BMW Lineup Gets a New Top Coupe: the 2019 BMW 8 Series

2019 BMW M850i; Manufacturer images

Competes with: Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe, Lexus LC 500

Looks like: The near-production concept version unveiled a year ago

Drivetrain: 523-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 with eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.

Hits dealerships: Fall 2018

Starting price: To be announced, but expect it to slot at the top of the range above the 7 Series sedan

The long march to production for BMW's new flagship coupe continues with the unveiling of the final version that will go on sale this fall. The initial model available at launch will be the high-end, high-powered M performance model — the 2019 M850i xDrive. The coupe's debut comes about a year after the unveiling of the near-production Concept 8 Series.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About the New 2019 BMW 8 Series

The new coupe revives the classic BMW 8 Series from the 1990s and comes following discontinuation of the upscale 6 Series coupe last February. BMW unveiled the production version in France on the eve of the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, in which the automaker's motorsports arm is fielding a pair of M8 GTE racecars, its first entry at Le Mans since 2011. The street and racing versions were developed side-by-side, BMW says.

Exterior

The sexy M850i xDrive version of the coupe is long, wide, low and sleek, with deeply sculpted front and rear bumpers, massive air intakes, a bulging hood and muscular shoulders. The roof is steeply raked and topped with a distinctive "double-bubble" contour, with a center channel BMW says is meant to echo classic race cars. If that isn't distinctive enough, you can order the roof in carbon fiber. More optional carbon fiber parts include air-intake inserts, mirror caps and a carbon fiber rear spoiler and lower bumper.

The front features a large, jutting version of the BMW kidney grille, flanked by squinty LED headlights that BMW says are its slimmest ever, thank to using its laser-based LaserLight technology from the BMW i8 hybrid sports car. Slender LED taillights and fat, trapezoidal exhaust tips highlight the broad rear end. Underbody covering, active grill slats and air curtains help the coupe stay as slippery as it looks.

For convenience, a power trunk is standard; hands-free opening and closing is optional.

Interior

The M850i xDrive interior has standard front sport seats, cozy (tight) rear seats and other surfaces covered with premium Merino Individual leather with contrast stitching. The rear includes a 50/50-split folding seatback. A wide center console flows to the rear seat from the dashboard's 10.25-inch touchscreen and center controls. The console includes an advanced BMW iDrive knob-and-button multimedia controller, along with cupholders and a storage bin under the armrest. A navigation system is standard, as are a 12.3-inch configurable instrument display, head-up display and four years of BMW Connected telematics and over-the-air services.

Being an M model, the M850i's interior also includes an M leather steering wheel, black headliner, M pedals and M Performance illuminated door sills. Variable-color ambient lighting is also standard, and the lighting pulses if a door is open while the car is running or you get an incoming phone call.

That doesn't mean you can't still add options. For example, the standard heated seats can be upgraded to include ventilation that pulls air in, rather than blows it out (a feature also seen on the new 2018 Mazda6 2.5T Signature). And you can upgrade from the standard 16-speaker Harman Kardon Surround Sound to a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with 16-channel amplifier putting out 1,375 watts into 16 illuminated speakers.

A cool gadget is the BMW digital key, available through the BMW's connected smartphone app, which uses near-field communication technology to let you (and up to five others you designate) to lock and unlock the car from an NFC-enabled phone and start the engine after you put the phone in the wireless charging or smartphone tray.

Under the Hood

The M850i xDrive coupe is powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 putting out 523 horsepower and 553 pounds-feet of torque (from a low 1,800 rpm). The power flows through an eight-speed automatic and standard rear-biased, torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel and a launch control system are also standard. BMW estimates zero-to-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

Performance systems standard on the M850i xDrive include an electronic locking rear differential, an adaptive M sport suspension, active rear-wheel steering and M active roll stabilization.

You can wake the neighbors, or not, thanks to a standard flap-controlled sport exhaust system, which is keyed to the 8 Series' mild-to-wild driving modes. BMW says the exhaust note is "particularly distinctive" with the most aggressive Sport Plus setting. Have at it.

An interesting electronic transmission control system uses data from the navigation system to alter the transmission's shifting to suit current driving conditions, including downshifting early when approaching intersections and minimizing unnecessary shifts between closely grouped corners. BMW also uses navigation data and sensors that read the movement of other vehicles to avoid unnecessary activation of the stop-start system in various situations — pausing at a yield sign, for example.

Safety

Standard safety and driver-assistance tech on the M850 xDrive includes a collision warning system with pedestrian and bicyclist alerts and automatic emergency braking. Optional is a package that includes stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, lane-departure warning, lane-change warning and lane-keeping assist. Also optional is a night vision system that can show people and large animals in an image on the instrument panel.

Standard are front and rear parking sensors, and a parking aid system that can sense appropriate parallel-parking spaces, maneuver into them and later help get out of them; it operates the accelerator, brakes, steering and gear changes. The system also helps maneuver out of other tight spaces by remembering and reversing the route used to get into them. A standard 360-degree camera includes rear, top, panorama and 3D views.

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