Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche all keep stealth watch on competitors’ next moves and then attempt to outdo them. Newcomer Genesis is now in on the fun, and it must be joyful for luxury sedan and gran coupe enthusiasts to observe the rivalry.
Consider BMW. Hoping to regain the front-of-the-pack edge from Mercedes-Benz, it reintroduced its flagship 8 Series last year after a two-decade hiatus. Its 2020 M850i xDrive Gran Coupe debuts this year and continues the iconic brand’s efforts to regain premier honors.
Similar to its German mainstay rivals’ fans, BMW enthusiasts are among the most loyal of any carmakers’ followers. It’s hard to imagine they could be more pleased. While combining luxury, craftsmanship, and performance, the 2020 M850i is presented with a 4.4-liter, 32-valve V8 with 523 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds.
Luxury electronic sports car advocates and green technology disciples may balk, and that’s fine. There’s much to like in that market. But there’s nothing wrong with tradition. BMW built its reputation making tight-steering, well-timed and robust machines particularly apt for high-speed European highways.
As such, there’s not much not to like about the new M850i (except for the tight back seats). The exterior design is broad and low-slung, the epitome of sporting pedigree. The kidney-shaped grille is set low on the frame, while the slim twin headlights rest slightly higher than rivals’ approaches. Adaptive LED headlights featuring variable light distribution and cornering lights are standard.
Technology is state-of-the-art. The 12.3-inch touchscreen showcasing the iDrive infotainment system is well-designed and crystal clear; it operates with intuitive buttons and on-screen menus. A wireless charging pad and Wi-Fi hot spot are standard. Apple CarPlay is offered with one year of service included and then via subscription. Satellite Radio, HD Radio and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system are standard.
For audiophiles, a Bowers & Wilkins sound system is a $3,400 extravagance. The M Carbon Exterior Package (carbon fiber trims and roof for less weight) adds $4,100. Two additional driver assistance package options claim another $2,800. Adding the Assistance Pro Package (active and traffic jam assistance) is another $1,700.
The BMW M850i weighs nearly 5,000 pounds, and its driving traits are brand signatures. It’s agile but powerfully responsive. Various driving modes – Comfort, Sport and Sport+ – ideally adjust the road feel from smooth touring to quicker shifting with a tighter suspension.
The result: The BMW M850i is a driver’s delight. It’s a cruising sedan with sports car tendencies, and it perfectly defines the carmaker’s enduring persona.
James Raia, a syndicated automotive columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes theweeklydriver.com and its corresponding free podcast.