ALGARVE, Portugal – You love driving, but your kids are growing and the idea of a crossover or a three-box sedan is just so boring. The crush of reality is real, but so is the call of the open road – which begs the question: is there a four-seater that won’t embarrass you, and more importantly, could it possibly be entertaining enough to fling across your favorite backroad like the sports cars you savored in your youth?
The abhorrently named “four-door coupe” phenomenon has been a thing now for some time, but sleek sedans haven’t always been the ultimate performance solution. Take the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7, which apart from their high-dollar, high-powered performance variants, fall on the cushy side of things. The new 2020 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe is different. It fully inherits the dynamic talents of the traditional BMW 840i Coupe, but caters to those unsatisfied by its minuscule rear seats and the inherent practical limits of any two-door car.
The Gran Coupe’s 15.5 cubic-foot trunk is only marginally bigger than the Coupe’s surprisingly large space, but that’s really where things diverge. Based on BMW’s CLAR platform, the 8 Series Gran Coupe’s wheelbase is 7.9 inches longer, the roof 2.2 inches taller, and the track now wider than any production BMW. So expansive is its stance that its assembly line in Dingolfing, Germany, needed to be altered to make sure the new car could fit. The most dramatic dimensional alteration is to the back seat, though, where the Gran Coupe gains a remarkable 7.1 inches of legroom (meaning you no longer have to amputate your legs to fit in the back), and a positively humane increase of 7.7 inches of shoulder space. I’m 5-foot-11 and sat “behind myself” in the rear seat, finding it to be perfectly livable.
But that seat with the steering wheel is (arguably) the most important one in a BMW, and so I approach the 840i and its 3.0-liter 335-horsepower turbo inline-six with somewhat low expectations. After all, my street test of this slope-tailed four-door immediately followed an exhilarating track drive of the 617-horsepower M8 Competition Coupe. Of course it was disappointing – right? Well, wait a minute. Sure, there’s a distinctly humbler cylinder count and horsepower rating, but this entry-level Gran Coupe trimmed out in rear-drive weighs in at 4,262 pounds, a full 496 lbs below its V8-powered M850i Gran Coupe sibling. While no screamer, the new inline-six’s twin-scroll turbocharger is claimed to respond quicker, while a max torque of 368 pound-feet is squeezed out between 1,600 and 4,500 rpm. Its 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds may be three-tenths of a second slower than the 840i xDrive version, but the rear-drive 840i still feels plenty brisk once it gets going, accelerating hard before each smooth shift.
For reference, the 522-horsepower M850i hits 60 mph in less than 4 seconds, while adding additional performance goodies that include beefier brakes, an M sport differential and an adaptive suspension. It also starts at $109,895, including destination, whereas the 840i kicks things off at $85,895. Despite that massive price difference, my 840i test car thoroughly surprised with how it shrank around the driver during a lively drive through Portugal’s mountainous southern expanses. Sure, it’s got a longer wheelbase than the traditional coupe, but the four-door still has an advanced chassis with doses of aluminum, magnesium and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic that reduces weight throughout, yielding a level of maneuverability that defies its footprint.
Similarly, the eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly and quickly, working with GPS maps of the road ahead for curvature-appropriate gear selections, or manually via the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. While the $650 crystal shift knob (pictured below) coupled with the $3,500 full Merino leather trim seem a tad precious for a sports sedan, the drive is absolutely rewarding, with accurate steering, crisp turn-in and outstanding body control from the optional adaptive suspension package bundled with 20-inch wheels.
Perhaps more unexpected than the BMW’s dialed-in road manners is the volumetric capacity it packs behind the two front seats. You simply don’t expect to have as much legroom or shoulder room in a so-called four-door coupe, yet the 8 Series manages to feel spacious enough for all-day comfort. Its luxury credentials are also not in doubt given richly appointed details like the standard Nappa leather-topped dashboard and upper door panels. One of the few criticisms of the interior is the graphic design of the 12.3-inch instrument cluster (pictured above), which is bit too stylized for my tastes (and a position shared by multiple Autoblog editors). At least the 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen is managed relatively intuitively via iDrive.
While the 2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe delivers the requisite design tastiness you’d expect in this nichey segment, it goes beyond that to package satisfying driving dynamics into the mix. It prioritizes the person behind the wheel, more so than the CLS and A7, which is good as their prices start at around $15,000 less. Perhaps some may balk that’s too much of a premium to pay, but the new four-door 8 Series is at least another illustration of BMW trending back towards the core values once upheld by its famed motto of being the ultimate driving machine. While we can’t wait to sample an even fiercer engine in the Gran Coupe body style, the 840i’s outstanding chassis and harmonious driving dynamics prove it to be more than enough car for anyone seeking to make a stylish four-door statement.