2020 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe Review: Gran Enough
The “base” model of BMW’s range-topping four-door is a mighty fine starter kit.
FARO, Portgual—It's a pretty rare occurrence when an automaker will make a base model of a vehicle available for a test drive. Of course, when said base model starts north of 85 large like the lowliest 2020 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe does, you're not exactly slumming it.
BMW has just started to roll out its 8 Series Gran Coupe lineup in America, and as we rolled away to begin our review on a delightful stretch of switchback-strewn Portuguese asphalt in an Alpine White, rear-drive 840i, the last thing on our minds was its place in the lineup. We were too busy getting busy enjoying the drive.
That said, if you're looking for maximum attack from your 8 Series Gran Coupe, you probably won't want the 840i or its xDrive all-wheel-drive sibling, which will run around three grand more. But that doesn't mean the 840i is a slow afoot. In fact, we were downright surprised by the might from its updated turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with 335 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque, especially as the rear-drive 840i weighs just south of 4,300 pounds. BMW quotes a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.9 seconds for the 840i (4.6 for the xDrive version), and we have no quarrel with that number. We have no problem with the engine's noises either; BMW's trademark inline-six isn't going to scare children, but it sounds appropriately throaty at full tilt.
Out of the gate, we had the Gran Coupe dialed to its base Comfort mode setting, which softened up the car considerably. BMW utilizes a front control-arm and rear multilink suspension setup on the Gran Coupe, and those bits are combined with electromechanical steering and standard Dynamic Damper Control. We're down with Comfort being comfortable, and when your car is called the Gran Coupe, it's not a bad thing to make sure it can waft happily on the highway and otherwise do grand-touring things.
But it's also a good idea when you're a purveyor of machines designed to drive ultimately to be able to dial it up in Sport mode, especially when a squiggly line of a route presents itself in the Gran Coupe's 10.25-inch center display. Sport+ tightened things up tidily, and did a solid job of holding car's eight-speed automatic in the power zone. No, you're not going to mistake the 840i for a bona fide back-road attacker, but the sedan held its own through the twisty stuff, never feeling out of sorts when we pushed it. It's a bigger car, and you'll feel that at times when you're hustling, especially on the dicey one-and-a-half-lane stretches we encountered in the countryside. But steering, braking—you name it—when you want to get after it and you have everything set up the right way, the 840i will inspire you to brake later, to turn in more aggressively. Further helping to keep things stable is its standard M Sport differential that constantly transmits the torque to the wheel with the better adhesion. Our particular test car also came with the optional 20-inch wheel-and-tire package (18s are standard and optional 19s are also available) for more contact-patch action.
Did we say sedan a few lines up? Whoops. We meant coupe, with four doors. And a suave one at that. Even though we called its 8 Series coupe stablemate our 2019 Design of the Year, the Gran Coupe is the looker of the 8 range, with a more elegant and unique profile from the A-pillar back being its most distinctive feature. That comes thanks to a 7.9-inch stretch in wheelbase over the coupe and convertible models; it's also 9.0 inches longer, 1.2 inches wider, and 2.2 inches taller than the fixed-roof two-door.
BMW execs expect the 8 Series Gran Coupe to account for half of all 8 Series volume in the U.S., and it's easy to understand why. Not only does it look better, you can actually fit adult humans in the back seat without asking them to double as contortionists. I sat my six-plus-foot-tall frame in back seat and found ample space everywhere but in the head area, where what's left of my hair got brushed by the headliner, which also accommodates the Gran Coupe's standard panoramic moonroof. Unlike its Audi A7 foil, the BMW doesn't have a really sweet, practical hatch. But it does have a solid 16 cubic feet of cargo capacity in the trunk, and a 40/20/40 split fold down rear seat further opens things if you need to haul even more gear.
Thankfully, that headliner is, like the rest of the 8 Series Gran Coupe's cabin, made from top-shelf materials, with the interior offering a mix of leather and metal, soft-touch surfaces, and cool details like a crystalline-look gearshift knob. BMW's head-up display is included on every 8er Gran Coupe and is arguably the best in the business, while the 12.3-inch instrument panel displays a wealth of vehicle information. In addition, the latest, seventh-generation iDrive infotainment setup now features a touchscreen setup. You want to twirl your fingers to turn up the volume, you can do that, or you can ask your BMW to do stuff for you via the onboard digital assistant. And all the usual suspects from a safety and driver-assistance perspective either come standard or are part of optional packages: adaptive cruise with stop/go, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning/mitigation, a surround-view camera, a parking assistant, rear cross-traffic alert, and one of our not so favorites: lane-keeping assist with side collision avoidance. While we admire the technology and its safety intentions, we hate being centered in lanes by electronic nannies.
There's no question that the 2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe isn't the darling of the lineup from a pure performance perspective. Those cars will be the V-8-powered M850i and the soon-to-arrive M8 Gran Coupe. But if you prioritize a bit more efficiency, aren't planning to track your car, and want to load one up with all the goodies at a lower entry price, the 840i is Gran Coupe could be just grand enough for you.
|2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe Specifications|
|ENGINE||3.0L DOHC 24-valve turbo I-6; 335 hp @ 5,000-6,500 rpm, 368 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||22/29 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||200.2 x 84.1 x 55.2 in|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph (155 mph w/ Perf. Tire Pkg)|