BMW PARK LANE
28 - 45
£465 - £855
Powerful but subtle sound
Engine too quiet in Sport Mode
Foldable roof takes up much space
Cabin layout could be better
The 8 Series we picked up from BMW Park Lane is an 840d finished in Sapphire Black on the exterior and with the gorgeous Fiona Red interior. It features the Technik Pack that comes with stunning 20 inch alloys, M Sport detailing, blacked out throughout including the grill. The exterior and interior design works together harmoniously with sophisticated design of the soft top and its dedicated compartment. Designed with subtle domes and surfacing that takes its cues from the instrument panel and door shoulders it’s apparent that lots of thought has gone into the arrangement and design to make every part of this car work in unison.
It's clearly visible through the wide and low exterior design combined with the dazzling aerodynamic lines that BMW was making their mark and trying to create the ultimate luxury sports car. A low centre of gravity alongside carefully engineered even weight distribution makes it not only beautiful to look at but drive impeccably too. You can read about our driving experience lower down into the article. We must remember that the 8 Series has a lightweight construction thanks to its construction material which is aluminium, magnesium and carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic making it aerodynamically optimised to be a real contender in the BMW Sports line-up. When you look at the new 8 Series you can’t deny that it shares many traits if not the genetics of the previous generation 6 Series but as a car that we think revolutionised the design game when it was released maybe it’s only fair that this trait was passed to the 8 series to pave the road again.
The Fiona Red interior in our 8 Series did not fail to turn heads. Exquisite stitching finishes off every seat, panel and headrest within the cabin combined with the two tone blue and red details on the seatbelts included in the technik pack. The electroplated surrounds for the ‘closed clasp’ door handles flow nicely into the dash-mounted air vents, but the design of the beautiful leather M steering wheel is functional thanks to its well thought minimalistic look. Anyhow some might say that it’s not quite special enough as BMW have gone for a minimalistic ambience but perhaps they have gone a little overboard making it look more like a lack of imagination rather than a look. Continuing on, the bright colour and glass details act as a real wow factor for such a good looking car especially when the roof is open.
There’s a few main additions to the new 8 Series Interior that include BMW heads up display as standard which is a great touch by BMW and will definitely be appreciated by drivers like us. Harman Kardon speaker system and multi-function steering wheel is included as standard too. It’s important to remember that the list of options to choose from for this car is endless but BMW has done a really great job at including what is necessary not only for the driver but also to keep BMW at the top as a brand. More aesthetic extras such as the glass gear selector and selected controls are optional in the 8 series.
The revolutionary new Operating System is an interesting subject to discuss. Loyal BMW customers will find themselves not at ease at the beginning but with time differently from the old idrive system they will be able to customize their menus and infotainment system making its use much better in the long term. What was done is a big upgrade in a suite of intuitive and personalised controls. Vocal commands at the start when collecting the car will make you want to punch a hole through the screen but with the time the 8 Series will learn your way of speaking, tone, accent or any other characteristic your voice may have to make understanding a sure thing every time! In my case personally my 8 Series has yet to learn the Italian accent…
What’s more, there is also the new BMW Live Cockpit Professional, which delivers driver-centric controls, with a stunning 10.25 inch touchscreen information display and a fully digital 12.3 inch instrument cluster. If we look closer at the latest version of BMW's infotainment system opens with a 'homepage' that provides links to the most frequently accessed features by way of customisable 'tiles', sort of inspired to the now popular smartphone layout. We have wondered often following the disaster of Apple car play rather than having two operating systems running at once why not just layout the BMW menu as a large smartphone. Once you've set it to your preferences and fiddle a bit around with it, it's a very slick system indeed.
The gesture control system works well even though you look absolutely insane at when gesturing like that by yourself in the car… I’m Italian though so no one thinks any different… If instead you move your thumb left or right on the idrive dial you can switch between radio station or music tracks, or rotate it on the screen to adjust the volume. When it comes to use when the car is in motion, BMW's is one of the most intuitive touchscreen systems around.
