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Video | Here's Why the BMW M850i Is BMW's New Flagship

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2018

The BMW lineup has grown by one. The 2019 BMW 8 Series has officially gone on sale, and I recently had the chance to check out the new 2019 BMW M850i, which is the first model in the 8 Series range -- and the flagship car in the BMW brand.

I borrowed this 8 Series from Crevier BMW in Orange County, California, which is the largest BMW dealership in North America by sales -- so it's no surprise they got one of the first 8 Series models on the market. And while you might be surprised to hear me calling the 8 Series BMW's flagship car -- above the 7 Series luxury sedan -- it's true: the M850i starts around $113,000 with shipping, while the 750i starts around $98,000. And, of course, the "8" Series is positioned one number higher than the 7 Series in BMW's hierarchical lineup.

The return of the flagship 8 Series is a big deal in the BMW world, largely because the 8 Series has developed a following since its original run, which lasted from 1991 to 1997. Back then, the 8 Series was also the flagship model -- a big luxury coupe, designed to showcase what BMW was capable of. Slow sales killed it, but a few years later BMW came out with the 6 Series, with a similar purpose. Now the 8 Series is back, intended to carry the flagship mantle once again.

Interestingly, on the road, the 8 Series isn't what you might think. When I first heard BMW was coming out with a full-size coupe, I figured it'd be a luxury car rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe -- effectively, a large luxury vehicle, a 7 Series with two doors. Not so. The 8 Series is actually shockingly spry, as the "M" designation in back suggests -- and while this isn't a full "M" vehicle, it certainly feels sporty and quick. BMW says 0-to-60 miles per hour is an amazing 3.8 seconds, and the powertrain is a turbocharged V8 with an immensely strong 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque.

It doesn't just look like a sporty car on paper, though -- it's actually a sporty car in practice. Though the acceleration is very strong, I expected that given the big coupe's performance numbers. But the real surprise is the handling characteristics, which are truly fantastic. The 8 Series is big, sure, but it feels far more spry than you might expect, with excellent steering feel and an athletic demeanor. Indeed, the 8 Series actually feels more like a rival to the increasingly large and luxurious Porsche 911 than the Mercedes-Benz SL or the S-Class Coupe.

Still, I'm not sure if this thing will actually find many buyers. The simple truth with today's cars is that people seem to want SUVs, or at least practical 4-door cars -- and the big coupe seems to be dying off. As a result, I'm surprised BMW even bothered to create this car, given that they could've instead focused on refining their ever-growing SUV lineup, and maybe even adding an X8 -- though I'm not quite sure what its purpose would be. Still, my point stands: it seems like an odd time to be rolling out a big coupe.

But BMW seems undaunted, and one way the car may find success is by limited supply. Crevier BMW, which has a massive inventory, told me they're only getting the occasional 8 Series, meaning BMW knows this car probably won't have many buyers -- but Crevier also told me the first few are already sold, meaning the few buyers who want it seem to be finding it. And I don't question their decision at all: this is a fantastic car that seems to combine excellent luxury features, gorgeous styling and surprisingly strong performance. It's a great flagship.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Video | Here's Why the BMW M850i Is BMW's New Flagship - Autotrader