Review: 2020 BMW 840i Coupe — Luxury Performance Meets Practicality And Economy

Cars, Reviews I By Peter Nelson I May 18, 2020

All photos by Peter Nelson

We were quite excited to get behind the wheel of the latest BMW 8 Series. Being fans of the old E31 generation, which we find to be one of the most beautiful cars of the 1990s, this latest G15 gen has big shoes to fill. The Dingolfing creation that our PR contact tossed us the keys to was a 2020 BMW 840i Coupe, painted in beautiful Aventurin Red Metallic ($1950), and spec’d out to the gills with the Driving Assistance ($1100), Driving Assistance Pro ($1700), M Sport ($4850), and Comfort Seating ($500) packages. All of this works out to a cool $101,445; an absolute-base 840i starts at $87,900. Here’s how just over a week with the big, luxurious grand tourer went. We don’t want to give too much away just yet, but we found it to be a great modern sequel. We thank BMW very much for lending it to us!

Interior And Ammenities

Entering the 2020 BMW 840i invokes a sense of occasion, as it contains a substantial amount of luxury between the A and C pillars. The heavy coupe doors open up nice and wide to an elegant interior covered in supple, tan and dark grey stitched leather, and a lot of brushed, quality aluminum. Any other surface is of substantial feeling, typical BMW plastic, though this material is definitely in the minority. Suddenly, its nearly-4000-pound curb weight is far from shocking. Our favorite surface was the cover that disguises the USB outlets and phone charging pad below the center console; it had a very nice weight to it, and we couldn't keep our fingers off of its finely-grated aluminum.

The infotainment system, shifter, and climate controls are typical quality-feeling BMW fair, albeit in the 8 they’re outlined and covered in materials that are just a step above; this is far from a base 330i. The sound system is among the best we’ve tested, the infotainment system is a breeze to navigate, and BMW’s Caring Car comes as standard. Caring Car is a setting that will either “relax” or “vitalize” occupants by playing either some chill acoustic music, or bumping electronic music, and fiddling with the auto climate control appropriately. The acoustic music isn’t too far off from something Kings Of Convenience-esque, whereas the electronic music is more BT-esque. It’s kind of gimmicky, but appreciated, and a fun thing to show-off to passengers.

The seats possessed cooling and heating, which was very appreciated on chilly, 55-degree SoCal mornings and hot, 85-degree afternoons. Though, when cooling was cranked up to its highest setting, it was almost as loud as the conventional AC vents cranked up to near max. We’ve tested significantly quieter setups in the past, such as in the 2020 Lexus RC F. Otherwise, while cruising along between 1 and 65-or-so MPH, with the stereo off and in Comfort Mode, the loudest sound in the entire cabin was the sound of our hands squeaking on the soft, grippy steering wheel. Road noise was minimal, as was the engine note. Even at overnight-in-jail-level highway speeds there was little noise; a true testament to this being an excellent luxury grand tourer.

The seats were incredibly comfortable and offered a ton of adjustment, none of which could be done manually. Instead, passengers must fiddle a bit to remember which joystick adjusts what, but once they’ve got it down configuration is a breeze. We especially dug being able to open or tighten the bolsters, as well as raise the headrest nice and high to accommodate lanky, tall physiques. The windows have a nice speed to them, and form a tight seal that's probably only bested by a ship's hull. Rolling them up and down is a suprisingly pleasant, aural experience, and when they're all the way down there's barely any wind buffeting, even at highway speeds. This is a major positive in sunny Southern California.

However, luxury convenience wasn't as great in some areas, such as a surprising lack of headroom for being a big Bavarian coupe. We’ve always appreciated that BMWs accommodate tall drivers very well; we felt more at home in the F80 M3 and Z4 M40i we reviewed in the past than anything sporty from Japan or South Korea. At 6’3” and a long torso, with all adjustments set to put the seat as close to the floor as possible, there was very little differential between our scalp and the 8’s pleasantly-supple headliner. This isn’t with an upright, performance-driving-oriented driving position either; we were a bit too close to the roof in a relaxed, touring-friendly driving position. The ergonomics everywhere else were very good.

The backseat was comically small and even less welcoming to tall occupants; we assumed it was only for tiny children (moderately-sized children probably wouldn’t fit) or to improve insurance rates. Behind the rear seats, trunk room was very good at just about 15 cubic meters of space, which is larger than the current Mercedes S-Class coupe. The entire backseat folds down in two pieces, which greatly enhances hauling capability. This really improves the 8’s candidacy as an excellent long-distance tourer.

Further solidifying this point, our tester was equipped with BMW’s Driving Assistance Package and Driver’s Assistance Pro Package. Parking aids are tacked on, although we found visibility to be quite good for a big, long coupe; we were surprised how quickly we got used to its dimensions. The Pro Package was truly nice to use, and enabled it every chance we got.

BMW’s Active Driving Assistant Pro is regarded as among the best driving aids in the industry, and we found it very useful and accurate. It creeped along in traffic all by itself, and did a great job maintaining speed and distance from surrounding cars on the highway. Though, tricky, worn lane markings, or temporary ones in road construction definitely stumped it from time to time; enough that keeping at least one hand at 7 o’clock was a good idea. The system actually requires the driver keep a grip on the wheel, and despite other reviewers’ experiences we found a knee wouldn’t suffice. Like Caring Car, it proved to be a hilarious party trick with passengers as well.

