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BMW M850i X-Drive

A GT Muscle Car

There’s hyper cars, sports cars, supercars and then there’s GT Cars.  There are only a handful of manufacturers that been able to meld the best a cruiser has to offer with the speed and exhilaration of a sports car.  The essence of true GT car is the ability to swallow mile after mile roadway at rapid speeds in a waft of luxury. The GT feels as if it is carved from granite, solid in feel and presence, but seeming to bend the laws of physics when called upon to accelerate.  The configuration is simple, front engine rear drive, 2 door coupe, with a 2 seat or 2+2 seat arrangement. This formula has largely remained unchanged, with the exception of modern all-wheel drive systems.

Enter the M850i from BMW.  On paper and appearance a true GT car.  Created originally between 1990 through to 1999, the original 8 Series was ground breaking.  It was the first production vehicle to mate a v12 to 6 speed manual and drive by wire throttle.  It was one of the first BMW’s to use a multi-link rear axle. It represented the ultimate level of performance and luxury that BMW could offer, and with a $134,000.00 price tag in modern terms, was truly a vehicle for the elite class.

Two decades later and BMW re-enters the GT realm.  Following the success of the 650i Grand Coupe and short lived 650i Coupe, the M850i is a complete redesign.  The 6-Series is gone, but its replacement is equally appealing and visually enticing. The numbers speak for themselves, 523-horsepower from a 4.4-liter turbocharged V-8.  There is a enough torque to make your friends Duramax diesel jealous at 553 lb-ft available at a mere 1800 rpm and sustained until 4600 rpm. This is all channeled and arrives at all four wheels via BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system.  To make things as efficient as possible the twin scroll turbos nestles into the valley of the V8 allowing for quick spooling of the turbo.

The interior is exquisitely put together but cramped for a large vehicle.  You find glass inspired shift and control knobs that illuminate at night with a striking 8 in the center.  The center stack differentiates the M850 from its sisters and brothers by integrating the 10.25-inch dash display into the surrounding dash, rather than ubiquitously floating on top.  Combined with the 12.3 inch instrument cluster the two screens meld information together using BMW’s 7th generation of i-drive to control everything except opening the car door. The whole experience was made that much more exciting when combined with the as tested Carbon Black Metallic exterior and a Fiona Red Merino leather interior.  Among other options my tester included the following optional Executive Package ($4,500), which includes ventilated seats, Bi-Colour Merino Leather Package ($1,500) and a Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System ($4,900).

Despite the M850’s significant proportions, sitting at 4,856 mm long and 1,902 mm wide but with a relatively low side profile of only 1,345 mm, it resembles a classic grand tourer and embodies those characteristics that define a true grand tourer with a long hood and short rear deck.  Driving characteristics remain quick and nimble despite the size and the M850i accelerates with zeal, sprinting to 100 in 3.9-second. In sport mode, the steering is quick and turn easily achieved. Combine this with smooth power delivery and you get a very cable cruiser. The M850i also surprises with a dual mode exhaust that crackles and pops.  However, this falls short of the previous generation M5 and M3 V8’s sound tracks. Speaking of which, this brings me to my next gripe. Although the M850i delivers gobs of power and dishes it out relentlessly, it all abruptly comes to end when the revlimiter trips in at 6,000. Unlike its predecessors that screamed all the way up to 8,000, the M850i befalls the same demise, lack of breathability.

Day to day driving is where the M850i shines.  M Adaptive suspension which features very stiff springs and variable damping give you a setting to meet your needs. Sport and Sport+ deliver the responsiveness needed in spirted driving situations.  Shifting with the ZF 8HP is almost imperceptible and becomes more pronounced and deliberate in Sport and Sport+ where the V8’s revs build nicely before upshifting. The xDrive AWD system is sends power to all wheels but is rear-biased allowing for some tail happiness when set appropriately and given the right input.

The M850i convertible is a gorgeous piece of sheet metal.  It would be the ideal choice for long summer trips into the back country.  Allowing you to soak up everything the road and environment has to offer. It can then turn the dial upto 10 when your route resembles a path carved by a snake.  It pampers you with comfort and sophistication like few vehicles can and truly falls into a category of rare automobiles that can be considered to carry a GT designation.  That’s really what those will be looking to buy the M850i convertible are looking for, a true GT car that takes you back in time, when driving meant something and the joy was not in the destination, but how you got there.

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