Over the past few months, the narrow, pocked roads of Wales have been graced with a special guest: the G15 M850i xDrive coupe prototype. Slotted in the lineup to replace the F13 650i coupe, which ended production over a year ago in February 2017, the new Eight’s power comes from a “completely redeveloped” 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 set up in the hot-vee configuration we’ve come to know. As previously mentioned in our coverage of a teaser video of what was then simply the 8 Series coupe, design has been closely linked to that of the M8 GTE racer that recently logged a fifth-place finish at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Although Gran Coupé and convertible versions are said to be in the works, the M850i xDrive coupe will be the sole traditional two-door coupe choice for U.S. customers until the range-topping M8 road car arrives later.
Oh, my: M8!
With the car slated to go on sale “through the course of 2018,” according to BMW, current testing has been focused on refinement of the many drive-related technologies, which have been highlighted in a firsthand account by Car and Driver and a more in-depth, tech-oriented piece by Road & Track. Without getting too complicated before the production car is released, there is likely to be enough technology and computing power solely dedicated to handling the car’s interaction with the road via the suspension than the sum of what was used to develop entire BMW platforms in the not-too-distant past. Some of these specialized parts include electronically controlled twin-tube shock absorbers, active sway bars, rear-wheel steering, and of course a rear-biased version of xDrive—but not the version in the F90 M5 that allows for pure rear-wheel motivation.
Even with the vast selection and mind-numbing array of different combinations offered by the different modes and settings in a modern BMW, road tests over the past few generations have complained about steering feel and suspension compliance. For the enthusiast crowd, it was disappointing to learn of BMW falling short in areas where the manufacturer had previously made its name; while the cars used to come from the factory with a largely ideal suspension setup and steering feel, critics of current and recent offerings claim that the new electronic systems still can’t quite embody the old feel. It’s not uncommon to hear of journalists running press cars with the suspension in the most compliant setting even when the drivetrain itself is dialed up a few notches.
However, this new technology seems to be coming into its own under the imposing fenders of the M850i prototype, which reportedly excelled under the trying conditions found on Welsh roads. Potholes, undulating pavement surfaces, and inclement weather all come together to form the ultimate test environment, especially for vehicle as large as the new G15.
But the engineering behind all the technology seems to make the numbers, including the impressive 530 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, rather irrelevant. The active suspension components and rear-wheel steering seem to shrink the car, according to those who’ve driven it, while the re-geared ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is said never to find itself in the wrong gear. Check out the video to see it in action.—Alex Tock
[Photos and video courtesy BMW AG.]