After reviving the 8 Series nameplate as the company's new flagship model, it was only a matter of time before the M Division stepped in to build a faster, more hardcore version. The original 8 Series from the 1990s never offered an M variant but this new example will spawn six M-fettled versions in three different body styles. There's an M8 Coupe and an M8 Convertible as well as a four-door M8 Gran Coupe on the way. All three body styles will offer a standard version and a more potent (and more expensive) Competition model, but all will derive power from a 600-horsepower 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 paired with BMW's M xDrive system
At BMW's Test Fest event, we were able to sample a standard M8 Convertible out on the road and get some impressions of the M8 Competition Coupe on the race track. We didn't think anyone could possibly need a more powerful car than the 523 horsepower M850i but the allure of the M8 was stronger than we anticipated.
It's raining Ms for BMW as a number of new M models debut in the USA for the 2020 model year. The M8 Convertible is just one of those, joining the M8 Coupe and M8 Gran Coupe as the flagship performance GTs in the BMW range. Working on the base of the already stellar 8 Series, the M8 takes the same basic underpinnings and turns them into something special, with more power eked from an M5-shared S63 bi-turbo V8 engine sending power to all corners via an M-tuned xDrive AWD system. Bigger brakes, stiffer suspension, more aggressive bodywork, and a special interior all go into the pot for this all-new model.
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The sleek styling of the 8 Series gets a more aggressive tone in M8 form, with traditional M styling including flared arches housing 20-inch alloy wheels, aggressive front and rear bumpers with air curtain designs to guide air to the brakes for cooling purposes, and a power bulge hood - how else would you know there's a 600 horsepower twin-turbo V8 beneath it? There are other tell-tale signs, too, like the traditional quartet of tailpipes out back. The M8 Convertible inherits some key features from the lesser non-M models, too, such as the Icon Adaptive LED headlights with BMW Laserlight technology. Differentiating the M8 Competition from the standard model, the alloy wheels are a unique M Star-spoke bi-color design, while the badges get black 'Competition' detailing.
Despite the impression of being low and wide, and with the M8 nameplate insinuating this model sits above the old M6 in the BMW size hierarchy, the M8 is smaller in most dimensions. It shares a 111.3-inch wheelbase and 191.8-inch body length with the M8 Coupe, as well the hard top's 75.1-inch width and 53-inch height. In fact, it's only really the curb weight that differs, with the 4,560-pound M8 Convertible tipping the scales at 265 lbs heavier than the Coupe. Still, the overall proportions look great, even if the M8 Convertible is shorter, lower, and narrower than the Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet, as well as being nearly 300 lbs lighter.
BMW offers an exterior color palette of 12 hues on the M8 Convertible and M8 Competition Convertible, with eight no-cost options including the non-metallic Alpine White as well as metallic hues such as Brands Hatch Grey, Sonic Speed Blue, Motegi Red, Donington Grey, and the striking Marina Bay Blue. Want something a little more exclusive? For $1,950 you get the choice of Dravit Grey, Almandin Brown II, and Aventurin Red, or you could go all out with the $5,000 Frozen Bluestone option. Of course, for those with more money than they know what to do with, you could always approach your nearest BMW dealer and ask for one of 84 colors from the BMW Individual program, but for us mere mortals, the initial offering of 12 is more than plentiful. As far as the roof goes, BMW makes it simple: your soft-top can be had in Standard Black or Moonlight Black for $250, the latter adding a little sparkle to things.
Historically, BMW and its M division adhered to the simple principle of building their cars as rear-wheel-driven machines only; but with the power wars having taken root, the pair have had to bite the bullet and acknowledge that without all-wheel-drive, there's simply no way of putting 600+ horsepower to the ground effectively and consistently. Enter M xDrive, BMW M's take on the German brand's popular rear-biased all-wheel-drive system that puts a heavier focus on driver engagement and offers up various drive modes that cater for utmost grip, sporty handling, or if you feel like going full hoon, there's a rear-wheel-only drift mode.
