Enormous, ostentatious, even a little gaudy, but good grief, the new BMW 8 Series Convertible is a fantastic looking machine. If you’ve got a villa in the Riviera, then you’ll want the new convertible to use while you’re there.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good car though. There are various positive things you might think about Megan Fox, for example, but you’d probably be unwilling to leave her in charge of anything sharper than a butter knife.
To convince you that the 8 Series isn’t all show and no go, BMW has shoehorned a 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine under that expansive bonnet, and then bolted on a couple of turbochargers. The result is a 0-62mph sprint time that defies logic, taking just 3.9 seconds. It might look like a luxury cabrio, but it can rearrange your internal organs with ease.
You could opt for a more sensible 3.0-litre diesel engine, but as you’re committing to around £80,000 for that, you might as well splash out and take the full-fat, high caffeine version. Your extra £29,000 rewards you with an engine that pumps out 530hp, includes four-wheel-drive to tame the power, and pushes that all through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
You’ll also get an exhaust note that’s loud without being obtrusive, with an intoxicating rumble that sounds even better with the roof down. It takes just 15 seconds to fold the roof away and, once done, there’s little in the way of disruption from the wind, and it remains quiet enough to hold a conversation without having to shout.
There’s loads of room in the cabin to stretch out in, although only for two people. The cabin itself is well-appointed but, and I might be a little picky here, it just doesn’t feel special enough for a car with a six-digit price tag. Sit in this and the latest 320d back to back and there’s surprisingly little difference. That’s a huge positive for the regular 3 Series, but I feel the 8 needs to stand out from the norm.
Still, there are no complaints about the accommodation, with comfortable and supportive seats and a list of equipment that goes on for pages, while the all-digital instrument panel is impressive if you like that kind of thing. There’s also plenty of safety kit, with enough acronyms to keep a pub quiz team going for a week.
Cruise the countries motorways and the BMW 8 Series is a comfortable and relaxing car to cover ground in, although it’s quieter with the roof up. Wind noise is kept at bay well, and you can switch the drive mode to Comfort and relax.
Find some quieter country roads to explore the capabilities of the M850i and you’ll be left respecting the car, but perhaps stopping short of really admiring it. Thanks to its sheer bulk and that heavy roof system, the car weighs in at more than two tonnes, and you can feel that on every corner.
Turn in and you’ll immediately discover that the steering is devoid of feel. It’s precise and directs the front end accurately, but you can’t get a sense of anything happening underneath the rubber through the tips of your fingers. Have the confidence to stick with it and the 8 will corner flatly and remain composed. There’s no opportunity to adjust the line with the throttle; the car just turns and goes where its directed, as if following computer code rather than engaging a personality behind the wheel. With four-wheel drive, huge tyres and a sophisticated electronic stability programme, it’s possible you might never find the limit of grip, but that doesn’t make the car engaging.
However, there’s such an overwhelming amount of power and grip available, that even driving at 75% means you’ll be covering ground at an alarming rate. The BMW 8 Series has definitely got a lot of go to accompany the show, but it’s really not going to be at its best in the UK. It’ll be perfectly at home in Cannes, Monaco or Nice, though, and will be a gloriously capable machine to get there in.
Model tested: BMW M850i xDrive Convertible
|Range||£73,500-£109,410||Official economy||24.8 mpg|
|Top speed||155 mph||Road test economy||N/A|
|0-62 mph||3.9 secs||CO2 emissions||260 g/km|
|Power||530 hp (523 bhp)||Car tax||£475|
|Torque||750 Nm (553 ft lb)||BIK||37%|