Think of BMW's best cars and what comes to mind? Stylish, fun-to-drive sedans that are both luxuriously appointed and a joy to live with. Look to the New Class of the 1960s and 1970s, the E30 3 Series of the 1980s, the E39 5 Series of the late 1990s, and the E46 3 Series of the early 2000s. We aren't saying you should add the 2020 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe to that list of legends, but it certainly possesses some of the traits that endeared those older cars to generations of fans.
The 840i Gran Coupe falls short of the heights set by its iconic predecessors in a few important ways, though. Like almost every BMW model on sale, this swoopy sedan doesn't communicate with its driver. And while BMW's tech is far more intuitive than it was 20 years ago, the company has fallen backward over the past several years and is building systems that have become harder to learn.
Still, the 840i is high on the list of new BMW products we'd consider. Its sonorous engine, fun-to-drive character, and easy sportiness make this a fine new entry in the BMW line.
BMW abandoned its conservative-but-attractive styling language well over a decade ago, but the 8 Series Gran Coupe does a great job of capturing some of that iconic design restraint. It's low and wide, featuring a traditional long-hood-short-deck layout that emphasizes the rear-wheel-drive platform. So even though there are some odd style details – specifically the grille and headlight styling and the busy lower section of the rear bumper – the overarching design is lovely. The 8-Series Gran Coupe is an eye-catcher.
The M engines gets all the attention, but our favorite powerplant from BMW is the turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six featured on a huge number of the automaker's products (seriously, you'll find some form of this engine, code-named B58, on nearly every non-M-badged BMW product short of the X1, X2, and new 2-Series Gran Coupe). There's a reason for that. It’s smooth and refined in everyday driving, and plenty powerful too, revving freely and emitting a fine sound out the back. An eight-speed automatic sends power to the rear wheels (all-wheel drive is available), firing off seamless gear changes in everyday driving. In more dynamic situations, the ZF-sourced box will rifle off upshifts and downshifts in Sport and Sport Plus.
Combine the powertrain with a neatly balanced suspension and a quick steering rack, and you get a damn good recipe for fun everyday driving. The 840i is quick enough to thrill, but not so powerful or high strung that it's difficult to drive – the accessibility of the performance is ideal. At the same time, the 840i isn't insistent about hard driving. Set to its more docile drive modes (the usual BMW array of Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus is present), it's a fine luxury sedan with a composed ride, a quiet cabin, and high-quality materials. The 840i would make an exceptional daily driver.
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The 840i's 3.0-liter engine produces 335 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque, figures that are hardly impressive in a world where performance variants with double that output are increasingly common. That said, there's enough power to hit 60 in just 4.9 seconds, all while offering customers a near-perfect fifty-fifty weight distribution (it's actually 50.8 percent to 49.2). Unfortunately, though, more speed is only available with the M850i (or the far pricier M8), a car that's only available with all-wheel drive, weighs significantly more than our 4,300-pound tester, and lacks its excellent balance. The M850i may hit 60 in 3.7 seconds, but it's nearly 600 pounds heavier and has more weight over its front axle (53.9 percent to 46.1).
This is a problem common in BMWs of late – there's virtually no feedback from the steering or through the chassis. Sure, the 840i is agile and its steering has the right amount of heft, but it never really says what's happening between the four tires and the road. There's just none of the communication that older BMWs used to offer in spades. That's ultimately only a problem when you're really pushing the car – otherwise, it's only a minor annoyance.
It may be at the bottom of the 8-Series pecking order, but the 840i still carries a lot of technology. BMW's latest iDrive system and digital gauge cluster are both standard, and our tester carried the whole array of active safety gear. That's normal – you'll find a similar setup in a comparable Mercedes-Benz, Audi, or Porsche. But each of those rivals does a better job of integrating the disparate systems. There's no real relation between the digital gauge cluster and the iDrive display, with the former featuring less of the customization and, in turn, usefulness of MBUX or Audi Virtual Cockpit, and the latter simply being too deep with menus. We drive hundreds of vehicles per year, a fair few of which are BMWs, and despite that it takes us a good chunk of time to refamiliarize ourselves with the ins and outs of these systems.
Gallery: 2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe: Pros And Cons
2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe