I was mesmerized, for the first time in my 20-plus years of reviewing cars, by a gear shifter.
Yes, the shifter.
In this case, I immediately said to my wife, “Hey, it’s a dilithium crystal from Star Trek.”
You have to see the crystal beauty to believe it.
But let’s wait a moment before we get inside. What exactly is this car all about?
It seems as if BMW has put a lot of time and effort into their line of SUVs in the last few years, which is understandable. That segment has exploded in popularity, so why not go where the buyers are?
There hasn’t been an 8-series in the BMW arsenal since the 1990s, but if the M850i is any indication, it’s been well worth the wait.
A ferocious V8 engine cranks out 523 horsepower. The xDrive transmits that power to its all-wheel drive. And, oh by the way, it looks dynamite just sitting at the curb.
Throw in the option of a convertible, and you find yourself making excuses to leave the house just to go for a drive. I think I even drove down to check the mailbox one day.
The lines are magnificent, and the overall visual aspect is stunning. It’s funny, because the car looks like it’s all business . . . until you fire up that beast and realize it’s more fun than almost anything else on the road.
The Bavarian engineers like to keep things pretty minimalist with their interiors, and that’s usually a good thing.
Sure, it’s a luxurious cockpit, full of elegance and style. It’s not the most comfortable of the BMWs I’ve driven, but I think it would be practically impossible given what they’re delivering in terms of performance.
Don’t misunderstand; it’s comfy, all right. This is still a luxury car. But there’s that undeniable feel of being in a rocket, which is a different kind of comfort.
Technically there are four seats in this car. I said technically. You’d have to be a sadist to ask anyone over the age of five to sit back there. Even they will gripe, but just bribe them with some chicken nuggets. Again, we don’t care. That’s not why we’re buying the 850.
Storage up front was actually pretty good — more than I expected — and while trunk space is compromised by the storage area needed for your convertible top, it’s still decent.
Noise is well abated. Road and wind noise were almost non-existent, and really none of that stands a chance of being heard over the 850’s delicious growl.
If you splurge and get the convertible, it’ll retract in about 16 seconds, and
then close in about 21.
In a word? Spectacular.
There’s something about feeling no qualms whatsoever with merging and passing, and with this car it’s almost the opposite: You get excited about passing.
I drove from Denver to Colorado Springs along a small two-lane highway, which ordinarily can be tricky when it comes to passing. The M850i jumps around slow trucks in a heartbeat. It’s one of the most confidence-boosting cars I’ve driven.
Look, professionals claim the zero to sixty time of less than 4 seconds. Be careful.
But you truly get the entire package. Steering, braking, and handling are all first-rate. This is where the BMW marketing slogan is spot-on: It’s the ultimate driving machine.
Yeah, I’ve never been a fan of the gizmos and gadgets that luxury car-makers put into their creations. BMW is one of those that seems to focus a bit too much on the overly-techy devices.
Here it works out well. If there’s a knock for some people, it’s with the smartphone integration.
For starters, still no Android Auto, and like many others, I don’t understand that.
As for Apple CarPlay, it’s there — but while it seems almost everyone else offers it for an unlimited time (and at no cost), with the M850i you get it for just one year, and then it will cost you a subscription.
Hmm. The sticker on this car is (with options) more than $130,000. You can’t deliver Apple CarPlay without a subscription?
The Bottom Line
In the last few weeks I’ve been blessed to drive a couple of my favorite cars of the entire year. Two weeks ago it was the Audi S5.
Now the M850i zooms to the front of the class. This was a delight to drive, both on the twisty turns of mountain roads and on the straightaways of the highway.
If we’ve had to wait 20 years for the return of the 8-series, this is one helluva coming out party.
2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible
8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 17/26/20 combined
As tested: $131,395
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer