Long-term review: BMW 8 Series
It’s the little things that make our BMW 8 Series special like LED headlights that appear to have harnessed the power of the sun. But are they worth the £1,500 BMW will charge you for them?
To qualify as a true GT, a car needs to be capable of carrying a couple of adults huge distances in utter comfort, something our BMW 8 Series does effortlessly well but it’s the little things – like it’s astonishingly powerful laser headlights that give your tremendous visibility even at high speeds – that you really notice on longer drives.
They were most welcome on a blast down the A24 from London to Brighton on a dark winter night. The A24 is a road that suits the 8 Series very well, it gobbles up its mixture of fast sweeping bends and tighter corners with more enthusiasm than a starved dog eats its dinner and, with BMW’s Visibility Package box ticked, the darkness wasn’t going to put the brakes on the fun. Calling them ‘laser’ headlights might be a tad disingenuous, sadly, the laser part of the lights doesn’t ever actually shine onto the road. Instead, they bounce off mirrors that in turn fire the beam through a lens filled with yellow phosphorus and, et voila, you’ve got light.
Quite a lot of light, in fact, the 8 Series’ headlights are 1,000 times brighter than LEDs yet consume less power. In the real world, that gives you a 500m range and also a beam that lights up the road consistently with none of the fade conventional headlights suffer when lighting up the opposing side of the road. Not that you have to worry about blinding other road users because the BMW can automatically dip its high beam when it detects them approaching.
The net result is that, even in darkness, you can attack roads at full bore with confidence that nothing is hidden from view. So the BMW’s comfortable enough to do huge miles, has the range to keep going for mile after mile and has the lights to pierce through even the darkest of nights. If that’s not the measure of a truly great GT car, then we don’t know what is.
This might be the cheapest BMW 8 Series you can buy, but with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel engine and an on-the-road price of £85,465, it’s definitely not basic. Our car comes with a number of options, the most noticeable being the M Sport Technic Package, which, for £2,500, adds a sporty body kit, bigger brakes and a tarted up interior that makes this diesel 8 Series look exactly like the 530hp, £100,000 petrol model. Next on the list was the Technology Package (£2,800). Along with auto-park, it adds a suite of autonomous driving aids that essentially mean the 8 Series can drive itself on the motorway and in slow-moving queues of traffic – ideal in a car that’s already so good at taking the strain out of long journeys.
While it’s hard to make a case for the cool-looking carbon-fibre roof (£2,650) or chintzy glass interior trims (£575), the £2,800 Visibility Package is easier to justify. It adds laser headlamps that could teach a pair of WWII searchlights a thing or two about illumination – we’re yet to find a road long enough to show off their full potential. And you’ll want to have a good view of roads in the 8 Series because it’s quick. Very quick. With 320hp and 680Nm of torque, the near-two-ton BMW can launch itself from 0-60mph in just 4.6 seconds and powerslide at will, despite being four-wheel drive. And if that’s not quick enough for you, in three months’ time we’ll swap it for the BMW 850i petrol to see how the two cars compare. For now, though, let’s focus on the 840d and its clever tech. Its auto-park system, for one, is smartest we’ve yet encountered – squeezing the BMW into tight spaces almost as quickly a human (well, a Watson) can manage.
Just like the new BMW 3 Series, our 8 Series also comes with BMW’s clever Reversing Assistant. At speeds of up to 22mph it logs your steering-wheel movements and, if you end up in a Mexican standoff with a driver coming the other way, can reverse the car back up the road autonomously for up to 50m. It’s ideal if you dread heading backwards up tight city streets and around corners, in fact, it can even roll back up a slalom… should you ever need to. All of which means we confidently stand by our original assertion that the 8 Series is ‘a superbly fast and surprisingly comfortable sports car’. But it’s not out the woods just yet – we have a plan in mind that’ll test its grand touring credentials to the absolute limit. More on that in the next update.