by Adam Lynton
Fans of BMW have been calling for the birth of the range-topping M8 nameplate for years now - since before BMW had even confirmed the revival of the 8 Series. BMW has finally delivered, with 2020's M8 and M8 Competition coupes, with little changed from the internet-breaking concepts and clear GTE-racer inspiration (the GTE was, unusually, launched before the road-going models). Although not quite as much a supercar as the original M8 concept of the 1990s, the M8's 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged powerplant is a key ingredient for a hellraising full-size luxury coupe, developing 600 horsepower in the regular M8, and 617 hp in Competition trim. Both versions produce 553 lb-ft of torque, although the Competition carries the spread over an additional 160 rpm. Advancements on regular 8 Series models include a host of performance-oriented upgrades and M-specific features, as well as more muscular bodywork and sportier styling accents. A large, tech-laden grand tourer with a similarly large price tag, the M8 wages war with the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe and Bentley Continental GT.
As an all-new model, the M8 takes the recently-introduced M850i xDrive, an already blisteringly quick GT, and lets the skunkworks engineers at BMW's M Division have their way with it. Introduced as a replacement for the M6, the M8 is a luxury coupe turned up to 11, with the usual M-specific upgrades like the Active M differential, more power (77 hp to be exact, 94 hp in the Comp), and suspension, steering, and braking upgrades. Where the M-Performance-tuned M850i is lightly breathed on to be a quicker 8, the M8 throws subtlety out the window, and makes a monster from a svelte luxo-barge.
The M8 won't readily be mistaken for a lesser model. Gaping openings in the front bumper are framed by distinctive Icon adaptive LED headlights with laser technology, and a pair of gloss black kidney grilles. Moving around to the side-profile reveals 20-inch wheels and a gill finished in the same dark paint, while M-specific aerodynamic mirror caps also feature in this color. The roof maintains the double-bubble appearance of the old M6 and current M850i, but is finished in carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. Moving to the rear, you will find the trademark quad-pipes of all full-M models, and a gloss black rear apron. All the gloss black accents can be finished in carbon fiber for additional exclusivity, but the lines of the 8 have been massaged enough to tell the general populace how successful your Forex trades have been without shouting about it.
The M8's muscular lines are vast enough to intimidate all who spot them in the rearview mirror on the freeway, scaring them out the way so that drivers can get to their next business meeting without being hampered by paupers in hatchbacks and econoboxes. The menacing width measures in at 75.1 inches, while its height is just 53.6 inches. The wheelbase measures 111.3 inches, and, if it wasn't for the stonking engine, the 191.8-inch length would take quite a number of weeks to pass by shocked Prius drivers. Weight is similarly imposing, tipping the scales at 4,295 lbs, but at least that's over 100 lbs lighter than the regular 8 Series. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the M8's dimensions, however, is that it's actually smaller than the M6 it replaces, in almost all aspects.
There are 12 colors from which to choose, all of which are available on either the regular (if a 600 hp super-coupe can ever be called that) M8 or the Competition. Alpine White is the only non-metallic variant. Other colors include Black Sapphire, Sonic Speed Blue, Marina Bay Blue, Barcelona Blue (they really seem to like blue), Motegi Red, Donington Grey, and Brands Hatch Grey - all metallic in finish. Individual colors carry a cost of $1,950 with hues including Dravit Grey (they really like grays too), Almandin Brown II, Aventurin Red, and Frozen Bluestone; the latter yet another gray, but one which costs a whopping $5,000. We'd stick with the slightly purplish Marina Bay Blue, although we'd have liked to see a shade of green as previewed in some concept material.
A bone of contention among BMW fanatics is the modern inclusion, and standard fitment, of all-wheel-drive systems, particularly when it comes to M cars - even though M Division claims a rear-bias with power only being redistributed when necessary. However, its benefits are hard to ignore: 0-60 mph takes just 3.1 seconds in the M8, the Competition pack shaving a tenth off that time. 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque is generated, with Competition versions bumping that up to 617 hp, but both models are powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that produces a surge of power throughout the rev range. But, BMW has been known to understate this powerplant's output in the M5, so figures may even be a little higher.
To satisfy the purists who are capable of taking advantage of rear-wheel smokiness, completely deactivating stability control will allow the front wheels to be disconnected from the drivetrain, and drifty slides are more easily achievable in pure rear-wheel-drive mode. For the novice, an intermediate setting allows some slip, with the front wheels only biting in when the sensors deem it necessary. The top speed is limited to 155 mph, but selecting the M Driver's Package will move that threshold to 190 mph and earn you a free day of instruction at BMW's driver academy - something we highly recommend if you plan on showing off at the next car meet. All of these specs make the M8 faster in every way than the S63 AMG - a real bragging right.
