The Icon of a New Era: BMW 8 series Driven
Eight. A number that BMW has used for some of their flagships or most exotic cars and recently, the German manufacturer has decided to revive one of the nameplates, in the form of the 8 Series. It was 30 years ago that the first BMW 8 Series, code-named the E31 was introduced. It came in 5 variants that made anything from 210kW to 280kW from either a V8 or V12 engine. Seen as being ahead of its time for its design and technology, it quickly became a success among BMW enthusiasts. Now though, the new BMW 8 Series is only offered with 2 variant: An 840d (not for the South African market) and the M850i – the latter which uses a 4.4 l V8 engine producing 390kW and 750 NM. All that power means the 8 can be propelled from standstill to a 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds and continue pulling to a limited top speed of 250km/h. Amazing! One of the attributes that made the E31 8 Series such a success was its innovative design, with a long bonnet and no B-Pillar, it was a marvel to look at. The new one is a looker too – is it a car I’d have a poster of, hanging on my wall? YES! IT IS GORGEOUS. It sports the slimmest light fitted to a BMW to date (available with optional BMW Laser-light). The front looks focused, huge grille (not X7 huge) sits low and wide and gives the car a confident and dynamic look. Looking at the car from any angle gives you the idea that the designers wanted anyone who gets the opportunity to come across the 8, to be excited by the idea of just being near the car – it is an emotional design, one that does not just speak of the dynamic side of the car, but also points to its Grand Tourer (GT) nature.
A grand tourer is defined by Google as “A car designed for comfortable long-distance touring” – and that is somewhat what the BMW 8 Series is, just with a bit more dynamic character. Though, don’t mistake the dynamic side of the car as a detriment to the car’s GT character, the adaptive suspension fitted to the car I had a brief time with is wizardry – able to feel comfortable in Comfort Mode but yet you plant your foot in Sport Mode and go into a corner and the car feels nicely balanced and confidence inspiring, this is in part due to the combination of the BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive system and the adaptive suspension mentioned – the nice part about the xDrive is, it also helps when you launch the car from a standstill, there is little to no wheel spin, you simply put your foot down and watch as the speed climbs, fast. The driving experience is also made pleasurable by the engine sound, though, lately, BMW been accused of not making the nicest sounding car, but and that is a big BUT the 8 Series has changed that, greatly. It sounds AMAZING, one would even mistake it for a Mercedes-AMG product (and those are known for sounding great). Weighing in at just above 2-tons, one would think the 8 Series would feel like a ship around corners but that’s not the case, all that weight in nicely hidden by the amazing suspension wizardry mentioned earlier.
The infotainment system
Using the latest iDrive 7.0, BMW aims to make every day commuting easy and relaxing, that way, you get to enjoy the experience of driving. According to BMW, iDrive 7.0 is designed to give the driver the right information when needed without the driver having to hassle through endless menus – this could be through the control display, instrument cluster or the optional head-up display. Though it needs some getting used to, it is arguably the easiest operating system I have had to acquaint myself within a limited time – everything is nicely laid out and clear to read, and can be accessed and controlled through the BMW iDrive controller, BMW Gesture Control, by touching the screen or through the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. The latter can be activated by simply saying “Hey BMW” to which the car will respond and prompt you to give instruction. Driving the 8 Series in day-to-day is such a pleasure, especially since the car comes equipped with the latest driving assist systems BMW has to offer. The Active Cruise Control w/Stop and Go function coupled with the Steering and Lane Keeping Assist makes driving in traffic a breeze, because the car will keep a distance from the car in front of you, and will also keep itself in the intended lane. Then when you get to your destination, the parking assistant feature will have the car go into a parking bay for you and when you are done with your meeting, the Reversing Assistant will take the control of the steering wheel to safely maneuver you out of the parking. You get a nice sense of safety driving the 8 Series, could be due to the nicely cocooned interior, but the driving assistance systems have a lot to do with that.
The first-ever BMW 8 Series was a car of dreams, a car one dreamt to someday own, and when BMW designed the all-new 8, their aim was never to recreate that – they wanted a spiritual successor to the E31. I, however, feel they have another car that is bound to garner the same if not more success than its 30-year-old predecessor. The emotions I got from just looking at the car are inexplicable – it is the epitome of what I believe a BMW GT Coup is – fast, comfortable, innovative and dynamic. In my very brief drive in the car, I have thought of perhaps getting a loan from the bank, buying myself the M850i and not giving a worry about how I am going to pay off that loan. In short, it’s a car that inspires a lot of emotions, and one really has to experience it to understand.