I’ve always liked the 6 Series, particularly the last generation in GranCoupe format and in M6 guise. It was large, imposing, oozed presence in the right colour scheme, and it made the driver feel as though he or she were in a much more ‘expensive’ and exotic car, even though it ran down a regular robotic production line. Nothing special, really.
So, why the culling of the 6, and why the introduction of the 8? Well, according to BMW, the segment that the 6 Series used to compete in is all but obliterated thanks to the rise of the premium SUV. Yes, that’s right, you can blame the SUV for the death of the M6. But in all seriousness, BMW had to decide to move up a couple notches on the premium scale, to take on the Merc S-Class instead of fighting for sales in the more compact market.
Introducing the 8
The 8 Series Convertible quickly joins the line-up alongside the Coupé that my colleague drove in Cape Town a few weeks ago. That car, the Coupé, proved that BMW’s still ace at blending tar-ripping performance with sublime dynamics and comfort, fused with so much technology that you will be kept busy in the cockpit for many years to come. Similarly, this Convertible didn’t disappoint on the launch drive.
Looks wise, dynamically stretched lines and a soft-top roof define the distinctive appearance of this four seater for the ‘luxury class’.
It’s long, wide and heavy, but thanks to an ultra-refined engine and drivetrain, you don’t feel like you’re hauling around in a near two-tonne behemoth.
About the details
The new BMW 8 Series Convertible’s folding roof stands out with its weight-minimising design and superb acoustic insulation. You might even fall for thinking you’re in the Coupé when cruising on a good road with the roof up. The soft-top, which comes in black as standard, is available in Anthracite Silver effect as an option and it opens and closes at the touch of a button in 15 seconds.
The roof operation can be activated with the car travelling at up to 50km/h. When opened, the soft-top stows away under a roof cover with a surface structure and stitching that match those of the instrument panel and interior door/side panel trim, and which features eye-catching domes at the level of the rear seats to hide the roll-over protection system.
Launch cars (M850i xDrive models) were appointed with full leather trim for the instrument panel and door shoulders, plus electrically adjustable sports seats and Vernasca leather upholstery.
One cool standard feature that came in very handy while driving in the cold weather with the roof down was the wind deflector, which can be set up in the rear-seat area to prevent unwanted air turbulence. Our car had the optional neck warmers too, which meant nice warm air for our chilly heads. Naturally you can go wild when appointing your car at the dealer with options like climate cooled seats, a ‘Heat Comfort’ package with a heated steering wheel, and the BMW Display Key to name but a few items.
Bangin' the beats
One of the key ingredients in a good convertible has to be its sound system, and to this end the 8 ‘vert will not disappoint your inner audiophile. Available as an optional alternative to the standard Harman Kardon Surround Sound System is a high-precision Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System.
I thoroughly tested the vehicle’s audio system, roof up and down, and found it to be so absorbing and impressive that it’s the main thing I remember from the test drive. Sure, the engine and drivetrain is amazing, but the inside of this car, its plush nature and its audio system (and the mountains and mountains of tech in it) make it one of the best ways to travel in style, apart from moving around in one of Larry Ellison’s million dollar superyacths, of course.
Sort of practical
Look, the 8 Series Convertible is not going to win any awards for being a practical car, but BMW has gone out of its way to ensure that at least four adults can travel in style. I sat at the back for a portion of our journey and found it comfortable. Taller passengers will get thigh cramp, though, so it’s best to reserve the back seats for the baby seats, which you can attach via ISOFIX anchor points.
The rear seat bench in the BMW 8 Series Convertible can also be split 50:50 as standard, with both elements folding separately to offer a through-loading facility. When the roof is closed, load capacity is 350 litres.
Who needs an M8?
The 4.4-litre eight-cylinder twin-turbo engine in the BMW M850i xDrive Convertible is probably one of the best forced induction motors on sale at the moment. There’s no lag in the lower gears, and thanks to its all-wheel drive it can scamper out of bends as forcefully as an M car would. In fact, that’s one of the arguments my driving partner and I had while piloting the vehicle...’Who needs an M8?’ we went back and forth on.
The engine’s soundtrack is given further impact by a flap-controlled M sports exhaust system, which means your neighbours will definitely know when you’re home or when you’re leaving on a cold-start morning.
Developing 390kW and peak torque of 750Nm, the V8 accelerates from a standstill to 100km/h in a claimed in 3.9 seconds. See what I’m saying about the M car thing?
The car’s eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission and xDrive systems are fast to react to inputs and there’s so much mechanical feel in the thing despite its ultra-damped nature that you have this sense of confidence that the car is milled from a single block, instead of it being cobbled together in pieces. It’s a wonderful feeling to have in any convertible.
The new BMW 8 Series Convertible comes as standard with BMW’s Live
Cockpit Professional system. This includes a navigation and multimedia system, a fully digital, high-resolution instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a ‘Control Display’ on the dashboard.
The new BMW Operating System 7.0 stands out with its cutting-edge, digital functions tailored precisely to the driver’s requirements. When it comes to intuitive operation options, you can choose from touchscreen functionality via the Control Display, the iDrive Controller, buttons on the steering wheel and voice control.
Another element of the operating system is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. Activated by the voice prompt “Hey BMW”, this digital companion assists the driver in operating the car’s functions and gains more skills all the
time thanks to seamless updates via the Remote Software Upgrade facility. We asked the car to navigate us to the nearest AMG dealer to show off in the 8 a bit, but the car refused to acknowledge the existence of Mercedes-Benz. We also told the assistant that it was getting cold, so ‘she’ raised the climate control temperature. If you want burgers, simply say “Hey, BMW. I want a burger.” The car will find you all the burger joints it can, from fast food diners to high-end restaurants.
If I had more than R2 million bucks to spend on a premium car this month, I’d certainly consider the 8 as top contender for my cash. It would have to be the Convertible too, because, as much as the Coupé will nail it on dynamics, the drop-top actually feels solid and sporty enough to satisfy all needs at this high end of the market.
When you’re selecting your car’s options, ask the dealer about the ceramic and glass Individual options, as well as the plush leathers and interior packages available to ensure you build one that’s truly unique to your tastes, because, why not....
Oh, and after we drove the Convertible at the launch in Portugal, the head of the 8 Series project invited me into the basement of the launch venue where he’d hidden away a very special 8 Series that will be joining the family towards June/July this year, so watch this space.
All 8 Series models come with BMW’s comprehensive five-year maintenance plan, and the car’s already waiting for you to test drive it at local showrooms.
BMW 8 Series Convertible M850i xDrive - R1 994 300