BMW’s 8 Series Gran Coupe has the looks to match its on-road fun

First drive: Sublime, capable and indulgent all wrapped up in a handsome package

BMW's 8 Series Gran Coupe is clearly designed for mature drivers with a strong pulse and healthy bank balance. The Bavarian four-seater is a motoring last fling before throwing in the towel and committing to a 7 Series. Rivals are relatively thin on the ground. Audi's A7, Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Tesla Model S are comparable to the 6 Series Gran Coupe's replacement.

Sleek exterior styling is the four-door’s unique selling point. The Gran Coupe (GC) features a muscular body, a long sculpted bonnet plus a coupe-like tapered rear and roofline.

When you swing open the wide door and drop in to the driver's seat the large cabin feels familiar. The materials, fit and finish are all top notch. The dash layout is conventional, simple albeit a little dated compared with the latest offerings from premium rivals Audi, Mercedes-Benz or Tesla.

Dig deeper and a lot of technology is evident, but subliminally this GC makes you want to drive, not toy with the tech. A host of options can enhance your GC's appearance with the M Carbon exterior pack the most technical looking.

The engine range is conventional and features petrol (i) or diesel (d) power with S Drive rear-wheel drive and xDrive all-wheel drive available. The in-line six-cylinder 840i S Drive (€104,060) is followed by a 320hp/680nm 840d xDrive (€111,940) another in-line six-cylinder (162g/CO2) – and with a V8-powered 530hp/750nm M850i xDrive (229g/CO2) topping the range at €163,600. A high-performance M8 Gran Coupe will join the range shortly and is incredibly impressive in the metal. All 8 Series GC variants are automatics.

Roll stabilisation

Adaptive M suspension is standard and active roll stabilisation is available as an option. An M Sport differential is standard on the 850i and 840i or on other models as part of the M Technic Sport pack, helping keep the power on the road when cornering with enthusiasm. Active steering is an option on the 840i and standard on xDrive models.

On the motorway, the Gran Coupe is beautifully assured. The 840i may be the entry model but it delivers, as a Rolls Royce salesperson might say, sufficient power. The petrol-powered Gran Coupe purrs along nicely. The ride quality is spot on and marries comfort with sporty handling. It’s a big car but feels very tight and well screwed together.

The steering is weighted for ease of use. Tight bends are dispatched with ease as the car seems to shrink around the driver. The 8 Series Gran Coupe is too big to be nimble, but manages to be entertaining and involving. Regardless of the driving mode you choose a quite poke of the throttle will deliver the right noises and squirt of power to put a grin on your face. It feels every inch a sublime GT built to tour continents or cruise across Ireland like it rules the roads.

Rear headroom

I spent some time in the rear seats also that are beautifully sculpted and surprisingly comfortable and my 5’10” generous frame felt quite at home. Rear headroom is tight, but thanks to a cleverly-designed roofline I could place a finger between the top of my head and the roof lining. Remarkably the rear two seats are very comfortable even on twisty mountainous roads.

At city speeds, or as a a passenger in the car during a trip through the mountains, I felt quite cosseted in the back. Under hard acceleration and firm braking, rear-seat passengers’ attention will never be drawn to any of the mechanical stresses underneath. Knee room is good, but as the front seats are quite low set there is no toe room underneath in the back.

For all that, the driver's seat is where you really want to be as the Gran Coupe effortlessly dispatches kilometres with confidence. The 8 Series Gran Coupe is on sale now. BMW Ireland expects the Gran Coupe to be slightly more popular than the 8 Series Coupe.

As someone eager with money in the bank but eager to spend their time in the driving seat of a coupe rather than a luxury saloon or an SUV, BMW has an edge over its rivals.