While it may not be the Ultimate Driving Machine, the 2021 BMW 8-series takes its role as a big, comfortable cruiser quite seriously. Offered in both hardtop coupe and ragtop convertible body styles, the 8-series delivers a cosseting cabin, a quiet ride, and enough panache to justify its princely price tag. Buyers can choose from either a silky-smooth twin-turbocharged inline six in the 840i models or a punchy twin-turbo V-8 that makes 523-hp in the M850i. Cornering prowess isn’t up to the standards of BMW’s smaller and more focused sport coupes and sedans, but it holds its own nicely against similarly plush rivals such as the Lexus LC and the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupe and convertible. Like the look but need four doors? Check out the 8-series Gran Coupe, which we review separately. It’s the sporty one in the family.
What’s New for 2021?
Like several other BMW models this year, the 2021 8-series lineup receives SiriusXM satellite radio and lane-departure warning as standard across the lineup. Elsewhere, M Sport brakes with black calipers join the M Sport package though Sonic Speed Blue paint and the optional black Merino Leather upholstery are no longer available.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
It’s hard to find the comparatively subdued 2021 8-series more desirable than the absolutely gorgeous Lexus LC. However, that changes once you’re behind the wheel, especially with the M850i’s delightfully powerful twin-turbo V-8. As such, we’d recommend that model in convertible form. While it costs an extra $10,000, that money is well spent when its dropped top opens up the otherwise confined-feeling cabin. In order to avoid adding much to the already lofty price tag, we’d be smart with our selected options. That means we’d only add the neck warmer feature, both driver-assistance packages, and the glass-control option that adds a crystal glass shift knob and several buttons with glass covers. Those extras altogether cost a reasonable $3350.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
BMW’s biggest coupe and convertible start off with a 335-hp twin-turbocharged inline-six-cylinder. These 840i models pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either rear- or all-wheel drive (called xDrive in BMW’s parlance). While we haven’t driven an 8 with the six-cylinder, BMW has built a reputation on silky smooth and responsive powertrains, so only speed freaks will likely be disappointed. Instead, we’ve driven both body styles of the M850i that feature a 523-hp twin-turbo V-8, eight-speed automatic, and standard all-wheel drive. This combination delivers impressive acceleration for the Bimmer’s size and provides a rich soundtrack in the sportiest setting. Likewise, the transmission transitions from relaxed to reactive based on the driver’s right foot. Most important, the 8-series delivers on its grand-touring promises, with a supremely quiet ride and surprising athleticism. Its steering feedback is direct and linear but filters out road imperfections and front-tire feedback. Although its adaptive dampers allow extra flexibility depending on the selected drive mode, they make the 8 remarkably stable during cornering in their stiffest setting. The car’s powerful brake system and firm pedal feel further enhance the feeling of absolute confidence.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The more powerful M850i, which includes a twin-turbo V-8 and standard all-wheel drive, means a significant reduction in EPA fuel-economy ratings versus the turbo six-cylinder that powers 840i models. The M850i is rated up to 18 mpg city and 25 highway, whereas the less powerful 8 has estimates of up to 23 mpg city and 30 highway. We tested the M850i coupe and convertible on our 200-mile fuel-economy route where they achieved 29 and 26 mpg, respectively. While both body styles exceeded their EPA ratings, the coupe did so by 4 mpg whereas the softtop only managed 1 mpg more. For more information about the 8-series’ fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The 2021 8-series interior offers all the infotainment gadgetry and luxury features expected in a high-priced grand tourer. Every model has 14-way power-adjustable heated front seats, soft-close automatic doors, and customizable ambient lighting; more extravagant upgrades include glass control and additional high-end materials. It can even be outfitted with unique BMW Individual options, such as a fancy white-and-brown color scheme. Although it does offer a pair of vestigial rear seats, they’re not pleasant places for adults to spend time. The 8’s low roofline also impedes headroom in the front seat and outward visibility isn’t great, but that’s the price of fashion. Its interior cubby storage consists of a coverable tray at the front of the center console, a useful central bin, and adequate door pockets. We also managed to fit five carry-on bags in the coupe’s trunk and another six with the back seats stowed, but the convertible held one bag less in each scenario.
Infotainment and Connectivity
A 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 10.3-inch touchscreen are standard on every 8-series. Unfortunately, the instrument panel is overcrowded and not particularly intuitive to operate with the steering-wheel controls. The infotainment system has a variety of ways to interact with it, including a useful rotary knob on the center console. It also features standard Apple CarPlay capability, wireless charging, and a Wi-Fi hotspot—Android Auto is absent. Those who want a more elaborate sound system can opt for the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround system.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 8-series offers myriad driver-assistance technology, including a semi-autonomous driving mode. For more information about the 8-series’ crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Available adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
More Features and Specs