Car reviews - BMW - 8 Series - M8
Brutal V8, gorgeous design inside and out, acceleration, handling and roadholding for its size, sharp transmission, good boot size
Room for improvement
Engine note quieter than AMG, ride not befitting a grand tourer, token rear seats, price over M50i grade
BMW coronates new range-topper with stylish and feisty M8 Competition coupe
20 May 2020
IT WAS 12 months ago almost to the day that BMW reintroduced the famous 8 Series nameplate that first made waves in the 1990s, bringing the flagship coupe back to the fore with the stylish and potent M850i.
New variants and body styles were rolled out across the year, and now the time has come to introduce the top-spec variant to the range, the fire-breathing M8 Competition coupe.
Claimed by BMW to be the fastest M car in history, the M8 Competition arrives with expectations high enough to match its $352,900 plus on-roads pricetag. So how does the M division’s new crown jewel stack up?
First drive impressions
As mentioned, the M8 Competition arrives Down Under with an asking price of $352,900 plus on-roads, making it the second-most expensive variant in BMW’s line-up, behind the opulent M760Li limousine, which asks $378,900.
The M8 is also priced $77,000 north of its M850i counterpart – a considerable premium over a model that already has genuine performance credentials.
As a hard-charging grand tourer, the M8 Competition will be pegged against well-heeled rivals such as the Aston Martin DB11 V8 ($374,995), Maserati GranTurismo MC ($345,000), Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe ($384,700) and McLaren GT ($399,995).
With such classy and stylish competitors, the M8 has a lot to live up to, however seeing the vehicle for the first time, we can say that the big two-door will not be overwhelmed by its rivals.
While BMW has released some vehicles with designs that have raised some eyebrows (think the new 7 Series and X7 with their massive kidney grilles), we think the Bavarain car-maker’s designers have knocked it out of the park with the M8.
From the outside, the silhouette evokes classical front-engine GT proportions with a long bonnet, low, raking roofline and bootlid lip spoiler, while the low, wide stance, aggressive bodykit and quad-exit exhausts combine for a look that will surely be seen as a future classic.
Add to the fact that our test vehicle came with the exclusive Frozen Marina Bay blue metallic paint hue and the optional M carbon exterior package ($10,300), and it becomes clear that the M8 is something of an automotive supermodel.
That theme continues inside the cabin, with BMW blending beautiful materials such as stitched and perforated leather and brushed aluminium, the latest tech and a gorgeous fit and finish befitting a car that is worth multiple years’ salary for most people.
In particular, the two-tone black-and-beige leather upholstery is a highlight, as is the upper dashboard, which aside from the Bowers & Wilkins speaker, is trimmed entirely in Walknappa leather.
One consequence of the beautifully tapered roofline is that the two rear seats are rendered essentially useless unless your age is in the single digits, with both headroom and legroom left wanting despite the car’s 4851mm length.
Boot depth is surprisingly good, and should be able to fit a pair of golf clubs in the back. But, it must be said, the usability of the M8 is not its major selling point.
Prior to its launch, BMW has been touting the performance credentials of the M8 Competition, namely its 300km/h-plus top speed and zero-to-100km/h sprint time of just 3.2 seconds, which the brand says makes it the fastest M car to date.
This has been made possible in part to the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 hiding under the bonnet of the M8 Competition, which has been tuned to produce a massive 460kW/750Nm, matching the outputs of the M5 Competition sedan and X5/X6 M large SUVs.
All that power is channelled to the road via an eight-speed automatic transmission, with BMW employing a rear-biased all-wheel-drive set-up that retains the classic rear-drive BMW feel without completely overloading the rear wheels.
Taking the M8 out onto the road, it quickly becomes apparent why it is considered the flagship of the M line-up, putting all of its bent-eight power to good use.
Performance, in particular acceleration from the big V8 is staggering, particularly once the engine has spooled up and is sitting in the sweet spot of the rev range.
Pushing the throttle when the tachometer is north of 3000rpm instantly shoves you into the back of your seat, with the M8 leaping down the road like a predator in hot pursuit of its prey.
Shifting gears results in a particularly violent forward surge, and is accompanied by the appropriate chorus of pops and burbles. While the BMW V8 sounds good, we still have to give the engine noise crown to those over at Affalterbach operating the Mercedes-AMG skunkworks.
During our drive we recorded a fuel consumption figure of 15.0 litres per 100km, well up on the official 10.4L/100km but admittedly recorded with a day spent testing the dynamic limits of the car.
Acceleration is particularly impressive when exiting corners, with an instantaneous response made possible by the xDrive system and limited-slip M differential that keeps the car hurtling in the right direction without any understeer or snap oversteer, giving the driver an unreasonable amount of confidence for a car with proportions that would seemingly be better suited to a long, cruisy Sunday drive.
Engaging one of the two M Modes – a relatively new feature for Aussie BMWs – allows for a small amount of wheel slip and oversteer through the corners, however its long wheelbase and wide wheel track help retain a feeling of stability.
On the flipside, its size means it is more suited to long, sweeping bends and straight-line acceleration than it is for tight mountain passes, however it certainly holds its own in just about any dynamic situation.
The eight-speed auto does a great job as always, in particular when it holds high gears when braking hard into corners, to ensure most of the 460kW is on offer for exits.
Steering feedback is on the heavy side and communicative, giving the driver a feeling of connection to the road you would expect from an M car.
One of the first things we noticed when driving the M8 Competition was its ride quality – as a car of its size, we expected the M8 to be somewhat of a comfortable grand tourer that could wear the M superhero suit when required, but would otherwise be an opulent and plush GT car.
However the ride quality, even when set in comfort mode, is clearly stiffer than its more affordable 840i counterpart, with a firm calibration that combines with the (admittedly very stylish) 20-inch alloys to create a level of comfort that cannot exactly be described as a magic carpet ride.
Those looking to buy an M8 to do the double duty of a comfortable barge that can turn on the performance when needed will be disappointed – it is far more supercar than grand tourer, despite its dimensions pointing towards the opposite.
If BMW could introduce an Alpina-like Comfort+ suspension setting, it would make the M8 a far more palatable daily driving prospect, as all the other factors (namely its size and gorgeously appointed interior) make it a perfect candidate for a desirable GT car.
Fans have certainly had to wait a long time for an M8. In the 1990s BMW developed a V12-powered M car for its halo 8 Series that never came to fruition, however now that it’s here, it’s easy to say that it has been worth the wait.
Gorgeous looks, brutal performance and sharp handling are good key pillars for a successful supercar – all factors that BMW has provided in spades with the new M8 Competition.
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