FIRST DRIVE | 2019 BMW Gran Coupé adds space to 8-Series recipe
It’s no coincidence that BMW has launched an 8 Series aimed at those who normally would be found chauffeuring a family or mates.
It’s a genre that can be credited to British Aston Martin with its Rapide from many years ago and a niche the Germans are taking on with big four-door coupes that offer a more comfy place to be driven in or to a satisfying self-drive when you want.
Also don’t mix up Mercedes-Benz rivals of the new BMW Gran Coupé. The company positions the 5,082mm long and four seat sedan squarely against the upcoming AMG GT four door rather than the slightly shorter Mercedes-Benz CLS. BMW is hopeful that the elegantly shaped 8 Series GC will be as successful in presenting space triumphs just as the Panamera did for Porsche fans.
The car is 231mm longer than the two-door 8 Series Coupé that was launched here in April, with good enough room for adult rear passengers seated on beautiful leather seats that can be styled to mimic a pair of single sporty bucket seats through colour contrasting.
The rear seatbacks can be folded in a 40/20/40 configuration to extend loading space. The lengthy load bay has a narrow opening but a set of golf clubs or two should fit in without trouble.
Interior styling and switchgear mirrors the coupe’s but the digital instrumentation gets newer graphics in line with an enhanced BMW autonomous driving and on-board operating systems. With assisted cruise mode activated, the vehicle uses its army of sensors and cameras to supervise the vehicle’s surroundings, looking out for obstacles and being observant of other cars on the roads.
BMW has advanced the regular blind spot monitoring system through active graphics of approaching vehicles. It’s so precise that it is able to figure out if an approaching car is regular or truck sized, displaying the associated shape in the line of sight of the driver. Any change in speeds limits displayed by road signs now triggers automatic self-brake or throttle up if conditions allow.
THE LEATHER SEATS CAN BE STYLED TO MIMIC A PAIR OF SINGLE SPORTY BUCKET SEATS THROUGH COLOUR CONTRASTING
It’s a return to the classic BMW configuration of a 3.0l petrol turbo straight-six powering the rear wheels in the 840i sDrive, the model I drove at the world launch. Though tempting to view this rear-wheel drive as archaic in a world now enamoured with all-wheel drive performance, there are some likeable advantages to be had, like lesser weight and sharper turn-in thanks to the front wheels being liberated from driving duty.
Banking on the already honed-in athleticism of the coupe when crafting out this family friendly version, BMW uses the same line of engines and driveline components but tweaked here and there to highlight graceful poise and comfort on the move.
The 250kW/500Nm 840i wafted supremely and quietly while reeling in highway distances on the roads of Portimao in Portugal. And because BMW has also introduced four-wheel steering, this made the Gran Coupe easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces.
Though the 840i Gran Coupe can’t hold a candle to the otherworldly performance of its V8-powered M850i xDrive stablemate, there’s enough life to it as a driver’s car. Great steering feel, good grip and musicality should add to making it an attractive buy, not to mention its more approachable asking price.
The Gran Coupe is also offered in 840d guise with xDrive all-wheel drive and outputs of 235kW and 680Nm. Though this version wasn’t available for a drive, I relish the promise of enormous tractability and thrift as last experienced in the X4 M40d which shares the same engine and transmission. The new BMW Gran Coupe will go on sale here in SA next month.
The high-powered M8 version of the BMW Gran Coupe is also being unveiled soon.
BMW 840i sDrive Gran Coupe — R1,377,590
BMW 840d xDrive Gran Coupe — R1,462,916
BMW M850i xDrive Gran Coupe — R1,843,112