What are you driving?
Only one of the best-looking cars that BMW sells today. This is the 8 Series Gran Coupe, which is BMW's way of saying 'a four-door car that looks a bit like a coupe.' And in fairness, this model lives up to such lofty expectations rather better than most. BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe: I'm looking at you.
Anyway, the test car is actually the 'cheapest' 8 Series Gran Coupe money can buy, as it's the 840i model. In fact, that makes it the entry-level version of the entire BMW 8 Series line-up, as the 840i Coupe and 840i Convertible are pricier again. Though BMW Ireland blew that notion out of the water by adding about €17,000 worth of options to the media test car... Sit down for this part, but nearly four grand of that was for the special paint alone. It's called Frozen Bluestone Metallic and, well, it's amazing. That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to customising your 8 Series.
Regardless of what colour you choose, the 840i stands apart from the rest of the 8 Series line-up as it's the only one available with rear-wheel drive (all the other variants use xDrive all-wheel drive). Under the bonnet is a turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine making a useful 340hp and 500Nm of torque and, as you'd expect, it's bolted to BMW's usual eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
Name its best bits
Just look at it. Wow. It's difficult not to be smitten at first sight. That special paint emphasises the pumped-up lines of the 8 Series, which are somehow enhanced in the Gran Coupe by the extra length and the unique rear window treatment. The rear view is seriously muscular, and it's my favourite angle, though the sharp nose is lovely too, more so when you realise where BMW is going with the design of its kidney grille...
The cabin lives up to the promise of the exterior in terms of design and high-quality material selection, though some might criticise the high-end technology on show for the fact that it's shared with lesser BMWs elsewhere in the range. Get over that and you'll discover one of the best infotainment systems and interfaces in the premium sector. Anyway, you'll be too busy caressing the gorgeous leather sports seats to be worrying about any of that. They're comfortable and massively adjustable, too.
I know this particular version of the 8 Series Gran Coupe looks like an aggressive four-door sports car, but it makes a good stab at playing the role of GT cruiser when required. No, it's not as quiet as a BMW 7 Series at speed on the motorway, but it is relatively refined, and the suspension is surprisingly supple when left in its default mode. The straight-six engine is silky smooth, too - much quieter than the six-cylinder diesel alternative found in the 840d. In fact, it's a perfect partner to the car, certainly on a speed-limited country such as ours. Even at idle and wandering around urban areas it sounds good, in a quietly burbling way. Get away from city limits and open it up, though, and it unleashes its true voice (or maybe an artificially enhanced one through the audio system, but who cares when it sounds this good?) and more performance than will ever be usable on Irish roads.
The gearbox is, as ever from BMW these days, exceptional. I found myself putting it in its Sport setting and the rest of the car in Comfort for the most satisfying setup, in all conditions. Speaking of which, even on cold and damp mountain roads, where the rather special looking Bridgestone tyres could easily be overcome, this car was a serious hoot to drive. The extra length in the wheelbase (200mm over the 8 Series Coupe) takes from the agility a little, sure, but it gives back with more stability and surefootedness, even with all the power going through the rear wheels. An electronically controlled differential helps with that, but so too does the inherently excellent balance and quick steering of the car.
Anything that bugs you?
Only little things. Like the fact that BMW's 'Integral Active Steer' system (which steers the rear wheels in the opposite direct to the fronts at low speed and in the same direction as them when travelling quicker) is not standard. We've found it massively useful in other BMW models in terms of urban driving manoeuvrability and cornering agility and it would be particularly beneficial for the longer wheelbase of the Gran Coupe. It's standard on all the xDrive models.
The other bugbear is probably of more importance, as I found the door apertures a little small. Now, inside, there's plenty of room up front and two adults will also be comfortable in the back (the middle seat is for those rare occasions where you really do need to carry a fifth person), but getting in the back, you'll need to duck your head (reader, please note, that I'm a couple of inches off six-foot tall, so no undiscovered basketball star). And even getting into the front I found it very easy to graze my knee off part of the lower dashboard. No doubt you'd avoid that with a bit of practise, but it's worth checking out before you get seduced by the car.
And why have you given it this rating?
Even if you never drive the 840i quickly or experience what it is capable of when pushed, it's a special creation. It is a real 'feelgood' kind of car, sure to put a smile on your face, whether it's parked up on your drive or you're on an extended road trip. Its stunning appearance will put a smile on the faces of others too. If you're looking at the price tag and wondering if it's worth it, then it's probably not for you, as this is a car bought with the heart firmly in the driving seat.