Prior to the launch of the BMW 8 Series, we — along with all other enthusiasts — were excited about the return of the famous nameplate. Now that it’s here, though, it seems that customers don’t share that same excitement. As we’ve recently learned, 8 Series’ are sitting on dealer lots collecting dust, while customers take their $100-grand to Porsche dealerships. There are a few key reasons why the 8er isn’t selling, though we won’t get into all the different ways of saying “the Porsche 911 is better”. Instead, I’d like to propose another interesting alternative, one from within the BMW Group — a used Rolls-Royce Wraith.
While the flagship of the 8 Series lineup is the full-blown M8, it’s the M850i that’s the more realistic option and the one that customers want, thanks to its stonking twin-turbo V8 and less-than-M8 price tag. If you want one of those, it’s gonna set you back about $120,000, after options and tax. However, I honestly think you’re better off using that same money to buy yourself a second-hand Wraith.
For around that same money, or a bit more if you’d like to get a nicer example, you can get yourself into a Rolls-Royce Wraith from only a few years ago. Having spent a lot of time in both cars, I can say with absolute certainty that the Wraith is going to be more enjoyable to actually own. So let’s break it down.
Personally, I like the way the BMW M850i drives. However, there’s a caveat; it’s only great to drive if you have the right expectations. If you’re looking for a pure-blooded sports car, you’re going to be disappointed. It isn’t that. Instead, the 8 Series is a sporty grand touring car; a long-distance, leather-lined, intercontinental ballistic missile. If you look at it in that light, it’s actually very nice to drive, especially in M850i-guise; it’s very fast, comfortable and nimble enough to handle the occasional twisty road. However, the Rolls-Royce Wraith is better at being a proper GT car than the 8er.
I know I just lost some of you with that last sentence and, honestly. However, about six months back I had the chance to drive a Wraith Black Badge through the Blue Ridge mountains, up and down some of the prettiest and twistiest roads I’ve ever seen in America, and it genuinely surprised me. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having and it was honestly one of the more memorable drives I’ve had recently.
Is the Wraith as fun to drive as the M850i through some twisty roads? No, it’s not. The 8er is sharper, more capable and far more explosive. However, there’s an argument to be made that the Wraith is more capable than people give it credit for and is shockingly fun on a back road, in a dancing-elephant sort of way. There’s a challenge in figuring out how to snake the Wraith through some curves but once you climb that learning curve, it’s more fun than you might think.
Where the Roller really leaps ahead of the BMW M850i, though, is in every other aspect of driving. Whether you’re puttering around town, cruising down the highway or taking a several-hundred-mile road-trip, the Wraith provides an infinitely more special experience. It’s smooth and supple in a way the 8 Series just can’t match, yet it never loses its composure or feels afloat. Its steering isn’t as direct but there’s a lovely silkiness to it that is more enjoyable to use. And there’s just an inherent feeling of specialness that’s unmatched in anything that isn’t wearing a Rolls-Royce or Bentley badge.
One of the biggest complaints about the BMW 8 Series lineup as a whole is that its interior just doesn’t feel special enough to justify its six-figure price tag. While incredibly well-made and filled with rich materials, its design and overall feel lacks the sort of excitement you’d expect from a car in its price range. On the flip-side, the Wraith feels unbelievably special, in a way that only a Rolls-Royce can. It’s not as flashy as a Bentley Continental GT on the inside, nor is it as high-tech as a Mercedes-AMG S65, or even the M850i, for that matter. However, its quality, craftsmanship and sense of occasion simply can’t be matched in anything with a Roundel.
The Wraith’s leather is from another world, with a silky touch and incredible aroma. There’s nothing like Rolls-Royce leather in the industry. Nothing. Then there’s the the organ-stop air vents buttons which are milled from aluminum, as are the speaker grilles, the doors that close for you with the push of a button and lambs-wool carpets so deep you can lose sight of your own feet. There’s simply no comparison between the interior experiences between the two cars.
Sure, the 8 Series is a lovely car to spend time in, I’m no snob. I’d happily log hundreds of miles behind the wheel of an M850i and, cumulatively, I have. Comparatively, though? There’s no question, the Wraith is the vastly superior car to be in.
Sadly, the BMW 8 Series doesn’t seem as if it’s going to age well for customers. With 8ers sitting on dealer lots like the automotive equivalent of a Microsoft Zune, it’s not as if current models are going to hold their value well. BMW can’t sell the new ones it has, so dealerships are going to be putting cash on roofs just to get rid of them. So it’s not like customers are going to be lining up for CPO models. On the flip side, the Wraith will hold its value better.
Admittedly, the Wraith isn’t exactly a retirement fund, either. Being that models with just 20,000-30,000 miles on them are already about half the price of what they were when new, the Wraith isn’t the best of investments. Having said that, it’s a safer bet than the 8 Series, as its brand carries a weight that the 8er’s can’t. Rolls-Royces will always be desirable and sought after. As sad as I am to admit it, the BMW M850i is going to be a flavor of the month, replaced with something more desirable in just a few short years and likely forgotten about.
It might sound like I’m bashing the 8 Series a bit here but I’m honestly not. I genuinely like the 8er a lot, especially in Convertible-spec. What I’m saying instead is that the 8er isn’t as good as a Rolls-Royce. But, then again, few cars are. That’s no more of an insult that saying Deshaun Watson is a good quarterback but isn’t as good as Aaron Rodgers. Watson is great, just not on the same level as Rodgers but, again, few in history have been.
The real issue for the 8 Series, specifically the BMW M850i, has been its price. We’ve already discussed the sorts of cars you can get for the same money, brand-new. When looking at some of the incredible values you can get on the second-hand market, for the same price as a new 8er, the Bimmer’s value proposition seems weaker and weaker. While I personally like the M850i a lot, for the same money I’d take the Rolls-Royce Wraith ten times out of ten. It’s just the more special, more enjoyable car to live with. Plus, it’s a flipping Rolls-Royce…