When we first saw the BMW M850i, we weren't quite sure what it was. The big, V-8 two-door could have been a cushy luxury ride, a hardcore sports car or somewhere in between.
Now, after spending a week with the convertible model, we're still not sure what this car wants to be. It's comfortable, quiet and well-appointed, but there's nothing so special going on here that we'd recommend the $126,395 convertible we tested.
For that money, you're getting a lot of features and some serious oomph. It's got BMW's latest suite of driver-assistance features, a cutting-edge iDrive infotainment setup, acres of leather and a healthy dose of stainless steel trim with aluminum accents.
Our tester also had the glass controls option, which glitzes up the shifter, start-and-stop button, iDrive controller and other details with intricate glass detailing. You'll also find comfortable, heated and cooled seats and adaptive suspension.
Power comes from a 523-horsepower, 4.4-liter turbocharged V-8 and arrives at all four wheels via BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Not only are all four wheels powered, but all four wheels also contribute to steering duties. At low speeds, the rear wheels will turn the opposite direction of the fronts to make the big Bavarian car more maneuverable. When speeds pick up, the rear steering system moves in the same direction as the front wheels to increase stability while steering.
That's a lot of information, but it all basically means the same thing: the M850i is built for high-speed, grand touring. It's extremely stable at high speeds — with the top up — shockingly quiet for a convertible. Taken as a whole, the combination of a nice interior, great seats, good road manners and a semi-autonomous driver assistance system, the M850i is great for cross-state freeway hauling.
And we should say that it's handled the transition to convertible life well. The top can open or close in 15 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. With the top down, wind is well managed so long as you keep windows up and the wind deflector in place. It's worth noting that the wind deflector covers up the back seats. The $400 neck warmer is a must-have for cool weather cruising.
Plus, the M850i is a pretty car. We think it looks better as a coupe, but the convertible model is still attractive.
As the length of the previous section betrays, there's a lot to like about a pretty convertible that goes zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds and is still comfortable on the highway. But throughout the week, we couldn't find anything to love.
The car handles well for instance, but it feels heavy and uninterested in dynamic driving. There's no steering wheel to speak of, a particular issue when the four-wheel-steering system makes the behavior of the M850i hard to predict. It's hard to see how this thing bears the same badge as the telepathic M2 Competition.
Of course, the M850i is way bigger than the M2 and isn't even the most aggressive version of the 8 Series that BMW has planned. An M8 and even more hardcore M8 Competition are inbound to cure the dynamic failings of the M850i, so maybe you shouldn't expect this to be the best driving coupe.
Maybe it'd be better if you ignored the M in front of the name that implies that the 850i is a performance model. Taken as a luxury coupe, though, it doesn't quite hold up.
The interior is nice, but at $126,395 it needs to blow you away. It doesn't. The cabin is just another version of the same basic BMW design that has been in production since the Dark Ages. It'll take more than a $650 glass controls package to make this look worthy of this price point.
Plus, the M850i convertible has usability foibles that BMW usually avoids. The power top control, which can be activated on the move, is identical in size and shape to the parking brake control that sits two inches to the left of it. At one point, trying to operate the top at about 10 mph, we accidentally triggered a massive lurch as the parking brake engaged.
It also comes with side collision avoidance, designed to protect you from cars sideswiping you. We're big proponents of active safety features and believe that mitigating accidents is a top priority. Unfortunately, this system needs a lot of work.
Especially when passing wide tractor-trailers, the M850i gets spooked and violently jerks away. Though the system activated multiple times during our evaluation, we never felt like the vehicle was about to be sideswiped. As it stands, we'd probably turn the feature off.
The BMW M850i is in a weird segment. There are super luxury coupes like the Mercedes S-Class, sports cars like the Porsche 911 and cars in the middle like the Lexus LC 500.
Each of those competitors is formidable in its own right. The Porsche offers impeccable performance, the Lexus offers fantastic looks with solid dynamics and the Mercedes has a gorgeous exterior design with an industry-leading interior. The M850i has a good interior, good powertrain, good looks and good performance. But in the world of six-figure flagships, good isn't good enough.
Driving Experience: 3
Price as tested: $126,395
Ratings out of 5.