Few will be able to tell the difference easily between the two 8 Series models, at a casual glance. The UK importer has ensured both get M-level front spoilers, side skirts and rear spoilers, and the diesel has identical-looking exhausts and 20in Y-spoke wheels just like its petrol sibling. Only difference is that the diesel comes with run-flat tyres as standard, although you don’t have to take those if you don’t want to.
Inside, there’s the same progressive but very recognisably BMW layout, with plenty of smart piano black and brightwork in our test car. The fascia now features a new, even more configurable iDrive 7.0 system, and there are screens ahead of the driver to carry the major instruments as well as the massive affair above the centre console. There’s a head-up display, too, if you’d rather not look at any of the interior gubbins.
Thanks to the UK importer’s deep knowledge of local BMW driver preferences, the 840d comes as standard with most of the extensive driver aids and traction-keeping devices offered by its pricier stablemate, starting with the xDrive smart 4WD system and integral active steering, which quickens and lightens steering in slow, tight corners.
It all makes a satisfyingly impressive package for the long-distance driver, which is how you’ll soon view yourself (even for a trip to the shops) in this 840d, thanks to superb seats set low in the car, and a relaxed, long-legged powertrain that trades on torque in the Comfort driving mode you’ll be inclined to use most, rather than Sport or Eco-pro.
Sport keeps the revving at its torque peak and gives you instant access to gearbox’s kickdown – with resultant very strong acceleration – but when you’re simply driving briskly, it revs a little too noticeably to be satisfying. Better to stick with Comfort and downshift with the paddles when you have to, rationing your use of Sport for serious driving on serious roads. Which the 840d can do with relish, deploying with huge reserves of stability and grip. This is a sports coupé, and it’s always willing to prove it.
On the road, there’s something pleasantly old-school about the 840d that comes from a firm but somehow uncomplicated ride, provided by coil springs (not the increasingly common air springs in such cars) and because the standard model doesn’t have the adaptive damping and active anti-roll of more fully equipped V8s, either. You’d doubtless notice a deficit were you to drive one of these against more elaborately suspended models, but when you’re on your own, the car feels extremely complete and capable.
At first you’re aware of an engine drone that comes from BMW’s efforts to make this smooth and free-revving diesel six sound sporty, but settle into driving normally and you’ll soon see that the note only appears when you want it to. And sounds rather good when you’re going a bit. Truth is, you soon stop watching this car’s individual characteristics to enjoy the way it flows down the road.