Friday, May 24, 2019


No, this is not a comparison road test like you would find in a regular car magazine. This is simply a confluence of my opinions after piloting the BMW M850i coupe this past week.

This BMW coupe is a BIG, LONG, car, and in that respect it reminds me of a much older car – the Jaguar XJ-S.

It was long, big, impractical for four passengers, with a ton of grunt, exemplary handling and the sort of finesse you associate with British and European cars.

It was a Grand Touring Car, in the same mould as this BMW. I can just imagine loading the huge trunk for two weeks of touring in Europe, and apart from the appalling fuel consumption, it is just the ticket for such an exercise.

The technical similarities are obvious – it weighed in at 1825kg, and the silky smooth 5.3L V12 produced 209kW, but the torque curve was beautifully matched to the well-calibrated four-speed auto. Remember we’re talking 1980s-1990s.

Now, Ford’s Mustang is a completely different animal. Yes, of course you can take a grand tour in this svelte coupe – but it’s not only big and boisterous, it’s brash and capable of tyre smoke when you launch yourself down the road.

It's 'American Muscle' to its bootstraps.

It weighs 1799kg, and the 5.0L V8 produces 339kW.

That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that when you put these two modern coupes together, it’s a case of – you get what you pay for. In Australian dollars, you can pay $65,000 for the Mustang; or $288,000 for the BMW. It all depends on (a) your ability to pay the entry price and, (b) what’s important to you – American muscle or German finesse.

I LOVE the Mustang. It takes me back to its glory days in the mid-60s when Ford led the Pony Car movement and, to a degree, put arch rival General Motors, on the back foot. The Mustang was instantly loveable, affordable and great to drive. Never mind that in reality the original ‘Stang was just a Ford Falcon in a different costume.

During my 20 years associated with Jaguar I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of various XJ-Ss, in Australia, Britain and the USA, and despite its rather clunky styling, it was a delight on a long trip and very easy to drive.
I never emerged feeling wrung out.

BMW wants you to refer to the M850i as a Grand Touring coupe and one look under the trunklid tells you there’s plenty of room there for touring luggage.

Mind you, the downside is that despite having nicely-sculptured rear seats, not even a Capuchin monkey would be comfortable for any length of time.
This l-o-n-g car is a two-fer.

In addition, this is not a car you would buy for track days, despite the M specifications, the huge Michelin Speedpilot tyres, and the MASSIVE brakes.

The 850i handles exceptionally well, mostly due to its AWD, well-implemented rear wheel steering feature, and tenacious grip, but it is definitely not what you would describe as nimble. It's the heaviest of the three cars I'm talking about, weighing in at 1846kg.

The twin-turbo V8 pushes out 390kW, so there's plenty of muscle from Munich.

But, step out of the BMW into an Aston Martin and you will instantly recognize true sporting agility.

However, there’s a lot to like about the BMW, especially the comfy cabin. It may be seen as a gimmick, but I really like the interior mood lighting, especially the blue, M-inspired LED strips running down the door trims. And, this car is LOADED, with a good standard spec and LOADS of tech!

There’s one thing BMW can claim as an individual and specialized feature - and that’s the jewel-like, diamond-pattern shift lever. It’s connected to the same ZF 8-speed gearbox found in a lot of powerful cars, like Bentley’s, Aston Martins and Jaguars.

The styling is elegant, but it doesn’t stand out. For me, it’s what I'd expect when you lump together all BMW’s various design cues and match them up with the desired dimensions.

However, when it was parked on my driveway it received plenty of attention, especially from quite a few stylish ladies, who were clearly displaying loads of autolust, thanks to its aggressive stance, and all the M-inspired carbon fibre bits and bobs.

Mind you, the optional carbon fibre exterior trim package will set you back AUD$7500, but it’s real carbon fibre, not just regular shiny plastic with an imprinted pattern. It includes the roof, the exterior mirror covers, the rear valance and the tiny rear spoiler.

None of these Grand Touring coupes sell in huge numbers (well, maybe except for the Mustang), and I’m certain they’ll be challenging dinosaurs for a spot in the paleontology stakes in a few years time.

There’s no such thing as a bad car these days, and if a Grand Touring coupe with German finesse is your thing, then go for it – BMW will be happy to accept more than a quarter of a million dollars from your bank account.

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