One of BMW’s most popular model throughout the 1990s was the now-iconic 8-Series. Although it never sold in huge figures due to its price, it was easily one of the most sought-after cars back in its day. After a nearly 20 year hiatus, BMW decided to bring the nameplate back, and take the fight to Mercedes and their newly christened S-Class Coupe. Naturally, no Coupe is complete without its Convertible counterpart, hence the new 8-Series Convertible. The question now is not can the 8-Series Convertible take the fight to the S-Class, but can both of them take the fight to cars like the Bentley Continental Convertible.
To answer that question and see how the new 8-Series Convertible drives, we flew to sunny Faro, Portugal, where BMW held a first drive of the 8-Series as well as the facelifted 7-Series, which we also drove. A sunny Mediterranean country with excellent ribbons of tarmac and arguably one of the best convertibles currently on the market. If you asked me to describe the perfect place to review what might be the perfect car, I wouldn’t be able to come up with a better answer if I tried!
First thing’s first, let’s talk about the design. In essence, it’s just an 8-Series Coupe with the roof lobbed off, but I think it’s so much more than that. The current BMW design language lends itself so much better to a convertible that I struggle to make a case for the Coupe, despite the fact I’m a Coupe advocate simply because of the way they drive. To look at though, the ‘vert is definitely the one to go for.
Although BMW has a habit of enlarging the front grille to disproportionate sizes these days, as they did on the 7-Series or the X7, the 8-Series seems largely unaffected. It’s still enormous by normal standards, but it isn’t ridiculous. It’s wide but it isn’t particularly tall, I think that might have something to do with it. The fact that it fills up the front fascia rather nicely is also a big bonus. The headlights are full adaptive LED units as standard but you can opt for the Laserlight ones if you want to spend even more money on optional extras.
There are 20 and 21-inch wheels to choose from, but the latter fill up the wheel arches a little bit better. While most of the body panels on the convertible are identical to those on the Coupe, the rear trunk lid is somewhat different, mostly to accommodate the retractable soft top. Speaking of the soft top, BMW is proud in producing one of the lightest yet most durable soft tops on any convertible. It can be opened and closed at speeds of up to 50 km/h and the entire procedure takes just 15 seconds. It comes in black as standard but you can also have it with an Anthracite Silver effect.
Inside it’s exactly like the 8-Series Coupe, much to the surprise of no one. That being said, this is easily the most luxurious convertible BMW has ever made. The quality of the materials is superb, so much so that you might be tempted to put the roof up even on overcast days just to not run the chance of sudden rainfall ‘ruining’ your lovely interior. There’s space for four adults but the rear seats should be ideally used for shorter journeys.
The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is a joy to use, and so is the 10.25-inch digital infotainment screen running the new iDrive 7 system. Convertible-specific features include a wind deflector to reduce turbulence as standard and integrated neck warmers in the front head restraints. Other optional extras such as ventilated seats and the Heat Comfort Package with a heated steering wheel are especially worth having in the Convertible, whereas I’d say they’re definitely a luxury in the Coupe.
The Cabriolet sacrifices some trunk space to fit the folding roof, but not much. With the top closed, there’s 350 liters of boot space, a 70-liter deficit when compared to the Coupe. Not inconsiderable, but not a deal-breaker either.
Engine and Performance
There’s just one petrol variant and it comes in the form of an M850i xDrive. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 produces 530 horsepower and 750 Nm of torque at just 1,800 rpm, capable of accelerating this relatively heavy ‘vert to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds. Sending power to all four wheels is a brilliant ZF eight-speed auto like the one found in most BMW models. Straight line speed is one thing, but I wanted to find out if it will actually corner. This is a big GT car, so I’m not expecting M3 performance, but it has to be able to live up to its BMW badge.
To that extent, I can safely say I was pleasantly surprised. Even on small and twisty Portuguese roads, where it had no business being thrown around in the manner I drove it in, it performed exceptionally well. Body roll was well countered and the 8-Series managed to mask its weight relatively well. The only time you’re aware of its weight is when you slam on the brakes and ask it to come to a standstill at an unreasonable rate. The surprising thing is that it does, thanks to massive M-performance brakes and wide, grippy tires.
The upcoming S-Class Convertible might be more luxurious than the 8-Series (if that’s even possible), but I doubt it’ll have the same road-holding characteristics the Beemer has. To put it simply, it’s a GT car which isn’t aware that it’s a GT car. It behaves in a manner much closer to sportscar dynamics than that of a grand tourer.
The best luxury convertible on the market? I’d say so, at least for the moment. The current S-Class Coupe isn’t a match, and the Bentley is far too different for me to place them as direct rivals. The Bentley is a much more relaxed driving proposition, one which you never want to press on at anything more than five-tenths. The 8-Series on the other hand can be enjoyed at any pace, even ten-tenths.