I’ve driven the BMW 8 Series three times, first as a prototype nearly a year ago, then again as a production car for a commute and a couple laps around our figure eight handling track a few weeks ago. Then I drove the new M850i convertible around southern Portugal on roads I’d never been on with lanes barely wide enough for the car. The narrow roads, the general lack of guardrails except in the deadliest spots, the jet lag, the 523 horsepower—none of it fazed me. That I should take it easy at first, feel out the car, didn’t even occur to me as I slid behind the wheel and dropped the top. Why would it? I have confidence in the 8 Series.
But wait. This is the convertible. BMW says it’s 258 pounds heavier at a portly 4,738 pounds, and a lot of that weight sits high on the chassis. More weight and a higher center of gravity have surely ruined the car, or at least made it less good, right? To that, I say: meh. That’s less than the weight of two passengers. You can’t feel that difference in a street car, even a light one. It might show up on the Vbox when we test this car in a few months, but it won’t be significant.
It doesn’t matter anyway. Even if the drop top handled a little less well than the coupe or was a little slower, it’d be the difference between super great and really great. Yes, the 8 Series is a large and heavy car, but it doesn’t drive like one. Credit whichever active system or combination of systems you like: rear steer, active anti-roll bars, active dampers, active differential, rear-biased all-wheel drive. The miracle of modern automotive technology is that with enough computers and actuators, you can make a car drive a size smaller. If not for its width, you’d say the 8 Series convertible drives like a 4 Series convertible.
So no, I didn’t think twice about knocking the shifter over to Sport and poking the mode buttons until the gauge reads “Sport Plus.” I didn’t worry it was too much car for the road or that a tag team of physics and horsepower would get me into trouble. I know the 8 Series has a ton of grip. I know that if a freak storm blows in and soaks the road, the 8 Series still has a ton of grip. I know the steering is tight and responsive, never forcing you to move your hands on the wheel outside a parking lot. I know that if a nun carrying a box of kittens wanders into the road, the car has the poise and the reflexes to safely avoid them. I know that if in the middle of that maneuver another nun spilled a bucket of oil in the road in front of me, the 8 Series drifts so beautifully even Jonny Lieberman can look like Ken Block with more beard—but only if you turn all the safety systems off, which no one should ever do on a public road.
By: Scott Evans, April 9, 2019
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