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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

2020 BMW 840i Convertible: New flagship epitomizes BMW’s quest to build the Ultimate Driving Machine

To spend a week driving a BMW 8 Series convertible is to be reminded that people love a beautiful car.  

Heads turned everywhere we drove. 

As BMW’s new flagship, it epitomizes the company’s stated quest to build the Ultimate Driving Machine.

It doesn’t fully live up to that high bar, but doesn’t miss by much.
 
Two big updates

The 8 Series debuted last year, powered by a thunderous 523-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-8. It was available in coupe and convertible body styles.

The 850i blew through the 0-60 sprint in 3.2 seconds. In spite of it 4,200-pound curb weight, it sported terrific dynamics.

This year brings two key changes to the lineup:

BMW bolts its revered 353-hp bi-turbo inline six into the engine bay. The new six-cylinder models are named 840i.

Big V-8s are the default in this segment, but the six-banger is no ordinary six. It’s lighter and more efficient than the 4.4-liter eight (25 mpg vs. 20 mpg in combined driving). Peak torque happens between 1600–4500 rpm and the engine pulls hard all the way to its 7000 rpm redline.

At which point, you’re in serious citation territory. It’s less raucous than its counterpart, but it’s only two or three-tenths of a second slower to 60.

BMW adds to the lineup a new four-door called Gran Coupe.

It’s larger, more spacious and less costly than its stablemates, though it shares their running gear.

Some find it the prettiest — and sportiest — of the bunch.


Not flawless, but close

840i models are driven by the rear wheels. BMW’s xDrive AWD system is available. xDrive also brings all-wheel steering. 850i models get xDrive by default. Prices run from the Gran Coupe’s $84,900 to the 850i Convertible’s $121,400.

Beauty is only skin deep, of course. Many stunning machines have been undermined by disappointing cabins, mediocre mechanicals and lackluster performance.

The 8s aren’t flawless — only the Gran Coupe has a livable rear seat reasonably sized trunk, for instance — but they are a something of a return to form for BMW, whose pursuit of luxury in recent years has softened its focus on performance.

That’s not to imply the 8 Series is any less luxurious or comfortable than its predecessors.

Its cabin breaks no new design ground but is beautifully rendered. Materials quality and fit-and-finish  are as expected and ambient lighting adds a tone of exclusivity. The leather seats are some of the most supportive and comfortable we’ve tested.

A 16-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system is standard, but the available Bowers & Wilkins system offers some of the richest and cleanest sound we’ve experienced,

Glass Controls

The latest generation of the iDrive infotainment system is about as user-friendly as these systems get.

Our 840i Convertible tester included "Glass Controls.” The gear selector, volume control knob and iDrive controller are made of glass. They look great and feel good too.

Standard gear includes adaptive dampers, a power trunk-lid and soft-close doors.

Our 840i Convertible ($97,400) was a lovely early fall companion. The drive modes allowed me to alter a host of dynamic parameters, from mild to something just short of wild (next time, I’ll ask for an 850i. Other testers rave about that eight).

Nevertheless, because the weather was nice I didn’t get to sample such niceties as the available neck warmer scarf blows warm air from vents in the seatback to your neck. Another cold-weather touch includes a heated armrest and steering wheel. 

The multilayer softtop raises and lowers in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 30 mph.

The convertible is 258 pounds heavier than the coupe. Regardless, it scoots from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds.

xDrive also adds weight but because it reduces wheel spin and gets power to the ground more efficiently than RWD, AWD models are quicker than their RWD brethren.

Clearly, the 8 Series is more car, with more variants, than we have room to cover. So, maybe you’ll just have to schedule your very own test drive. 

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2020 BMW 840i Convertible
Vehicle base price: $84,900
Trim level base price: $97,400
As tested: $117,845
Options included blind-spot detection; lane departure warning; park distance control; rearview camera; Frozen Bluestone Metallic paint; Ivory/Blue Merino leather; Drivers Assistance Pro Package; Shadowline exterior trim; front ventilated seats; neck warmer; Midnight Black Softtop; Glass Controls; Bowers & Wilkins sound system
EPA rating: 24 combined/22 city/29 highway
Premium gasoline required



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.