BMW M850i xDrive
By Bill McCarthy
FANCY a four seat convertible that is a comfortable grand tourer, but offers sports car performance?
Roll forward the M850i xDrive convertible, a car offering cutting edge technology and blistering performance.
It’s at the top end of the scale, with a top end price, starting at just over £83,000 for the six cylinder diesel version.
The M version driven here takes it to £104,000 in its ‘basic’ form, although the model added nearly £16,000 of optional extras.
Eyewatering prices, but no shortage of takers in that particular price stratosphere, but the performance is also eye-watering or jaw dropping. Take your pick
It features a530hp 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine delivering stunning performance. It hits 60mph in just 3.9 seconds and has peak torque of a huge 750 Nm so power is always on tap.
Standard kit includes the latest iDrive and BMW Personal Assistant, a form of artificial intelligence, which learns driver habits, together with a raft of high specification navigation, sound, connectivity and safety systems.
You can see the attraction. Sleek, coupe-like styling, predatory, low slung profile and iconic kidney grille, with front spoiler extension and design accents nicely complemented by 20-inch alloys.
The interior is luxurious with a stainless steel mesh design featured as standard on all variants, with ash grain high-gloss wood trim optionally available, as is piano black.
The latest ‘iDrive infotainment system dominates with the so-called Live Cockpit Professional 12.3-inch display controlling, navigation, infotainment and and a raft of connectivity services and apps. These nclude emergency call, teleservices, over the air and USB map updates, BMW App connectivity and Intelligent Voice assistants.
In addition the BMW Connected Package Professional adds remote services, real time traffic information and Apple CarPlay Preparation, but not, apparently, Android.
Electrically adjustable powered and heated seats are trimmed in Merino leather with black piping and there is also an anthracite headliner, M pedals and floor mats with special M surrounds and illuminated door sills.
The leather steering wheel has multifunction buttons and gearshift paddles to control the eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission.
On the road, if you’re in no particular hurry, it offers comfortable wind in the hair motoring, combined with luxury for up to four people, albeit smaller ones in the rear seats.
The roof opens and closes in just 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. A wind defector is standard and can be set up in the rear-seat area. When not required it can be folded to half its size and stowed in the boot.
Warming air collars are also integrated in the front seat head restraints as standard, for warming the neck when driving with the roof down.
In more of a hurry, the the V8 engine is the star of the show with brutal performance, allied to pin sharp handling.
There are four drive modes, but switch it to sport and everything sharpens up, and just to add to the fun, BMW has added exhaust tuning for a bit of extra spit, crackle and burble.
Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers is standard, as is four wheel steering and all wheel drive to keep the car on road.
It’s a big car, but showed its agility and handling pedigree in series of long open roads and tortuously twisty country tracks, delivering power and excellent poise when pushed hard.
Damping characteristics can be adjusted via the Driving Experience Control using Sport and Sport+ Eco Pro and Comfort modes.
Cutting edge technology abounds with the personal assistantactivated by the voice prompt “Hey BMW”. This assists the driver and ‘learns’ more skills all the time thanks to updates via the remote software upgrade facility.
Additional digital functionality include on street parking info, connect navigation and intelligent vehicle functionality, again, which learns driver habits as part of the personal assistant system.
As you would expect from a car with this pedigree, safety kit is comprehensive and includes a rollover protection system with two aluminium bars fitted within the head restraints and they will be deployed if the car is likely to roll over.
Also standard is head up display and collision warning and pedestrian warning system with city braking function. and parking assistant, which includes a rear-view camera and the reversing assistant.
Boot space, always compromised with a foldaway roof is still surprisingly good for a convertible, with 350 litres available even with the roof folded down.
For extra practicality, the rear-seat backrest can be split 50/50 and, via the through-loading facility, stowage capacity can be extended.
Automatic boot lid operation is also standard, via the key fob, while the standard Comfort Access feature permits hands-free opening and closing of the boot lid.
A fine combination of comfort, open top motoring and blistering performance.
What’s not to like?