Steering And Road Manners

Highway manners were brilliant, which is no surprise to anyone as BMW always gets this right. We can confidently say we’d be able to pull some very lengthy stints behind the wheel of the 8; no darting, porpoising over undulations, twitchiness… anything. Just an incredibly comfortable ride in a big chariot that keeps chugging along as straight as possible.

We found the 840i to have very good inputs for a large, 3933 lb. coupe. The steering feel, while numb, was feather-light in Comfort mode, and had a very nice weight in its various Sport modes. Brake pedal feel was very good and not grabby. Above all, the steering was razor sharp for the 8’s size, with a solid-feeling front end that helped the ride feel absolutely top notch. Four-wheel steering is standard across the entire 8 Series lineup as well, which made for excellent urban maneuverability. Getting through tight parking lots and flipping U-turns on smaller urban thoroughfares was a breeze; better than our own experience in any small hatchback. The only way to get a smaller turning circle would be to stab the throttle with traction control off, thus lighting up the rear tires.

Engine, Transmission, Brakes, And Handling

Lighting up the rear tires was ton of fun in the 840i. Despite not being the M8 equipped with their top-of-the-line twin-turbo V8, the 840i’s 3.0-liter, turbocharged, Inline-6 B58B30M1 engine had plenty of gusto for some spirited motoring. In BMW's words, it sports a "twin-scroll turbocharger with variable valve control (Double-VANOS and Valvetronic) and high-precision direct injection" (that's a mouthful!), producing 335 horsepower and 369 lb. feet of torque. This might not sound like much for a big, 4,000 lb. coupe that errs on the side of luxury, but it was enough to achieve a 0-60 time of just under 5 seconds, and reach triple-digit speeds alarmingly fast (the 8’s luxury really disguised this well, too). It’s reassuring that BMW still injects sporty, ultimate driving machine characteristics into a large portion of their model range.

The engine felt punchy all over the rev range, and came bolted up to BMW’s tried and true ZF 8-speed automatic; this is the same combo found in the BMW Z4 M40i and Toyota Supra we previously tested, and proves itself to be a great modular setup across the BMW range. This engine is also quite thrifty on fuel if one’s intentions are to just cruise around with moderate throttle inputs and get good mileage; it’s EPA fuel economy rating is 23 MPG City and 30 MPG highway, 25 combined. After some easy highway cruising we quickly saw a bit better than 30 – again, further solidifying the 840i as a brilliant luxury grand tourer, and it's surprising considering its portly curb weight.

The 840i’s suspension and handling were very good for being a non-M car, and not even an M Package car. Well, that’s half-true: our tester had the M Sport Package as a tacked-on as an option, thought it wasn’t an M badged car (à la the M850). In addition to its tight steering, body roll was barely existent, and the chassis feel was surprisingly good across all modes. It handled itself quite well for weighing around five-hundred pounds more than the traditionally-sportier 3 Series. Even in the most aggressive Sport+ mode it rode quite well; we did most of our driving in Comfort and Sport+ and skipped the rest. The damping was very good in each mode, with sharp imperfections only occasionally translating through the chassis due to the 8’s 20” wheels with 35 series tires.

The torquey engine, quick-shifting automatic gearbox, and great handling came together for a very fun driving experience. The big, southern Bavarian coupe ate up corners with ease, felt quite planted, and rocketed out of tight, technical canyon roads with little drama. The brakes were also quite strong and never really showed any fade after some long bouts of spirited driving. Thanks to the engine’s low-end turbo grunt, we never found it necessary to rev it out; in fact we were happy to shift the ZF automatic gearbox in Sport+ as much as possible, as shifts were incredibly quick and smooth, and the paddle shifter action itself felt quite pleasant.

We had the opportunity to let the rear end out a lot and hold some surprisingly long drifts; a testament to the chassis’ balance and feel. The driver sits right in the middle of the wheelbase, and the weight distribution works out to 51.9% front / 48.1% rear; pretty darn cool. With traction and stability control off, the 8 was a ton of fun to pitch into corners and slide out of them, and its angry inline-6 growl was a glorious accompaniment. With 8 set in one of its Sport modes, there was barely any hint of burble tune in the 8's exhaust, which we definitely appreciated. This contributes to the 8's understatedly sporty appeal. It occasionally made some light pops and crackles after aggressively lifting off throttle or bringing the revs up high while downshifting, but nothing we’d call obnoxious.

We’d love to have a go in this exact spec of 8 Series on track, as we think all of this would translate to trail-braking precision and brilliant corner exit characteristics. We’d bet green money the 8’s weight has something to do with this; it shifts around very predictably and keeps a good amount on the rear tires, allowing for some sideways, controllable fun, that never gets scary and instills confidence.

The big, grand touring luxury coupe is becoming less and less of a common sight on the road. By that we mean actual coupes, not what BMW calls gran coupes which are… 4-door sedans. It certainly makes sense, as the market tends to favor cars that can tick as many boxes as possible, which for better or worse means sporty SUVs are often consumers' preference. Though, we think this luxury coupe would actually tick more boxes than the market might assume. It follows in the original footsteps of the original 8 Series, in that, sure, one could find better performance for their buck in a myriad of other cars, but many of those cars won't offer the same degree of luxury as the 840i. It doesn’t have much for backseat space, 335 horsepower is nice but not eyebrow-raising, the handling is good for what it is but its no M4, and some folks might not be too keen on its looks. If someone has the cash, isn't too concerned about hauling more than one passenger, and digs the appeal of a large coupe, they’d be hard-pressed to find a better unique (by today’s standards) luxury experience that offers a surprising amount of practicality and economy. So long as they aren’t too tall for it.

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