Those who’ve ridden in the current-generation 7 Series will understand why BMW’s top limousine falls short against an S-Class. The bigger saloon’s body control is marginally too close, and the spring rates are firmer than strictly necessary. It rides well enough even by the sky-high standards of the class but it’s too exacting – almost deliberately so – for top honours with luxury in mind.
But the 8 Series has a different brief to its saloon sibling, and if you think the above sounds just the ticket for a large GT car operating at the more sporting end of the segment, you would be right. Undoubtedly, the 840d is a firm-riding car for a big coupé, and one whose owners might on longer journeys wish it better adept at quelling jittery road surfaces. But the 8 Series has a chassis that feels far from poorly resolved in outright terms, and has a sense of sporting authenticity and cohesion rare for something its size.
BMW’s decision to go no larger than 20in for the car’s wheel diameter seems smart, and allowed the rolling chassis of our test car to easily digest poorly surfaced non-motorway roads at speed (although this ability shouldn’t be taken for granted of run-flat-shod cars). At 2.3 turns lock to lock, the steering also feels quick enough to get the far-reaching nose into corners economically. The car’s long wheelbase and near-perfect weight distribution lend the chassis a pervasive poise. It’s a cliché to say it, but the 8 Series does shrink around its driver, even though your eyes tell you it should be too big and burly a performance car for many UK roads.
It is not a particularly playful device, however. Despite a heavy rearward bias, BMW’s sure-footed xDrive set-up robs from the 840d the edge-of-oversteer delicacy you get at the wheel of one or two rivals. Instead of teasing it through corners, reliant on steering feedback (there isn’t any to speak of here) and throttle control, you’re more beholden to the car’s near-unshakeable stability, which is deftly augmented by four-wheel steering.
For some, that will be a considerable selling point. However, one or two might desire greater dynamism from a BMW – because this one never quite threatens to announce itself as the GT class’s outstanding driver’s car.
Millbrook’s Hill Route shines a light on the 8 Series’ ability to condense its weight and dimensions. Larger cars tend to labour the twisting undulations of this course, but the car’s steel-sprung suspension keeps the long body level and allows the Bridgestone Potenza S007 tyres to do their best work.