Let's pretend for a moment we're all sane enough to not engage the latter mode in a convertible GT that costs nearly $150,000 before options. In its more grip-focused modes, that's where the magic happens, with the standard M8 Convertible we had on test sprinting to 60 mph from a standstill in 3.2 seconds - just a tenth slower than the coupe - while if you spring for the extra 17 hp of the Competition, the 0-60 mph time drops to 3.1 seconds. Both of which are quicker than the claims issued by the M8's direct rival, the AMG S63 Cabriolet (3.4 seconds). Both versions are electronically limited to a top speed of only 155 mph, but for those who live where the racetracks have neverending straights, you can opt for this to be lifted to 189 mph with the fitment of the M Driver's Package, which thankfully also includes a day of training at the BMW M School driver academy.
It may be pure coincidence, but the irony isn't lost on us that the engine under the hood of the M8 Convertible goes by the internal codename 'S63', which is also the M8's chief rival. Of course, the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 has been around for a while, doing duty in two iterations of M5 and a generation of the M6 before finding its way into the M8. In this guise, it produces 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, the latter available between the broad range of 1,800 rpm and 5,700 rpm. If you opt for the M8 Competition Convertible, you get stiffer engine mounts and the power figure gets a bump to 617 hp, while the torque figure remains unchanged, although it is accessible for an extra 160 rpm at the top of the tach. Regardless of your chosen trim, though, you get the excellent ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox, tuned by M for responses sharp enough to match the 'hot-vee' configured turbochargers' lack of turbo-lag.
Even though the S63 shares its displacement size and configuration with the N63 V8 used in the M850i, this M-fettled version has a completely different character. Whereas the V8 in the M850i emits a low grumble, the M8 lets out a roaring bark. With the top down, the titillating fury of the V8 becomes even more apparent. As with the engine, the ZF eight-speed automatic feels more focused here in the M8 and even includes settings to increase or decrease the shift speed and ferocity.
Modern BMW M cars have a habit of being too stiff, which is why when we first drove the M850i, we were happy with how comfortable it felt and didn't think an M version was necessary. But after driving the M8, we are completely sold on it. Unlike some of the smaller M models like the M2, M3, M4, X3 M, and X4 M, the M8 doesn't feel too harsh for everyday driving, even in the more hardcore Competition guise. Even after being fettled by the M division, the M8 still feels like a comfortable brawler that we'd be happy to commute in. The roads outside of BMW's Performance Center in South Carolina were fairly smooth but the non-Competition M8 convertible still felt perfectly compliant during our time with it.
We didn't have an opportunity to test a Competition Convertible at the event but we did get to drive a Competition Coupe on the race track. The Competition Package adds unique engine tuning with a wider power band, stiffer engine mounts, and an M Sport exhaust with a customizable M Sound Control button. Even though our Convertible tester was a non-Competition model, we could vividly hear the exhaust with the roof down better than the Competition Coupe. So if you just want to hear the V8 engine in all its glory, we suggest the roofless M8.
Out on the track, we could better experience the refined savagery of the M8. Even with the M xDrive system active, the M8 is easy to slide without much fear that your six-figure investment will end up wrecked on the side of the road. We did try out the RWD mode, which enables you to pull off more spectacular slides, though we only suggest using it out on the track if you have a high driver skill level.
The throttle is far more vicious than in the lesser 8 Series models and if you aren't careful, the car will snap even in AWD mode (it happened to one journalist on the trip). Mind you, this still feels like a large car from behind the wheel, so we imagine more people will use it on the commute to their investment banking job than on a track day. Given that this is how we envision most people using the M8, we suggest skipping the hardcore Competition model - the standard M8 is fast enough.
When you're in a convertible GT car running 0-60 mph sprints as quickly as exotic mid-engined machinery, you generally don't expect eco-warrior gas mileage in return. That's a fair assumption to make of the M8 Convertible, with EPA estimates of 15/21/17 mpg regardless of whether you opt for the standard model or the Competition. Of course, those numbers hinge completely on your own levels of restraint. If you treat every set of traffic lights like the Christmas tree at your nearest drag strip, those numbers will plummet, made even costlier by the fact the M8 requires a strict diet of premium unleaded gasoline. Show restraint, and the 20.1-gallon gas tank should give you 342 miles between refills in mixed conditions.
