By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Eagle, Idaho – A recent BMW online newsletter we received suggested a road trip in a BMW, and by coincidence we were testing BMW’s first-ever M850i convertible. It was a perfect time for a short road trip. We would have preferred to try the newsletter’s suggested European delivery program, but they didn’t offer that to us.
Being new Idaho residents, we had yet to explore all the roads and wondrous sights that surround our home area, so for the BMW trip, we planned an overnighter to the famous Sun Valley resort area.
Road Trip to Sun Valley
From our home there are several routes to Sun Valley. We chose the mountain route initially, arriving in Sun Valley/Ketchum from the north, and the more direct return, down the valley, out on to the Idaho plains and back to the Boise area.
This time of year, the scenery is magnificent with green hills running into the blue pine covered mountains topped by snow covered peaks. For the last leg driving south into the Sun Valley/Ketchum we were rewarded with a view of the Saw Tooth Mountains with their 57 peaks with elevations of more then 10,000 feet.
BMW M850i Rivals Scenery
The new BMW M850i rivaled the scenery, but what else could we expect from a $131,000 convertible. It’s a large car that measures a couple inches longer than the big Bentley Continental GT convertible, but it has the power and agility to competes with the world’s best GT cars. The M850i is also available as a coupe.
The car stood out in this wealthy vacation area among the abundant Porsche, Range Rover and Mercedes cars and SUVs, and we even saw a couple Ferraris in the mix. However, the long, low, and wide the new 8 Series turned many heads even in this jaded community.
We especially like the clean leather and stainless steel covered high-tech interior appointments and the complex but easy-to-use controls. The interior also has many handy storage areas in the center console and doors. The interior is crowned by a crystal shift knob mounted on the top of the shift lever…at night it is illuminated.
Top Down in Only 15 Seconds
It takes only 15 seconds to lower or raise the insulated cloth top, and it can be done at speeds up to 30 mph, so stopping is not necessary. With the top up it’s as quiet as a coupe and with the top down, and the wind deflector mounted over the rear seat and the windows up, it is quiet enough for us to easily talk and listen to music on the optional Bowers and Wilkins sound system.
The plush leather sport seats have heating, cooling, extensions, booster adjustments and the important neck warmers for topless driving on cool days. There is also a heated steering wheel. The convertible is designed to carry four adults, but we think the best use of the rear seat is for the front seat passenger’s “things” or to be used in a parade for dignitaries to sit on the seat back and while waving to the crowds.
A unique new feature on the M850 is BMWs Adaptive LED Headlights with LaserLight technology. On a dark road we could see the lights illuminate a sign more than a mile ahead. Using safe blue lasers, projected into mirrors and through special lens, the system creates an intense white light, but it won’t harm a person’s retinas. The lights are said to be 10 times brighter than LEDs, 30 percent more efficient and they don’t “dazzle” the eyes of on-coming driver.
Active Driving Assistant Pro
As expected, the M850i has every conceivable safety technology and driver’s aid. We were particularly impressed by how accurate the Active Driving Assistant Pro system is. It followed the curving roads staying centered in the lane with no driver input, other than keeping hands on the wheel. The driver receives a visual scolding if the hands left the steering wheel for more than a few seconds.
Twin Turbo V-8 Engine
While all the bells, whistles and bling are nice, what really makes this car unique is hidden from view, but easily exposed when the driver’s right foot is pushed down. Under the hood there is a 523-hp twin-turbo V-8 engine. It’s attached to what we think is the best transmission made, an eight-speed ZF automatic, which is driving all four wheels as needed. The pair will launch the 4,623-pound convertible from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 3.8 seconds. The top track speed is limited to 155 miles per hour. If that’s not enough there is an M8 version in the pipeline that will raise the horsepower to 617 and drop the acceleration time to 3.0 seconds and raise the top speed to 189 mph.
Rear-wheel steering enhances the M850i’s agility producing a tight 19.5 foot turning radius. To put that in prospective, a tiny Smart car has a 22.8 foot turning radius. The system is designed to improve steering accuracy at high speeds by turning the rear wheels the same direction as the front. At slow speeds the rear wheels turn the opposite direction to allow for super sharp turns.
Next to the shifter on the console the driver can select a drive mode button which changes not only engine and transmission settings, but also the flap-controlled sports exhaust system. This means you can drive around with a quiet muted exhaust note or with the rumble of a big V-8.
Impressive Fuel Economy
With power like this we expected to be making regular stops at the gas stations, but the car gets an EPA rating of 17 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. We averaged 25.4 mpg for the trip, and we figured the auto stop system helped bring that number up by shutting the car down when we stopped for lights. The auto stop system is very smooth and a big improvement over earlier BMW systems we’d experienced, which were very rough on the re-start.
The 2019 BMW M850i Convertible has a base price of $122,395 including the destination charge. Our test vehicle had an additional $9,000 in options that brought the bottom line to $131,395
While doing auto reviews for more than 28 years, we’ve driven hundreds of new BMWs, and the 2019 BMW M850i Convertible is easily the best yet. Obviously at this price point it’s a car that few new car shoppers can afford, but it’s something that will appeal to nearly everyone, even though it’s not a crossover. And if you can afford one, what are you waiting for?