Back to the future

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

The modern safety crusade by automotive manufacturers hasn’t entirely led to reduced accident statistics. A survey in Germany, a couple of years ago, revealed that the increasingly widespread availability of four-wheel drive and ABS in ordinary family saloons merely served to breed an aura of invincibility in customers, who continued having accidents. They just had them at higher speeds. ABS, the true purpose of which many motorists continue to ignore, and permanent four-wheel drive cannot overcome the natural laws of physics.

All the same, electronic technology continues apace and there are more and more systems being developed to make vehicles as driver-proof as possible. One of BMW’s latest innovations goes by the name of Active Rear Axle Kinematics, or AHK for the acronymists amongst you. AHK governs the build-up of lateral forces, and adjusts the position of the rear wheels accordingly. In effect, it’s a variable rear-wheel steering system, which comes into force during extreme cornering loads in order to increase the predictability of the vehicle’s responses. It is not designed to facilitate parking for the hard of judgment.

In its initial application, AHK is available on the 850 coupe as part of what BMW calls its Active Driving Package. This added £4710 to the £61,495 list price of the 850i automatic (henceforth to be known as the Ci, as distinct from the new, sportier 850 CSi that has recently been announced) that we tested, and includes EDC III (cockpit adjustable damping), ASC ± T (traction control), Servotronic (power steering with speed-variable assistance) and an electrically adjustable steering column. (One of only two other extras on the already lavishly equipped BMW range-topper was an automatically dipping interior mirror, self-indulgence gone mad for £105.)

In standard trim, the 850 requires no great effort on the driver’s part, habitual road manners and concentration apart. It is, without question, one of the world’s most comfortable means of storming down continental motorways at high average speeds. It is relaxing off the beaten track, too, though this is partly due to the fact that its size discourages vim on narrow, serpentine lanes. This is not always the case with large BMWs. The beautifully balanced 735 (recently superseded), for instance, could always be hustled along country lanes with all the vigour of a 325. The 850 cannot. It has to be one of the most curious pieces of vehicle packaging of all time, offering precious little space for some of the largest external dimensions. It’s the Metro effect in reverse, if you like.

For all that it understeered and wallowed around slippery, damp Belgian hairpins, however, it did grip well. Whenever the traction control is working, a flashing light on the dash indicates that an electronic saviour is keeping you out of the trees. If deactivated, via an on/off switch housed within the central console, you’ll soon spot the difference. Return to the same corner, take it at the same speed and the inside rear wheel spins for an instant before the car flops sideways.

Some might argue that such frippery detracts from the art of driving. If you feel that way, you always have the option of switching the system off, but bear in mind that, at 1790kg, roughly 1.75 tons, a wayward 850 packs a lot of kinetic energy if you do overstep the mark…

It might be hard to take seriously any car which features buffalo leather as a £950 option (just in case you shouldn’t be satisfied with the ‘cheaper’ bovine wrapping that comes as standard). You must, however, appreciate BMW’s commitment to keeping the unskilled — or even the skilled, but over-ambitious — out of trouble.

While the 850 may be regarded, in certain quarters, as a status symbol, pure and simple (and it’s difficult to defend the car’s viability, when the same company produces the M5, which is more accelerative, more practical, more fun, and around £12,000 cheaper), the wizardry lurking beneath its seductive shell should not be ignored. There will never be a complete panacea for stupidity at the wheel, but this goes some way towards cancelling out common rudimentary errors.

It may take some time before such technology is available on models that fit everyman’s idea of ‘affordable’. Purists will fear its arrival, but surely that day will come?

Related articles

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore

Related products

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore