This car has had bile thrown at it before I even got to write up this review. Big Money Wasted, Bavarian Manure Wagon, B-M-Trouble-U, and that’s before the horror stories of what the maintenance schedule is like. I’m not shocked or surprised in the least, but there is still a reason why the newest BMW coupe is being reviewed: namely, because this is the first time I’ve driven something more expensive than my house by more than a small margin, and because the M850i is supposed to be something special to drive. Most reviewers consider it a fantastic gran turismo car, the kind of ride that you could run for miles in comfortably and quickly. Yes, the car does that well. Then there is the 523 horsepower, 553 ft/lbs torque 4.4L twin-turbocharged V8 that is pretty much my sweet spot for power levels right now. And finally, I drove this car because I have exactly zero experience with BMWs. I’ve ridden in a couple of E30s. That’s it. I had no inclination to deal with a BMW, and that irked a friend of mine who lusted after one. When he told me to shut up until I drove one, it pissed me off but he was right. I didn’t know what a BMW was like to drive. So here’s to you, Joe, I’m driving a BMW…sixteen years later.
So, let’s start with the irritations that the 8-series caused me, simply because they must be addressed. The iDrive infotainment/computer system that BMW has used since forever is present in the 8-series. It’s functional, the quick-trip buttons are a nice touch, and it wasn’t buggy, but you need to spend some time learning the system, otherwise it will piss you off to no end. I actually spent five minutes trying to find the damn volume control for the music. The ventilation controls should probably be set before a trip as well, because they are fairly difficult to see on the move.
Opening the hood requires two pulls of the hood latch handle, once to release the main catch and again to release the secondary catch. I figured that out after a few minutes of muttering, “Where’s the f***king latch?!” while kneeling in front of the grilles. I did get a great view of the active aerodynamic shutters in the grilles, so that’s a plus. And, of course, the warning that the M850i gave me about the engine being hot to the touch had to set a nerve or two off…because I was all about grabbing ahold of the hose from the radiator after my cruise up Interstate 65. Speaking of warnings, in the gauge display and the heads-up display, you get a speedometer reading and the car reads the speed limits for the road. The moment you go one mile per hour over the limit, the displays start pulsing the speed limit sign and the numbers on the heads-up display turn red, as if to say, “Hey…HEY! SPEED LIMIT! Do you not understand law, idiot? You are breaking it!” And do not get me started about the lane assist system…any car that actively tries to steer without my own input has deeply earned my ire.
Was that enough bitching about my drive in an expensive GT coupe? Ok, here’s how it really went down: After figuring out the audio system, I left the dealership in the BMW’s Comfort mode. This keeps the V8 quiet, with just the slightest hint of engine burble audible. It’s nice for day to day use. The seats have just enough bolstering to be sporty, but they are plenty comfortable…at least the front two seats. Don’t attempt to put anything but a small weekend bag in the back seats…those aren’t fit for a human of any size. I drove the M850i up to NCM Motorsports Park in Comfort and there was no surprises. The car felt just a touch soft, but in a nice way. The engine pulled hard enough to be fun, and at 70 MPH you could have a very quiet conversation with no problem whatsoever.
At the track, I asked for and got permission to take the BMW onto the track for some shots (Thanks again, guys!) and got my work done. That’s when I finally checked out the “Sport Plus” mode. The suspension clamped down, the throttle response sharpened up a little bit, and the exhaust went from quiet and subtle to straight-up obnoxious. Even if some of that bark and cackling, popping goodness is piped in, I didn’t care…this thing went from nice, quiet German to some guy in the middle of a Rammstein mosh pit in half a second. At the first straightaway I pinned the throttle and without the hint of tire spin, the big BMW just shoved me into the seat while gaining speed at a rather entertaining rate. It doesn’t feel like an all-wheel-drive twin-turbo anything. In fact, I didn’t know about either of those points until a half-hour after I returned the car! It feels naturally-aspirated and it goes off like a bomb. Officially, the M850i is quoted running 0-60 MPH in 3.5 seconds and is supposed to be good for a mid-11 quarter mile. I don’t doubt that for a second. I also don’t doubt that the 0-100 MPH time is in the single-digits, either. I didn’t push it further than that, but give me the opportunity to take this car to a one-mile event and I’ll bet you’ll see the far end of 150 MPH at least, if you don’t smack the speed limiter in the process. Oh, one other thing: to the owner of the Ferrari F355…I’m sorry.
So it’s got some foibles that I’m not used to, some electronic nannies that can simply f*** right off, and it’s a ball and a half to drive. It’s not a bad looker, either, provided you are looking at the car from a rear three-quarter view. (I’m still not quite sold on the nose yet.) It acts less like a GT car and more like BMW’s proof of concept that they could make a better Camaro or Mustang. Seriously, that’s what driving the M850i had me thinking the whole time. Long hood, short deck, two doors and a V8 noise that is properly Germanic (read: bass-heavy and very angry) help that image. But one thing absolutely and utterly kills the joy: the price tag. The base MSRP is $111,900 and the cost of this Barcelona Blue example rang up at a total of $117,445. The $3,000 M Carbon Roof, $650 Anthracite alcantara headliner, $900 Comfort Seating Package (remote start, ventilated seats, and heated armrests) and $995 destination charge make up the difference. Running the Beemer was a fun treat, and to drive it is to enjoy it. But to own it…no, thanks. For that kind of money I’d be looking at one of the upper-end musclecars and keep some money in my pocket, or would patiently wait for the C8 Corvette first.
Thanks to Bowling Green BMW for loaning me the 2019 M850i to test.