Gr8 M8 : BMW M8 Competition Coupe Driven [review]

By davidkhoo, 09 October 2019

Algarve, Portugal – Best mates stick with you through thick and thin, and often dig deep to really help you out. Well, there’s nothing more satisfying than digging deep into a V8’s vast reserves to make you feel better after a rough patch.

Truth be told, it was hard to imagine BMW topping an act like the M850i xDrive, but by gum, they’ve possibly done it with the M8 Competition.

(Click HERE to read about the M850i xDrive Coupe)

What you’re probably wondering though, is how many times can a cake be sliced? The 8 Series is already a niche product, but the M8 and M8 Competition turn up the knob even further.

Everybody needs a hero though, and while a lot of the folks who are oohing and aahing about the idea of a M8 Comp probably won’t buy one, at least they’re talking about it to generate enough buzz.

Just like its M850i M Performance Automobile stablemate, the M8 is available in Coupe, Convertible and Gran Coupe – we tried the first two in the full-fat M8 Competition forms, but only had a closed-door audience with the last, although it’s not like the form of the M8 Gran Coupe was unpredictable.

(Click HERE to check out the gorgeous M8 Competition Gran Coupe)

So who buys a car like the M8 Competition? Probably the guys who need a S$725,888 range-topper in their lives, but what’s more pertinent to petrolheads is the technology that will inevitably trickle-down to the rest of the M horde (or even as potential test-bed for M’s rumoured standalone sportscar) – after all, this is erm, technically, the brand’s tech tour de force.

(Click HERE to read our M8 Competition Convertible review)

There are plenty of go-faster features in the M8 that could find their way into the compact M models that driving enthusiasts are so enamoured of. To many purists, the M2/M3/M4 end of the M spectrum still embody the spiritual values of BMW’s legendary skunkworks division.

(Click HERE to read about two of our fave compact M models)

The M models higher up in the hierarchy have evolved to be as much about the luxury (bespoke personalisation is very possible and your bank balance is the only limit) as they are about fire-breathing performance, since BMW looks to straddle both ends of the high-performance spectrum – machines that can be defined by the terms ‘ultimate’ and ‘driving’, though not necessarily in that order.

In the segment the M8 operates in, you need the looks and luxury accoutrements to go with the performance, because it’s far more than just the empirical dynamic statistics in a tech sheet that convinces someone to spend his hard-earned on such cars.

It’s clear where the ‘8’ sits in the BMW line-up, but this isn’t strictly a coupe equivalent to the 7 Series in the same mould as the S-Class Coupe or Continental GT Coupe. Instead, the 8’s proportions are probably closer to the discontinued 6 Series Coupe/Convertible/Gran Coupe than 7, which is great from the dynamic point of view, but less so as far as interior accommodation is concerned.

The exception is the extended 3023mm wheelbase Gran Coupe, which will accommodate up to three in the rear (or two and a young kid if you want to be precise), but the four-door body-style sees it compete against different rivals (think Panamera, A/RS 7 and GT 4-door) from its two-door brethren.

Our demo-cars were nicely-equipped with the requisite tasty bits: gorgeous 20-inch forged alloy rims, the M Carbon exterior package (strategic application of carbonfibre), M sports exhaust system (standard on the M8 Comp models) and M carbon-ceramic brakes.

Additionally, ‘Shadowline’ trim effectively replaces the bright shiny bling bits on the car with stylishly stealthy black trim – a cool touch that the brand has offered since as far back as the E39 M5.

Nice aesthetic touches elevate it over the M850i xDrive into true M territory. Large front fender flares with M ‘gills’ and air-breathers, humongous front air-dams and motorsports-inspired ‘chicken-wire’ mesh, aero wing mirrors, a gurney-flap on its tail and a rear diffuser from which quad-tailpipes peek out are just a few of the obvious cues to show the M8 Competition is armed for business.

Both Coupe and Convertible boast nicely plush interiors that successfully blend performance with luxury. More importantly, they have snugly supportive sports seats that hold you tight during hard cornering, yet are comfortable enough to while the motorway miles away in.

