2019 BMW 8-Series Review

2019 BMW 8-Series - BMWs newest convertible is sassy, fun and expensive

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I was sitting in a parking lot, checking my emails when someone knocked on my window.

I'd be lying if I said he didn't scare me.

But instead of nefarious intent, this random dude with gangly, long dirty-blond hair gave me a double thumbs up and shouted: "Nice car! I'm jealous!" As he pointed to his everyday driver, which was a Toyota Solara Convertible.

I never get used to the knocks, points, stares and cameras stuck out of windows pointed in my direction when I'm driving something special. Sometimes it makes me giggle - like when someone stops mid-sidewalk and follows the car with pointed fingers and slack mouth.

And sometimes it leaves me shaking my head - like when a passenger in the car in front of me is literally standing out of the sunroof so he can get a clear photo of the car. (Yes, that's happened.)

But it's the reaction of the people around me that tell the story.

And nice-car dude was just one of the many who sought my attention during my week with the 2019 BMW 850i Convertible.

The 8-Series is all-new for the 2019 model year, and it manages to meld the best of all BMW design into a sleek sporty coupe that is off-the-rails fun to drive.

Design

On some of the BMW vehicles, the bean-shaped grille has gotten a bit overwhelming. Yet on the 8-Series, the grille is large without being overpowering as the vertical lines curve gently with front-facing slope of the vehicle.

The long horizontal lines create a nice side profile - whether the ragtop is up or down. But it's the rear of the vehicle that is truly special.

The lines are horizontal here as well, but they are also very angular and well defined. With the twin tailpipes and beautiful LED taillights, this is arguably the best view of the exterior.

The interior is quintessential BMW, also awash with severe horizontal lines. But the severity is softened by the plush leather seats, eye-catching digital displays and elegant glass controls ($650).

The ever present iDrive is also front-and-center, but either I've started getting used to it or BMW has stopped making it so user-unfriendly because I found this iteration relatively easy to navigate. The buttons on the console are well marked, and the infotainment system is intuitive.

I liked pretty much everything about the 850i interior right down to the variable ambient lighting and adjustable seat bottoms.

Ride & Handling

Here is where I say I've never encountered an ill-handling BMW. I often get frustrated with some of the technology and the fact that everything is an option, but ride and handling is never a complaint.

Equipped with 4.4-liter TwinPower turbocharged V-8 engine, acceleration is both immediate and seamless. In fact, it's one of those vehicles that brought a smile to my face every time I hit an on ramp or accelerated away from a stoplight.

The engine is paired with an 8-speed sport automatic transmission, with both sport and manual modes, steering wheel paddle shifters and (get this!) launch control.

Add the Sport+ exhaust sounds, and you've got some of the best toys luxury can provide.

I took the M850i on a road trip with another auto journalist, so I spent a lot of time in both the driver's seat and front passenger seat. Both were remarkably comfortable. And thanks to BMW's driving dynamics control, I could adjust the driving mode to be anything from comfy to downright sporty with its four modes - Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport +.

So, whether I was on smooth highways or bumpy side roads, I managed to get a decent ride by adjusting the modes.

The test vehicle was the convertible model, and the ragtop is thick enough to block exterior sounds and temperatures to keep the cabin quiet and comfortable regardless of what's going on outside.

It's also worth noting that the 8-Series comes standard with all-wheel drive, so even with a convertible, you can easily make this an all-season daily driver.

Fuel economy

The fuel economy is what you'd expect of something with a V-8 - not great but not terrible. EPA estimates 17 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway with a combined fuel economy of 20 mpg.

The 8-Series is equipped with the auto stop/start engine as well as a button that lets you turn it off. So, in theory, this should help with the city fuel economy. While I'm typically not a fan of these systems, I will say BMW has one of the better ones.

However, it's worth noting for BMW owners of older models with this system: You can no longer turn it off and it stays off. You now must turn it off every time you restart the car.

Tech & gadgets

One of the coolest features on the 8-Series is the available rear-view camera with adjustable and 3D views that comes with the Driving Assistance Package ($900).

Want to see how close you are to the curb or an obstacle in your driveway? Simply tap on the camera image, and you'll be able to click on various points around the vehicle to get a better view of your surroundings.

The 8-Series also offers wireless Apple CarPlay. Simply pair your phone to the vehicle and voila! I like this feature with a couple of caveats.

First, because it's wireless there is some lag time between when you press a command on your screen and when it activates. Second, as you might expect from BMW, it's only complimentary for the first year. After that, it's a subscription-based item.

BMW is currently the only automaker that charges a fee to use CarPlay.

And before you ask, no, Android Auto isn't available.

Other available tech features include passive entry, push-button start, a WiFi hotspot, wireless phone charging and a Bowers & Wilkins premium surround-sound system ($3,400).

Trims

For 2019, the BMW 8-Series is only available as the M850i xDrive Coupe or Convertible with the starting prices as follows:

* M850i xDrive Coupe: $111,900
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* M850i xDrive Convertible: $121,400
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One nice deviation to note: While BMW usually charges extra for any paint color other than basic white or black, there are a few other colors for this vehicle without an upcharge. Our fave: Sonic Speed Blue.

The test vehicle was the M850i xDrive Convertible and it added the glass controls, neck warmer, Driving Assistance Package, Driving Assistance Pro Package and Bowers & Wilkins audio for an as-tested price of $131,395.

Safety

The new 8-Series has not been rated by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration.

Standard safety technology on the 8-Series is minimal, but it does include the all-important collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function.

Available features include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, partially automated support on limited-access highways, evasion assist and blind spot monitoring.

New for 2019

The 8-Series originally launches only as coupe version of the M850i xDrive model with the convertible following quickly on its heels. For 2020, the 8-Series will add 840i and M8 versions.

A few of my favorite things

I love how this car drives, and the exhaust note that comes with the Sport + mode is both fun and loud - so loud that I felt guilty driving through neighborhoods with it engaged.

I also appreciated the fact that BMW didn't completely option the heck out of this car. It costs more than $120K, and things like heated-and-ventilated seats, navigation and keyless access should be standard.

What I can leave

CarPlay has a subscription fee. Seriously?

I'm also not a fan of the fact that some important safety features, such as front collision warning with city mitigation and blind spot detection, are not standard.

The bottom line

The M850i Convertible is an amazing vehicle. I love how it looks. I love how it drives. And I really love how it sounds. With its AWD and convertible top, I could easily live with it as a year-round daily driver.

The downside: It costs more than some houses.



Jill Ciminillo

Jill has been writing about cars for more than 15 years, representing the female point of view amongst her predominantly male colleagues. And since something like 80 percent of all car-buying decisions are either made by or influenced by women, that's nothing to sneeze at. Formerly the online automotive editor for the Chicago Sun-Times and the print auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspapers, this 5th percentile (aka petite) female tells it like it is from the fun to the functional. Jill recently served as the first female president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and currently sits on its Board of Directors as President Emeritus. In her 9-to-5 job, Jill is the automotive editor for Sinclair Broadcast Group.