by Gabe Beita Kiser
BMW has played Dr. Frankenstein with the new 8 Series Convertible, attempting to bring back from the dead a vehicle that took its last breath almost two decades ago. Such endeavors seldom end well for the one conducting the experiment - nor the innocent townsfolk nearby - but somehow, the German manufacturer has made mad science look… sexy. The new 8 Series is utterly gorgeous, sporting a convertible model that the original never managed to deliver on; and, it performs as well as it looks. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 develops a monstrous 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque than careens the full-size luxury convertible down the road at break-neck speeds. And to round it out, it comes standard with a variety of M Sport features that give it incredible handling for a vehicle of its size. It may have taken a while, but BMW has finally delivered up a worthy rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Convertible, and we couldn't be more excited to see how it handles the competition.
The 8 Series is all-new for 2019, having last been seen in 1999. But unlike the first generation 8, this time around there's a convertible. Everything is new, and it's now the halo convertible of the BMW range, at least until the boys at M get their hands on the 8 Series Convertible.
See trim levels and configurations:
|M850i xDrive Convertible||
4.4L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
Replacing the recently departed 6 Series Coupe, Gran Coupe, and Convertible, the newly revived 8 Series takes the larger convertible's shark-like styling and evolves it for the newer, more luxurious model. The traditional BMW kidney grilles take center stage on the front fascia above the wide maw of the air intakes, with full-LED headlights wrapped aggressively around the sleek edges of the hood. These slender lights are equipped with BMW's LaserLight technology. The taillights make use of LED lights, too, with a pair of chrome-tipped exhausts rounding out the equally aggressive rear fascia. The Convertible receives a power-operated folding soft-top roof to let the wind in on the GT experience.
Despite slimming down on the dimensions of the 6 Series, the 8 Series still boasts an impressive figure. With an overall height of 52.7 inches, the aggressively stanced convertible has only five inches of ground clearance. Crouched like the predator it is, it measures 191.2 inches in length, with a wheelbase of 111.1 inches. Without mirrors, it has a width of 74.9 inches. Not surprisingly, these dimensions, paired with a weighty V8 engine, give the vehicle quite a bit of heft, with a 4,736-lb curb weight.
A single engine is offered on the 8 Series Convertible, but what an engine it is. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 presents drivers with a truly breathtaking 532 hp and 553 lb-ft, which is directed to all four wheels at all times. Rowing the gears with seamless aplomb is an eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission. Unsurprisingly, this purring beast can be made to growl with zeal as you bring the athletic convertible to 60 mph in a cool 3.8 seconds. This impressive acceleration lends itself to excellent merging and passing power on the highway, and you'll barely even notice traffic lights around town as you pick up pace in the blink of an eye.
While it might be a bit on the hefty side, the 8 Series handles with remarkable agility. If one had to equate it to an animal, it would definitely be something akin to a tiger. Moving with grace, even at high speeds, the convertible handles corners without effort, shifting on its perfectly tuned M Performance suspension to counteract body roll before jetting forward on a new trajectory.
The standard Active Steering system on the M850i xDrive allows the rear wheels to turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels at low speeds and the same direction at higher speeds, allowing the large vehicle to readjust its direction around sharp corners quickly and with greater stability. The standard electric steering is well-engineered and gives a decent amount of feedback for driver engagement, rectifying gripes many had with BMW's recent EPAS systems. The brakes are powerful and easily modulated to give a sense of confidence, bringing the heavy convertible to a stop in a modest 108 ft from 60 mph.
Drinking premium gasoline, the 8 Series Convertible is about as thirsty as you may expect from a car that obviously prizes performance and luxury over economy. With only one model and drivetrain setup available to it, the BMW gets an EPA-estimated 17/26/20 mpg over the city/highway/combined cycles. At least it purrs with satisfaction as it laps from the 18-gallon tank, thanks to the throaty V8 engine. Still, this would-be cruiser can only travel 380 miles between gas station stops in mixed conditions, and provided you can refrain from liberal use of the loud pedal.
The interior of the convertible is as predictably plush as one would expect from the German manufacturer. Despite the uniquely appealing stylings of the exterior, the interior follows standard BMW cues. The leather-upholstered sports seats are luxurious and come standard with 16-way power adjustment and heating. The steering wheel is similarly power-adjustable and heated. However, the slight reductions to the dimensions from the 6 Series are felt in the cabin, which isn't as spacious as similar large tourers.
With seating for four, the front passengers are afforded quite a bit of head- and legroom, but those in the rear aren't as fortunate. Those up front will probably need to pull their seats forward if they're hoping to fit a regular-sized adult in the back. But don't get your hopes up with less than 30 inches of legroom being the standard.
With its focus on performance and a well-appointed cabin, the 8 Series doesn't give much consideration to its trunk. With only 12.4 cubic feet of space available, it can manage only the most mundane of domestic challenges. Buyers who actually want to maintain some semblance of utility can thank the engineers for opting for the soft-top as opposed to a space-eating hard-top as seen on the 4 Series.
