Home » Test Drives » REVIEW: 2021 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible Individual – Summer Breeze
Getting behind the wheel of such a fantastic Bimmer, stuffed with exquisite Individual equipment, is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, at least for me. So I decided to really make the most out of the 5 days I spent driving the spectacular 2021 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible and discovered that a cabriolet is fully suitable even during winter.
Every BMW is special in its own way, but there are a few examples of Bavarian models that look and feel vastly special and superior than others. As I discovered, the open-top 8 Series is one of them. Of course, I was looking forward to driving a cabriolet for the first time in my life, but besides the unparalleled feeling of wandering across the streets with the roof down, the M850i Convertible really exceeded my expectations in terms of luxury, refinement and dynamism.
A brief history
BMW contemplated the idea of offering a cabriolet version for the 8 Series as early as the 1990s, when the E31 generation was in force. The only prototype ever made was the 850i Convertible, which can be admired in the BMW Museum. The car is finished in the extravagant Brilliant Red paintwork and packs the M70 5.0-liter V12 engine developing 296 hp. It features a retractable cloth roof and additional body reinforcement measures, to increase torsional rigidity.
Amid fears that it could eventually be a slow seller, also given a difficult economical context across Europe in the early ‘90s, BMW management decided to put the project to rest. You can read further details about the one-off E31 8 Series Convertible in my article here .
The first droptop 8 Series: One of a kind
With the advent of the new G1x generation of the 8 Series, BMW to unleash a full army of sports luxury vehicles at the top end of the echelon. The traditional Coupe body variant was joined by the first-ever 8 Series Convertible in early 2019, to be followed by the Gran Coupe version in falls the same year. As you may recall, the open-top 8 Series is offered with plenty of powerful 6- and 8-cylinder diesel and petrol units, from the 840i to the fierce M8 predators and going through the M850i. Given the state-of-the-art technology and high-end luxury, and also the hefty price tag, the 8 Series Convertible is obviously catering to a very select and narrow clientele.
Reports are that the Convertible model won’t make it past its current generation, with the 2-door 8 Series also expected to have the same fate. Thus, the G14, like the early E31-based roofless prototype, will basically a one-off in history (as many other in brand’s history), showing that BMW has the balls to put out a magnificent luxury droptop, which boasts a high profit margin, but it inherently is very scarce.
The 8 Series was never intended to be a top selling performer, as the charts confirms. In 2020, US dealers saw only 7,737 units leave their inventories, while in Europe, the numbers are even lower, at just 7,486 examples sold. Out of these, the Cabriolet version likely accounts for less than 15 percent, whereas the top seller of the range is most likely the Gran Coupe variant. But, nevertheless, sales figures are not always the best and most unbiased instrument to properly judge how good a car. And the G14 is a fantastic luxury vert, for sure, as this review will further demonstrate once and for all.
First impression: Overwhelming luxury and refinement, but at a price
When I came to pick up the test car, I took a glance and it simply stroke me like a lightning. The 8 Series Convertible, is, in all senses, an overwhelmingly beautiful car, with carefully judged proportions, a mind blowing silhouette and very refined exterior details. It manages to look bold and robust, yet it also displays a sheer dynamism in the true spirit of the BMW brand.
The design execution is flawless in every aspect. I am talking about the culmination of sheer beauty and power, mixed with some precisely dosed extravagance. The front-end sits low, thanks to the short overhang, while the thin laser headlights and the horizontally-elongated chromed kidneys are creating the impression of extra width.
The number of creases and character lines is reduced to the minimum, as the design team preferred to model the plain metal sheet as to create some spectacular flanks. The rear shoulders deliver an outstanding effect of muscularity, which is further supported by the high-riding rear end flashing a big diffuser and the iconic, slimmer L-shaped tail lamps.
This 8 Series Convertible was no ordinary G14, as it proudly emphasized the “M850i xDrive” at the rear. The V8-powered luxury open-top also came finished in a splendid BMW Individual Atlantis (code 399) exterior color, further accentuated by the additional Chrome Line ornaments that replaced the Cerium Grey accents specific to the M Performance versions.
Equipped with winter tires, the choice of alloys was oriented towards the 19-inch 727 M double-spoke wheels. When the car was specced with summer tires, the standard alloys are the 20” 729 M Y-spoke model, which look astonishing in person and add further character to the cabriolet.
The cabin was dressed in a full BMW Individual Merino leather upholstery in Ivory White color, further complemented by the hi-tech M Aluminum trim on the center console and the CraftedClarity glass application for electronic gear shifter, iDrive controller, engine start/stop button and volume control knob.
The level of sophistication and the attention to the most minute details reaches an all-new maximum inside the 8 Series Convertible. The dashboard feels both modern and classic at the same time, retaining a harmonious shape and carefully integrating the two digital displays into a unitary design. While the number of physical buttons and controls is reduced in comparison to the 7 Series, the dashboard of the 8 Series feels clean and airy without being too minimalistic.
The M850i test car was equipped, among others, with the premium Bowers & Wilkins 3D Surround audio system, which converted the whole cabin into a concert hall even was the roof was down. The cloth top came in an anthracite finish, whereas the front seats and front armrest were heated. What lacked from the option list was the Open Air Package, which would have provided more thermal comfort thanks to the integrated headrest heating for the head and neck area.
Of course, driving open-top at winter means setting the HVAC unit at around 25-26 degrees Celsius (77-79 degrees Fahrenheit), turning on the seat heating to maximum levels, attaching the wind deflector across the rear seat area and leaving all windows up. The noise is of course higher, yet the unforgettable sensation and the overall acceptable thermal comfort, also improved by the deflector which suppresses the vortex effect, are the arguments that favor the pleasure.
