Selling a new car, truck, or SUV is challenging at any time, but it's especially difficult now, thanks to COVID-19. New car customers are more scarce than respirators, face masks and toilet paper.
Now imagine being a BMW dealer trying to sell their flagship car line, the 8 Series. Consisting of a coupe, convertible, and a new for 2020 Gran Coupe — BMW speak for a swoopy styled sedan — its incredibly good looks and wide array of model choices aren't enough to sway customers.
According to industry publication Automotive News, more than 2,000 BMW 8 Series vehicles are in transit to, or sitting on, U.S. dealership lots. And of those, 700, or 35 percent, are ones that dealers are looking to unload on other dealers. That's a lot, given that BMW sold 4,410 of them last year.
Of course, having not offered an 8 Series for two decades hasn't helped matters. Neither has the fact that a larger, roomier X7 crossover is every bit as opulent and starts at $73,900, or $11,000 less than the base BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe. Never mind that Americans prefer SUVs to cars, no matter what the price, the X7 is exquisite, the perfect luxury family bus for the upper echelon, frequently spotted at private schools, country clubs, and gated cul-de-sacs. If not the "ultimate driving machine," as BMW's ad slogan once suggested, the X7 is among the best "ultimate being-driven-in machine."
But the 8 Series' mission is more elemental to BMW's long-promoted marketing as a driver's car, one that's enticingly wrapped and beautifully built.
The base 2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe is powered by a 335-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine with either rear- or all-wheel drive. Next comes the M850i xDrive with a far more muscular 523-horsepower 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 and standard all-wheel drive. Finally, there's the BMW M8 Gran Coupe with the same V-8, but dishing out 617 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic is standard.
Of course, BMW offered up the M850i xDrive.
To those who don't know M denotes BMW's motorsports division, which endows BMW with additional athleticism, along with M-specific appearance items, including seats, steering wheels, pedals, foot rests, door sills, and other items. It's a bit much, a bit too new money.
Nevertheless, tchotchkes aside, the letter M makes even the most delectable BMW mmm-mmm good.
The differences might not be noticeable to all but the speed obsessed, of which I admit, I'm one. The 840i needs 4.9 seconds to reach 60 mph, versus the M850i's 3.7 seconds. Beyond the 1.2 seconds difference, the M850i reaches a top track speed of 155 mph, and boasts performance upgrades to its steering, suspension, brakes, differential, exhaust, and stability control. And I am sure it wouldn't surprise you that it runs on 20-inch wheels with performance run-flat tires.
To those familiar with modern BMWs, the controls should feel familiar. A giant rotary knob on the center console and six shortcut buttons control the 10.25-inch iDrive infotainment screen. The driver gets a stunning 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, although its graphics are unnecessarily garish and difficult to read in a hurry. Thank goodness for the Head-Up Display, which projects just the essential information in front of the driver.
But these concerns are all mere quibbles.
The M850i xDrive is about as special as a four-door BMW gets; a spectacular grand touring sedan that caters to your whim, a soothing yet speedy antidote to the incessant drumbeat of grim news.
2020 BMW M850i
Base price: $108,900
Engine: 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8
EPA fuel economy estimates: 17 mpg city, 25 highway
Power: 523 hp, 553 pound-feet torque
Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds
Bottom line: Pure indulgence