The M8's 4.4-liter V8 is the same as the one found in the M5, and an evolution of the motor from the M850i, housing a pair of turbochargers within the V of the engine's banks, improving responsiveness and shortening intake and exhaust piping. With 600 hp and 553 lb-ft, acceleration in any gear, at any speed, is strong and smooth, pushing you back in your seat with a wave of torque that reaches a crescendo at over 5,700 rpm. The gearbox is sourced from the wizards at ZF, and is their outstanding eight-speed automatic. In daily Dr. Jekyll driving, it's silky and sophisticated, turning into Mr. Hyde when you demand manual shifts, which it delivers at lightning pace. The fanboys will again bemoan the lack of a genuine manual option here, but is that what you really want in a grand tourer? No, you want comfort. And when you step things up a notch to extract maximum performance, it's probably better to have both hands on the wheel in a 4,000-pound monster with 600 ponies. The M8 Competition Pack will give you a grand total of 617 hp, but the benefits to this version are more about the performance-focused add-ons you get than the maximum power output.
Usually the retreat of smaller sports cars, hot hatches, and supercars, the bends are where you can really feel the benefit of shelling out more money for an M8 rather than sticking with an M850i - particularly if you go for a Competition. Stiffer engine mounts, increased front camber, more aggressive electronic stability calibration, and self-stiffening ball joints on the rear toe links, as well as lightweight forged aluminum wheels all make the Comp a surprisingly agile beast. The regular M8 also features dynamic damper control to soak up road imperfections and pockmarks, brake drying for increased wet-weather stopping power, brake-fade compensation, and cornering brake control systems alongside a standard active differential that takes more than just available grip into account to get the big-body coupe through turns more efficiently.
This is still a heavy car, though, and when you take it to a closed course and really thrash it, you can feel it. Much like the M6 before it, the M8 is a grand-tourer first and foremost, with continent-crushing power, a cosseting interior, and a comfortable ride, thanks to dynamic dampers. Turn-in is direct, if lacking the intuitive feeling of old hydraulically-assisted setups, and the enormous brakes are magnificent at bringing the heavy car to a halt. However, the electronically-assisted brake booster with its variable modes - a new technology debuted for BMW here - does not inspire confidence and lacks true feel. Sure, the car stops well, but it doesn't feel like you're the one pressing the pedal. Overall, this is a brilliant Autobahn bruiser and a comfortable cruiser, just not an analog racer.
The M8 is fitted with a 20.1-gallon gas tank, and will offer an estimated range of 342 miles per fill-up. This is based on EPA-estimates of 15/21/17mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The M8 Competition returns the same figures, but in the real world, it's safe to assume that the intoxicating acceleration and adaptive exhaust system will hinder most attempts at hypermiling. Mercedes-AMG's two heavy hitters, the S63 and GT achieve similar figures, so the M8 is in the same ballpark, but we still wouldn't recommend cross-country tours unless you have a great line of credit for fuel stops.
The M8 is every bit as luxurious and thoughtfully laid-out as you'd expect from a $133,000 hyper cruiser. Alcantara and leather encapsulate all occupants, but those in the rear would prefer the M8 Gran Coupe, as there's not really much space unless you look up to Tyrion Lannister. Meanwhile, the driver and forward passenger will enjoy a roomy cabin space decked with exotic materials and ambient lighting. Both front seats are heated, as are the armrests and steering wheel. The seats are ventilated too. Drivers will note an interactive head-up display and a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, while dual-zone climate control and an easy-to-use 10.25-inch infotainment screen will keep passengers happy more easily than your attempts to reach hyperspeed. A 16-speaker audio system courtesy of the masters at Harman Kardon is also included.
The M8 technically has four seats, but the rears are compromised by the sloping roofline, double-bubble roof, and a wheelbase shorter than the old M6 - which means less headroom and only enough legroom for the smallest children. The front seats are much more magical, with 16-way power-adjustable buckets that include four-way lumbar support, making the perfect driving position a cinch to find. Getting in and out of the front perches is easy, even for the driver, as the steering wheel will automatically lift itself out of the way of your knees when you open the door or shut off the engine. Forward visibility is good, thanks to a large amount of glass, but the rear quarters and sloping roofline make blind-spot assist, and the rearview camera valued assets.
The M8 is beautifully appointed inside, with an Alcantara headliner complementing the gorgeous Merino leather upholstery and Nappa instrument panel. If you spec Ivory White leather, the dash comes in a rich caramel Tartufo color and the anthracite Alcantara becomes white too. Alternatively, if you don't like brown, a deep blue shade can be had for dash and head-lining options. Basically, color combinations for every taste are available, ranging from full black to brown, to beige, to the iconic Sakhir Orange. Carbon fiber makes up the center console as standard, but dark wood and metallic gray can be optioned here instead. Competition models get M tricolor stripes on the seatbelts, but we think this - and the interior carbon - may be a little tacky for a luxury GT.
