble’ roofline) and high-tech suspension and steering sorcery which combine to make this hefty car seem agile and light-footed – even though it weighs 1.9 tonnes – and keeps the power sent to the right wheels at the right time (hear that American muscle?).

Related: The MH Motoring Minute: BMW X5 M50d

In terms of design, this is one of my favourite-looking Beemers. It’s low-slung, but sophisticated. Menacing, but still relatively understated. It’s truly an evolved muscle car, one which is aerodynamic and sculpted, and is not just about pure grunt. This takes the typical driver’s focus which BMW prides itself on, and then turns the dial up to 10, but while still keeping a firm hand on style and sophistication. While it’s not fair to call this stunner a ‘sleeper’ car, there is something to be said about its subtle looks.

Once you get inside, it’s more of the same Beemer signature work. It’s pared down, but the build quality is excellent, and the comfort levels are high. What is new though are the fancy new digital screens and instrumentation, intricate cross-stitching, leather-trimmed dash, and an expensive looking crystal transmission lever; which I confess is not my kind of thing, but it fits in with the high-end feel of the cabin. There’s also plenty of gadgets to satisfy even the most tech-savvy of drivers, but it was disappointing to see that some of the better features were costly options (for example, the excellent Laser lights are not standard) at this price tag.

All in all, this is a truly fantastic creation that nails the two roles it was created for: sports car and grand cruiser; all rolled into a modern muscle car shell.

PROS: The monstrous new 4.4 litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine; Slick 8-speed Steptronic auto transmission; Rear-wheel biased xDrive system; Turbo-pop soundtrack.

CONS: Laser lights and ceramic brakes not standard (even at this price); Rear seating space limited.

WHAT WE LOVE: If this model is so stupendously quick, it’s scary to think what the true, full-fat M8 will be capable of.

RATING: 8.5/10

COMPETITORS: Audi RS5 Coupe (From R1 299 784); Mercedes S–Class Coupe (R2 452 662); Jaguar R-Type R Coupe (R2 172 200).

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