Sedans, in general, are a dying breed here in the United States, but that hasn’t kept some automakers from developing newer and better versions every year. Recently, those improvements have taken us down the path of renaming classic shapes to make them more appealing and modern. The best example of this is luxury carmakers’ tendency to take a four-door car (that’s the definition of sedan, if you’re counting), sweep the roof back to give a much curvier shape, and call it a coupe. Mercedes-Benz got the trend rolling in the early 2000s, but several others have jumped on board, most notably BMW and Audi. BMW recently sent us one of their latest “coupes” for a week to see what it’s all about.
The car in question is the 2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe (we’ll just call it the “840i from now on for simplicity’s sake), which is as large and ostentatious in person as its name is on paper. The as-tested price lands at $97,645 after a $995 destination fee. The big BMW’s got some tricks up its sleeve that make the extra size worth dealing with on a daily basis, and while it’s not the best sports sedan, it’s certainly one of the more comfortable cars you can buy today. Let’s take a closer look at what makes the 840i tick.
The 840i features a long and swept-back shape that artfully blends design elements from the company’s best coupes (smooth and sloping roof and a high beltline) with its most luxurious sedans (long, wide, and low). The result is a car that makes life much easier for people needing four usable doors but also offers that utility in addition to its rakish styling, rather than instead of it. Our test car came equipped with the $4,850 M Sport package, which added 19-inch M Double-Spoke orbit grey wheels and Shadowline (see: black) exterior trim. The large wheels and blacked-out trim pieces add a sharper and more aggressive look to the 840i’s exterior, which is rather tame otherwise.
Worlds continue to collide in the 840i’s interior, where sporty touches such as deep bucket seats and a cockpit-like front cabin match with luxury options like a $650 glass/crystal controls package and a $650 Alcantara headliner. The rear seats are separated by a stretched center console that includes controls for climate settings, the rear sunshade, and more. It’s a beautiful touch, but one that will likely make it impossible for an adult to ride in the middle seat. High door sills and large pillars add to the cocooning feeling inside the 840i’s cabin but don’t do much to help the driver’s outward visibility.
BMW claims that the 335-horsepower 3.0-liter inline-six is good enough to push the hefty 840i to 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.6 seconds, a number that makes this four-door BMW as quick as supercars from the early 2000s. Our test car came with BMW’s optional xDrive all-wheel drive system and a quick-shifting automatic transmission from ZF. There’s a rear-drive version of the 840i that comes in slightly cheaper at the bottom line, but that reduction in price also comes with slower acceleration times (4.9 seconds to 60 mph) and a reduction in traction in slippery conditions.
The specs are impressive, for sure, but big numbers don’t always add up to a wonderful driving experience. It’s more of a mixed bag for the 840i, as there’s certainly enough power and the right elements to make for a rowdy drive, but the overly assisted steering, braking, and piped-in sounds serve to completely disconnect the driver from what’s going on beneath them in the car.
Putting your foot down produces a wonderful noise, some of which is augmented by engine sounds from the stereo. Acceleration is brisk and pushes passengers’ backsides gently into the cushy seats, but there’s a level of isolation in the cabin that makes the whole progression seem distant and synthetic. The same goes for steering inputs, where the electric-assist makes long drives and gentle cruising a breeze but also serves to remove the driver from the process in a way that feels like controlling a video game––not a $100k BMW.
That said, the 840i manages to remain composed and comfortable over the worst of northern New England’s roads, which can tangle up some of the most sophisticated luxury sedans with potholes, off-camber turns, sharp turns, and all manner of wildlife wandering aimlessly out of the woods. The BMW handles it all with aplomb, significantly reducing the number of bumps and jitters that typically come along with a spirited back-road drive in this part of the country.
Technology and Safety
There’s a certain price point that a vehicle reaches, where it’s impossible to think of any trim level as a “base” model, and that’s just what we have with the 840i. Thankfully, BMW agrees with that line of thinking and has packed the car with a long list of standard entertainment and safety features. Ours came with a WiFi hotspot, real-time traffic and on-street parking availability, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, two USB ports, navigation, a head-up display, and more. There’s also standard Apple CarPlay capability but nothing for Android users. The test car also came with a $3,400 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with 1,400 watts and a dynamic sound equalizing system.
The infotainment screen is large, bright, and easily viewable from almost any angle, but BMW’s iDrive infotainment software will be confusing for all but the geekiest of users. Settings and options are hidden layers deep in the system, which can make for a very frustrating time accomplishing anything when the vehicle is moving. At least iDrive is responsive and quick to move through the screens.
Things go off the rails slightly further in the standard safety equipment department, but not completely. BMW includes front collision warnings, automatic city collision mitigation braking, adaptive LED headlights, and daytime pedestrian detection as standard features. Buyers must step up to the $1,100 Driving Assistance Package to get a surround-view camera, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitors, parking sensors, and active park distance control. Adding the $1,700 Active Driving Assistant Pro Package brings a camera/radar-based support system that includes traffic jam assist, steering and lane control assistance, and emergency stop assistance.
The 840i has not yet been rated by either major safety testing agency in the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but it should be noted that all standard and optional advanced safety features work as expected and “false alarms” are almost nonexistent.
If you’re looking for the one thing that’ll push you over the edge into buying the 840i, let it be this: the 840i Gran Coupe has earned more than its share of jeers and laughs over its name, but the stretched design allows for some serious legroom inside. That, coupled with the fact that the 840i’s front seats are among the best we’ve tested this year, make the big BMW a must-drive for anyone in the market for an executive sedan. The fact that the Gran Coupe shares so much of its front cockpit area with the actual coupes in the 8 Series lineup means that there’s a cozy feeling in the front seats, but it’s not so cozy as to be cramped or uncomfortable. Multi-way power adjustments give the ability to find a comfortable driving position to people of nearly any size, and the high center console means that even the shortest drivers will have a place for their elbows.
Back seat passengers are in for a real treat, as the individual seats are contoured nearly perfectly to remove the “flat bench” feeling that so many other cars fall victim to. The sloping roof will cause discomfort for taller adults, but for most other people––kids included––the back is a fine place to be. Parents will love the large door openings and generous legroom, as the combination makes it easy to load kids into car seats. Kids in full-size or rear-facing seats may end up with a few bumps on their heads, though, as that beautifully curved roof does cut into the car seat loading room a bit.
No matter which way you cut it, the 2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe is pricey. It’s also too much car for people that want a leisurely luxury cruiser, so if that’s you, head on over to the Lexus dealership. If you’re looking for something with enough spice to be interesting, but not so much that it becomes uncomfortable, this is the car for you.