The trunk in the M8 is simply huge for this class, with 14.8 cubic feet able to swallow a pair of golf bags or enough luggage for the average BMW driver and his anonymous mistress on their weekend "business trip". In the cabin, the center armrest can fit many a pack of Trojans, while the glovebox will easily contain a month's supply of libido-enhancing supplements, and the door cards can fit a couple of water bottles to wash the medication down with. Should one need an energy-replenishing drink to regain lost electrolytes from physical exertion - you know, after a round of grass-pounding at the local golf club - there are a pair of cupholders in the center console and another two slots in the back seating area. Of course, for the non-promiscuous BMW buyer, these nooks will more than cater to your day to day bits and pieces.
Laden with tech, the M8 features brake-fade compensation, stand-by, and drying. Cornering brake control is another assist to help improve performance. Night-vision cameras with pedestrian detection feature, as does an optional parking assistant and park sensors in the front and rear. Adaptive cruise control, fatigue and focus alert, adaptive brake lights, and front collision warning with collision mitigation are also included, along with post-crash braking and adaptive LED headlights with signature laser lights. In the event of a medical emergency, a lever can be pulled, which will cause the car to quickly and safely come to a stop while emergency services are dispatched. A rearview camera, remote start, and an automatic trunk lid make life more convenient too. In addition, heated and ventilated seats, and a track-focused head-up display are standard as well. A sunroof is notably absent, but with good reason - a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic structure stiffens the roof and reduces weight. The M8 also gets standard 16-way power adjustment for both front seats, soft-close doors, auto-dimming mirrors, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
BMW's iDrive debuted as a clunky and difficult to understand infotainment system, which has since evolved into a handsome, elegant, and intuitive multimedia interface that makes the management of all the car's features a breeze. In version 7.0 here, things have regressed slightly with the driver modes a little bit finicky to access, although once found, two settings can be saved on red-colored steering-mounted paddles labeled M1 and M2. That aside, a 10.25-inch touchscreen complements the rotary dial, and controls a standard 16-speaker Harman Kardon system, with a Bowers & Wilkins upgrade available. SiriusXM with HD Radio, a 32GB drive, two USB ports, and WiFi with voice-activated nav are standard. Apple CarPlay is fitted, but mere mortals with their affordable Android devices won't be able to connect via anything other than Bluetooth.
The M8 is a brand new entrant to the market, and as such, has no reliability rating from J.D. Power as yet. There are also no recalls. The similar M850i did suffer one recall for a faulty image display on the rearview camera, but has otherwise been trouble-free. In terms of warranty, BMW offers a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and exceptional 12-year/unlimited-mileage rust coverage. Free roadside assistance is also included for the first four years of ownership with no mileage limitations.
No variants of the 8 Series, including the M8, have yet been rated by either NHTSA or IIHS at the time of writing. However, with an extensive list of safety features, we expect only the best from BMW's halo car.
The M8 is the flagship of the BMW range, and features numerous safety additions: frontal collision warning, collision mitigation, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with stop and go at speeds of up to 80 mph, and active side collision prevention systems are all available. Active Guard and Active Protection are most useful in the event of an imminent crash. Seatbelts will be pre-tensioned, windows will automatically close, and the car will activate post-crash braking to minimize damage to the vehicle and its occupants - most helpful should the driver become incapacitated. Dual front and side-impact airbags, as well as rollover curtain airbags and rear head airbags, are also included.
A grand tourer or full-size luxury sports car needs to satisfy a few criteria: firstly, it needs to be lavishly appointed and exceedingly comfortable. Check. Secondly, it needs to be large enough to fit luggage for the driver and his companion. Check. Finally, the consummate GT must also have enough power to shift the tides of war. Check. So, the M8 is the perfect GT then? Not quite. Thanks to a carbon roof, there's no portal to the stars. Also, it lacks some driver aids that you'd really expect to be thrown in for free. Worst of all, the M850i is just as good a cruiser with not too much less power, and a far more palatable price tag. The M8 is for Top Trumps and letting your peers at the country club know that you have the best and most expensive Bimmer. BMW could have made no changes and just stuck a higher price on a rebadged 8 Series, and it would still sell by the truckload. Make no mistake, the M8 is glorious in almost every measurable way - it's just kind of pointless.