A couple of cup holders are embedded in the center console for front passengers, with another two between the rear seats. The standard glove compartment is big enough for larger items, although its dimensions do limit what you can store to a slim wallet or small tablet. The door pockets are a little more generous, as is the storage compartment in the center armrest. But given the fact that the rear seats aren't really suitable for fully grown humans, you can double up on trunk space by using them for storage.
Standard equipment on the convertible includes 16-way power heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated front armrests. The Live Cockpit Professional system is comprised of a 12.3-inch digital information cluster and a head-up display. Dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, and a wireless charging device are also standard. A rearview camera, automatic high-beams, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear and front parking sensors, and a surround-view camera make up the drive assistance suite, while available features include adaptive cruise control and climate-controlled front seats for added luxury and convenience.
A 10.25-inch iDrive 7 infotainment touchscreen display lies at the center of the dashboard, supporting Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and navigation. It comes with USB functionality and can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot. A 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system comes standard, with AM/FM/CD/MP3 playback, and SiriusXM. No Android Auto is offered, while the Apple CarPlay is only presented with a one-year trial period before you have to pay for the subscription. Available features include a 16-speaker premium Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system.
As a relatively new entry to the market, the 8 Series Convertible itself has not been rated for dependability, but it has not been subject to any recalls either, so it wouldn't appear to have any glaring problems. The 8 Series coupe was given an above-average score of three and a half out of five for predicted reliability based on the J.D. Power scale.
BMW offers its latest convertible with a 50,000-mile/48-month limited warranty and a similar drivetrain warranty, as well as a 48-month unlimited roadside assistance plan, and 36,000 miles worth of free maintenance.
As a low-volume luxury vehicle, the convertible has not been subjected to testing by the NHTSA nor the IIHS. The standard safety suite comprises ABS brakes, EBD, stability control, traction control, a rearview camera, automatic high-beams, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear and front parking sensors, and a surround-view camera. Six airbags come standard: dual front, front side, and front and rear head airbags.
Bringing things back from the dead seldom ends well, but the mad geniuses at BMW have managed to subvert expectations with the masterpiece that is the 8 Series Convertible. Unfortunately, in the model's absence, many rivals have presented their own iterations to fill the gap, and now the 8 Series faces a level of competition it never had to deal with in the past, so its miraculous revival may be fraught with more obstacles than BMW anticipated.
Drawing on each of the elements the German manufacturer is renowned for, the 8 Series boasts a striking design, a plush interior, an impressive powertrain, and superb and engaging handling dynamics. But with so many equally qualified competitors on the market - including the Aston Martin DB11 Volante and Bentley Continental GT on the upper end of the spectrum - is that enough for the BMW to stand out? There is no doubt in our minds that the 2019 BMW 8 Series Convertible is an astounding vehicle, but it doesn't announce itself as prominently as rivals do. If you don't mind reveling behind the wheel of a vehicle few know the true value of, then this is the convertible for you.
There is no doubt that the 8 Series is a luxury item, with a starting MSRP price of $121,400. What you get for that amount is certainly worth it, but it may not be everything you want, so don't be surprised if you end up paying quite a bit more after adding on some of the packages and optional extras that really tip the convertible over the edge of indulgence. This price excludes tax, registration, licensing, and BMW's $995 destination fee.
With only a single trim offered for 2019, it's not really an issue of what model to buy, but rather how would you like to customize it. If you want to optimize comfort and luxury, then adding a neckwarmer for $400 and the superior Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround sound system for $3,400 will do nicely. The Driver Assistance and Driver Assistance Professional packages add advanced features like active cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic lane change, and a traffic jam assistant for $900 and $1,700, respectively.
These two convertibles seem designed to be true rivals to one another. They each offer excellent performance and luxury in the vein of an impressive grand tourer, but each in a slightly different manner. The BMW leans more towards the performance end of the spectrum, focusing on power and athleticism, with sporty handling dynamics that engage the driver in the thrill of taming the powerful V8 engine. The Mercedes takes a different tack by leaning more into the luxury elements of the grand tourer label, with faultless tech features and truly opulent comfort and style. Choosing between the two, all comes down to where your priorities lie. It would be nice to get the best of both worlds, but if you want a reasonably luxurious convertible with excellent handling, then the 8 Series would suit you best. The Mercedes-Benz convertible would suit a buyer with proportionally reversed priorities.
These two models were engineered for totally different purposes. While the 8 Series rivals the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet, the i8 Roadster sets its sights on the Porsche 911. Utilizing a hybrid drivetrain, the Roadster develops 374 hp, quite a bit less than the M850i, but it manages to make the most of it. Lighter and sharper than the 8 Series, the Roadster takes corners with a nimbleness that the larger convertible couldn't hope to manage. Still, the performance-oriented car makes sacrifices in the realm of luxury and comfort to afford itself the title of king of the curve. The 8 Series can compete with the Roadster on the open road, thanks to its potent powertrain, but throw in a few winding turns, and the smaller car quickly takes the lead. Overall, the 8 Series Convertible is the better vehicle with its cruising capabilities and acceptable utility, but the Roadster certainly has its appeal and for those in search of an open-top sports car, it's worthy of praise where it's due.
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