Essentially, the 8 Series Convertible is still a car vastly suitable for two people and no extra one (maybe a child not older than 6-7 years). The dimensions of the interior are slightly smaller than in the case of the Coupe variant, due to the additional measures to increase torsional rigidity. Furthermore, the roofless 8 Series is less wider than the outgoing 6 Series Convertible was, so the space on the back seats is even more confined, also given the fact that you must adjust the front seats pretty close to the rear seats as to drive comfortably, even when you are below 6 ft tall.
Another shortcoming of the smaller size are the front seats. Even though that have been beautifully tailored and display an interesting visual pattern, they are slightly less wider than in the preceding 6 Series. Furthermore, they don’t integrate the seatbelt like in the past, so you have to grab it from its fixed position on the central pillar. An automated extender (when closing the door), like the one seen on the 4 Series Coupe, would have been more useful, also given the fact that we are talking about a luxury car which costs nothing more and nothing less than EUR 155,927 / USD 189,256 with all taxes included, the exact price of the tested model.
I was also baffled by the fact that the G14 is not equipped with a proper windscreen washing system specially designed for use in a cabriolet. The three sprinklers are attached beneath the engine hood and they spray water all over the windshield. While that might be good when the roof is up and the car is is motion, there’s some good chance you’ll get the shower when going “topless”. The wiper-integrated washers could have solved this issue.
Of course, there are aspects that certainly would need an improvement, but all in all, the abundance of luxury and refinement, together with the intense feeling of open air driving, effectively overwhelm any possible downsides or negatives.
Sheer driving pleasure from another world
Driving dynamics and agility, together with the mighty powertrain, are the areas where the M850i Convertible scores the maximum grade, as expected. There’s virtually no chance to not be mesmerized by the high-performance luxury convertible from Munich. The N63 8-cylinder engine with hot-vee layout develops a peak output of 390 kW/530 PS and uses twin-scroll turbochargers. When this engine lineup was launched in 2008, it was BMW’s first V8 unit to feature turbocharging. More interesting details about the current BMW 8-cylinder powerplants you can find here .
When the engine is cold, the overall consumption calculated by on-board computer exceeds 30 liters/100 km (7.8 MPG). A busy city at rush hour will also take its toll on the consumption, with an average of 16 liters/100 km (14.7 MPG), but possible of going as high as 20 l/100 km (11.6 MPG). In a mixed driving cycle, the consumption drops to around 12-13 l/100 km (18-19 MPG) on average. My best personal result was 11.8 l/100 km (20 MPG) after a 100 km trip outside the city.
Of course, someone who can afford this car will never care about the fuel consumption. The key factor is simply the emotions delivered by this cabrio. The V8 under the hood of the M850i manages to be silent and peaceful when driven, whereas pressing harder on the gas pedal will outrageously unleash its full potential, also signaled by the loud, distinctive roar.
In a blink of an eye, you’ll find yourself driving at around 100 km/h and pushing towards 200 km/h will be no effort for the big engine. What’s more, the car feels very safe, predictable and stable even at high speeds. The damping response is very precise and the M850i is virtually glued to the tarmac, confidently keeping the lane even when cornering fiercely on a mountain road.
The xDrive chassis is simply an impeccable work of engineering, as it maximizes the full potential of the powertrain underneath the M850i Convertible. Harnessing all that immense output and the peak torque of 750 Nm/553 lb-ft is no easy task in general, but for the intelligent AWD system it seems like piece of cake. And to be honest: we are talking about a two-ton car (1,995 kg for precision).
The acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h takes 3.9 seconds, which puts the Convertible on par with the Gran Coupe, yet it is still 0.2 seconds slower than the G15. The immense tractive force is further highlighted by the availability of the entire torque from as low as 1,800 rpm. Of course, the superb 8-speed Steptronic Sport gearbox is the perfect companion of the engine, accurately translating the intricate technical language of the V8 unit for guaranteed driving pleasure.
The M850i Convertible is the kind of automobile that sets you free, lets you feel at one with it and pushes yourself to unthinkable limits. The more you drive it, the crazier you become, in the good sense.
Conclusion: The ultimate convertible?
It’s pretty hard to draw a definitive conclusion on the G14. I cherished every second spent with it and still long for the car. The M850i Convertible drives in an outstanding manner, like no other car I have driven to-date. The powertrain is a pinnacle of automotive engineering, whereas the refinement and elegance reach new levels thanks to the special Individual appointments.
Concerning the question, it might well be, if you remove some of the outrageous open-top supercars or the M8. But even having those in the equation, the 8 Series Convertible still does a pretty good impression, offering sporting ability for everyday use and a charming level of sophistication, in true BMW style.
The G14 is acceptably suitable for everyday use, but you don’t buy such a car looking for the practicality of an X5, for example. You buy it because you want to experience a different kind of pleasure. The M850i Convertible is exactly the car for those that want to set apart from the crowd in high fashion.
Would I buy one? Three times yes. One, if the restrictive pricing were no issue for me. Two, because the 8 Series Convertible is the car in which you’ll certainly receive a lot of attention when passing on the street. And finally three, for the intense and unforgettable feeling of a summer breeze at the dawn of winter which I experienced during my 5-day adventure with the G14.
2021 BMW M850i Convertible Individual
Exterior Appeal - 10
Interior Quality - 10
Steering Feedback - 9.5
Performance - 9.5
Handling - 9.5
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 10
Price Point - 5
The M850i Convertible tops almost all disciplines with its sheer beauty and perfect powertrain. Strictly from a price point, it is ridiculously expensive – the high-end market positioning adversely impacts it from becoming a sales success. And yes, there are a few weaknesses. But in the high-end luxury segment, there are certainly other more important aspects to consider. In the end, it all resumes to pure automotive enjoyment and supreme exclusivity. And at those categories, the 8 Series Convertible excels by far.