First off, this is not going to be one of those typical “I drive” reviews. You can read one of those anywhere. This is more about my first impression as an Original 8 Series owner of the new car, which in this case was a 2019 M850i. I guess you could call this a light M850i Review from one E31 owner’s perspective.
The test drive was sponsored by MTown which is basically a nationwide tour visiting BMW dealerships providing a showcase of the new BMW vehicle offerings. Other vehicles available included the new X7. My friend Wayne, also an E31 owner, and I dropped by to check out the “new kid in town”…
Right off the top I can tell you this car is scary quick for the uninitiated. With a twin Turbo V8, this car will cause you to sink deep into the driver’s seat as it accelerates. The dash is like a Times Square billboard with digital displays everywhere.
As a driver of a 6 speed manual E31 850Ci, the first thing I noticed was that this car is a “paddle shifter” meaning, No Clutch Pedal. I honestly didn’t know what to do with my left foot! I think personally, paddle shifters are a matter of taste. You either love them or you don’t. I’m not quite sure where I stand on them. If I were in competition I can see where I would appreciate them. But for zipping along America’s highways and byways you lose somewhat a part of the “total driving experience”. Wayne on the other hand was all over them. He was definitely comfortable with them and easily walked up and down the gears as he opened up the M850i. A little bird tells me his B7 is as quick or quicker… (Jus’ Sayin’…)
As far as the styling goes, I still can’t help but think 6 Series when I look at the front of the car. I did not feel that this new car had any “personality” of it’s own. It struck me as just “another expensive BMW”. And yes, the size of the kidney grills now prevent me from calling them “Rhino Nostrils”. They do seem a tad lower in height than when images of the car was first shown. But, in conjunction with the design of the nose of the vehicle, they still seem to contribute to any sort of smooth shark like aerodynamic look as does the E31.
This car is definitely color dependent. I think it looked better in Grey than Blue. Meaning one of the comments I’ve heard most often was how this car looked better in one color versus another. Interior and exterior color combinations were definitely factors contributing to the car’s attractiveness as will be whether you like the convertible over a hard top. Truth be told, this is the first convertible that I found more attractive with it’s top down. Usually it doesn’t matter! I note that I was at the dealer a few days prior to the event and didn’t even notice the black on black M850i hardtop parked prominently – I walked within feet of it twice!
Now, that being said… two things stood out to me that I wasn’t appreciating…
One: This “business” of acoustically dialing up the sound of the exhaust (yes you can control it) is one of the biggest wastes of money and technology. Really? I can not believe most driver enthusiasts will appreciate “the sound of backfires, snap, crackles and pops” as in what current Mustangs sound like these days. I’m more of a “stealth” driver. I don’t want you to know I’m there until you look over. Besides, seems all that noise considered more of a nuisance by neighbors more than anything else. Yes I do appreciate that low melodic bass hum of a well tuned V8 or V12 but that’s as far as it goes. Like many people, I drive enough that I can tell if there’s something going on somewhere in the vehicle sometimes just by sound or feel alone. I don’t need a shop to tell me a shock mount is coming loose and so on. So if I hear backfires going on, I get concerned because I want the combustion to happen in the cylinders not the exhaust…
Two. I felt too isolated from the outside an road feel was minimal. I’m not talking I need to have my teeth rattled as I drive. Contrasting the E31 on functioning EDC shocks there is a great difference and not necessarily an improvement. In the E31, you can feel the road surface and just by the feel one can tell just how much one could “get away with”. You’d get a sense of just how slick the road is by feel. Something that’s considered important down here in Florida. In the E31, the road noise is minimal and yet you could tell what was going on outside, or, what type of surface you were on. In the new M850i it is more like being in a “rolling cocoon”. I rode on both asphalt and concrete surfaces and feedback was minimal if at all. Some people like it like that. I didn’t.
Now this is not to be considered a negative “review” of the car. It’s a fantastic piece of auto tech and people did drool over it. I guess maybe after spending 10 years behind the wheel of an E31 I was expecting more of the same at some sense or sort of a higher level.
I have to admit, it was quite gratifying seeing the crowd of people who came out to take pictures once our two E31s parked with the M850i. ;-)