The 2019 BMW M850i xDrive spent days parked either in front of the Long Island hippy house I lodged at or at Jones beach, where temperatures approaching triple digits baked everything including your ice cream.
But the nights! That’s when the world cooled off and all the roads – the Southern State, the Meadowbrook and the Wantagh - opened up and so did I, top down, accelerator nailed, passengers hooting. I went through a tank of gas about every 48 hours and never left Nassau, which tells you how far I pushed it and how much fun it was. It may be the best thing the company’s ever made; it certainly is one of the best of theirs I’ve ever tested.
It's the rumble that sells you, top down or top up. At stop lights, the engine cuts out to save you some gas, so much so that when the stillness is shattered by acceleration, it’s twice the thrill to hear the loud, low, rude, belch and growl as you blast off.
Put ‘er in Sport and Sport+ modes and you’ll make it roar again and again, which explains my frequent visits to gas up. The press materials say you get around 20 MPG, but with the lead foot you’ll develop driving this car, it’ll be more like 15.
There are some changes to what once was a V-12 in previous versions. Now you get a reconfigured 4.4 liter, twin-turbo V-8 along with larger turbochargers, a redesigned air intake and new intake ports. Your horsepower is formidable at 523, with 553 lb.-ft of torque, rocketing you from 0-60 in about 3.6 seconds with an electronic limiter preventing you from exceeding 155 MPH.
You've got all-wheel drive all the time via the xDrive and an updated 8-speed transmission, but the system will shoot power to the rear tire only if the computer detects slippage. I never used the shifter paddles – didn’t feel the need, but it’s nice to know they’re there if you want them. Its tech is up-to-the-second – for instance, the transmission’s aided by the GPS, which predicts your gear changes and adjusts itself accordingly.
A head-up display, LED laser headlights, digital gauge cluster, haptic feedback buttons and an (optional) 1375-watt Bowers and Wilkins sound system are available, and you’ve also got Near Field Communications (NFC) meaning you can use an NFC-enabled phone to lock, unlock and start, rather than with a fob.
Speaking of the fob, that’s a minor gripe – the thing is almost as big as your hand and it's got no ring, so it must be carried like a small turtle. There seemed no good, permanent place in the vehicle to leave this fob so as to train the mind to remember its location in an instant as one does with keys and wallet. Cup holder today, center console tomorrow, sometimes a pocket, sometimes in the backback. Couldn’t decide.
The Tesla X100 D I tested two years ago had the same issue, and I solved it with good old duct tape.
This time, I just let myself be inconvenienced, as handsome as the fob is.
Another gripe is the difficultly of programming the nav system, which, I’m sure, when you get the hang of it, is worth investigating further, so as not to sit there for five minutes with three people in the car trying to type out a simple address and zip code, then a phone comes out and the job’s accomplished in less than 10 seconds.
But these beefs were all forgiven and forgotten in the wake of pure adrenaline, pushing the 850i around town, before and after midnight. 20-inch alloy wheels sit ultra-low to the ground assisted by a double-wishbone suspension ensuring a smooth ride over hairpin turns and maintaining your stability at high speeds, and there will be hairpin turns and high speeds – you’ll start looking for opportunities.
It was a stable ride no matter what I threw at it, assisted by standard active suspension and variable-ratio steering, but watch the bumps, bub. More than one M850i test driver has had to sheepishly report a dented rim due to the cruel potholes in and around New York City.
You’re a heavy load at 4478 pounds, but BMW did try to slim the ride with aluminum doors, roof, hood, firewall and front subframe assembly. The driveshaft tunnel, too, is made of lighter carbon fiber reinforced plastic.
All the above isn’t necessary to comprehend in order to greatly enjoy this exclusive ride, but it’s nice to know the myriad of ways BMW sees to your comfort, safety and speed, and to better understand the final loaded sticker of $126,395.
In a summer so far dominated newswise by hybrids and electrics, this 850i was a visual and experiential back-to-basics, putting me in touch with the old-school rumble and vroom and speed and pure pleasure of the internal combustion vehicle, long may she roll.