New diesel-powered GT 2020 BMW 840d xDrive G15

2019 Chris BUMERMAN Graham and Drive-My EN/UK

Desirable diesel? Although the BMW 840d xDrive G15 oses some of the M850i’s theatrics, it costs less to buy and run. So, Melanie May wonders if diesel makes or breaks the new 8 Series?


An exclusive look at BMW’s crucial new diesel-powered GT

First drive: New 2020 BMW 840d xDrive G15


After a 20-year hiatus, BMW has revived the 8 Series name. The original 8 Series E31 was produced from 1990 until 1999 and, while many at the time considered that model to be a failure, today it has become something of a cult classic.


2020 BMW 840d xDrive G15

2020 BMW 840d xDrive G15 road test


The first-gen BMW 8 Series E31 featured an all-petrol line-up, but this time around, the new 8 Series G15 features an oil-burner in the range – different times and all that. And while most of us would love to own the range-topping M850i, a big-engined car that snaps, crackles and pops with every downshift, and nonchalantly kicks out a sub-four-second 0-62mph time, the reality is that diesel and lesser-powered options are easier on the bank balance.


UP-MARKET LOOKS

However, the good thing about the diesel version of the new 8 Series is that it doesn’t look all that dissimilar to the range-topper. In fact, with a few select options and ‘packages’, the entry-level 840d xDrive model can look all but identical to the M850i variant, while the owner will be left with an extra £20,000 (or so) in their back pocket.

“Thanks to the xDrive system, traction is vice-like and instils confidence, especially in and out of the turns”

Speaking of looks, a lot has changed in terms of car design and safety since the first-gen 8 Series, so it would be unfair to compare the two. However, I will say this; the new car doesn’t make as much of a visual statement, and doesn’t have as much impact as the original did in the 1990s. But, how could it? Pop-up headlights are no longer permitted – what a shame – and new models have to fit into the current BMW family. So, these days, a familial resemblance is required, which does rather limit the potential for new designs to go their own way.

This is most evident up front, where the face of the 8 Series is pure BMW, with that low-set, wide kidney grille, jutting front apron with large air intakes and swept-back headlights. Of course, these aren’t simply carried over from other models, and have been designed especially for the flagship 8 Series. But it’s all still unmistakably from the BMW school of car design.

Nonetheless, there’s plenty of visual interest, starting with the headlights, which are the slimmest of any BMW model to date. These come with LED technology as standard, but can also be upgraded to Adaptive LED or Laserlight technology with Selective Beam, promising an extended high beam range of up to 600m.


SLEEK PROFILE

In profile, the new 8 looks sleek, and the design is unfussy with just two character lines running along the flanks. The ‘air breathers’ just behind the front wheels help whip air out of the wheel arches, which reduces the turbulence around the wheels and limits air pressure build-up in the same area (which can cause lift). The gorgeous wheels are 20in Y-spoke alloys, which come with mixed-size tyres, front and back. Large M Sport brakes can be seen behind.

Around its stubby rear end are new, wide-set lights that are full-LED technology, and there’s a subtle body-coloured rear spoiler. This is where you’ll spot the difference between the 840d and M850i – no matter which options the buyer has gone for – as the petrol model gets four exhaust outlets, but the diesel must make do with just two.

“In true grand tourer fashion, the 840d xDrive is at its best on long stretches of sweeping A-road”

All the exterior lines point forwards, which gives the car visual dynamism and its low, wide stance certainly delivers plenty of road presence. Yes, the M850i looks a tad more aggressive as standard but, if you spec the 840d with the M Carbon Exterior package, you too can add some menace to the metal!

Overall, BMW has created a classy looking machine that cuts an imposing figure, which isn’t too radically different from the BMW Concept 8 Series first unveiled at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, in 2017. Some, of course, will lament the fact that this new 8 Series doesn’t pay any homage to the original. It’s a pity that it’s not pillarless, for example, even if the door windows are frameless, and the ‘double-bubble’ roof is a nice design touch that harks back to the racers of the 1960s.


