BMW’s flagship sports coupe is an absolute rip-snorter, with a proper sports car lurking underneath the long-legged GT body.
The 8 Series is supposed to be the replacement for the 6-Series, but it’s more than that. I reckon it’s more of a reset because both generations of the 6 were a bit hard on the eye and felt compromised. I liked them, but the M6 was definitely more fast GT/coupe version of the 5 Series than anything else, particularly in its second iteration.
Now – as we already know from the M850i – the 8 Series is a different proposition to the old 6er, and it’s better. Better-looking, better to drive, much nicer interior and a just a much better proposition.
How much is a 2020 BMW M8 Competition and what do I get?
$352,900 + ORC
Big figure, long list of stuff. Like, really long.
You get 20-inch wheels, 16-speaker Bowers and Wilkins-branded stereo, auto headlights and wipers, interior ambient lighting soft-close doors, heated folding rear vision mirrors, power boot lid, keyless entry and start, power front seats with heating and cooling, heated steering wheel, M Display key, drive recorder and dual-zone climate control.
The headlights come in for special mention – they’re BMW Laser Lights which you can see in the little blue element in the headlight unit. They’re utterly incredible, throwing a beam almost 600 metres down the road.
The 10.25-inch touchscreen hosts BMW’s operating system 7.0 which is exceptionally good. It’s full of stuff like live traffic, news and weather, intelligent personal assistant, the hilarious Caring Car (three year subscription for some of that) and wireless Apple CarPlay matched with a wireless charging. Android Auto should be with us on BMWs later in the year.
Also thrown in for Australia is the M Driver’s Package, with a largely pointless top speed increase to 305km/h but rather more usefully, BMW Driving Experience Advance 1 and 2 courses, which are tremendous fun. And you know what I always say about training – do it.
The car I drove also had the optional M carbon ceramic brakes ($16,500) and the M Carbon Exterior Package ($10,300) which adds carbon bits on the air curtain intake, carbon mirror caps, rear spoiler and a rear diffuser insert.
Total cost was $379,700 before on roads.
The M8 Competition starts with seven airbags, stability and traction controls systems, ABS and brake assist (BA), piling on forward AEB, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert (useful with the long nose), speed-limit recognition, high-beam assist, driver attention detection, night vision, around-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, among others.
Warranty and Servicing
M cars, like their lesser brethren, come with BMW’s ever-skinny three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Given Mercedes and AMG have stepped up with a five-year offering, it’s probably time BMW (and Audi) joined them.
You can buy five years of servicing for $5051 which covers 80,00km of travel. You need to return to the dealer ever year or 15,000km, which is okay.
Look and Feel
Looks amazing in frozen blue with the no-cost option wheel choice, yeah? The carbon stuff is a bit yeah, whatever for me, but that’s whatever.
I love the car’s shape, though. It’s so much more elegant than the old car’s. The detailing is typical current BMW, with a big and in this case misshapen grille. As the grille is blacked out – along with some other bits – it doesn’t matter.
The best is the rear view – those taillights are just right and I love the shape of the boot lid and the subtle carbon wing. And who doesn’t love a quad exhaust, especially when BMW has rediscovered the way to make a racket…
Inside is mostly familiar from other contemporary BMWs – including the 840 Gran Coupe we drove recently – and unlike its rivals has usable (well) rear seats. At least they’re actually seats rather than glorified shelves.
The seats look fantastic, especially with the patterned leather and Alcantara headlining. Superb.
I’d love a proper set of paddles on the steering wheel, but when I say proper, I mean ones like the Lamborghini Huracan, so…
The M8 is yet another Cluster Architecture (CLAR) BMW with the Carbon Core technology found in upper-end BMWs since the the current 7 Series made its debut.
Given the commonality with the crushingly good M5, you’ll see a lot of stuff the same.
The Active M differential connects the rear wheels as part of the M version of xDrive. The system includes several modes – AWD, AWD Sport and, ahem, rear-wheel drive.
The CLAR chassis features a carbon transmission tunnel to try and shave some weight, but she’s still a hefty beast.
