Review: 2019 BMW M850i Cabriolet
The 8-series is back after an almost 20 year hiatus.
The 2019 BMW M850i is back after an almost 20 year hiatus and this new generation 8-series BMW replaces the 6-series. Available as a coupe, convertible, or 4-door gran coupe, the new 8-series is poised to be a luxury GT car that doesn’t sacrifice outright performance.
Engine – Unfortunately the 850i badge no longer corresponds to a V12 engine like the old one did. This 2019 BMW M850i is equipped with a twin-turbocharged 4.4L V8 engine that produces 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. If that’s not enough power for you, there is an M8 version with up to 617 hp. Back to the M850i though, the 4.4L V8 is the only engine available for the Canadian market while other markets benefit from 3.0L inline-6 gas and diesel engines. But since fuel prices are not as high as they are in Europe, we can get away with the 4.4L V8.
This engine has a flat torque curve that begins from as low as 1,800 rpms and goes to 4,600 rpms. This means that in almost every driving situation around a city or on a twisty mountain road or exiting a corner on a race track, you always have peak torque to pull the 2,150 kg body. Peak horsepower is reached at 5,500 to 6,000 rpms which helps the M850i quickly reach its electronic limited top speed of 250 km/h. But with the way it feels behind the steering wheel, I think that the M850i in coupe form can easily reach the 300+ km/h mark. This engine feels as though it is not turbocharged because there’s barely a whiff of lag from the time you put your foot down to feeling the relentless wave of power pushing you against the seat.
But with this much power comes a hit to the fuel economy. At least that’s the traditional thinking because even a decade ago, you couldn’t have a 500+ hp car and decent fuel economy. With the 2019 8-series, BMW made it as aerodynamic as they could from its overall shape to active shutters in the grille that close at highway speeds. The result is an EnerGuide rating of 13.5 L/100km (17.4 mpg) in a city and 9.2 L/100km (25.6 mpg) on a highway.
Transmission – Like the engine, an 8-speed automatic is the only available transmission with the BMW 8-series. It is a traditional automatic, no fancy dual clutches here. But even so, shifts are lightning quick and buttery smooth. You can let the transmission shift gears on its own or take over via steering wheel mounted paddles or using the crystal shifter on the center console.
Braking – Stopping a 2+ tonne car is no easy task which is why the BMW M850i Cabriolet is fitted with 4-piston fixed calipers on the front. It takes very little pedal effort to bring the car to a stop in normal everyday driving situations. On more spirited drives, the brake pedal feels firm with more than enough stopping power even from higher speeds. However, the front brake discs are not drilled like they are in the BMW M4 so I can’t but help it imagine that repeated heavy braking could result in some brake fade and perhaps warped rotors. Forward collision alert and emergency automatic braking are standard features.
Handling – While the 2019 BMW M850i is made to be more of a long distance GT car, it doesn’t fall flat on its nose when the roads get tight and twisty. The steering feel is lighter than that of the more sporty BMW M4 sibling, but it is still very precise and provides good feedback. If anything, the 8-series feels almost as nimble as the 4-series thanks to rear wheel steering. The system turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction when driving slowly to make the car turn more quickly. The opposite happens when driving on a highway to provide a more surefooted and stable feeling.
AWD xDrive puts the engine’s ferocious power down to the road. It is a rear-biased system with more power getting sent to the front wheels when the rears start to let go. While a RWD option is not available for the North American market, the xDrive system still allows for some fun around corners when you want it but security and grip when you just want to get to your destination.
Ride Comfort – As this is primarily a GT car, in Comfort mode the suspension softness is just right. Bumps are almost non-existent as the suspension does a good job of absorbing them. The front seats have plenty of adjustability for whatever body size you have.
Interior Space – Front occupants have plenty of room. Even at 6’4”, I found that I had more than enough room for my long legs. The rear seats though are tiny and have almost no room for legs. But that is the norm for a cabriolet and if you don’t need to carry more than one passenger, you can fold the rear seats to allow for a bit more storage space. Getting in and out of the car though can be a bit of a chore not only due to how low it is, but also if you are in a tight parking lot. The doors are decently long which means that a good amount of space is required between the 8-series and the car next to it to comfortably open the doors without hitting them.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Convertibles will always allow for more exterior noises to intrude into the cabin than their hardtop counterparts. But even so, the M850i Cabriolet is a relatively quiet convertible. It is a soft top rather than a metal folding roof and most of the noise that intrudes into the cabin is tire noise… weirdly. Yes, this demo vehicle had snow tires which are louder than summer or all-season tires but I was pleasantly surprised at how little wind noise intruded while on a highway.
Apart from road and wind noise, the other noise that intrudes into the cabin is exhaust noise. This type of noise though, you do want to intrude into the cabin. The V8 engine has the traditional V8 rumble throughout the rpm range but with added pops and bangs when letting off the throttle in Sport+ mode.
Drop the top, and you hear much more of that glorious V8 soundtrack. Best of all, you don’t need to stop to drop or raise the top. It can open or close in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2019 BMW M850i is equipped with BMW’s latest infotainment system that was first featured on the new 3-series. The infotainment system does have a steep learning curve though. When first using it, it can be daunting to some but after a few minutes of playing around with it and pushing every button, it becomes less convoluted. This system can be controlled via the gorgeous touchscreen or the rotary knob on the center console or by your voice. Just like Mercedes’ new MBUX system, this latest BMW infotainment can be controlled by simply saying “Hey BMW, …”.
This being a flagship BMW, it has pretty much every feature you can think of. Heated and ventilated seats, navigation, blind spot sensors, adaptive cruise control with lane keep, air scarf in the seat headrests, and there’s even a night vision camera option. However one of the best features, especially for us here in the cold north, are the heated armrests. The armrests on the center console and door panels turn on with the heated seats and it is a very nice feeling to touch warm leather in the winter rather than cold leather.
Exterior Design – With a starting price of $131,500 CAD ($121,400 USD), the BMW M850i definitely looks the part of a six-figure GT car. It has the long, bulging hood. A wide stance. Smooth flowing lines. It looks exactly as one would expect from a luxury GT car. Best of all, this does not have the outrageously large kidney grilles of the X7 SUV. The grilles on this 8-series are perfectly proportioned to the rest of the car.
Interior Design – I’m just going to come out and say it, I love red leather! Best of all, it hasn’t been overdone in this M850i. There is just enough red on the seats, center console, and door panels. The rest of the interior is modern BMW with a large widescreen format touchscreen in the center and physical buttons below it for quick menu access and climate controls. It’s just the center console that may be a bit too crowded with buttons for some but I think it’s ok as it allows for quick access to the phone or navigation.
Overall the 2019 BMW M850i xDrive is a well executed luxury GT car from the brand. It is a head turning GT car that can hold its own against the competition from Mercedes-Benz or even Aston Martin with the DB11 V8.