BMW 8 Series: A big cruiser with the agility of a flyweight boxer on steroids

Rag-top convertible delivers a magic elixir often missing in motoring – driving fun

 

BMW has been banging the sports car drum when it comes to its super-stretched 8 Series. The Bavarians reckon the long lozenge-shaped cruiser is a proper rival to the likes of the Porsche 911. Well, it’s sleek enough to be a sports car, and it certainly has more road presence than the Porsche, even cruising around city streets, where it turns far more heads than yet another 911.

However, there’s no escaping its size. This is a big car, and while it might want to mix it with the tidy little racers, it’s measuring in at 4.8m long and just under 2m wide. On proportions alone, this is a cruiser.

Now, ahead of the expected arrival of an even more impressively handsome four-door Gran Coupe, comes the rag-top. Once more, as is the want with such cars, it’s the soft-top that’s the better looking of the current two formats.

It’s also, bizarrely, ever so slightly more fun to drive. From an engineering point of view, that doesn’t make sense. This variant adds 230mm in length to an already long car and throws in an extra 70kg – an average adult – on to the weight due to the extra safety roll bars and complex motors required to lift and lower the roof in under 15 seconds.

Yet on the road, the 4.4-litre 530bhp M850i xDrive was simply stunning to drive. Delivering 700Nm of power through all four wheels, and with the added benefit of BMW’s active steering system that turns the rear wheels at speeds up to 72km/h, this big cruiser cut through some of the tightest and twistiest mountain bends Portugal has to offer. The throttle response is sensitive enough to respond to the flick of your big toe.

Roof down and sun shining, the engine’s grunt bounced off the rock facades and the rag-top 8-Series bobbed and weaved through the bends like a flyweight boxer on steroids. The more time we spent in the car, the later we braked into the bends, the earlier we engaged the throttle through the corner and the car just carried on, never making a false step. Perhaps it was the mix of sunny weather and a soft-top, but this BMW delivered that magic elixir often missing in the motoring world these days: driving fun.

To return to earth with a bang, you need only look at the price for all this pleasure: €181,400 for the M850i version, dropping to €127,690 if you opt for the 3-litre diesel 320bhp 840d. That’s over €10,000 more than the hard-top. Those are heady prices, particularly for a car that belongs in warmer climes. It might not have the ultimate driving dynamics of a 911, but in the right location this 8 Series proves itself to be an incredibly engaging cruiser.

BMW M850i xDrive convertible: The lowdown

Engine 4.4-litre V8 petrol putting out 530bhp and 700Nm of torque

L/100km (mpg) 10 (23.5)

CO2 (motor tax) 225g/km (€1,200)

Price €181,400 (convertible starts at €127,690 for 840d xDrive)

Verdict Rag-top feels better than the hard-top coupe and in the right climes its intoxicating

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