by Karl Furlong
If BMWs were measured purely by numbers, then the BMW M8 Gran Coupe would rank as the ultimate. The 8 Series sits atop the brand's range and, in the case of the M8 Gran Coupe, it's not only the joint-most powerful BMW you can buy (sharing a 617-horsepower output with the likes of the M5 and X6 Competition models) but also the joint-fastest, getting from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds dead, matching other M8 Competitions. However, none of these cars share the Gran Coupe's dramatic four-door coupe body style, and as the final piece of the 8 Series puzzle, the Gran Coupe's added practicality (in the form of rear seats you can actually use) make it the most versatile of them all. Along with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system and other suspension enhancements, it's as sensational in the corners as it is in a straight line. But beyond its mind-blowing on-paper figures is the M8 Gran Coupe's emotional quality, something that has been missing in many capable but clinical new BMWs. Along with the Porsche Panamera and the Mercedes-AMG GT 63, these Germans prove that four doors need not have an impact on desirability and performance.
The M8 Gran Coupe is all-new for the 2020 model year, but with the 8 Series range as a whole succeeding the 6 Series, the M8 Gran Coupe is effectively a replacement for the older M6 Gran Coupe. The M8 Gran Coupe shares the M8 Coupe's engine and drivetrain but adds two extra doors and 9.1 inches in overall length, freeing up 7.1 inches of additional rear legroom in the process. Like the regular coupe, the M8 Gran Coupe produces 600 horsepower and an even more potent 617 horsepower in M8 Gran Coupe Competition guise. A limited-run First Edition version of the M8 Gran Coupe has been developed to kick off the car's market launch, but just 50 of these models have been allocated to the USA.
Sharing the regular M8 Coupe's slim headlights and bold grille design, there's nothing subtle about the M8 Gran Coupe. It gets even more interesting as you work your way towards the back, with a stretched profile and a mostly successful integration of an extra pair of doors. In M8 form, the usual sporty touches apply with 20-inch M double-spoke wheels, an M rear spoiler, Shadowline exterior trim and twin exhaust tailpipes. The Competition model is even more in-your-face with its own style of 20-inch wheels along with extended Shadowline trim. Both models feature a roof made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP).
At 9.1 inches longer than the regular M8 Coupe, the M8 Gran Coupe's increased length contributes to much better space for rear-seat passengers. Total length is 200.9 inches, width is 76.5 inches, and height is 55.9 inches, along with a 119.2-inch wheelbase. The M8 Gran Coupe's curb weight is 4,480 pounds which is 185 lbs heavier than the regular M8 Coupe.
Sharing its engine with the M5, the M8 Gran Coupe's 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 produces 600 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. The Competition model shares the same torque figure but gets a jump in power to 617 hp. The V8 features variable valve control (Double-Vanos and Valvetronic), along with high-precision direct injection. In both models, an eight-speed automatic transmission is employed and features Drivelogic, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and launch control. Performance is within supercar territory, the base model M8 Gran Coupe reaching 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and the Competition model doing the same in three seconds dead.
To drive, the M8 Gran Coupe stuns with its forceful acceleration off the line, and the xDrive system puts all that power down to greater effect than in previous, rear-wheel-drive BMWs. The eight-speed 'box is one of the industry's best and flicks through the gears rapidly and smoothly. There's a meaty V8 burble to savor, even if it's not as explosive as a Mercedes-AMG V8. The extra weight of the Gran Coupe has in no way blunted the M8's performance and it's one of the quickest BMWs ever made - faster than the Porsche Panamera Turbo and a tenth of a second ahead of the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S to 60 mph.
BMW has gone to great lengths to ensure that its M xDrive AWD system endows its halo models with RWD-aping dynamics. Even in the default AWD mode, the system has a rear-wheel bias and if that isn't enough, you can switch to purely RWD mode - we wouldn't recommend doing this on public roads, though. The active M differential also plays its part, distributing torque between the two rear wheels depending on the specific conditions. Meanwhile, the M-specific adaptive suspension offers Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus driving modes.
Despite the suspension trickery, the M8 Gran Coupe is a large car and feels it. Better suited to longer sweeps than tighter turns, it feels as sharp and agile as you could expect in something this big. The electric steering is accurate but light, requiring less effort than in M cars of old but also lacking much feedback. Unlike the rorty (and much smaller) M2, the M8 also tends to always feel like a softer luxury car, just one that happens to be blindingly quick. Overall, it's a polished performance but, unlike the playfulness of older M cars, it's the M8's sheer speed that you remember most - how much of a good thing that is, is up for debate. Switch to Comfort mode, and the M8 Gran Coupe is refined and the ride quality pliant enough to enjoy long trips. Make no mistake, though: at full tilt, the M8 Gran Coupe is an absorbing car to drive and be driven in.
Both the M8 Gran Coupe and the Competition version return the same EPA-rated gas mileage estimates of 15/21/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. A 20.1-gallon gas tank is fitted and, when filled up, a combined cruising range of about 341 miles will be possible. The Mercedes-AMG GT 63, coincidentally, returns an identical combined consumption figure of 17 mpg, although it is just one mile-per-gallon less efficient than the M8 on the highway.
Perhaps the best description of the M8 Gran Coupe would be that it is a 4+1 - there are four, full-size seats and one smaller middle rear seat. Legroom and headroom are acceptable in front, and rear legroom is a vast improvement on the impossibly cramped 8 Series Coupe/Convertible twins. A six-foot-tall adult can now set up his ideal driving position and another, similarly tall passenger can fit behind him. It's only rear headroom that is acceptable rather than generous. The middle rear seat should only be considered for shorter trips as this passenger's legroom is heavily impeded by a broad center tunnel. Also, foot space at the back can get restricted if the front-seat passengers prefer sitting low down.
