Vehicle Comparisons

BMW 8 Series Convertible

BMW 8 Series Convertible

BMW's 8 Series Convertible is a properly desirable luxury GT cabrio that's more affordable both to buy and to run than its closest rivals, cabriolet versions of the Mercedes' S-Class and Porsche's 911. It may not be an out-and-out sports car, but it's the finest open-topped car of this kind that the Munich marque has yet made.

At the end of a day spent in pursuit of the kind of business that makes possible the purchase of a car like this, you want to be rewarded on your route home by a gloriously emotive soundtrack when you fire the engine and nose out into the traffic. That's certainly delivered by the M850i version, along with an alfresco driving experience free, as you would expect, from all the roof-down buffeting and bodyshake that you'd get in a cheaper convertible. Which means that you'll be tempted to lower the roof more of the time, especially as it can be done in just 15s at speeds of up to 31mph. Raising it again cocoons you in a cabin almost as refined as you'd find in the alternative Coupe and four-door Gran Cabrio models that BMW also offers in the 8 Series range. Unfortunately, the ride is somewhat firmer than some will want.

And of course, it's fast. Even in the base 840d xDrive diesel variant, you've a 320hp in-line six cylinder petrol unit capable of sixty from rest in just 5.2s on the way to a top speed that would be well into the lock-you-up-and-throw-away-the-key area of licence confiscation were it not for a limiter that cuts in a 155mph. Otherwise, provided you don't want to get into M8 territory, your other option is the 4.4-litre 530hp V8 provided by the M850i xDrive model. This engine's torquey too, with more than enough pulling power to make unnecessary as many as eight ratios in the ZF automatic gearbox. Use them and you can access performance that'll catapult you to 62mph from rest in a Porsche-worrying 3.9s. Toupees will need to be very firmly tied down.

Using the new 8 Series platform and its dimensions match those of the BMW 8 Series Coupe almost exactly. A focus on body rigidity means that only a small number of additional convertible-specific and weight-increasing measures were required in this design. Precise character lines trace the path of the airflow between the front and rear wheels while tapered surfaces around the front wheels and doors spread out at the top of the rear wheels. The roof is lightweight and provides superb acoustic insulation. When closed, it sits taut over the interior, thus retaining its coupe-like silhouette without compromising on design.

A wind defector is standard. This can be set up in the rear-seat area to reduce turbulence when the roof is down. When not required it can be folded to half its size and stowed in the boot. Neck warmers integrated in the front-seat head restraints are also standard. There's very little back seat space but the rear-seat backrest can be split 50:50 and, thanks to the through-loading facility, the capacity of the luggage compartment can be extended as required. With the soft-top closed, the stowage capacity is 350-litres. In order to ensure the load compartment offers as much space and flexibility as possible, the soft-top compartment can be lifted and the through-loading facility used even when driving with the top down.

There are only two ways I could really imagine anyone being disappointed by this BMW. If you expect it to be an out-and-out sports car. Or if you can't afford it. The first is unrealistic. Buy a car of this kind and you're buying a Grand Tourer. That's what the target market wants. And this 8 Series is very good indeed at GT motoring. Yet at the same time, significantly more dynamically able than its 6 Series predecessor if you should want to start throwing it about. As for the prices, yes they're high but realistically you can't really have any complaints about that either, given that rival brands are asking similar sums.

Bigger, faster and sleeker than before, for me it's the most desirable convertible the Bavarian brand has ever made. A car you could comfortably choose over a comparable Porsche, Mercedes or Maserati? You'd better believe it.

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Maserati GranCabrio

Maserati GranCabrio

Pretty? Check. Thunderous V8 engine? Check. Luxurious leather-clad interior? Check. The Maserati GranCabrio has proved to be a fine demonstration of where the Maserati is going in the modern era and has recently received its final package of updates. If you're lucky enough to have £110,000-£120,000 to spend on a sports convertible, you would be remiss not to consider it.

Engine choice isn't a Maserati forte and those with an aversion to petrol V8s will need to look elsewhere. It's a good thing that there's very little not to like about the hugely charismatic 4.7-litre engine that powers the GranCabrio and the other modern Maseratis. With 453bhp at 7,000rpm, owners can expect that sportscar intensity at the top end with a beguiling exhaust note to match but there's also 490Nm of torque at 4,750rpm, so it should be perfectly possible to leisurely waft the GranCabrio around at speeds more suited to showing-off. A 180mph top speed and 5.0s 0-62mph sprint time will leave nobody in any doubt as to the car's potency. Two versions are on offer, the entry-level 'Sport' variant and the more dynamically-focused 'MC' variant, which gets more agressively firm suspension. Both use the same engine and drive through a 6-speed ZF auto gearbox.

The Maserati Skyhook suspension system is included as standard on the GranCabrio. It integrates with the MSP safety system and the automatic paddle-shift gearbox to adjust the car's damper settings according to the driving conditions. It can also be locked in to Sport mode for a firmer ride and better body control when you're looking to make the most of the GranCabrio's performance. Braking is by Brembo with the aid of dual-cast brake disc technology for optimum stopping performance.

