Bavarian marque mixes with Tassie scotch

Peter AtkinsonAAP
BMW's M850i Gran Coupe measures 5.1 metres and chews up the speed limit in 3.9 seconds.
Camera IconBMW's M850i Gran Coupe measures 5.1 metres and chews up the speed limit in 3.9 seconds. Credit: AAP

There are lots of things that car makers do to make uber-expensive flagship vehicles feel truly special.

There's the styling. There's the premium leather and timber finishes of the interior, complemented by the bespoke high-tech infotainment systems, not to mention the massive display screens that run these functions.

And, of course, there's the refined performance that generally accompanies just about every premium vehicle on the market.

The BMW M850i Gran Coupe has all of those things. In spades.

But perhaps the coolest way the Bavarian marque chose to celebrate the return of its much-vaunted 8-Series a year or so ago, is with its own kind of scotch whiskey.

A premium scotch and a very big, very fast and very expensive motor vehicle might not seem like such a wise combination. So some restraint on the part of the driver is strongly recommended.

But it's a fair illustration of how far the big brands will go, these days, to deliver the little difference-makers that might attract a buyer from one palatial dealership to the next.

BMW commissioned acclaimed Tasmanian artisan distillery Sullivan's Cove to create a special batch of their world-renowned Double Cask single malt whiskey, to be hand-delivered to anyone who had the cash to lavish on the launch model of their new flagship.

Not that this latest, revived iteration of the fabled 8-Series needs much help to impress.

The M850i Gran Coupe is part of BMW's highest echelon, which boasts convertible, coupe and this sporty four-door coupe (or slinky sedan).

It's sleek, seductive and impressively sporty, built to accommodate up to four (or five at an absolute pinch) people in consummate speed and style.

The M in the name is significant. While it's not a fully-fledged M model, the M850i gets a thunderous V8 that delivers staggering performance to satisfy all but the most hard-core drivers. The same engine powers the M550i - itself a minor step down from the M5.

The M850i will reach the speed limit in a very brisk 3.9 seconds - impressive for a big, two-tonne machine. For reference, the M8 will do the same journey in just 3.2 seconds, but will cost the better part of $100,000 more. Which makes this car a veritable bargain.

For the true budget buyers, there's a 'basic' version of the 8-Series, the twin-turbo, six-cylinder-powered 840i, which makes considerably less power, but will cost you barely $200,000.

With its twin-turbo, 4.4-litre V8, X-drive all-wheel grip and a few go-fast bits, the M850i costs $272,900 (plus federal and state government duties).

The 8-Series Gran Coupe is the most spacious and most practical version of the 8 range, boasting four doors, a generous boot and more interior space than its coupe or convertible siblings.

In fact, measuring more than 5.1m, it's one of the biggest cars to wear the BMW badge (except for the gargantuan X7,which runs on the same chassis).

That makes it taller, wider and longer than its two-door siblings, although that additional bulk is hard to see at first glance, thanks to the curvy, feline body shape.

Its nearest competitor, in both style and capability, would be Maserati's Quattroporte, or perhaps Mercedes' CLS four-door coupe - the car that started this four-door coupe caper - and Audi's S7 hatch.

The Beemer's styling is alluring. It looks long and low, almost too long from some angles, and the matt silver finish of the test machine accentuated the sculptural elements of the design.

Its gloriously refined yet powerful twin-turbocharged V8 produces 390 kilowatts, until now unthinkable in any car not emerging from the M-Sport performance works.

Put all those elements together and there's a big, plush vehicle with enough urge to make it dazzling, but urban and sensible enough to feel posh and pampering.

The X-Drive constant all-wheel-drive ensures all of that power gets safely to the ground without scuffing the low-profile tyres and those glorious 20- inch alloys.

There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, plus an almost-as-huge 10.25-inch infotainment screen atop the centre console. And a sound system that would fit nicely into your standard apartment.

It's perhaps the classiest BMW interior, peerless in its cream leather with contrasting dark trim. There's even an impressively large and useful boot - all 440 litres of it - which gobbles up golf bags like a hungry hippo.

While the rear seat can theoretically accommodate three well-heeled backsides, the sculpted, bucket-style design of the seats suggests it wouldn't be a very comfortable ride for the fifth traveller.

Better to pile in with three golfing mates and head to a course that, hopefully, will be at least a couple of hours' drive away.

Maybe one that stocks some decent scotch.

BMW M850i GRAN COUPE

* HOW BIG? At more than 5.1m, the M850i is deceptively large, its bulk disguised by the slinky, curvaceous styling.

* HOW FAST? Ridiculously. An M8 in everything but name, the twin-turbocharged, 4.4-litre V8 absolutely lifts the car when in full flight. Expect the speed limit to arrive in a very hasty 3.9 seconds.

* HOW THIRSTY? BMW said it will, technically, drink about 10.9L/100km. Enthusiastic use of the right foot will probably double that number pretty damn quick.

* HOW MUCH? The M850i Gran Coupe costs $272,900 before adding any extras, or paying the rego.

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