“Is that a 7 Series?” My wife is equal parts unnerved and confused by the question coming out of the blue from a fellow shopper in the supermarket car park.

“No, it’s an 850i,” she responds, hoping that’s the end of the conversation because at this point that’s the sum total of what she knows about the car, 

“Jeez, it’s beautiful. You must be a rev-head?” This guy clearly wants to get his Woolies worth out of this chance encounter. 

“Um, no. It’s on loan. But, yes, it’s very nice to drive,” she says, making a beeline for the driver’s door.

“Wow. You should keep it!” are the final words spoken in this brief but telling exchange. 

You can’t blame innocent bystanders for spontaneously piping up. The BMW M850i Gran Coupe is a striking machine, especially in ‘our’ car’s matt ‘Frozen Bluestone metallic’ finish.

 The BMW M850i Gran Coupe is powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8 engine. The BMW M850i Gran Coupe is powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8 engine.

But before we talk about the first month behind the wheel, let’s get a few basics on the table. This is a close to 5.1m long, four-door (with a conventional boot rather than a hatch), powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8 sending 390kW (523hp) and 750Nm to all four wheels via an eight-speed auto transmission and BMW’s ‘xDrive’ all-wheel drive system.

It’s claimed to blast from 0-100km/h in just 3.9sec, and its coupe credentials are established via a distinctly sloping roofline, modest overall height (1.4m), frameless doors, and a ‘4+1’ seating arrangement.

It’s loaded with enough fruit to stock the local green grocer, including copious amounts of leather, mega harman/kardon audio, four-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch ‘Live Cockpit Professional’ digital instrument cluster (and colour head-up display), customisable ambient lighting, laser headlights (with adaptive beam), a giant glass sunroof, adaptive suspension, monster brakes… the list goes on, and on, and on. 

And that’s without touching on any of the on-board active and passive safety tech, or sophisticated engineering underpinning its dynamic performance.

Inside there's a 12.3-inch ‘Live Cockpit Professional’ digital instrument cluster (and colour head-up display). Inside there’s a 12.3-inch ‘Live Cockpit Professional’ digital instrument cluster (and colour head-up display).

So we’re not at the economy end of the new car market here. Before on-road costs the price tag sits at $277,900. And this example features three ‘BMW Individual’ options – the matt metallic paintwork ($2600), full ‘Merino’ leather interior trim in ‘Ivory White’ and ‘‘Night Blue’ ($10,200), and piano black interior elements ($200). So, to replicate this specification you’re looking at $290,900.

And what you get for those dollars is a stealthily beautiful, physically imposing machine, executed with amazing precision, that’s supremely comfortable, and as fast as it sounds.

If a Hollywood foley artist ever needed to capture the sound of a menacing V8 growling into life, this is the car they should prop their microphone behind. A deep, full-bodied rumble that makes hitting the starter button a special occasion, every time.

And one word sums up the first 650-odd km covered in our first month with the car – effortless.

With so much torque available from so few revs, standard adaptive suspension smoothing out the corrugations, and the high-tech dash displays doing their thing, life behind the M850i Gran Coupe’s wheel is extremely pleasant.

Maximum pulling power (750Nm) is available from just 1800rpm, and remains at your disposal all the way to 4600rpm. So the mid-range is a vast ocean of torque ready to wash away surrounding traffic, and the eight-speed auto is ultra smooth. 

Despite the standard 20-inch ‘M’ alloy wheels shod with high performance Bridgestone Potenza S007 rubber (245/35 fr / 275/30 rr), ride quality (especially in Comfort mode) is exceptional.

The front seat heating is brilliant on chilly mornings. The front seat heating is brilliant on chilly mornings.

And the screen quota is filled by the configurable ‘BMW Live Cockpit Professional’ set-up running through a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, with the 10.25-inch ‘Control Display’ managing multimedia and vehicle settings. Toss in the sleek leather trimmed sports seats (heated and ventilated in the front) as well as adjustable ambient lighting, and the overall effect is positively theatrical.