SPORTING AMBITION

Talking of racing, the new 8 was developed alongside the M8 GTE, and BMW is keen to point out that this is a sports car as well as a traditional grand tourer. But, before we get into that, the GT part of the 8 is obvious once you relax into the cosseting front seats. The interior continues the classy, understated feel, and this is where the luxury element comes into play. The leather is soft and exquisitely stitched, the headlining and carpet are sumptuous, and the brushed metal detailing feels gorgeous to the touch.

The steering wheel and seats have plenty of adjustment, so a comfortable driving position is guaranteed no matter what size the driver. The buttons are delightfully damped and there is a good mix of command controls. By this I mean you can use gesture control, push buttons, the touchscreen, the iDrive rotary dial, and/or voice control as a means of operating the many features, so no matter your preferred method, you’ll be sorted.

Much like the original 8 Series, the centre console is angled toward the driver; however, unlike the car of the 1990s, this centre console features a 10.25in Control Display with sharp graphics. There’s the latest BMW Operating System – version 7.0 – with a simplified menu structure and display options that are now more customisable and easier to arrange, much like apps on a smartphone.

There’s also a 12.3in, fully-digital instrument cluster, plus the latest version of the BMW Head-Up Display, with a huge projection surface. The instrument cluster, known as the BMW Live Cockpit Professional, presents the speedometer and rev counter info in a crisp and clear manner and, when using sat-nav, the map appears intertwined with the other data, which is rather neat. However, the HUD displays more concise and distraction-free information, so there’s less of a need to look down at the digital display if this is fitted. Well worth the investment.


LUXURIOUS INTERIOR

In terms of practicality, and to make your driving experience as comfortable and chilled as possible, the door arm rests and centre armrest are heated, the door bins are large enough to hold your bulging wallet, while the glovebox can accommodate a well-packed lunchbox. There are two cup holders and the centre armrest opens to reveal more storage; perfect for a few gold bars! There is (optional) wireless phone charging as well as Type-A and Type-C USB ports, together with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Those two rear seats are set so low down that you fall into them, and have to clamber out inelegantly, but legroom and headroom are so tight back there that they’ll probably only be used to carry your luggage or dog, in any case. They do fold flat though, so you can fit longer items in the boot, which can hold a rather decent (for this type of car) 420 litres. There are also plenty of safety features and driving aids onboard, but these feel unobtrusive and seamless in operation. You never feel like the car is driving you, even though it is rather effortless to drive.

Which brings me nicely on to the driving dynamics of this, the diesel-powered version, badged the 840d xDrive, which is the entry-level model (for now – we expect a rear-drive 840i model in time). The big questions are; does the diesel engine suit the large, luxury grand tourer and does it lose any of its shine when compared to the M850i model?

Well, much like the exterior, under the skin the diesel doesn’t differ too much at all. Both model variants get the same rear-bias xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system and come, as standard, with Integral Active Steering and Adaptive M suspension.


PLENTY OF PUSH!

Power for the 840d comes from a 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged straight-six diesel unit that makes 320hp at 4,400rpm, and 501lb ft of torque at 1,750-2,250rpm. It’s some 210hp less powerful than the M850i but, with just a mere 52lb ft less torque, it still has plenty of low-down rush, but just without its top-end power.

Let’s face it, the reality is that most buyers of the top-of-the-range 8 will very rarely get to stretch the legs of that petrol engine out on the road, and I can’t see many owners taking this luxury GT on to the track, so that top-end power won’t exactly be missed. What will, though, is the exhaust theatrics of the petrol version. But, having said that, when in Sport or Sport Plus mode, the diesel emits a low-down grumble, and the sound is so pleasing that it doesn’t even matter that it’s largely piped into the cabin through the speakers.

The chassis is well sorted and well balanced, with a spot-on mix of bump absorption and body control. However, on the diesel, the suspension set-up is softer and, in turn, the ride becomes less harsh and more comfortable. But, rather than this dulling the sportiness of the car, what it does is emphasise the GT characteristics.