Despite the rear seats on the Coupe and Convertible, they’re best saved for the kiddies, or for short hops from home to lunch/dinner for adults, because the people you put at the back may quickly feel you don’t think very much of them. 

Of course, we realise that in reality, the +2 rear seats are seldom used for carrying people, but they are useful for chucking shopping bags, blazers and briefcases onto, which is why we still can’t wrap our minds around grand tourers that omit them.

Like the M5, the M8 has bright red M1 and M2 ‘triggers’ on the steering wheel to engage pre-programmed driving modes.

Husband/Wife, Road/Track, Dry/Wet or Winding Roads/Highway – how you want to programme them is up to you, but the reason for the two presets quickly becomes clear when you begin navigating the layers (and potential permutations) of steering, chassis, transmission and engine settings available, which should please tech geeks.

Thankfully, all the variable settings can now be called up through one-touch of the ‘Setup’ button, instead of navigating sub-menus.

Also standard for the M8 Competition is ‘Track’ mode, which disables the driver assistance and safety intervention systems, as well as blacks out the centre screen so you won’t be distracted when you’re attacking the circuit. To prove that it can, we had six laps with the M8 Competition Coupe on the Portimão circuit, but that included a sighting and a cool down lap.

Within the remaining laps, there were two pre-set M1 and M2 programmes to experiment with, which showed how differently the car handled at the limit in 4WD and 4WD Sport – however, these are just the tip of the ice-berg as far as possibilities are concerned.

In some quarters, luxury may be interpreted to mean having more choices than you know what to do with, but in practice, this often means owners won’t use any of them. We like to think luxury is better equated with simplicity and tech should be largely invisible, because if everything is sorted-out, you won’t have to personalise the minutiae and be able to focus on driving.

However, the broad range of drive/comfort dynamics customisation is inevitable, given the wider buying demographic that such larger M models have begun to attract. What's worth noting is the tech on this rolling, roiling showcase that will eventually trickle-down into coming M models.

With the wonderfully elastic and (nuclear) reactive 4.4-litre V8 at the behest of one’s right foot, the M8 Comp shrugs-off straights with nonchalance, all to the accompaniment of the V8’s stirring soundtrack – it’s certainly a lot sharper and shoutier than the M850i.

Like the current M5, the M8 Competition’s M xDrive all-wheel drivetrain can be toggled through 4WD and 4WD Sport, or even pure 2WD for even greater driver engagement.

At 1.9-tonnes+, the Coupe is no flyweight by any stretch of the imagination, but the big torque and trick M Differential attempts to make light work of its weight in the corners so you can wrangle it around with sufficient verve.

Also, unlike the M850i (which doesn’t have a variable 4WD/2WD system), the M8 Competition does not have Integral Active Steering – BMW’s active rear steer system – which we find helps immeasurably in virtually ‘shortening’ a car’s wheelbase for keener responses in the corners.

It’s not just for stability and tighter turning circles either, because we’ve experienced the devastatingly incisive effect of active rear-steer in our favourite hardcore sportscars, such as the F12tdf and Porsche’s scintillating GT3/RS models.

However, I guess hardcore drivers of the M8 can always enjoy a purer dynamic experience in rear-drive mode if they really wanted to...

The M8 Competition serves as a compelling, go-faster technology showcase to demonstrate it’s possible for M to inject its blend of thrilling dynamic drive into a large car like the 8 Series.

While it’s true the track-day warriors will likely pick one of the compact M models to indulge at the circuit, it’s heartening that there’s enough of the M touch in even a car as large as the M8 Competition.

PHOTOS BMW

BMW M8 Competition Coupe
Engine 4395cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power/rpm 625hp/6000rpm
Torque/rpm 750Nm/1800-5800rpm
Transmission 8spd M Steptronic auto
0-100km/h 3.2secs
Top Speed 305km/h (M Driver’s Package)
Fuel Consumption 10.6l/100km
CO2 242g/km