A few niggles. Whenever we’ve filled the car with five occupants it’s clear the centre rear spot is the short-straw position. It’s obviously intended to be an occasional seat, but be aware that’s spelled with a capital O.

It’s clear the centre rear spot is the short-straw position and is intended to be an occasional seat. It’s clear the centre rear spot is the short-straw position and is intended to be an occasional seat.

The 440-litre boot has proved ample for family-of-five grocery shopping, and the rear seat split-folds 40/20/40 if you need more space. The front seat heating is brilliant on chilly mornings (the front centre armrest is also heated!), the Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto set-up is simple, and 16-speaker B&O stereo system cranks.The nose is also quite low, so it pays to take an angled approach and departure when it comes to driveways and (if possible) ramps.

Plus, the price you pay for the power of an angry Norse God under your right foot is at the bowser. BMW claims 10.7L/100km for combined cycle fuel economy, but even in relatively benign urban conditions, that jumped to an at-the-pump average of 13.6L/100km. Still, not shocking considering the M850i’s size, weight (1995kg) and performance potential. 

Whisky Cleary approves of the M850i. Whisky Cleary approves of the M850i.

Overall, so far, so (very) good with this stunning four-door. And now we’re a familiar with it, it could be time to explore its dynamic potential a little more thoroughly. Stay tuned.

Acquired: June 2020

Distance travelled this month: 651km

Average fuel consumption for June: 13.6L/100 (measured at the pump)

Not for the first time, the driver’s window on our long-term BMW M850i Gran Coupe lowers to hear a gushing reinforcement of something we already know. “That is a beautiful car!”, is something you should be ready to hear on a regular basis if you sign on for ownership of this stunning device.

It is proving to be a relaxing, fuss-free conveyance, yet one that’s involving and satisfying to drive, even puttering around the suburbs at speeds barely bothering the ferocious V8 lurking under its bonnet.

The M850I and M8 Competition share the same 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8. The M850I and M8 Competition share the same 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8.

Same 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, same eight-speed auto, same ‘xDrive’ all-wheel drive system, but the differences are significant. Power jumps from an already immense 390kW, to a slightly unhinged 466kW (625hp). Acceleration from 0-100km/h drops more than half a second to 3.3sec (from 3.9), and cost-of-entry surges into another league at $349,000 (up $71K from $277,900).

So, to set the context, we’re not talking ‘maximum-attack’ tarmac rally-style craziness here. Rather a more focused drive on quiet B-roads, attempting to string corners together in a rapid but smooth flow, sensing the cars’ responses through the hands and seat-of-the-pants.

On the open road the M850i is all the Gran Coupe you’re going to need. On the open road the M850i is all the Gran Coupe you’re going to need.

Start to feed in the throttle and with all 750Nm of maximum torque available from just 1800rpm, the rear-biased AWD system seamlessly distributes drive to the axle and wheels that can make best use of it.

The M850i comes with BMW's ‘xDrive’ all-wheel drive system. The M850i comes with BMW’s ‘xDrive’ all-wheel drive system.

Push harder on exit and the big beamer puts its power down with absolute authority, staying flat and rocketing ahead, ready for more.

Despite its frameless door body structure the M850i Gran Coupe feels solid as a rock thanks in no small part to its ‘Carbon Core’ construction, using four primary components – carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), aluminum, high-strength steel, and magnesium.

Those exotic materials not only enhance overall stiffness, but drop around 130kg from the kerb weight. Add in the standard M Sport differential and Adaptive M Suspension Professional (with an active anti-roll stabilisation system) and you start to get the full picture.

The M850i Gran Coupe feels solid as a rock thanks in no small part to its ‘Carbon Core’ construction. The M850i Gran Coupe feels solid as a rock thanks in no small part to its ‘Carbon Core’ construction.

So, to the M8 Competition Gran Coupe, which straight away feels faster but lacks the M850i’s lighter touch. No matter which drive or suspension mode you select, responses are more aggressive and physical.

