Driving From Munich To Villa d’Este In A BMW Z8 & 850i, The Long Way
Photography by Ted Gushue
While most of the time at Petrolicious we are glued to our desks churning out copy, editing photos, videos, and everything else that goes into our product – occasionally we find ourselves in a position to actually practice what we preach. The concept of the GT has long since been relegated to aggressive looking saloons sitting in traffic in cities around the world, but recently Petrolicious founder Afshin Behnia and I had the opportunity to take them out of the urban zoo and onto the roads they were born to tour in grand style.
Our weapons of choice would of course be the BMW Z8 and the 850i, two cars that embody the grand touring heritage of BMW, and still to this day represent two of the most iconic and enduring designs of the 20th century. Strangely, I’d never driven either of these cars in my career. They are what you might call “unicorns” on the road, with only 5,703 Z8s ever rolling off the factory line along with 30,000 8 series, approximately.
Our route would take us through 3 countries, over 48 hours covering roughly 1000 kilometers of glorious switchback terrain. San Bernardino was conquered, Splügen Pass was…er…passed. The two cars tore up Tyrollean town after town.
Not two months ago I had spent about 500 miles behind the wheel of our Dir. of Marketing, Andrew Poole’s E39 M5, a tremendous machine that in every way represents the best of BMW’s analog heritage: a hulking V8, buttery smooth six speed, and a feeling of plantedness on the road that is incredibly difficult to explain with words. The only other time I’ve felt a car that exceeded that is the Z8 (Zed ACHT!), which of course shares more than just a cylinder count with the E39.
Everything I love about that car is present in the Z8 and then some. It clocks in at approximately 300KG less at the curb, giving you a very similar feeling of solidarity with the road, but just a pinch more performance (depending on how much raclette you’ve stuffed down your gullet at lunch).
And then there is the 850i, a car which we are unabashedly fans of for so many reasons here at Petrolicious, not the least of which being that we just shared an open love letter to the model on Tuesday.
Pulling onto the Austrian autobahn in the car you are struck by the initial size. The GT is big, but it then begins a rapid shrinking process. As you get a sense for the corners the car gets smaller and smaller, the engine getting smoother and smoother, until you find yourself pouring fifth gear into sixth at 220kph at 3300RPM. Much like the Ferrari 456, this is a car most comfortable at great speed, but it’s never a car that makes sweat bead on your brow – the entire time it feels completely poised and comfortable.
The real question is, if you had to choose – which would you pick?