The all-new 8 Series Convertible joins the coupe to complete the top level of BMW’s sporty range.
With prices starting at £83,295, this four-seat drop-top GT competes with the likes of the Mercedes S-Class Convertible, plus the more expensive Aston Martin DB11 Volante and Bentley Continental GTC.
Costing £7,000 more than its coupe sister car, it is initially available with two engine options; a 3.0-litre straight six diesel developing 320bhp (badged 840d) and a 4.4-litre V8 producing a meaty 530bhp (M850i).
The 8 Series platform has needed only a few modifications to provide the extra rigidity required to accommodate a folding roof and the multi-layered fabric top which can be lowered and raised in 15 seconds while travelling up to 31mph.
The styling, like the coupe, is dominated by BMW’s new larger trademark kidney-shaped grille. It looks wide, sleek and purposeful and the convertible top retains the coupe’s flowing lines when closed. It is, however, a big car so parking in the UK will always be a bit of a challenge in tight car-parks.
The interior is classic BMW with all the extra luxury trim and accoutrements expected in a top model, including the latest version of the iDrive system to control the infotainment and sat-nav, which remains one of the best in the business. Additional touch and gesture-control makes it one of the easiest too. Apple CarPlay is standard but, strangely, Android Auto is not.
The driver and front-seat passenger are really well catered for thanks to a pair of very comfortable soft leather sports seats that include scarf-heating outlets (useful when driving top-down in cold weather). Rear passengers do not fare quite so well. Such are the head and legroom restrictions that they are really only suited for children up to teenage years.
At least when travelling two up, you can benefit from the standard foldable wind deflector which does a fine job reducing the drafts when the hood is down.
The boot is quite large, 350 litres with the hood raised, but it has quite a narrow opening and it is naturally compromised when the roof is stowed away.
Out on the road, the BMW delivers everything you would expect from a manufacturer with a thorough understanding of chassis technology. The standard four-wheel drive X-drive system is rear biased and the rear-wheel steering that is operational at lower speeds gives real confidence when guiding this large GT along challenging roads.
Adaptive dampers alter the ride depending on the selected mode but, even when ‘comfort’ is selected, cannot compete with the standard air-suspension set-up of the Mercedes S Class Convertible. The 8 Series works best on smooth sweeping A-roads and motorways. It is a real car for crossing continents.
If you do plan to drive that far, you might want to stick with the diesel 840d. It has a claimed economy of up to 39mpg whereas the petrol M850i is closer to 26.6 mpg.
However, as far as sporty character and performance goes, the keen driver will go for the wonderful 4.4-litre V8. Brutal acceleration of 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds is accompanied by a glorious soundtrack from the exhausts. The eight-speed automatic gearbox swaps ratios smoothly and quickly, responding to manual paddle changes in an instant.
The M850i feels almost like a completely different car to the 840d; more like the Aston DB11 Volante. A sportier suspension set-up completes the picture and the whole package goes some way to justifying the much higher list price of £107,100.
Verdict: The new BMW 8 Series Convertible offers an enticing combination of luxury, impressive dynamics and driver appeal. The V8 engined M850i is terrific fun, but thirsty, so the cheaper and more frugal 840d is the sensible choice.