BMW cockpits have a reputation for ergonomic excellence, but the confines of a 7 Series or 5 Series are opulent to a passable, rather than conspicuous, degree.

It’s a realm in which Mercedes and latterly Audi have the better of their compatriot, with richer materials and a more convincing technological showcase, but the second-generation 8 Series could change that. Here is an opportunity for BMW to flex some creativity with a cabin that hits the bullseye for grand-touring comfort and technological sophistication.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Cabin is more spacious than its cosseting ambience lets on and the driving position is conspicuously good in this class. Plenty of leather and good stowage too

It’s not been entirely successful here, and while perceived quality is greater than any other BMW in recent memory, the 8 Series’ interior lacks the cheek-puffing ‘wow’ factor of an S-Class Coupé. Even the decadence of the optional crystal gearlever and mirror-ball rotary controls can’t dispel the business-like aura.

What character there is instead stems from the architecture. High window lines, a broad new transmission tunnel (whose inlaid switchgear is particularly slick) and the trademark driver-facing centre console cocoon the driver.

BMW also claims to have angled the prominent lines of the interior longitudinally; along with the high scuttle and low roof, the result is a pronounced pillbox effect that’s pure GT car. Elsewhere, the electroplated surrounds for the ‘closed clasp’ door handles flow nicely into the dash-mounted air vents, but the design of the leather-clad M steering wheel of our test car is functional to the point of being plain. It’s not quite special enough and, by its own admission, BMW has gone for a minimalistic ambience but has perhaps confused that with a lack of imagination.

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The 8 Series nevertheless feels ready to be comfortably driven anywhere, at any speed, in any weather; and 420 litres of boot space is plenty. Owners will be grateful for generous stowage options beneath the central armrest and in the door cards. Special mention must also be made of the electric seats, which offer as much support as they do comfort. Trimmed in ‘Vernasca’ leather, they have no equal in this segment.

BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional system comes as standard and consists of a ‘frameless’ 10.25in display nestled atop the dashboard and – on the same horizontal plane – a new 12.3in digital instrument cluster in lieu of analogue dials.

The arrival of the latter is a questionable development, not least because the side-scrolling readouts at first seem less readable than traditional roundels; but BMW’s flagship needs a contemporary feel and achieves it.

Running the latest version (7.0) of BMW’s software, the iDrive infotainment set-up is now as intuitive as one could reasonably expect, and navigating its expanded range of menus with the rotary wheel requires minimal attention from the driver.

Similar to that of the Porsche Panamera, the main menu can now be configured to show condensed readouts for the 10 pages, with up to four showing live content. As a result of BMW Connected, other content might include appointments and addresses imported from the owner’s calendar and entered into the navigation system.

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