Unlike the BMW i8 Roadster, which dragged to market years after the i8 Coupe, the all-new 8 Series Convertible hits production mere months after the 8 Series Coupe. BMW brings some rushing fresh air into its performance flagship, giving it 523 hp, precisely tuned, performance-focused construction, and a power soft-top that opens and closes in just 15 seconds. The 8 Series Convertible mixes all-out driving performance and breezy touring like no BMW before it.
The 8 Series Convertible loses a little of the coupe's menacing aggressiveness during the switch from fastback hard roof to contrast soft-top, but the new, taut, sharply creased design language ensures that it's but a tiny loss. The convertible maintains the intent gaze of the adaptive LED headlamps, keen smell of the flared nostrils, and deep breathing of the crisply defined intakes. Moving along the sides, the drop-top 8 Series shares the same gills aft of the front wheels, clean lines and smooth surfaces.
Things change out back, of course, but not too dramatically. The lower arch of the soft-top surrenders to a larger deck, which terminates at the pinched upper rear edge of the trunk lid. That edge plays home to the addition of a third brake light centered on a rear-end that otherwise follows the coupe closely – taillights that wrap around into slightly bulged rear fenders, vertical air outlets and dual exhaust tips.
An unseen change lurks behind the rear headrests, where two deployable aluminum roll bars are hidden. Should the car become prone to flipping, the bars deploy via pyrotechnic charge within a fraction of a second. The windshield frame has also been strengthened and convertible-specific underbody bracing added.
The soft-top comes standard in black but can also be optioned in anthracite silver. It opens and closes electrically in just 15 seconds at the push of a button and operates at speeds up to 31 mph (50 km/h). A standard wind deflector sets up behind the front seats to prevent air turbulence, and for added comfort, BMW offers an optional neck warmer system blowing warm air out through vents built into the front headrests.
Just like the coupe, the 8 convertible benefits from being developed alongside the upcoming M8 and the M8 GTE endurance racer. Weight sits low and spreads evenly front to rear thanks to the use of generous amounts of aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber. An Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers keeps the ride tight and smooth, while the Integral Active Steering system reduces the turning radius during maneuvering to boost agility. Mixed tires on the light-alloy wheels provide plenty of bite below.
BMW will launch the 8 Series Convertible in two powertrain flavors. The M850i xDrive Convertible puts 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of TwinPower Turbo 4.4-liter V8 muscle at the driver's disposal. That model can hit 62 mph (100 km/h) from stop in 3.9 seconds. The TwinPower Turbo 3.0-liter straight-six diesel in the 840d xDrive Convertible puts out up to 315 hp and 501 lb-ft, getting things running to 62 mph in 5.2 seconds.
Whichever engine the buyer chooses, it works in conjunction with an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission and rear-biased xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive. The M850i xDrive also includes an electronic rear differential lock.
Driver excitement and enjoyment come first, but the 8 Series Convertible includes the accompanying tech and safety expected of a modern-day flagship. BMW Live Cockpit Professional navigation and multimedia with high-res digital instrument cluster and 10.3-in infotainment touchscreen comes standard, along with a head-up display, voice control and iDrive Controller.
Standard and available driver-assistance technologies include parking assistant with rear-view camera, collision and pedestrian warning with city braking, lane departure warning and active cruise control.
BMW began production of the 8 Series Convertible at its Dingolfing Plant earlier this week, building it on a single assembly line with 5 Series and 7 Series models. The new convertible will go on sale in March 2019.
The US won't be getting the 840d diesel, leaving the US$122,395 (after destination) M850i xDrive Convertible as the sole launch model. BMW will be showing it at this month's LA Auto Show.
If all that mention of BMW M performance components and tweaking has you wondering about the status of the much-anticipated M8, BMW also provided an update on that model this week.
The folks at BMW M GmbH are testing the prototype at Portugal's Estoril racing circuit as they move it through the final development phase ahead of series production. The 590-hp M8 Coupe will launch in 2019, and M8 Convertible and Gran Coupe models will follow down the line.
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