2019 BMW M850i convertible — Automotive nirvana

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Heads turn as you cruise by, top down, in the curvaceous 2019 BMW M850i convertible with its muscular haunches and sleek lines sitting on beautiful 20-inch wheels. It's hard to conceive that it gets any better than this in style, comfort and performance. We think it’s reaching automotive nirvana. The 850i is the epitome of modern BMW DNA styling starting with the slightly larger, familiar kidney-shaped grille and imposing air intakes up front and continuing to the sculpted LED taillight clusters in the rear.

The great thing is that while the M850i is an outstanding convertible in every way, beneath the sleek sheetmetal it is a supercar waiting to be unleashed. As the M in its name suggests, it carries a lot of features which will be found in a future M8, including a version of the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharge V-8 churning out 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. Even though this big drop-top weighs in at a portly 4,736 pounds, it is blindingly fast taking just a scant 3.5 seconds to arrive at 60 mph from a standing start, and it can cover a quarter mile in 12 seconds. An eight-speed automatic sends power to all four wheels.

In addition to its go-fast attributes, The M850i is thrillingly agile on back road twists and turns. It imparts a high level of confidence in the driver — no matter his or her skill level — with tight and responsive handling and a considerable amount of grip. To get the most out of the car push the shifter over to the Sport or the very aggressive Sport Plus mode.

This is the first 8-Series convertible in about 20 years and replaces the departing 650i. The Series nomenclature is a bit strange because the M850i is 1.8 inches shorter and its wheelbase is 1.3-inches less than the outgoing 650I. Even so this is a big convertible with a large engine that will quickly suck up a tank of premium gas EPA-rated at 17mpg city, 26 highway and 20 overall.

Standard features include 20-inch wheels, adaptive LED/laser headlights, power-folding heated mirrors, a power trunk lid, soft-close doors, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a sport exhaust, selectable drive modes, an automated parking system, and a power-folding cloth top.

The interior is resplendent in Merino leather seats with the front seats power adjustable 20 ways with 4-way adjustable lumbar support. You’ll even find plenty of room in the center console’s storage compartment, and BMW thoughtfully installed two cupholders under the center stack that can be closed off for a cleaner look.

The gear selector has the appearance of fine-grade crystal, though why designers thought it necessary to place the button for “park” down on the gear lever itself is a mystery to us. Why not leave it in the regular gear sequence? Drive, Neutral, Reverse, and Park seems to work just fine.

Operation of the top is accomplished by tugging on a small lever on the console. The fabric roof raises and lowers in 15 seconds and at speeds up to 30 mph, handy if a sudden shower hits. When closed, the cabin remains very quiet.

Technological and other functions can be operated by an iDrive controller, voice commands, or gesture control, and the large touchscreen at the top of the center stack does provide vital information at a quick glance.

Standard interior features include a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, wireless device charging and BMW's Live Cockpit, which combines a 12-inch customizable gauge cluster behind the steering wheel with a 10-inch touchscreen center console display. BMW's iDrive controller is still present and offers haptic feedback when selecting functions and commands. Safety features include front collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

Note that even though the M850i is a large car, rear seating is tight and if you shoehorn two adults into the rear seats we advise making it a short run to the restaurant or movie. If you have two small children to transport, the rear seats work well for them.

The $122,395 starting price of the M850i convertible escalated to $126,695 in our test car after options including $3,400 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins 12-speaker surround sound audio system and Driving Assistant Package were added.

If you want the M850i, but can do without the drop-top, it comes in xDrive Coupe format. Our well-equipped coupe tester came to $119,295. And for 2020, BMW has added the M840i, which is essentially the same car, but with a smaller 6-cylinder engine with 335 horsepower and a price tag that starts under $100,000.

Base price: $122,395; as driven, $126,695
Engine: twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8
Horsepower: 523 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 553 foot-pounds @ 1,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 111.1 inches
Length: 191.2 inches
Curb weight: 4,736 pounds
Turning circle: 39 feet
Luggage capacity: 12.4 cubic feet (top up)
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 17 city, 26 highway, 20 combined
0-60: 3.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Mercedes SL Class, Porsche 911, Jaguar F-Type

The Good
• Outstanding performance
• Luxury-infused interior
• Excellent cargo room for convertible

The Bad
• Overweight

The Ugly
• Tiny backseat