BMW M850i CON­VERT­IBLE

We drive BMW’s multi-tal­ented grand tourer with its roof lopped off and while sup­pos­edly a 4-seater, this car does su­perbly well with half as many seats filled

Evo India - - CONTENTS - Adil Jal Darukhanaw­ala (@adil­jal)

AMONG ALL THE CARS THAT BMW In­dia has brought to In­dia, both as CKDs and CBUs, I al­ways had a soft spot for the 6 Se­ries Gran Coupe which was just as long as my 525d but had a swoop­ier shape and looked like Sophia Loren! This was the quin­tes­sen­tial car of its time to fly the flag for its maker in the boule­vard cruis­ing stakes in the coun­try and now the 6 Se­ries is passé for it is go­ing to be re­placed by the 8 Se­ries in not one but three body styles and all of them truly gor­geous to be­hold in the form of the Coupe which came first last year fol­lowed by the de­lec­ta­ble

cabrio you see here and to be fol­lowed by the four-door Gran Coupe that will hit roads later this year in Europe. I don’t know how many ex­am­ples of each would come to In­dia, but what I know for sure is that the cabrio and the coupe are per­haps the most hand­some cars that have rolled out from Mu­nich in re­cent years and they also give my favourite au­to­mo­tive hunk of a ma­chine – the Aston Martin – a run for its money in the ath­let­i­cally beau­ti­ful way they are con­jured up.

Enough of that pie-in-the-sky com­par­i­son and on to the task at hand and that is to suss out whether this Sophia Lore­nesque beauty has the brains and the brawn to build on its ear­lier earthy ap­peal and the short an­swer is an em­phatic yes pro­vided that money is no ob­ject! There are two types of cus­tomers BMW is try­ing to tar­get with the new 8 Se­ries, the first of course be­ing the sportier sort that goes for cars like the Porsche 911, the Audi R8 and to a cer­tain ex­tent the Mercedes-AMG GT. How­ever, the lux­ury end of the spec­trum as ex­em­pli­fied by the likes of the Bentley Con­ti­nen­tal as well as the Mercedes-Benz S Slass Coupe are also prime ri­vals and it seems that BMW has taken on a lot to cater to two di­verse but highly im­por­tant cat­e­gories,

The 850i is a looker no doubt with its long nose and large sin­gle-piece lowset kid­ney grille

com­fort on one side and sporti­ness on the other. And sur­pris­ingly, it ac­quits it­self on both counts bar­ring of course the fact that it cannot ac­com­mo­date four peo­ple!

The 850 is a looker no doubt with its long nose packed with a large sin­gle-piece low-set kid­ney grille, the slimmest head­lights (in­cor­po­rat­ing the firm’s Laserlight tech), an all-new and pro­nounced front spoiler with gap­ing large air in­takes on both sides of the air dam to clearly in­di­cate that this is brawn with in­tent. This new de­sign language goes against the vein estab­lished by BMW for the X7 SUV as well as the re­freshed 750Li I drove along with this very car in Portugal and it con­trasts with the largest kid­ney grilles ever seen on a Bim­mer, big or small, cheap or pricey. The long nose with the raised haunches, the ac­cen­tu­ated and re­worked A-pil­lar to give it a more swoopy ef­fect, the sculpted char­ac­ter lines on the sides and the high deck don’t dis­guise the over­all heft of the car (4851mm long, 1902mm wide and 1345mm tall) but even with so much of a busy out­look the car de­liv­ers that vi­tal pres­ence and yet has that typ­i­cal ap­peal of an ath­lete en­dowed with fine toned

Supremely well bal­anced and that

is at the heart of its en­joy­able

reper­toire

mus­cle. If that’s not all, those large 20-inch al­loys wrapped with 245/35 R20 ra­di­als up front and the even larger 275/30 R20 units at the rear, fill up those am­ple wheel wells and they lend their own might to de­liver a beau­ti­fully in­tim­i­dat­ing vis­age.

Nor­mally the first thing one asks an OEM when it lops off the roof of a hard top coupe or saloon is how much has it been com­pro­mised struc­turally and here the BMW boffins told me that while there has been a weight in­crease of 125kg over the coupe thanks to the strength­ened A-pil­lars, floor pan and ad­di­tional cross brac­ing, the cabrio yet is just as stiff! As much as 97 per cent as the Coupe and this surely must also go down to the Car­bon Core chas­sis tech that pins the su­per­struc­ture mak­ing for an incredibly stiff mono­coque!