The regular M8 starts at a base price of $133,000 before options and other charges. It is also subject to a $1,000 gas guzzler tax and BMW's $995 destination fee. Stepping up to the pièce de résistance, the M8 Competition will cost you at least $146,000. Fully loaded, this trim will escalate to a whopping $178,025, but will then include upgraded brakes, a higher top speed, a better sound system, and all available driver assistance programs.
BMW's M Division alters regular Bimmers to such an extent that the vehicles they are based on are viewed as different models. As such, the M8 coupe comprises just two variants: the M8 and the M8 Competition.
The M8 is highly-equipped as standard and features a 600 hp powerplant mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Numerous features on the car are adaptive, including the LED headlights and taillights, the suspension damping, and the exhaust. 20-inch wheels are standard, as is a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. This is linked to a 10.25-inch infotainment screen managed by touch and iDrive 7. A head-up display is also standard in conjunction with Live Cockpit Professional, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The seats are covered in Merino leather, with Alcantara and Nappa draped lavishly over the rest of the interior. Brake-performance enhancements are fitted too, including brake drying, stand-by, and fade compensation. Competition models add numerous suspension upgrades, a 17 hp bump in power, more aggressive calibration of electronic stability systems, and a track mode. They also receive bespoke wheels and unique seatbelts, as well as an M-Sport exhaust and numerous Competition badges.
As with all German marques, BMW makes a range of expensive options available with which to personalize your M8.
Active Driving Assistant is available for $500 and adds lane departure warning, pedestrian and frontal collision warning, and city collision mitigation. For $1,700, you can rather spec the Driving Assistance Professional package, which includes a traffic jam assistant for semi-autonomous driving and Evasion Aid to help avoid pedestrians and vehicles in emergencies. This package also includes an emergency stop feature that will bring the vehicle to a stop in case of a medical emergency, as well as park sensors, lane departure warning, and blind-spot assist with rear cross-traffic alert.
A popular choice is the M Carbon exterior package, which replaces all gloss black exterior trimming with carbon fiber pieces for $5,400. A Bowers and Wilkins surround sound system can be fitted for $3,400, and if performance is your thing, you can have carbon-ceramic brakes or the M Driver's package for $8,150 and $2,500 respectively, the latter of which will increase top speed to 190 mph and give you a day of advanced driving instruction.
If you're already able to afford an M8, you may as well go balls to the wall and splash out on the Competition. The extra suspension upgrades don't excessively detract from the comfort of the car, thanks to adaptive damping. You also get a better exhaust system, and, most importantly, bragging rights to the most powerful production BMW road car ever made. Fitted with the optional M Carbon package, the M8 Competition ticks all the boxes for a mean road presence while subtly displaying a hint of flamboyance and performance potential. We'd also tick the M Driver's package, not so much for the higher top speed, but more for the included on-the-limit driving lessons.
Eternal rivals, the feud between BMW and Mercedes is always on another level when their M and AMG models do battle. Forever comparable, there are some key differences. The S63 is considerably pricier, starting at almost $170,000. The BMW is faster from 0-60 and makes more power in Competition spec, although the Merc decimates its torque figures, producing 664 lb-ft of twist. Looks-wise, things are more subjective, but the Mercedes has always had the more opulent styling, and features Swarovski crystals in the headlights for the S63. In this segment, that sort of thing is important. The interior of the S63 also feels more premium, whereas the M8 reminds one of a slightly larger M4. Overall, it comes down to preference, as the S63 is certainly the more luxurious offering, while the M8 is much more sporty in styling and equipment. For performance, the M8 is a winner, but overall, the AMG is a much better GT.
Sharing the same basic engine and architecture, it's hard to ignore the more attractively-priced M850i xDrive. As the top version of the 8 Series range, the M850i has also been breathed on by M Division, although not as heavily and without the ability to engage smoky drift mode. The M850i is a brilliant car and offers much of the tech available on the M8, with performance being the only real difference and a relatively small one at that. Despite "just" 523 hp, the M850i manages 0-60 in just a fraction over the M8's 3.1 seconds. It's beautifully designed inside and out, and has an arguably more elegant layout and feel. Yes, the M8 is the cream of the crop, but the M850i is so good that we have to ask why anyone would care. Phenomenal comfort, power, acceleration, and a lower price tag mean that this is the more sensible choice. It's also more restrained in styling, and not everyone wants a brute that shouts about how good it is. The M8's advances are negligible in many respects, and it seems to have been built for only one reason: because people will buy it. M fanatics are a crazy bunch and only care about the fact that they're driving a full-on M car, with most never even creeping a small patch of the tires onto the parking lot of a racetrack. You'll rarely, if ever, get an opportunity to use the full capabilities of the M8, or even the M850i, so unless you're obsessed with one-upmanship, avoid the M8. It just doesn't make sense.