Sometimes, you just want to drop the top and go for a spin.
Too often, we think of convertibles as elemental sports cars, designed for going fast and attacking curves with the wind whipping through your hair. But we’d posit that while convertibles make great sports cars, the body style is at its best in more a relaxed role.
Take the 2020 BMW 840i. Oh sure, it has performance pretenses – there’s a Sport driving mode and paddle shifters behind the steering wheel – but this is a car that’s best at about 45 miles per hour with the roof down, traveling in a straight line. It’s a car for cruising, not corner carving, and that’s a key to appreciating the biggest two-door BMW.
It shouldn’t be a big surprise that we like the 840i Convertible so much, though. We had plenty of good things to say about the 840i Gran Coupe. Unlike the four-door model, though, the ability to drop the top makes the character feel more relaxed. We can forgive the aloofness from the chassis and steering and the more relaxed 5.0-second sprint to 60 more easily here than in the Gran Coupe. At the same time, the convertible lets in more of the sound from BMW’s excellent turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six and, we’d argue, looks even better with the roof down.
Brandon Turkus, Managing Editor
Favorite Thing: Fast-Acting Roof
Least Favorite Thing: Pretty, But Too Low Key
As an older millennial, I count myself lucky that I came of driving age in a world where almost every convertible top was power-operated. Sure, there were occasionally latches to pull here and there, but raising or lowering the roof has almost always been as simple as pressing a button. Ultimately, a convenient roof means it’s easier to exploit traffic lights or iffy weather conditions.
The 840i is perfect in this regard. It takes just 15 seconds to raise or lower the roof, and the system works at up to 31 miles per hour. This isn’t the fastest roof by any stretch, but the ability to raise and lower it on the go makes outright speed less of an issue. With the top in place, the cabin is quiet and isolated. Drop the roof and the 8-Series Convertible is refined in its behavior. There’s no cowl shake, and even with the windows down, it’s still possible to have a conversation at a normal volume. You can get a wind deflector, but unless you’re regularly driving at high speeds, the 8 Series doesn’t need one.
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These are typical traits I expect on a six-figure convertible. But the BMW ups the ante with its party trick: the ability to raise or lower the roof from outside the car. Simply hold the lock button on the key fob and the 840i’s roof mechanism does the rest, even lowering and raising the windows as needed. Again, the BMW isn’t alone in this ability, but it’s still a rare enough feature that it’s worth complimenting.
The 840i looks best as a Gran Coupe, but it looks nearly as good as a convertible, even with the roof up. That said, unless you’re brave with the color palette and wheel options, it’s too easy to build a car that, well, is pretty darn boring. Thank the standard wheels and color palette of pale, monochromatic shades. My test car looked good, thanks to its $5,000 matte gray paint and 19-inch M Sport wheels. Still, it takes some serious coin to make a base 840i stylish enough to justify its $100,000 starting price.
Jeff Perez, Senior Editor
Favorite Thing: Good Looks
Least Favorite Thing: Useless Second Row
Most of us (though, maybe not all of us) agree that the 8 Series Gran Coupe is the best-looking configuration of the bunch. But the convertible comes in a close second in terms of styling. The drop-top 8's long hood, aggressive headlights, not-too-large kidney grilles, and svelte profile – especially with the roof removed – tick all the right boxes. This car just has excellent proportions all around.
The interior looks just as good. The 10.3-inch touchscreen and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster are the two most eye-catching features, obviously. But the high-quality leather seats and brushed aluminum trim pieces, plus the diamond-cut, Swarovski crystal gear shift lever, give the 8 Series an ultra-luxurious feel.
But while the front buckets are a nice place to sit, passengers in the second row probably won't be so happy – I certainly wasn't. Even though the 8 Series is a lengthy 16.0 feet long, the second row offers just 29.5 inches of legroom. By comparison, the tiny Toyota 86's notoriously cramped second row has more room: 29.9 inches. Yikes.
Gallery: 2020 BMW 840i Convertible: Driving Notes
2020 BMW 840i Convertible