This is pretty im­por­tant for a car that tips the scales at a shade over two tonnes but then BMW has given it the means to haul and dance at the same time. The rorty twin dual-scroll tur­bocharged 4395cc V8 en­gine lit­er­ally sings its way to its peak 523-horse out­put be­tween 5500-6000rpm along with 750Nm of torque in an incredibly wide swathe of 1800-4600rpm. This is breath­tak­ing in its scope and scale but then BMW only of­fers two ver­sions of the 8 Se­ries con­vert­ible, the 850i xDrive, which we drove, and the other be­ing the 840d xDrive with the sublime straight six turbo-diesel en­gine. For­get the zero to 100kmph ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ure of 3.9 sec­onds or the 250kmph regulated top speed, it has to be the most agile car in its class of boule­vard ex­press that rears its head and al­ways points to the straight and the nar­row! And that V8 en­gine has to be an ex­em­plar in terms of un­stressed and un­strained de­liv­ery what­ever cog she would have been asked to re­spond in! Speak­ing of the new 8-speed gear­box, it swaps cogs seam­lessly when in all auto mode but when you take man­ual con­trol via the steer­ing pad­dle shifters, it is even quicker and sublime in the way it re­acts mak­ing best use of the am­ple torque on of­fer.

Unlike the newly re­freshed 7 Se­ries sa­loons with their air sus­pen­sion units, here the en­tire sus­pen­sion set-up is pure me­chan­i­cal with a front all-alu­minium dou­ble wish­bone lay­out while at the rear there is a five-link set-up em­ploy­ing a mix of alu­minium and steel com­po­nents that keeps the body in con­trol and the wheel move­ments in fine flow with­out upset­ting the han­dling or the ride. I have con­stantly banged on about this be­ing a boule­vard cruiser but that has been said in con­text of this be­ing a dif­fer­ent au­to­mo­bile than say a 911 or an R8 but boy can the 850i

xDrive run them close! The key to this also man­i­fests it­self via the xDrive all-wheel drive sys­tem plus the rear-wheel steer­ing on this model and sur­pris­ingly for such a long, wide and low car she is sharp in turn-in but not overly daunt­ing. Put her into Sport mode and she comes alive and I couldn’t help but be im­pressed by how she made me feel good while tak­ing the moun­tain roads in the Portugal Al­garve re­gion in a highly con­trol­lable yet su­per quick man­ner. For a car with­out a roof, its agility was eye open­ing as well, and speak­ing of roof; the new three-layer fab­ric roof opens and closes in just about 15 sec­onds up to speeds of 50km/h!

The 850i is supremely well-bal­anced and that is at the heart of its en­joy­able reper­toire. The ride might be a tad on the stiffer but well damped side but this is to­tally un­der­stand­able given its per­for­mance spread. Also the grip from the tyres and the finely di­alled in steer­ing made the car a more ac­com­plished Grand Tourer than an out and out sports car. In fact if you were to also haz­ard a thought, in cer­tain con­di­tions the en­tire dy­namic pack­age makes it a nim­ble yet planted per­former.

And it is in the open-to-the-el­e­ments GT guise that the new M850i xDrive suc­ceeds ad­mirably. First off it isn’t a four-seater, un­less of course you want to squeeze your 4-5 year olds at the rear and for sure you’d not like to give them the jit­ters while hurl­ing the car through the twisties. It is a great two-seater with am­ple room for driver and pas­sen­ger with enough crafts­man­ship and flair along with loads of equip­ment and trim packed into the cabin. There is a wind de­flec­tor, which you can raise dur­ing top down mo­tor­ing to cut down on the buf­fet­ing or dis­turb­ing your hair­style but with­out an iota of doubt this is a car for con­ti­nent crush­ing mo­tor­ing in the man­ner in­tended and BMW has nailed it.

So what can one say about a car which its cre­ators within BMW had termed as “the gentleman racer”, a term that fits it ad­mirably yet has the class and the re­fine­ment to mo­tor from coast to coast and step out feel­ing like a daisy! Trou­ble is this works well in Europe and the US so for In­dia it would nec­es­sar­ily have to be a poser’s delight to add to an­other hand­ful of cars he or she might al­ready have in the garage! But what a car, in­deed! ⌧

Above: Qual­ity lev­els on the in­side are ex­em­plary. Left: Per­for­mance is sprightly and as ex­pected from the M badge. Below: The con­vert­ible is gor­geous to look at

Top to bot­tom: The 850i makes do with­out the large kid­ney grilles; the cen­tral touch­screen is a tad small; the V8 is spectacula­r in the way it de­liv­ers power; the 850i is a looker from ev­ery an­gle

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