BMW's 8-series convertible is a class act with a plush ride and punchy performance
BMW's 8-series convertible: Alfresco with flair The M850i xDrive Convertible has rear-biased all-wheel-drive, rear-wheel steering and a rear differential lock, all of which allow for better grip and nimbler handling on twisty roads. PHOTO: LIONEL SEAH

The BMW 8-series replaces the 6-series range, which includes a coupe, convertible and a four-door.

Following quickly after the 8-series coupe, which was released for a test-drive five months ago, the convertible is put through its paces.

More bracing and roll bars, which compensate for the missing hard roof, has made the ragtop heftier. The M850i xDrive Convertible is 125kg heavier than its coupe equivalent. At 2,015kg, it is a heavyweight for a grand tourer.

This is offset by a more powerful engine. The car's twin-turbo V8 has been reworked to produce 530hp and 750Nm - 80hp and 100Nm more than the previous 6er equivalent. It sends the topless 8 to 100kmh in 3.9 seconds or 0.6 seconds quicker than the 6.

Like the 8-series Coupe, it is bestowed with rear-biased all-wheel-drive, rear-wheel steering and a rear differential lock. These make for better grip and nimbler handling on twisty roads.

Its electric M-Sport steering is quick and looks sporty, but lacks feedback.

Sport mode sharpens the car's damping, accelerator and transmission, while amplifying its sporty V8 rumble. Sport Plus puts the car on edge, with an even more vocal exhaust coming to the fore.

In Comfort mode, the ragtop becomes altogether serene. There is still ample torque from very low revs and its adaptive suspension softens to almost 7-series plushness - just the mode to iron out ruts, bumps and cobbled stretches at town speeds.

With the roof down, there is still a hint of V8 burble in the mode, but this is masked by wind blustering at higher speeds.

Thankfully, putting up the hood is a push-button operation which takes all of 15 seconds (previously 19). With the top up, the car is as hushed as the coupe, even on fast highway jaunts.

But with the roof up, rear visibility is limited. That is where the car's 360-camera comes in handy. What is even niftier is the Reversing Assistant, which enables hands-free reversing. In narrow confines, it retraces the last 50m of forward travel.

At 4,851mm, the car is 43mm shorter than the outgoing 6er soft-top. It is a tad wider and sits 20mm lower.

Like the coupe, the car is luxuriously appointed. Premium leather lines the dash, cockpit cowling and door shoulder. Aluminium trim detailing and a sprinkling of glassy bling for the gear shifter complete the look.

It also gets an AI-powered voice control system. Running on BMW's latest operating system, it has been enabled for over-the-air future upgrades.

Digital Key is another cool feature that is currently available to users of Samsung Galaxy phones. The phone becomes the car key.

Like its coupe twin, the M850i xDrive is plush and punchy. Variants to come include an 840i, a fourdoor gran coupe and full-on M8 sports car.