We’re in the heart of supercar territory here, and while the M8 remains controlled as it delivers eye-widening acceleration and humongous lateral grip, there’s more of an edge to the experience.

On the open road the M850i is all the Gran Coupe you’re going to need, and I’d pick up an M235i Gran Coupe with the difference in price! 

Acquired: June 2020

Forever ago, my brother and I struck on a genius idea, but to the best of my knowledge neither of us have had the courage to put thought into action.

It’s based on the fact that you only get to grips with the details of a car once you start cleaning it. Every little imperfection raises its nasty head when you’re running suds over the body, vacuuming the carpets, or cleaning the seats.

So, the idea is, when you’re buying a used car, rather than running a casual eye over it before the test drive, grab the hose and a bucket and ask the owner if you can give it a bath.

Unconventional, but potentially revealing, and the thought occurred to me for the bazzillionth time when bringing the M850i Gran Coupe up to scratch prior to its return (sob…) following a three-month tour of duty in the CarsGuide garage.

From a practicality point-of-view, it looks clean even when it’s not, but running the washing mitt along the sloping turret reinforced this ‘coupe’s’ distinctive shape.

Frothing up the headlights was a reminder that they are (standard) ‘Laserlight’ units incorporating ‘BMW Selective Beam, and that they’re (pardon the pun) brilliant.

Moving around to the front was also a reminder that the M850i features active shutters in between the vertical bars of its signature ‘kidney’ grille. This allows the engine to reach optimal operating temperature more quickly from cold (shutters closed) to help improve fuel efficiency.

At the back it was surprising to see what at a distance looks like an exhaust vent behind the rear wheel arches is actually a solid blank. Kinda disappointing. 

Inside, the big snag, that doesn’t exactly require a magnifying glass to unearth, is the interior colour scheme.

As mentioned in the first installment, ‘our’ car features several ‘BMW Individual’ options, including ‘Full Leather ‘Merino’ Ivory White/Night Blue, Black interior colour’ trim for a not insubstantial $10,200. A classic case of, looks amazing in the showroom, pain in the neck on the driveway at home.

Normal use had turned the ivory carpet mats into a maze of black marks and swirling smudges that would do a Jackson Pollock canvas proud. Intensive rectification work using carpet shampoo, a stiff brush, and some elbow grease resulted in an only marginally improved appearance. 

A commercial grade steam cleaner would undoubtedly deliver a better result, as would a pro detailer, but who needs the hassle and expense? The leather on the seats had also started to pick up colour from clothing and general use, so the short story is, think twice before opting for the fancy interior (or buy a set of black mats).

Intensive rectification work using carpet shampoo, a stiff brush, and some elbow grease only marginally cleaned the floor mats.

Intensive rectification work using carpet shampoo, a stiff brush, and some elbow grease only marginally cleaned the floor mats.

Working away on the rest of the interior highlighted the ‘Anthracite’ Alcantara headlining, which also runs down the pillars for an ultra-classy finish, and the amount of light the standard dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof lets in. Very, very, nice.

Running the vacuum brush around the centre console also highlighted the full-leather dash, and standard ‘CraftedClarity glass application’, a faceted treatment adding depth to the audio volume knob, 3D-style gearshift (with LED logo inside), start/stop button, and iDrive control wheel. The jewel-like gear knob in particular, drew a lot of comments, not always flattering.

The jewel-like gear knob in particular, drew a lot of comments. The jewel-like gear knob in particular, drew a lot of comments.

And putting the finishing touches on the rear brought home the opulence of the back seats. The sculpted outer positions are superb (the centre spot is a ‘+1’ occasional position only) and proving comfortable and grippy, while looking the business.  On the flip side, headroom was tight for me at 183cm (6’0″).

Back passengers get a middle console featuring climate control and extra USB-C charge points. Back passengers get a middle console featuring climate control and extra USB-C charge points.

In fact, a friend riding in the back commented on “how thoughtful” BMW had been in illuminating the lidded oddments compartment. And she’s right.

This content was originally published here.