CARANDDRIVER: 2019 BMW 8-series
2019 BMW 8-series: History Doesn’t Repeat, but It Rhymes
BMW replaces its 6-series with an 8-series. Again.
BY JENS MEINERS
BMW’s latest coupe, the 8-series, which replaces the 6-series, brings back memories—not all of them fond—of a similar switch that took place in the late 1980s. Back then, BMW replaced the E24 6-series with the 850i. That meant walking away from a well-established customer base and entering an entirely new segment.
Current 6-series customers need not fret. This time around, the 8-series coupe is positioned exactly in the same market slot that the two-door 6-series occupied; the number 6 doesn’t so much disappear from the lineup as it morphs onto a four-door, hatchback Gran Turismo body that used to belong to the 5-series. Meanwhile, the buildup to the 8-series has been carefully teased with concepts, “official” spy photos, a racing variant, and even a drive in a prototype. Now BMW is finally letting us see the undisguised production model and is openly discussing details about what’s coming, just as the racing variant takes to the track at Le Mans.
The new 8-series is slightly wider, lower, and shorter than the 6-series coupe and will offer a similar powertrain portfolio. In the United States, BMW will launch the lineup with a single model, the M850i xDrive. An M8 is sure to follow, and its powertrain will be shared with the current M5.
The M850i, meanwhile, is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 in a lower state of tune. However, for the 850i, the crankcase is entirely redesigned, the injection system operates with far higher pressure, the ignition system is beefed up, and the turbochargers have been optimized for better acoustics. The result: Power is up to 523 horsepower (available from 5500 to 6000 rpm) from 444 hp in the 650i. Maximum torque is now rated at 553 lb-ft served up from 1800 to 4600 rpm, as opposed to the predecessor’s 480 lb-ft.
Torque is sent to all four wheels through the only available transmission, a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic, which, as always, executes quick, impeccable shifts. The six-speed manual once available on the 6-series is gone. BMW claims the zero-to-60-mph sprint takes a mere 3.6 seconds, and top speed is governed at 155 mph. BMW buyers who actually want to push their car beyond this threshold can always opt for the M8.
The new 8-series makes use of a clever mix of materials that consists mostly of aluminum and steel but includes magnesium for the cross-car beam that the dashboard attaches to and carbon fiber for the center tunnel. The double-bubble roof can be specified in carbon fiber as well. All of this could only partially offset the weight increase dictated by comfort and regulatory requirements: At a claimed 4478 pounds, the M850i xDrive eclipses BMW’s claimed weight for its direct predecessor, the 650i xDrive. (The last one of those that we tested weighed 4247 pounds.)
The sophisticated chassis includes a multilink rear suspension, adaptive dampers, and an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. Staggered-size tires, 245/35R-20s up front and 275/30R-20s in the rear, are standard. All-season rubber will be available, but for the U.S. market, BMW is pushing hard to make a Bridgestone Potenza summer performance tire standard, since that is the tire the chassis is specifically tuned to.
With its chiseled, busy shape, the 8-series looks more extreme than both the 6-series and the historic 8-series. The front kidney grilles, connected with a chrome strip, assume a novel shape; the headlights are thinner than ever; the flanks are highlighted by air outlets and character lines; and the sloping rear end is graced with a thin spoiler and three-dimensional taillights that evoke the look of the i8 plug-in hybrid.
The aggressive look comes at a price. Compared to its predecessor, the new car’s drag coefficient has risen from 0.30 to 0.33, while the trunk is smaller than before.
Inside, the 8-series cockpit features a more modern style only partly shared with other BMW models. Its instrumentation is angular and futuristic, and, of course, it comes with all the bells and whistles in connectivity and assistance systems that you can imagine. The driving-mode selector allows for considerable variation in steering effort, chassis characteristics, engine response, and sound. The instrumentation also changes depending on the mode selected.
And if you enjoy this kind of electronic wizardry, you will be thrilled to discover that with the new 8-series, your smartphone can replace the key. You also can specify some of the controls to be trimmed with glass.
The M850i xDrive will be at U.S. dealers in the fall. Pricing will be announced later in the summer, and, while we don’t expect sticker shock like in 1989, we’re pretty sure BMW will make you pay for the added prestige of the revived moniker.