Smooth Criminal

True soldiers never die: they just fade away. And sometimes…return. The original E31 was a true halo car for BMW. It was a leap forward in design, style and technology. It was a modernist interpretation of the classic grand tourer: civilized sportiness, which was all about power and control. The pen of Klaus Kapitza was able to blend elegance and simplicity in a muscular and aggressive looking motorcar. I might dare to say that it can be considered the true “smooth criminal” of the nineties: a refined autobahn killer. Its wonderful M70 V12 was a concentrate of pure power and torque, which was able to impress with a very progressive power delivery: it was a true joy to drive. The 8 series was an athlete in a tuxedo…or that charming middle-aged man that women always go crazy for. The philosophy behind the 8 series was simple, yet it left a few enthusiasts wondering on its final purpose: was it a sportscar or just a shortened 7 series? Although many choose the second definition due to its predominant comfort characteristics, it was adequate for some spirited driving. Think of it as an interpretation of Don Felder’s words in “Heavy Metal”: “drive on up and let’s cruise a while, leave ’em far behind”. High speed cruising was the E31 main purpose and that’s what made it so enjoyable: it was a car that new fatigue. You could travel miles and miles without being tired or exhausted while giving its driver the joy of driving. Its speed-sensitive ratio steering wheel, five link rear suspension, stability and traction control and electronic damper control, made it one of the best cars of its time. Offered also as a V8 variant with the 840ci, it aimed to be a competitive offer on the market.

After production stopped in 1998, it left such a positive memory that left many enthusiasts of the Brand wishing for more. Over the next few years, its role was taken by the excellent 6 series, and the remaining E31s became sometimes the object of unruly 20″ wheels and impossible modifications (am I right, Fast and Furious wannabes?), but its attitude remained almost untouched. Like a proper road warrior, it never died: it just faded away. And yes, it is now back, stronger than ever.

The new G15 8 Series is the much awaited comeback of this legendary model. It has a new 540 hp twin turbo 4.4 liter V8 and comes, like its predecessor with a variety of innovations that make it highly desirable on the market of today. Think about the four wheel steering, the security systems and the BMW Efficient Lightweight design, implementing an hybrid chassis of aluminium, titanium and carbon fiber.

Before we speak of how fast, comfortable and of how very little fuel it needs, let’s talk about the handling. As much as we loved the E31, it was a car which was never entirely happy between corners. The new one handles extremely well and this time, drivers will enjoy something truly exciting. The four-wheel steering system gives the new 850i XDrive an agility that is unheard of in such a car. It’s easy to carve up roads that are normally the territory of fwd hot hatches and it is even able to give them a good run for their money. Grumpy old dad’s car can play with younger boys now, and win. The damping is excellent and should be considered as one of the best for this class of cars: still (thank God!) individually adjustable, independently from the engine mapping, it absorbs the bumps beautifully, in any conditions, making the 850i extremely easy to throw around. Handling never suffers from softer settings: roll and yaw are practically non-existent, therefore making this car excellent to drive fast in bumpy mountain roads.

Then there’s the four wheel steering. The first impression you have is that it gives the car a loose and unstable behaviour, but when you let your confidence grow, you’ll become addicted to it. It what makes the “magic trick” of the 850 handling: cornering is instantaneous and extremely precise.

Years of development have brought a car which seems to be the perfect and ideal substitute to the original E31: restless, incredibly efficient and powerful. Also, it’s the first ever BMW to be presented after its racing-counterpart, the excellent GTE. This makes us petrolheads drool all over the place: a GT with proper racing heritage means it exploits motorsport experience in order to be better at…almost everything.

Fuel regulations on endurance racing made us today enjoy a 4.4 liter twin turbo V8 which is efficient and can cover up to 540kms in a single fillup. What’s all the fuss about the futile purpose of racing of these days anyway?

There are many things that help us define an “Escape” car and normally they respond to the words: handling, handling and noise. We might be young, wild and free to be yobbos-behind-the-wheel like our idol Chris Harris, but we enjoy a car that can do everything and is incredibly comfortable. It truly feels as the new generation of internal combustion-engined automobiles is capable of massive power figures and consuming as little as your mom’s hot hatch.

The idea behind a two door GT is to be the ultimate hedonist expression of any vehicle. As a matter of fact, the 850i X Drive lacks space for the rear occupants, but it makes the ideal conveyance for a week end in the mountains and for a daily commute to the office. Adaptability is the key word for many of today’s cars: from town to twisty mountain roads, the 850i is a do-it-all car, the one that would suit the life of mature individuals.

Driving from the mountains of San Bernardino to the glamour and elegance of Lugano is the most proper experience to be had in the 8 series. The four wheel drive stystem and excellent chassis dynamics give the feeling you expect from an uber BMW. On the mountain roads the “8” cocoons you in a shell of luxury and dignified performance, allowing to entertain yourself in good conversation with your partner. On the twisties, it’s pure fury. It doesn’t feel mechanical in anyway, but it makes it all up with unparalleled true sports-driving efficiency. Best of both worlds? Absolutely.

To this day, the original spirit of the E31 survives and it’s adapted for modern times. While in the old CSi you guzzled all gasoline in a mere 300 km, now you can extend the pleasure of covering even more distance in a heartbeat, without worrying too much about the actual range.

It’s the sort of car you can park next to a theatre, all dirty from a long journey and you’ll still be regarded as a hero. No one would argue about your choice to put many miles on such an extraordinary piece of fine engineering. You know, cars like these feels like eating delicacies such as “canard à la presse” at every meal of the day and not getting fat. It’s a concentration of brute power and finesse all wrapped up in a dynamic and practical package. It’s your daily dose of gourmet cousine and it’s very, very easy to handle. To quote Mr.Clarkson, we can define the 8 series as such: “it has all the classic supercar ingredients but wrapped up in two pieces of bread”.

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