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Big convertible is a BMW in the classic mould, which is mostly a good thing

When the BMW 6 Series was replaced by the BMW 8 Series in 2018, it aimed to raise the profile of its luxury coupé, convertible and four-door coupé trio. But although it proved a strong sporting coupé, the 8 Series has somehow always felt more like a 5 Series derivative than its name suggests. And now, just over four years on, the 8 Series has had a midlife facelift; though it doesn’t look as if it’ll markedly change the car's status quo.

Bmw m850i 2023 004 panning front

The interior was always the issue, being impeccable in terms of materials and fit and finish, but just a little too plain and business-like compared to a Lexus LC or Porsche 911, let alone a Bentley Continental GT. That’s just as true today, though one might prefer it to the tech fest that is the new Mercedes SL. It’s also worth keeping in mind the 8 Series is a fair bit less expensive than all its rivals bar the Lexus.

The lack of any major change inside is a blessing in some respects. The multimedia screen has been upgraded from 10.25- to 12.3in, but unlike the updated 3 Series and X5, it still runs BMW's old iDrive software, which means it’s still a paragon of user-friendliness, with logical menus and plenty of physical shortcut buttons. It still looks modern, too, and the physical climate controls are present and very much correct.

Bmw m850i 2023 006 dash

Outside, the facelifted 8 Series gains an illuminated grille (which looks nowhere near as chintzy as it sounds), a selection of new wheel options (all 20in in diameter), M-style twin-spar door mirrors for the M850i, and four new paint colours (including the classy San Remo Green you see in the pictures).

The diesel 840d has been dropped, leaving the six-cylinder rear-drive 840i, the four-wheel drive V8 M850i xDrive we’ve driven here, and the fire-breathing M8 Competition. As before, all come as a two-door coupe, four-door Gran Coupe or as a fabric-topped convertible.

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If the interior is a slice of archetypal BMW of the past decade or so, then the same is true for much of the way the M850i drives. The 4.4-litre, twin turbo V8 is a force of nature, providing effortless thrust accompanied by a gentle woofle when you’re just cruising, or lobbing you at the horizon while sounding like thunder when you set everything to Sport Plus and plant your foot. It doesn’t quite have the star quality of Lexus’ 'nat asp' V8 party animal, but then few things do. The trusty ZF 8-speed is its usual impeccable self.

BMW is adamant the 8 Series is a sports car. The reality is that a 2.1-tonne, 2.1-metre wide convertible is never going to be truly engrossing on a B-road. In that light, the M850i is exactly what it needs to be: satisfying but secure, and all but free from scuttle shake, even in drop-top form.

The steering lacks feedback, but the four-wheel drive system's torque distribution feels rear-biased at all times: it will always tighten its line on the power, though oversteer requires deliberate effort. The four-wheel steering conjures a sense of agility that belies the car’s size and weight, while also making it a lot wieldier while parking. 

Bmw m850i 2023 002 panning roof down

The M850i is less successful at the grand touring part of its mission, but the main culprit is likely the choice of tyres on our test car. 20in wheels leave room for just a sliver of tyre sidewall, and to make matters worse, the Pirellis on this particular car were runflats. The result is a ride that’s brittle and makes you constantly scan for potholes. Road roar is pretty pervasive, too. 

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The 8 Series has never provided a magic-carpet ride, and nor does it need to - but, in this spec at least, its comfort is simply not good enough. That said, the adaptive dampers provide fine vertical body control, and with the slightly awkward manual wind deflector erected, there’s next to no turbulence when driving with the roof down. 

Overall, the BMW 8 Series can struggle to feel quite special enough, which is a problem for a car that’s easily £100,000 once you add some options. It handles well and the V8 engine is great; but then it needs to be, since the 8 Series’ biggest threat might just come from within. Because a much more affordable 4 Series is hardly any less roomy than this, and now isn’t miles off for interior ambience either. It just doesn’t come with a V8.

Bmw m850i 2023 005 panning roof up

PRICES & SPECS

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester
As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

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Anton motorhead 30 March 2023
Sorry BMW - not for me. Too much and too little at the same time. I don't get it.
Bimfan 30 March 2023

The 8 looks so much better than the old 6 series, but I struggle to see what it is meant to be.

Not a sports car because it is too wide and too heavy, not a convincing GT car because of the plain interior and brittle, harsh and noisy ride and hardly any larger in accomodation terms than the 4-series, which also has the superior iDrive 8.

I suspect this lack of purpose and the £120k price will mean very few sales. This car is supposed to be special, but at this money a nearly new Bentley, Aston or Porsche would seem to be the way to go for that.

Boris9119 31 March 2023

I'm with you Bimfan. An M3 convertible is not only a far better drive, but also has a very similar interior, costs way less, and does everything this 8 does so much better. And for those that say the 8 is bigger, well when did you last see back seat passengers in a BMW convertible. Globally how many of these does BMW shift each year, it must be enough to support the business case, but which markets buy them? And seriously, when did you last see a 1 star or 2 star review from Autocar. This should be a 2 star all day long?

xxxx 27 March 2023

Worth mentioning the weight as the F type was labelled heavy at 1720kgs, this is also pretty much the same weight as a Model S.