Switching between the various modes also switches between the suspension’s comfort, sport and sport plus, courtesy of M Adaptive suspension. It’s not the air suspension you might find on a couple of rivals, but the M8 doesn’t need the weight. Nor, as it turns out, does it need the air suspension.
If you’re interested, the front suspension is by double wishbones and the rear a complicated five-link design, reinforced to hold itself together under the huge loads. The front axle has 1.2-degrees of negative camber, which is a lot for a road car. BMW says that’s inspired by the M8 GTE racer. Kinda pub talk cool, but if you bang on about this on internet forums, not so cool.
BMW’s new integrated braking system flings the vacuum booster of old and replaces it with an electric actuator. That means faster responses to pedal pressure and engineers have been able to match braking response to the chosen mode.
The brilliant BMW 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 – beautifully installed with a standard carbon cover – delivers an astonishing 460kW and 750Nm through the ubiquitous eight-speed ZF automatic.
M xDrive sends the power to all four wheels or, when you decide, only to the rear wheels. The systems is rear-biased and brings the fronts more into play when required, which given the power and torque available is reasonably often.
Maximum torque – probably more than the quoted 750Nm, if you’re wondering – arrives at 1800rpm and hangs around until 5800rpm. Just 200rpm later all 460kW (or more, again) arrives.
On the way home from the Secret Magic Car Dungeon where I pick up cars, there is a tunnel. I pressed the M1 button on the steering wheel to ensure the exhausts were wide open and gunned it.
This thing can roar and on the upshift you get a Ferrari Portofino-style crack! from the exhaust. This is something I’ve missed in turbo BMWs, that lack of ridiculous, exuberant character the old naturally-aspirated engines had.
Looking at it, the M8 is a blinged up GT. Its weight suggests it too. As it turns out, M is not interested in suggestion or assumption. This is a properly bonkers sports car.
In AWD Sport you could easily be enjoying the delights of a 911 Carrera 4. No, it won’t feel as light or deliver the same steering feel but you will be having just as much fun. The swinging sledgehammer that is the throttle spins up sound and fury from the awesome V8.
Down the wet and twisty roads that I got during my time the M8, it was supreme. The brakes are colossally powerful, too, reining in the speed that doesn’t so much build as instantly appear when you flex your right foot.
If you want to get really brave, go into RWD. That transforms the M8 into an absolute ratbag. I had that programmed into M2 mode and hoo-boy. Damp roads mean wheelspin into third gear (where I chickened out) and, oh, the same in the dry (ditto).
Being able to hit that button is what makes this car a sports car, not just a handy GT. Being able to play on the throttle and the steering is something you want in a car like this and the fact it’s so much fun when you’re there is the Jekyll and Hyde game you want from a $340,000 car that says it can do anything.
Like the M5, the tail will swing on your command but the M8 is far more playful than the big boi sedan. You sit lower, too, so it’s got a real supercar vibe.
I don’t think it’s overplaying it to say that the M8 is more akin to the AMG GT or the Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
The former is a tricky machine to describe, but it’s very focussed in its construction in the same way an Audi R8 is. The best match is the AMG GT-R with its higher power output. It doesn’t have the cabin of the M8 or the possibility of a comfortable ride, but the two are well-matched when you turn everything up in the M8.
The Aston I haven’t driven, but it’s a tight, beautiful and potent package.
I have driven the 911 Carrera 4, though. You can’t tell the front wheels to take a break and it is hugely competent on road and track, but never as playful as the bigger M8. I don’t think Porsche fans will be swayed by the BMW but they’re definitely in the same league. I know, I was surprised too.
The M8 Competition is so different from the M850i it’s hard to believe they’re the same car. That’s not a sledge on the M850i – it’s a cracker of a car – but the M8 really takes it into proper M territory.
It has two closely linked personalities – fast-and-fun and fast-and-wild. With carbon ceramic brakes it will do battle on road and track on the same day and without ruining your life. It might require a tyre stop, but you already knew that.
That the M8 can be mentioned in the same breath as the 911 is impressive enough. That it stays with it, built on a platform it shares with far less exciting machines is testament to the spectacular depth of engineering at M.
The next M8 will very likely be an EV. It will be blindingly fast and probably more practical. But it won’t be like this.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.