In true grand tourer fashion, the 840d xDrive is at its best on long stretches of sweeping A-road, where you can effortlessly cruise along and then put your foot down when you need to overtake. It’s quite a trip watching the other cars fall away in the rear-view mirror as the 8 Series powerfully accelerates and surges past everything else on the road.


STEALTHY PERFORMANCE

The performance comes quickly, smoothly and rather quietly, which makes the 840d relatively stealthy. It puts in a 0-62mph sprint time of 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. That’s the same (limited) top speed as the petrol model, and just 0.9 of a second slower in the benchmark standing start. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Saying all that, the 840d feels best in Comfort mode, which is ideal for long-legged cruising at low revs with decent fuel economy (46-48mpg). Sport mode tightens everything up while the transmission holds on to gears for longer, raising engine speeds to ensure that it and its turbochargers are primed and ready to deliver optimum power levels when needed. However, if you keep the car in Sport mode, the engine revs a little too much, detracting from the refined nature of the car. For the most part, it’s more satisfying to stick the car in the Comfort setting and use the paddles to downshift when extra go is required.

Both petrol and diesel engines use an enhanced version of the eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, with reduced weight, a newly-developed controller and a wider gear ratio spread. It’s a slick and smooth gearbox and doesn’t miss a beat.

Thanks to the xDrive system, traction is vice-like and instils confidence, especially in and out of the turns. That rear-wheel bias also keeps the car feeling engaging and fun to drive, backed up by the safety of all-wheel drive in more difficult conditions. Like I mentioned before, the technology is there working in the background to keep you safe, but never leaves you feeling detached from the car.


ACCURATE STEERING

Also, providing decent amounts of feel and feedback is the excellent steering, which is well-weighted and accurate. The Integral Active Steering (rear-wheel steering) is particularly useful in slow, tight corners and aids manoeuvrability. You can easily thread the 8 down narrow roads, although, with the width of the car, most roads feel narrow. This girth is the only limitation to backroad jollies, and using multi-storey carparks.

Overall, the 2020 BMW 840d xDrive G15 isn’t all that different from the current top-of-the- range model. I think that the smooth, powerful and torquey diesel engine really suits the car, and turns the 8 Series into a luxurious grand tourer with sporty overtures, rather than a comfortable performance car.

For many buyers, especially those who do a lot of motorway driving, the diesel model will be the top pick of the 8 Series line-up. OK, so it won’t be as ebullient as the M850i, but what the BMW 840d lacks in dramatics, it makes up for in comfort, refinement, road tax pricing and fuel economy. That’s a lot of plus points for a car that looks almost identical to the petrol model, but costs a hefty £20,000 less. So, in a GT like the 8 Series, a diesel engine makes a lot of sense.


The smooth, powerful and torquey diesel engine in the 840d really suits the car, and turns the 8 Series into a luxurious grand tourer with sporty overtures. The wide-set rear lights use full-LED technology. The buttons are delightfully damped inside the 840d, and there’s a good mix of command controls; you can use gesture control, push buttons, the touchscreen, the iDrive rotary dial and/or voice control as a means of operating the many features.

{module 2020 BMW 840d xDrive G15 UK}

The 8 Series’ headlights are the slimmest of any BMW model to date. The interior offers a classy, understated feel. The leather is soft and exquisitely stitched, the headlining and carpet are sumptuous, and even the door arms and centre armrest are heated. The 840d feels best in Comfort mode, which is ideal for long-legged cruising at low revs with decent fuel economy (46-48mpg). A good thing about the diesel version of the new 8 Series is that it doesn’t look all that dissimilar to the range-topping M850i, especially if you spec it well.

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Additional Info
  • Year: 2020
  • Engine: Diesel L6 3.0-litre
  • Power: 320bhp at 4400rpm
  • Torque: 499lb ft at 2900rpm
  • Speed: 155 mph
  • 0-60mph: 4.8 sec

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