We've tested the accomplished BMW 8 Series Coupe and its showy alter-ego, the 8 Series Convertible; now it's time for the likely most popular variant to hit the market, the svelte 8 Series Gran Coupe. Our first test drive in this four-door, five-seat model also gives us an opportunity to try out the entry-level 8 Series powertrain, as the 840i's straight-six petrol engine sends its power to the rear wheels. It could be the best option in the whole range.
In the Metal:
We've already declared our admiration for the design of the BMW 8 Series Coupe, and the new four-door Gran Coupe is based heavily on that car. Saying that, while the sharp front end and general muscularity are carried over, the 8 Series Gran Coupe is notably different in the detailing. Pictures don't quite convey the re-sculpted rear haunches, for example, and the Gran Coupe also gets a unique rear window style with subtle buttress-like pillars. Meanwhile, the front windscreen is a little more upright.
Of course, the most important difference is the addition of an extra pair of doors for access to the rear seats. To accommodate them, and increase rear legroom, the Gran Coupe's wheelbase is a significant 201mm longer than the two-door 8 Series Coupe's. The overall length is up 231mm, while the width has increased by 30mm and the Gran Coupe's roof is also 61mm higher. It looks long, lean and wide in the metal.
Unsurprisingly, the dashboard and front two seats of the Gran Coupe are just the same as in the 8 Series Coupe, which means loads of technology, very high quality, one of the best infotainment interfaces in the business and large digitally rendered instrumentation in front of the driver. The excellent head-up display is standard, as is gorgeous leather upholstery and split-folding rear seat backs.
For rear seat occupants, the 8 Series Gran Coupe is much easier to get into than its predecessor, the 6 Series Gran Coupe. As in that car, the rear seat design is optimised for two passengers, with more seat sculpting than you'll find in the back of most cars. There are three seatbelts back there, though the central seating position is raised and limited on legroom. Behind is a useful 440-litre boot, but access to it isn't amazing - and such a small boot lid surely doesn't need electric opening and closing?
Although the 8 Series Gran Coupe is a big car, the frameless doors and low-set seating position conspire to retain the feeling of driving a sports coupe. As ever in a modern BMW, there's a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment to suit all shapes and sizes, and the driving controls are beautifully weighted (we're still not fans of the - thankfully optional - 'glass' gear shifter).
Press the engine start button and the turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six growls into life before settling into a cultured idle. There's plenty of low-down torque on tap (the maximum 500Nm is available from just 1,600rpm) so the 840i effortlessly moves away from a standstill. In its default Comfort setting, the 8 Series Gran Coupe feels like a grown-up car with a hint of a sporty edge, but it rides well, even on 20-inch alloy wheels. The wide tyres that wrap those can be noisy depending on the road surface, but you'd never call this car uncomfortable.
Adaptive damping is standard, while BMW fitted the optional Adaptive M Suspension Professional system to our test car, which adds active roll stabilisation (at nearly €3,000). That aims to actively prevent leaning of the car in corners, regardless of the damper setting, without detracting from comfort in a straight line. The 840i we tested certainly felt incredibly controlled in the corners. That was also no doubt assisted by the fitment of Integral Active Steering, which is BMW's four-wheel-steering system. It's standard on the xDrive four-wheel-drive versions of the 8 Series, but optional on the rear-drive 840i and, while it's of as much use when manoeuvring the car as it is driving quickly, we suspect that many will be put off by its €2,700-odd price.
Even with that fitted, the 8 Series Gran Coupe feels distinctly longer and larger than its two-door brethren. It's still fast and agile by any normal measure, but it certainly gives up on some of that in a bid to fit more people in comfortably. Conversely, the longer wheelbase seems to help out with motorway comfort and you'll gladly spend lots of time behind the wheel of this car. It's worth bearing in mind that this is a very different proposition to the BMW 7 Series. That car focuses on refinement, luxury and comfort above outright sportiness, while the 8 Series Gran Coupe is very much a sporty car. Just one that can carry four (or five at a stretch).
What you get for your Money:
Prices for the 2020 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe start at €104,060, which is for the 840i variant with rear-wheel drive - it's only offered as an M Sport model. The M850i xDrive Gran Coupe is €163,300 and the 840d xDrive is €111,880. So yes, the 8 Series Gran Coupe is expensive to buy, but it is very well-equipped. Standard equipment includes the eight-speed automatic gearbox, leather upholstery (extending to the doors and dashboard), wireless device charging, heated and folding electric door mirrors, heated seats front and rear, four-zone climate control and BMW Live Cockpit Professional with satnav, 20GB of memory and a Harman Kardon Surround Sound System among many other features.
Money-no-object we'd take the M850i xDrive version of the BMW 8 Series above the others in the line-up (or maybe the M8 - though that's a story for another day), but, in reality, the entry-level 840i is all anyone needs. It has plenty of performance and can look just as impressive as the more expensive variants. Regardless, there's no doubt that the 8 Series Gran Coupe body style is the one to have.