If you're expecting some sort of design revolution when you climb into the M8 Convertible you'll be sorely disappointed, as much like most M cars, the M8's interior is almost identical to that of the regular 8 Series Convertible. But you do get M Sport seats with standard heating and ventilation and an M specific steering wheel with red M1 and M2 buttons for your custom drive modes to be easily accessed and M paddle shifters to take control of the eight-speed auto box. You also get high-quality finishes and loads of space for both front occupants, but those in the rear won't be your biggest fans on long journeys. In true M division style, you get carbon fiber trim as standard, while a newly designed gear shift lever is exclusive to the M8, sitting alongside a red start/stop button on the center console. Find yourself sitting in an M8 Convertible with Light Sky Blue, Yale Blue, and Alizarin Crimson stripes on the seatbelts and it's the only indication that you're in the M8 Competition.
Sitting in the M8 Convertible gives a clear indication that you are in one of BMW's nicest models. The seats are more bolstered than what you get in a standard 8 Series but they aren't torture chambers. We still prefer the massaging seats found in the Mercedes-AMG S63, which are far more comfortable for long road journeys. But like the S63, the M8's rear quarters feel extremely tight for any adult-sized passengers with just 29.5 inches of legroom. If you plan to put people in the back seat, the M8 Gran Coupe is the better option. The space inside the M8 feels more coupe-like with a heavily raked A-pillar, meaning the car can feel claustrophobic with the roof up. The convertible does offer the added advantage of endless headroom for the front and rear seat occupants, but even with the roof closed there's enough for taller folk.
This being a flagship BMW, there are plenty of interior upholstery choices and trim options. Standard interior choices include Black or Silverstone Merino leather while full Merino leather options include Silverstone, Sakhir Orange, Taruma Brown, Ivory White/Tartufo, Ivory White/Night Blue, and Midrand Beige found on our tester (all for $3,500). Carbon fiber and Ash Grain Grey-Metallic trim come standard or for $1,080, Individual Piano Black and Ash Black Silver Wood are also available.
The premise of a grand tourer, convertible or hard-top, is that the driver and a passenger can comfortably cross the continent at a fairly swift pace, and with enough luggage for a cozy weekend getaway for the pair of you. The M8 Convertible performs the latter task with aplomb. Catering to 12.4 cubic feet of cargo with the roof open or closed - or enough for two carry-on sized suitcases with room to spare for loose items. The sacrifice compared to the Coupe is a small one, with only 2.4 cubes lost to the roof mechanism, which intrudes awkwardly into the recesses of the trunk. The rear seats fold in a 50:50 split, but the pass-through is relatively narrow.
Inside the cabin, you get the standard BMW storage solutions - a decently sized center console box beneath the center armrest, two cupholders ahead of the shifter, and a relatively compact glovebox. The doors boast large padded pockets, but they don't host bottles very well, while those seated in the rear don't get any cup or bottle holders at all.
Taking its place as the halo of the BMW range, there's little that can't at least be optioned onto the M8 Convertible. Many of the high-end luxuries are standard, however, with automatic high beams, remote engine start, keyless entry, soft-close doors, and wireless device charging all standard fitment, along with the Active Protection suite of forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. You also get adjustable drive modes, adaptive dampers, dynamic cruise control, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster called Live Cockpit Professional, and a driver head-up display. The heated and ventilated M sport seats are 16-way power-adjustable with a further four adjustments for lumbar support, while you need to look to the options list for neck-level heating. Automatic climate control keeps the occupants comfortable, while from the driver's perch, items like a power-adjustable steering column, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, heated armrests, a heated steering wheel, and a power-retractable soft-top roof ensure utmost comfort. Little is left as optional, with only the aforementioned neck-level heating, night vision, Driving Assistance Professional and Driving Assistance packages available.