A Maserati should be beautiful and with the GranTurismo, this manufacturer showed it has regained a firm grip on what makes a car gawp-worthy. The GranCabrio appears to have shed none of the coupe version's elegance and poise in the process of loosing its roof. The replacement for the hard-top is a traditional canvas item that takes a leisurely 28 seconds to lower, but then, the GranCabrio is touted as a full four-seater convertible and a 2,942mm wheelbase would appear to back this up. The roof has a lot of cabin to cover and should be forgiven for taking its time. At least the conversion process can take place at speeds of up to 19mph.

The advantages of a canvas roof are clear for Maserati. As well as being the traditional method by which classic open-topped models like the A6G Frua Spyder, 3500 GT Vignale Spyder and Mistral Spyder kept the weather out, it helps the car retain its aerodynamic shape and optimum weight distribution. The GranCabrio has the same high level of aerodynamic performance as the hard-top GranTurismo, a lower centre of gravity and the same slightly rear-biased weight distribution.

Inside, it's all hand-crafted leather and the big news with this revised model is the installation of a new centre-dash touchscreen infotainment system. As promised, there's more back seat space than most rivals can offer: this really is a genuine four-seat convertible.

Great pride is taken by Maserati in its ability to offer a whole host of bespoke trim and colour options to its customers. With 14 exterior paint shades, six different canvas colours for the soft-top roof, a variety of interior leather options and cabin trim finishes ranging from Dark Chrome to Moonwood, there's huge scope to let your personal taste, or lack thereof, to run wild. Included is a BOSE audio system and an advanced dual-zone climate control system. There's even a bespoke luggage set specially designed to fit the 173-litre boot on the options list.

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Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet

Based on the Mercedes S-Class Coupe, the brand's much improved S-Class Cabriolet model goes up against the likes of the Bentley Continental GT Convertible and other super-luxurious four seat drop-tops.

Those hoping to get the relatively sensible V6 diesel or hybrid powertrain in an S-Class Cabriolet will be disappointed. As befits such a luxurious automobile, the base engine is a 4.0-litre twin turbocharged V8 that pumps out a healthy 469bhp in the S560 (up from 455bhp in the previous S500 model). For those that think this may be a little common or just lacking in muscle, there's the Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet. This derivative also features 4.0-litre V8 power, in this case AMG's 612bhp hand-built unit that can still hit 62mph from standstill in 4.2 seconds. If you must have the ultimate, the 630bhp V12 S65 will be the one to have.

Being a German luxury performance car, you'll headbutt the limiter at 155mph although this model would no doubt go considerably faster. Despite the performance, this is no out-and-out sports car so don't expect the last word in feel or feedback or for it to enjoy being hustled along. Sure, it'll get down a twisty road at a fair old lick but it's unlikely you'll feel rewarded by doing it. It's much better to waft along safe in the knowledge that although you could out-drag most cars on the road; you just don't need to prove it.

As you would expect, the S-Class Convertible owes much to the S-Class Coupe on which it's based. Which means that it shares the recent mid-term updates that see the addition of new Multibeam LED headlights and a revised front grille and bumper. The interior instrument layout's been updated too. As for the cabriolet element, well at first glance you might think Mercedes just took a hacksaw to the roof of the Coupe derivative and then added a canvas covering. While the two bodystyles do indeed share a great deal of metalwork (including the slightly controversial rear end), the Convertible has a steeper rake to the screen which has a strengthened frame. There's also added reinforcement in the floor of the car's shell and extending roll bars that deploy should you manage to flip your Cabriolet.

The soft top itself is said to be the largest folding canvas roof currently used by a production vehicle. This three-layer hood has a new butyl outer layer to not only ensure no water can permeate into the cabin but to lower noise levels as well. Should you find yourself in the middle of a sudden downpour, it only takes 20 seconds to raise or lower the roof at speeds up to 37mph. For added pose factor, you can even use the key fob to open or close the roof. Step aboard and you'll again notice much is shared with the S-Class Coupe - in other words there are few more luxurious places to be.

And in summary? Well Mercedes may have been absent from the luxury convertible market since 1971 but that doesn't seem to have caused an issue here. That Mercedes have continued to produce the C and E-Class convertibles no doubt helped but even so, the S-Class Cabriolet is clearly a cut above either of its lesser siblings. Compared to the Bentley Continental GT Convertible, you could even argue the Mercedes is good value, being both larger and with a lower entry price too.

Saying that, it's unlikely price will be a major consideration to those after an S-Class Convertible. Nor is it likely to be something you'd buy to be sensible; something like this is an object of desire that you want rather than need. Is it the ultimate expression of open air luxury? I'm sure Rolls-Royce may disagree but then in S63 guise especially, the Mercedes is much faster. It's a tough life having to spend more than £115,000 on a car.

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