If you read other reviews on the 8 series you will find a lot of attention put on the how low and slung the front seats in the 8 Series are. This is due to them sitting enclosed between the tall centre consoles giving you that snug feeling like the old generation 6 Series did. Many will argue this design decision of sticking with the cocooned design makes BMW cars look not as modern as competitors but we found that instead it just screamed the fact that BMW is a driver’s car! If we consider its size this design did make the interior appear smaller in comparison to other competitors such as the S-Class coupe but it also made the driver feel more in control. Furthermore this allowed for everything to be at hand and leaning forward to reach commands like in the S-Class was no were to be seen.
Unfortunately room in the back is rather limited in terms of headroom when the roof is up and the legroom. One might say it is sufficient but if once again we look at the overall dimensions of the 8 Series or as we dubbed it the "Land Yacht" the leg room in the back is too small and someone that is over 170cm tall will struggle on long trips in the back. The 8 Series’s sloping roof even with the fabric version looks sensational, but it meant headroom was greatly restricted.
If we look at storage around the cabin, it is better than you might expect, with decent door pockets, a proper glove box and two cup-holders. The central armrest has flaps that open to reveal a compartment for storing drinks, phone, wallet or other personal items. What did leave us surprised though was the lack of arm-rests in the back seats both in the centre and on the sides when there is perfectly enough space to fit some in. If we consider that we had them in our 2 Series Convertible it's a little ridiculous that the 8 Series does not. All and all the space within the cabin is well used and if we look at it as a strategic design choice the spaces do feel much more personal and connected with the car then other cars such as the S Class Coupe and convertible.
Back seat space
The boot is suitable to any need and just in line with sizes of other competitors like Bentley and Mercedes-Benz at 350 litres. Anyhow one must consider that the space is decreased when the roof is then opened up, making the depth of the boot the same but much shorter in height. This means that when the roof is up you can fit very easily a large suitcase plus some soft bags but if you intend on having the roof down, soft bags and light packing is a requirement as it will not fit otherwise.
The 8 Series we collected was an 840d diesel that produces a nice 320hp which, being a diesel many like myself before trying it personally would think it sounds very unexciting. Now after testing it we can say that it I definitely still surprisingly fast accelerating from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds and will uses a lot less fuel then other option such as the wonderfully crazy 530hp M850i petrol which sounds incredible with its sports exhaust. That instead can go from 0-62mph in a phenomenal 3.2 seconds.
As we said earlier on in the review, the BMW 8 Series Convertible can be considered as a balance between a sports car, grand tourer and luxury car proving both comfort, agility and power. Anyhow this was surprising to us as we did not expect we would ever be saying this about the 8 series, especially the 840d as it’s a car that is longer than many SUVs on the market and most of all weighs more than two tonnes. As BMW has stated the convertible 8 Series is 125kg heavier than the coupe if I’m sitting inside …. Emm no! Just kidding, the real reason for the weight is the necessary structure needed to make it as structurally sound as the coupe model in the event of a crash. The good thing is thanks to its carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic construction it’s actually not as heavy as it could be and, it's also 97% as stiff, despite its open roof.
Unlike other luxurious models from the BMW line-up like the luxury-focused BMW 7 Series saloon and BMW X7 SUV that ride on air suspension, the 8 Series Convertible gets real old school steel springs with adaptive dampers. This helps explain its incredibly reassuring handling that made me think I suddenly became a formula one driver. It works that while comfort impresses, there's a firmness to the BMW that gives it a sportier feel than some rivals like the Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet, sorry Mercedes I know I’m ripping into you in this review. In typical BMW fashion with the driver in mind they chose to not go larger than 20 inch for the car’s wheel diameter by allowing the 8 Series to easily digest poorly surfaced non-motorway roads at speed.
Despite a heavy rearward inclination, BMW’s infallible xDrive allows for such a large car to grip like never before combined with the torque monster that is under the hood of the 840d. Acceleration as it grabs into the ground like a vulture and off you go! You can flow in and out of traffic like you were driving a Z4 with a 2.3 turn of the steering wheel lock to lock and the four wheel steering. It feels light and wonderful which is surprising considering the sheer size of this car.