BMW's latest iDrive 7.0 infotainment system is easier than ever to use thanks to the addition of a 10.25-inch touchscreen and intuitive voice controls, as well as an improved user interface. Android Auto is not available but BMWdoes give you wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility for the first year, with a subscription available thereafter. The infotainment suite boasts standard AM/FM/SiriusXM/HD Radio functionality, but a CD player is optional - should you still be of the age where you need one. Sound is channeled as standard through a 408-watt, 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system, but if, for some very strange reason, you're overcome by the desire to crank the volume up so loud that you can no longer hear the V8 engine, a 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond sound system is available on the options list, with 1,400 watts of audio punch.
As with other modern BMW models, we wish the gauge cluster display was more customizable and could show a full-color map, like Audi's excellent Virtual Cockpit. This is an area where BMW still lags behind its rivals.
The M8 is new for 2020 and has yet to be the focal point of a single recall, although standard 8 Series Convertibles were recalled for a faulty back-up camera for the same year. BMW's standard warranty coverage applies, with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, four-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance program, 12 years of rust-through protection, and BMW's Ultimate Care covering basic maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles of ownership.
No crash-test results are available for the BMW 8 Series triplets, let alone their high-performance M8 counterparts. But despite the IIHS and NHTSA not yet evaluating the M8 Convertible, the long list of standard safety features and collision avoidance measures means it should measure up to the highest standards.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
Six airbags have quickly become the standard for all manufacturers, with the M8 Convertible boasting dual front, front side, and front and rear head protection airbags, in addition to the crumple zones built into the bodywork. Additionally, high-performance brakes and suspension, along with numerous stability control systems aim to prevent collisions from happening, while standard driver assists like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking have your back for the same purpose. By means of equipping the Driving Assistance and Driving Assistance Professional packages, the M8 can be equipped with front and rear park sensors, a surround-view camera, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, side collision avoidance, evasive steering assist, and semi-autonomous highway driving functionality, while the available night vision camera overcomes any deficiencies the driver may have in low light conditions.
We didn't think BMW could possibly one-up the M850i but the M8 Convertible feels like a completely different beast. Without sacrificing the comfortability of the 8 Series, BMW's M division has managed to turn a domesticated cat into a savage lion. We loved driving the M8 Convertible with the roof down, giving a clear path from the exhaust tips to our eardrums. An M850i doesn't sound nearly as loud nor can it match the M8's brutality on a racetrack.
But since the M8 Convertible is heavier than its Coupe sibling (and therefore slightly compromised), we suggest skipping the Competition Package to opt for the standard model. Seriously, why does there need to be a Competition version of a convertible? What competition is it entering? And while we believe the Convertible version adds more drama than the Coupe and is the one we'd choose out of the two, the upcoming Gran Coupe model is more practical and cheaper (and we think even better looking), so it is the one we'd wait for.
With a price premium of $21,100 over and above the base MSRP of an M850i xDrive, the M8 Convertible seems like an expensive way of shaving split seconds from your 0-60 mph sprint. Still, if you're committed to having M's finest drop-top in your garage, the base price for the standard model is $142,500, nearly $38,000 cheaper than a Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet. Although that's before you look to the options list, or pay tax, licensing, registration, and BMW's $995 delivery and handling fee. On the other hand, the fact that the $155,500 M8 Competition Convertible is still 25k cheaper than an S63 could be considered a bargain for some. Even fully loaded, the M8 Competition Convertible will only stretch to $186,250.
The BMW M8 Convertible is available in two configurations: M8 Convertible and M8 Competition Convertible.
The basic foundations of both are similar, with standard all-wheel-drive, a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox, although the Competition generates 617 hp compared to the regular models even 600 hp. Standard on both M8 Convertible models, you'll find 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, keyless entry, soft-close doors, 16-way heated and ventilated power-adjustable M Sport seats, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, BMW's 12.3-inch Live Cockpit Advanced digital instrumentation, and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with iDrive 7, Apple CarPlay compatibility, a Wi-Fi hotspot, navigation, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. BMW's Active Guard makes up the standard driver assistance suite.
