- Typically-BMW build quality
- Sleek looks
- Commanding road presence
- Incredibly sophisticated
There was a time when a true grand tourer was an elegant cabriolet with flowing lines, generous boot space and mountainous performance.
Further enhancing the glamorous trans-Europe capability of the 8 Series Convertible I have been trying out is the fact that it is a diesel. Sure, the purists will moan that it does not sound quite right and the red-line on the rev-counter is too low.
But the reality is the big turbo diesel can cross most of France between fuel stops. And it sips the costly liquid rather than gulping it. Surely a useful advantage when touring.
The 318bhp, 3.0-litre, 6-cylinder diesel may not deliver the aural thrill of a V8 petrol, but there is no doubting its clout and mid-range grunt. Floor the accelerator and 62mph flashes by in under 5.0 seconds.
The gravelly roar of the twin scroll turbos is a reasonable substitute for petrol snarl, and when full power is not being applied – i.e. much of the time – there is little more than a murmur coming from the long nose.
Ensuring that all the horses keep their hooves firmly on the ground is xDrive four-wheel drive. Not only does this aid cornering and help in slippery conditions, but it prevents embarrassing moments of wheel spin during fast getaways from standstill.
An 8-speed automatic gearbox by ZF ensures an appropriate balance between refinement and serious shove. Steering wheel paddles allow you a tad more control and can be fun on the right roads. They are particularly useful for a nifty overtaking manoeuvre.
Few would expect a 155mph luxury express to attain nearly 40mpg, but that is exactly what the 840d is capable of, even when delivering high average speeds.
The suspension is a tour de force, allowing a composed and almost soft ride with negligible roll. Adjustable dampers are standard as is active steering which sharpens the response and allows decent communication with the road surface.
Weighing in at nearly two tons, it’s a big car and although the power and dynamic ability tends to counteract its girth, the centrifugal forces of physics are not to be totally denied. Nevertheless, cornering can be rapid and secure.
The cabin is sensible and solid rather than extravagant, but the use of quality hide and soft touch materials remind you this is more luxury tourer than sports car.
Digital instrumentation, Cockpit Professional and the newest version of BMW’s iDrive are there to be enjoyed.
I’m not so sure, however, that the hewn glass gear selector – which cost an extra £575 – is quite appropriate. More Vegas than Verona, perhaps.
Space two-up is more than ample but if four pile-in, those in the back had better have short legs because this is strictly a two-plus-two. The electric fabric hood goes down in a jiffy, but there is a fair bit of wind turbulence experienced, particularly for those in the back.
Sleek and swoopy, if also very expensive, BMW’s biggest convertible is as desirable as ever. And with diesel power it becomes a tad more sensible. With a commanding road presence, it makes light work of long journeys while also being tremendously fun when driven in a more dynamic manner.