Ahead of us lay hundreds of kilometres worth of driving, across vast liberating stretches of the Autobahn, around the lively meandering hills of the Bavarian countryside surrounded by the Alps and even a raucous blast thundering through the Jochpass mountain pass, Germany’s most winding road.
And in our hands are two keys, each equipped to unleash 530 horses and 750Nm of torque from their Turbocharged V8s. Both paired to an amalgamation of metal, carbon, leather, glass and various other materials synthesized to impress, excite and rapidly deliver us across vast distances in comfort.
And while the similarities between these two beautifully crafted machines have ended, our journey with a pair of Munich’s finest had only just begun. Welcome, to the beautiful land of Bavaria and welcome to the BMW X7 M50i xDrive and the newly refreshed BMW M850i xDrive.
BMW X7 M50i xDrive.
While it might have just received its Life-Cycle-Impulse refresh, the big, bold and imposing X7 M50i still cuts a strong silhouette. Looking its best in Msport trim, this outgoing model still manages to attract plenty of attention on the streets of Munich with a commanding stature befitting a vehicle that at 2 metres in width, over 5 in length and up to 1.84 in height is the largest ever made by Bayerische Motoren Werke.
With 22-inch alloys enveloping large M-Sport brake callipers, larger air intakes in the front apron, a more purposefully carved pair of side-sills and a more aggressively shaped rear apron wrapped around a pair of enlarged exhaust tips, our Artic Grey M50i’s aggressive intent comes across as both menacing yet subdued with high-gloss Shadow Line and Cerium Grey highlights used in place of chrome.
A surprisingly high level of discretion was used on the application of the M-logo on the exterior body, with only a pair of minute Motorsport badges sitting along the flanks to compliment the lone model designation M-badge on the boot.
Smooth, chiselled and clean. The BMW X7 M50i’s overall aesthetic is striking and heavy on presence yet with hints of restraint, remains unoffensive if not for its sheer physical size.
What the X7’s sheer physical size does translate into though is a vast interior cabin that can comfortably accommodate 7 adults (8 if you don’t mind getting cosy) or, when specced with the Captain’s chairs, an extra comfortable 6.
But plain comfort in an X7 is to put it simply, an understatement, with plenty of room and light creating a fantastic ambience within, the X7’s cabin is a lovely place to be in.
With plush, tactile and very high-quality materials used throughout, occupants are provided with an exceptional level of Bavarian craftsmanship that can not only be seen, felt and heard but also engaged with.
And engage with it we’re sure you will because while the X7 promises one of the most opulent interiors within the stable, at its core beats a heart with the letters BMW on it.
A heart that beats to the mechanical rhythm of 8-cylinders working in perfect unison as an orchestral performance, or should I say, an orchestral M-Performance.
With oodles of torque available just slightly above idle (750Nm), a quick and committed stab of the throttle will see this behemoth Bimmer dig its rear end into the tarmac and with a rather unobtrusive V8 grunt, push past 100km/h in a speedy 4.7 seconds as it relentlessly climbs towards its 210km/h limited top speed, running through all 8 forward gears smoothly with the help of Mr ZF Friedrichshafen.
While the X7 M50i’s ability to propel itself towards the horizon is mighty impressive, its size and rather significant 2,460 kg of German engineering heft did make it feel a tad chunky along the tight, twisty corners of the Jochpass.
While the BMW M GmbH-fettled X7 M50i boasts a very long list of features to aid with the X7’s stability and agility, navigating blind corners, dodging oncoming traffic and judging where to place the car on a narrow mountain pass will not very slowly transition the drive from “fun and challenging”, to just plain “challenging” as the car’s weight will always make itself known as it inevitably pushes wide.
Once unshackled from the tight reigns of the Jochpass, our X7 M50i came into its own as it absolutely ate up the surrounding countryside roads with an impeccable ride quality throughout. Even on its sportiest and firmest driver-selectable setup (which also lowers the car by 20mm), comfort levels remained high as it rolled uneven roads into submission.
With the V8’s low-down torque and clever drivetrain systems on command, there was relative ease in powering the X7 M50i through wide meandering bends at unmentionable speeds.
