12/07/2024 3:10 PM


Be life confident

BMW M850i is a competent choice but fails to commit to one personality

2020 BMW M850i Gran Coupe

Source: BMW

With an ever-expanding series of products that fill every niche, BMW should have one of the most well-rounded lineups in the automotive world. The company offers family SUVs, stripped out sports cars, and bulbous four-door crossover coupes. 

The trouble is, with so many different models, it can be hard to differentiate each individual trim. Like its two-door stablemate, the BMW M850i falls victim to its strange positioning: A competent, refined, stylish grand tourer compromised by its inability to commit to one personality.

The Good

The good news is that although the company didn’t clearly design the M850i to excel in a specific area, it gets the top-shelf stuff from BMW’s bin of tricks. The gadgetry — from the trick 3D parking camera to Traffic Jam Assistant — is all available, which you’d expect given our tester’s $122,775 price.

The interior is familiar BMW fare, albeit classed up. The leathers, metals and woods available all fit what you’d expect from a six-figure car. The design is subdued, as is usual for BMW, but the usability of hard controls and infotainment is class-leading. Sadly, the 8 Series Gran Coupe doesn’t offer quite the same interior opulence as the more traditional 7 Series flagship sedan.

2020 BMW M850i Gran Coupe

Source: BMW

If all you care about is technology and interior, though, buy the 840i Gran Coupe. You spring for the M850i because you want BMW’s powertrain gurus to deliver serious performance. Rest assured, they do. The M850i delivers a Herculean 523 horsepower despite not even being the range-topping engine for the 8 Series. 

Since it’s a BMW, that power is doled out smoothly and available instantaneously. Despite the eight-speed automatic transmission being mechanically the same as what you’ll find in VW, Fiat Chrysler, Aston Martin, and Jaguar Land Rover products, BMW remains far ahead of the pack when it comes to tuning. The telepathic transmission is incredible, always serving up the right when you put your foot down and maximizing comfort and efficiency around town. Passing power is ample at highway speeds, but the cabin is hushed and unbothered during routine cruising.

The engine, too, makes nice noises. It can’t match the rambunctiousness of Mercedes-AMG or American V-8s, but in sport mode, its snarls and growls are amplified by the car’s audio system. Which, for the record, is also fantastic in its own right.

Finally, the M850i looks fantastic. You give up some practicality in opting for the swoopy 8 Series Gran Coupe over the 7 Series, but it’s undeniably the looker of BMW’s four-door lineup. It’s long, low and mean-looking without being overdramatic. The more aggressive M8 shouts and the tamer 840i blends in, but this is the perfect middle ground.

The Bad

Sadly, it’s not the perfect middle ground when it comes to driving. The M850i is in a weird and arguably impossible position in the lineup. It’s the fast version of the 840i, but not as fast as the M8. It has to be calmer than the full-fledged M8 Competition, but it needs to be sportier than the 7 Series lineup. It needs to be fun enough to justify the sacrifices without rendering the M-cars irrelevant.

That’s a very narrow target to hit. And the M850i misses. It’s too harsh to be a proper grand tourer or cruiser, with a overly stiff suspension that — even in its comfort setting — crashes through potholes and jolts over uneven surfaces.  Considering that the 7 Series offers more space, an even quieter cabin, the same V-8, and an absolutely sublime for less, it’s hard to imagine choosing this as your daily driver.

2020 BMW M850i Gran Coupe

Source: BMW

Some probably want more fun than the softer 7 can provide, but the M850i doesn’t really work for that buyer either. It is ungodly quick at any speed in the way that only a modern, automatic turbocharged car can be. But so is everything else at this price range. Even a 7 Series.

Quick is commoditized at this point, so the M850i would only be a charming proposition if it delivered its speed with the fun driver involvement that used to define BMW products. Sadly — though not surprisingly given the size and weight of cars in this segment — the M850i feels numb. Its steering doesn’t communicate much and the car feels heavy. It’s got so much grip that you can’t approach its limits on public roads, while the engine doesn’t reward wringing it out.

Hopefully the M8 and M8 Competition inject some life into the 8 Series. For now, though, it’s not fun enough to warrant the money or the sacrifices to practicality and comfort you have to make to choose it over a 7 Series.

Final Thoughts

If you love the styling of the 8 Series and enjoy modern BMWs, you’ll be happy with the M850i. It’s crazy quick, has a nice interior, and an enormous amount of grip. But given that BMW makes more fun cars, more practical cars and more comfortable cars, it’s just hard to imagine why you’d end up with this one.


Exterior: 4

Interior: 2.5

Value: 2.0

Driving Experience: 3

Overall: 2.9

Price as tested:  $122,775

Ratings out of 5.

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