The M8 Competition Convertible - in addition to extra power - gets bespoke 20-inch alloy wheel designs, an M Sport exhaust system, M seat belts, a track setting for the M modes, and the contents of the M Competition Package - stiffer engine mounts, increased front wheel camber, adjusted rear suspension, and more performance-focused stability control and drive mode settings.
Despite BMW's penchant for asking you to pony up excessive amounts to spec your car just how you want it, there are surprisingly few options and packages available on the extensively-equipped M8 Convertible. Aside from paint, wheels, upholstery, and interior trim choices, just one appearance package is available. The $5,400 M Carbon Exterior Package adds an assortment of woven carbon fiber exterior bits like mirror caps, front and rear splitters, and a carbon fiber spoiler to the trunk lid.
Two safety packages are available, dubbed the Driving Assitance Package and Driving Assistance Professional Package and priced at $500 and $1,700 respectively. The former adds blind-spot monitoring, front and rear park sensors, and lane departure warning, while the latter requires the base package, but adds the Extended Traffic Jam Assistant for semi-autonomous functionality, as well as side collision avoidance, collision mitigating steering, and automatic lane change functionality. You can also opt for night vision for an extra $2,300.
On the performance front, carbon-ceramic brakes are an $8,150 upgrade, while the M Driver's Package ($2,500) reprograms the top speed limited to 189 mph and gives you a high-performance driving course at a BMW Performance Center.
Inside the cabin, front-seat neck warmers cost $500, while an upgraded Bowers & Wilkins 16-speaker sound system will cost an additional $3,400.
As we mentioned, opting for the M8 Convertible means you'll likely never take it to a race track, rendering the Competition model somewhat useless in our eyes. We'd opt for the standard M8 Convertible for $142,500 with a few options. These include a full Merino leather interior for $3,500, Driving Assistance Professional Package for $1,700, Driving Assistance Package 2 for $500, neck warmers for $500, the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System for $3,400, and M Driver's Package for $2,500, bringing the price up to $154,600.
For $21,100 less than the base price of the BMW M8 Convertible, you could find yourself behind the wheel of the BMW M850i Convertible. But what do you lose for the money? You sacrifice 77 hp but interestingly don't lose any torque. The power makes a difference, though, as the M850i xDrive is 0.6 seconds slower to 60 mph than the full-M model. In real-world driving conditions, however, you'd be hard-pressed to feel the difference, and while the M8 might be a little sharper around a racetrack, with bigger brakes and a little more aggression in the suspension, along with revised steering and braking feel, the M850i seems just as good 99% of the time. The M8 gets more aggressive styling, however, and a naughtier soundtrack, and it also benefits from a few extra features like standard ventilated seats. But ultimately, the M8 feels like a cop-out: a car produced to satiate demand for the hallowed M badge on the trunk, but without providing a substantial improvement. Get the M850i xDrive.
A fully-loaded M8 Competition Convertible will only ask $6,150 more than the base MSRP of its closest Mercedes rival, the Mercedes-AMG S 63 Cabriolet. It seems like insanity since the S63 only has 603 horsepower, but a rather substantial 664 lb-ft of twist from its smaller 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 engine. This compared to the 600/617 hp and 553 lb-ft produced from the M8's 4.4-liter V8, ironically codenamed 'S63'. Much like the M8, the S63 is equipped with all-wheel-drive and an automatic gearbox, but with nine gears to the BMW's eight. However, despite the additional torque, it's slower to 60 mph by three-tenths of a second. It's also less precise on the road, feeling more grand tourer than nimble sports car, while the BMW feels lithe and agile. Despite occupying the same segment, the two truly perform different roles: the AMG is an ultra-luxury convertible to rival Bentleys and Aston Martins, with an opulent interior the BMW can't match. But the BMW is a relative performance bargain, and despite not being as grandiose will likely give its driver more pleasure. Despite this, we'd still opt for the AMG. After all, when you're spending more than $100,000 on a luxury GT car, you want it to feel special, and the BMW is found wanting.
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