While it might have lost some of its edge on the trickiest of roads, the X7 M50i’s reserve of power, composure, presence, technological prowess and sheer ability to traverse long distances in excellent comfort makes this not just an exceptional vehicle, but an exceptional BMW.
BMW M850i xDrive LCI.
From one exceptional BMW to the next. The 8-Series needs little to no introduction, still looking fresh and svelte 4 years since its first unveiling, BMW’s beautiful flagship Gran Coupe is in our opinion, hardly in need of an update and indeed, that seems to be a sentiment shared by the manufacturer. Because, other than some added tension along the body lines and surfaces, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
While not quite as elegant as its 2-door counterparts, our Gran Coupe retains its sleek, low-slung silhouette and befitting its position within the 8-Series family, comes standard in full M Sport regalia, adding a redesigned front-end with a slightly deeper recess for added visual tension and horizontal slats to enhance its wide, powerful stance.
While these choice aesthetic enhancements do increase the M850i’s visual presence. They are by no means a mere vanity exercise.
Working together in unison to effectively hunker the Gran Coupe into the ground, these revised surfaces help to funnel air into, over and across the car’s body, guiding this invisible force as it flows around the M8-sourced wing mirrors towards the rear spoiler. At the same time, carefully placed vents are forcing air through the 20″ M wheels, cooling the rather sizable M Sport brakes nestled within.
Much more visible, and something we’re sure you would have noticed by now, are the use of BMW’s classic Motorsports emblems in place of the traditional roundel. Crafted to celebrate BMW Motorsport’s 50th anniversary, this iconic limited edition emblem, while also available to all M-car customers in 2022, does add a unique and special visual flourish to our M850i’s exterior aesthetic.
Slide into the cockpit and immediately the differences between the X7 and this sleek 4-door are made apparent. While the wonderfully high quality and tactile materials are still present, gone is the high and mighty commanding view of the SUV. In its place, a cocoon of a cabin geared towards the driver.
That doesn’t mean that those in the rear are unaccounted for because while the rear cabin space has been neatly carved to strictly accommodate a passenger on each side (unless you really insist on having an aircon vent in between your legs), the sculpted seats and recessed positioning are amazingly comfortable and a great place to thunder across continents in. If you’re not the driver of course.
Because the intent of the M850i is clear without even starting the engine as you sit low and deep, with a meaty M steering wheel ahead and all secondary controls readily within reach. This car is for the driver.
Cast your gaze upwards and immediately in your sight, is the M850i’s vast bonnet, seemingly stretching out, ready to pounce towards the horizon.
And pounce it will because once the melodic and more vocal V8 purrs readily into life, it’s “Go time”. While it might have the same engine, power (530hp) and torque figures (750Nm) as the X7 M50i, the M850i Gran Coupe’s weight advantage of approximately 300kg and slipperier shape means that it’ll race towards 100km/h in a rapid 3.9 seconds with little letting up as it pulls strongly towards its 250km/h restrictor.
More impressive though is the way the M850i handles itself around the bends, as the initially large feeling proportions of the car (5,087 mm by 1,932 mm), start to slowly but surely shrink around you, allowing you to quickly despatch one corner after another with increasing confidence as you begin to trust and lean into the xDrive chassis more, entering and exiting each subsequent curve with just that extra bit of added momentum as the slightly less vocally restrained V8 burbles towards its redline and making a right crackling fuss should you choose to let off mid-way.
For a car that looks much more at home blitzing the Autobahn, it is surprisingly easy to get into a groove driving the M850i through mountain passes, managing the braking, power and chassis balance for that perfect joyful moment.
While not quite as focused a corner carver or track weapon as its full-blooded M-siblings, its more civil split personality and ability to take the playful aggression down a couple of notches when required and considerably lower price point does give the M850i Gran Coupe quite an edge when it comes to the overall package.
A joy to hold and behold, the M850i Gran Coupe xDrive delivers on BMW’s promise of “Freude am Fahren”.
The BMW X7 M50i xDrive and BMW M850i Gran Coupe xDrive, pick your exceptional.