A great old song by Joni Mitchell sprang to mind when I recently met this week’s review car for the first time. Maybe you remember it – if not, it’s worth Googling or looking for on YouTube. It’s called ‘Both Sides Now’.
It tells of seeing things from different vantage points. And that fitted perfectly with my view of the new BMW 8 Series Coupé. There are two sides to its story.
To be more precise, there is what we’ll call a front ‘look’ and a rear-side ‘look’.
I think the front is stunning; I just loved it; wonderful visual thrust and balance. What a car to see in your rear-view mirror.
I think the rear-side is a lot less alluring. I just couldn’t get to the pitch of the design, or the reason for it, at all. For me, the contrast/clash is too much between beautifully sculptured front and overly-angular flanks.
Now, they say one should not read a book by its cover, but I think it is fair to say there are occasions with cars when that adage can be shown to be flawed.
In this case, I felt lots of things carried the ‘both-sides-now’ theme right through this big motor (big it most certainly is).
BMW say the large 2dr coupé is designed to attract current or potential buyers of the Mercedes S-Class Coupé and/or the Porsche 911, for example.
My version had a six-cylinder diesel under the bonnet which is probably more relevant against the Merc but there is a stonking M850i xDrive (530hp), too.
The 8 Series’ excellent diesel helps make this a heavy car, too but it is admirably and opulently adorned within – as well as being thoughtfully laid out. The dials, dash and interactive displays were not just nicely placed, they looked well.
It’s all part of the ‘experience’ (the voice control picked up on all phone requests by the way).
But I had to keep asking myself, despite the luxury: was it sufficiently distinctive for a car for which you’re going to pay so much? Is there enough to make it different from other BMWs? It really should stand apart, you know. I don’t think it does. For that sort of money, I’d expect something special.
It’s a moot point, maybe; I know carmakers strive to stamp a ‘family’ trait across their models but I still think you need something exemplary at this level.
Yet in terms of comfort, it was excellent. The luxury leather cabin had oodles of room for two. I won’t give out about the two measly ‘seats’ in the back. They are merely handy places to dump a few things. I’d rather a full two-seater but such is the way of the world that two nonentities remain. So they get to call the car a 2+2.
As you would expect, it was a seriously powerful motor to drive. With all-wheel drive I got the sense of added security, for sure. A few bursts of straight-line power were enthralling. Absolutely brilliant.
It wasn’t altogether quite as scintillating a performer on tighter bends or rougher roads (where its low-slung nature endangered the under-carriage if too suddenly confronted with jutting road contours).
There is no doubting its impressive performance prowess, but I’m not so sure Porsche 911 drivers would swap for that alone. And I’m not sure it is distinctly super-luxurious enough for Merc buyers to change allegiance.
By the same token, a current BMW driver who is no longer in need of saloon/SUV capacity could make a good case of going for the 8 Series, in terms of cabin and that wonderful performance.
There is the rarity quotient, too: there will not be many on the road at those prices.
One area broking no double-takes is the amount of boot room you’d enjoy. The boot had a shallow aperture but once negotiated, there was a surprising stretch of space; a big consideration for the golf bags. In my case, it was required for more mundane labours such as shifting a final consignment of full plastic bags (even the exotic motors are called on for practical needs sometimes).
Overall, I really enjoyed the car. My criticisms are of a relatively minor nature for most people.
However, for those parting with that sort of money, you need nearly everything to be exactly as you want.
I’d be happy with most of it, I must say, but I don’t think I could live with that rear-side design. I’ve looked at it again and again from both sides now, from front and back, and it hasn’t grown on me.
That’s a pity; it’s a nice car really.
Facts & figures
BMW 8 Series 2dr Coupé:
840d (6cyl, 3-litre, 320bhp diesel); 0/100kmh 4.9 secs, Steptronic Sport 8spd auto; xDrive, €570 road tax.
Price from €116,740. Model on test: €133,137.
Spec included: sports Vernasca leather seats, 19ins alloys, Adaptive M suspension, cruise control, collision/pedestrian warning with City Braking, Active Park Distance Control, 12.3ins screen, 10.25ins control display.