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TEST DRIVE: BMW M850i xDrive

In Sportscar365’s latest Test Drive feature, David Haueter samples BMW M850i xDrive…

Photo: Chris Szczypala

Many automotive aficionados may not realize that BMW made an 8 Series coupe back in the 1990s.

That first generation 8 Series was expensive, packed with all the technology that BMW had available at the time, and had an eye-catching design but it didn’t sell very well.

Unlike previous BMW coupes like the 635CSi, the 8 Series wasn’t particularly fun to drive.

BMW has revived the 8 Series with a new range of coupes, convertibles and sedans and though they share some of the qualities of their predecessor, they are also involving to drive and keep the driver as a primary part of the process.

The 8 Series road cars just started being delivered this year, but racing fans have seen the 8 Series on the racetrack for a year-and-a-half now in the form of the M8 GTE coupes that BMW Team RLL races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The M8 is the top of the line in the road car lineup, but there are now a few different models to choose from.

Photo: David Haueter

The M850i xDrive coupe you see here was introduced first, powered by a twin-turbocharged V8 that puts out 523 horsepower that can get the hefty 4,478-pound car to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.

While not a full-on M car, the M850i xDrive does have some sportier elements like an M Adaptive Suspension and M Sport Brakes.

Priced at $111,900, the M850i xDrive coupe is over twenty grand less than the M8 coupe, but trails it by less than a half-second in the 0-60 run (3.5 vs. 3.1). Both the M8 and the M850i xDrive come standard with all-wheel drive, though that system can be turned off in the M8.

Sitting under the M8 and M850i in the model lineup is the newly introduced 840i, which is powered by a twin-turbocharged inline-six that puts out 335 hp and takes 4.7 seconds to get to 60 mph.

That model is priced well under the M850i xDrive at a mere $87,900.

All 8 Series two-door models are available in either coupe or convertible form (including the M8) and there’s also a four door option with the 840i and M850i Gran Coupe models.

Photo: Chris Szczypala

There’s no getting around the fact that the M850i xDrive is a big car, but it has attractive dimensions and styling and is a real head turner on the road.

I was surprised at how much attention it got during the week that I was driving it – attention that was on par with the red Acura NSX I drove at around the same time. It’s a beautiful car inside and out, though I wish BMW had been a little more adventurous with the cockpit design.

On the highway and back roads, the M850i xDrive is surprisingly fun to drive given its size. You kind of expect it to drive like the 5 Series but it really has a unique character of its own.

Importantly, it feels like a coupe and not a sedan. The handling is responsive and accurate with less body roll that you might imagine, the brakes feel strong and progressive and throttle response is keen for a turbocharged car.

Its driving character is certainly helped by the M Adaptive Suspension and driving modes.

Put the suspension in Comfort mode and the shocks soften up to make it more compliant and comfortable, but put it in Sport+ mode and everything tightens up and sharpens the driving experience.

Photo: Chris Szczypala

I had a chance to take the M850i xDrive to a track day at Monticello Motor Club and though this is not a car I would consider a track car, it was fun to drive and help up to the rigors of the track without really breaking a sweat, though the weight of the car did take a toll on the tires.

It felt a bit soft when pushing it through some of the corners, but this is certainly a car that you could have fun with at the track without embarrassing yourself, and the undrilled brakes held up surprisingly well given the weight they were bringing to a stop during our sessions.

Our first taste of the new 8 Series cars from BMW showed us that it’s much more of a driver’s car than the last 8 Series cars from the 1990s were, with the possible exception of the M-massaged 850CSi.

The M8 is the king of the hill when it comes to 8 Series models but the M850i checks most of the boxes that most drives would want in a luxurious sports coupe.

If track days are going to be a regular occasion, you’re probably better off going for the M8 Competition.

We haven’t driven that car yet, but if past history is an indicator, the M850i xDrive may be the better daily driver of the two.

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Photo: Chris Szczypala

David Haueter has been an automotive writer and photographer for the past 20 years. His writing and photos have been published in Roundel, Bimmer, Forza and Excellence and SportsCarInsider as well as other automotive and racing magazines.

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