2020 BMW 8-Series Review

2020 BMW 8-Series - Gran Coupe rounds out BMW's flagship car, and makes it much more useful.


The BMW 8-Series is arguably the Bavarian automaker's most advanced vehicle. It is offered in coupe, convertible and coupe-like sedan body styles. Most recently redesigned in 2018 for the 2019 model year, the 8-Series is sold as the 8-Series Coupe, Gran Coupe and Convertible. There are also M versions branded M8. Changes for 2020 include the addition of a new base engine. Competitors include the Maserati Grand Turismo, Lexus LC, Mercedes-Benz CLS- and S-Class, and Porsche 911.

Two engines are offered. The 840 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine that makes 335 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque. The 850 gets a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that makes 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. Both engines mate to an 8-speed automatic transmission. 840 models are offered with rear- or all-wheel drive while the 850 comes standard with all-wheel drive.

Standard features include 20-inch wheels, LED/laser headlights, selectable drive modes, dual-zone climate control, head-up display, leather upholstery, 10.25-inch infotainment screen with support for Apple Car Play, wireless charging pad and Harman Hardon sound system. Standard safety features include forward collision warning with emergency braking, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitor. The convertible comes with a power-operated soft top with glass rear window, which can open or close in as little as 15 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 31 MPH. Prices start at $87,900 for the 840i coupe and climb to more than $121,000 for the 850i convertible.

We've been unable to test the new twin-turbo inline six in the 8-Series, but in other BMW models that engine provides solid acceleration and ample thrust in passing situations. It generally works well with the automatic, but can feel a bit sleepy off the line. The V8, which had been standard last year provides immediate power in nearly all situations. It's smooth and simple, just press on the gas and the 8-Series jumps. It also mates well to the autobox, however, it should be noted that this is a traditional torque-converter automatic, meaning that responses to the paddle shifter aren't as quick as you might expect.

The 8-Series has several drive modes. Most people should just leave it in normal. There acceleration and economy are balanced and the electronic nannies that help prevent wheelspin are set to vigilant. Opting for performance yields better acceleration, more aggressive shift action, a stiffer ride and decreased fuel economy. Eco should be abolished; it just makes the 8-Series harder to drive and numbs throttle response at all times.

Buyers of the 840 should seriously consider opting for the all-wheel drive if they have any intention of driving the 8 in winter. Even then, dedicated snow tires are a must.

The 850i Gran Coupe is EPA rated at 17 MPG city and 25 MPG highway. Premium-grade fuel is required. In routine suburban commuting expect to average 18-20 MPG. If your commute includes some gentle highway driving you might see 24 MPG overall.

At 4500 pounds, the 8-Series is not a lightweight sports coupe, rather It's a grand touring car in the traditional sense. It's quite capable and has high handling limits, but the sheer size keeps it from being a true sports car. One big aid is standard 4-wheel steering. This makes the 8-Series feel nimbler at high speeds and a bit easier to drive in parking lots.

For the most part, the ride is firm without being harsh -- kind of like a sports car with a bit more polish. Set in Sport mode, you'll notice considerably more impact harshness. Steering effort is appropriate and increases in sport mode. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of feedback, but it is very accurate and responsive. When hauling down this hefty coupe, the firm brake pedal instills confidence. However, as the 850 comes to a halt and the engine prepares to autostop, there's an abruptness that's inappropriate for a vehicle of this price.

The 8-Series is likely the quietest car in the class. Wind and road noise are impressively silenced and you can hear the delightful V8 exhaust note in hard acceleration. 

The 8-Series cabin is a model of luxury and efficiency. Materials are top notch and assembly quality is impeccable. Both the instrument panel and the center stack feature large and legible digital displays. Plus, there's a head-up display that helps reduce driver fatigue and distraction. In general, controls are well placed and pleasantly intuitive.

In addition to speed and engine-specific info, the instrument display provides lots of details about driving style, economy or even presents a map display. It's configurable and the design has become standard across the BMW lineup. For some it might be off-putting, but for after some time behind the wheel, it's nice to have a display that shows the driver exactly what they want to see. The same might be said for the infotainment screen, which is controlled by a jog dial. It's not necessarily the most intuitive in operation, but once familiar is relatively painless. Gesture controls for basic audio functions take some training, but may become preferred to traditional volume and skip functions.

The front seats are very firm and have serious side bolsters. Event the backrest is highly contoured. Some might find the seats too confining, but there's no doubt they will hold you in place. Head room is adequate and leg room generous. The rear seats on the coupe and convertible are more for show than actual passenger use, but the rear seat on the Gran Coupe (with it's longer wheelbase) is actually useful for adults. Though it needs to be noted that the Gran Coup is a 4-passenger vehicle. The low roofline means a long bend down to the low seating position. Doors are long on the coupe/convertible, which can complicate entry and exit. Though the front pillars are quite thick outward visibility is fine forward, but severely restricted to the rear.

Surprisingly all models have a relatively large trunk and, despite the Gran Coupe's sloping roofline, there's a traditional and secure trunk in back. Interior storage is tight.

Bottom Line -- The 8-Series plays in rarified air and brings a Jack-of-all-trades functionality to the class. It's not too sporty or too luxurious, rather a solid blend of the two. It's tops in overall tech and the nifty 4-wheel steering is a pleasant surprise. All of the typical sports car drawbacks are present, but less so than in most competitors. For buyers in this class, you'll find that the 8-Series checks off all of the appropriate boxes and provides an exhilarating driving experience.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.