There are no complaints about the seats themselves, though, as they're beautifully trimmed in Merino leather upholstery available in various colors. 16-way power adjustment for both front passengers makes it easy to get comfortable, plus these seats feature power side bolsters. Yes, the Gran Coupe is by far the most practical model in the 8 Series range.
At 11 cubic feet, there isn't a great deal of trunk space in the M8 Gran Coupe, although it should suffice for daily requirements. It must be noted that the regular M8 Coupe has the bigger trunk at 14.8 cubes. Nevertheless, the Gran Coupe's trunk opening is broad and a power opening/closing mechanism is standard. The rear seats are also a 40/20/40-split-folding design and help to increase overall cargo capacity.
Small-item storage in the cabin is acceptable and comprises pockets in all four doors, front-seatback storage, a deep front-seat center storage compartment and a lockable glovebox.
As one of the most expensive BMWs you can buy, you at least get a full house of comfort and convenience features as standard. The long list of amenities includes heated and ventilated 16-way power front seats with four-way power lumbar support, a heated steering wheel, automatic four-zone climate control, soft-close automatic doors, a power-adjustable tilt/telescoping steering wheel, extended ambient lighting, wireless charging, a power rear sunshade, and a universal garage door opener. Driver convenience and safety are catered for by a crystal clear surround-view camera system, a head-up display and parking assistant plus. The Competition model's extras include a special Track driving mode and upgraded trim. A host of driver aids like frontal collision warning and daytime pedestrian protection are also part of the package.
BMW's iDrive system comprises a 10.25-inch central touchscreen, while the brand's Live Cockpit Professional sits straight ahead of the driver with its 12.3-inch digital display. iDrive remains an industry-leading system and a large part of its appeal is that BMW leaves it up to you to choose how to control its functions: you can use the responsive touchscreen, there are still physical knobs for functions like volume control, and you can also use the traditional swivel wheel. By contrast, rivals like Porsche have integrated almost everything into fussy touchscreens. The Gran Coupe's system features two USB ports, 32 GB of multimedia storage, Bluetooth, navigation and a head-up display. The audio configuration is a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system with a 464-watt amplifier. You also get HD radio, CD player pre-wiring, SiriusXM satellite radio with an all-access one-year subscription and Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto). BMW TeleServices, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and real-time traffic information round out a comprehensive infotainment package.
As a brand new model, we'll have to wait a while longer to assess the M8 Gran Coupe's reliability. However, the model has already been subject to one recall by the NHTSA for a transmission wiring harness that could potentially short circuit. This could cause a loss of propulsion and possibly lead to a crash.
The M8 Gran Coupe is covered by BMW's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, 12-year rust perforation coverage regardless of miles covered, and roadside assistance for four years.
Neither of the major US crash-testing authorities have subjected the BMW M8 Gran Coupe to review, but we expect nothing less than peerless safety considering that the brand's other models have performed exceedingly. For example, reviews of the 2019 5 Series returned excellent ratings and a Top Safety Pick + designation by the IIHS.
Fitted as standard are numerous airbags with those in front being dual-threshold, dual-stage items for maximum protection in the event of a crash. The 2020 M8 Gran Coupe also gets an advanced camera system, LED daytime running lights, a rollover protection system, and adaptive brake lights. BMW's Active Protection System can detect an imminent crash and take automatic actions like closing the windows. Also included are fatigue and focus alert functions, frontal collision warning, automatic city collision mitigation and braking, and daytime pedestrian protection. Available safety features amount to active cruise control, side collision avoidance, cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and a traffic jam assistant. Night vision can be included as a standalone extra.
Could the 2020 BMW M8 Gran Coupe be the pick of the M8 range? Not only is it cheaper in comparison to the coupe, but the Gran Coupe's far more accommodating interior makes it much easier to live with on a daily basis. Impressively, despite a small weight penalty, the Gran Coupe's straight-line performance hasn't been compromised. It's also just as capable as the smaller coupe dynamically, combining a comfortable ride with brilliant body control and sharp steering. An M2 or M4 are more entertaining, but they're also not as refined as the M8. We also love the Gran Coupe's supreme build quality, the high-resolution digital displays, and the bags of standard equipment. While the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 has more character by virtue of its attention-seeking V8, it doesn't do anything significantly better than the BMW. The Porsche Panamera is the most dynamically polished of all three, but it simply doesn't look as special. All things considered, yes, this is our favorite M8 model and a desirable alternative to the more conventional M5.
While its performance matches that of the smaller coupe, the BMW M8 Gran Coupe's price is lower and it's larger dimensions mean that it offers more space, too. The range starts with the M8 Gran Coupe at an MSRP of $130,000, excluding tax, licensing, registration, and the brand's destination charge of $995. This is $3,000 less expensive than the regular coupe. The M8 Gran Coupe Competition goes for $143,000, also a $3,000 saving over the two-door coupe equivalent. The similarly powerful Mercedes-AMG GT 63 Coupe costs $161,200, nearly $20,000 more than the M8 Gran Coupe Competition.
Of course, the BMW's base price can quickly escalate once you add options like the M Driver's Package ($2,500), the M Carbon Exterior Package ($5,400) and the Bowers and Wilkins diamond surround-sound system ($3,400). There are also two Driving Assistance Packages and these start at $1,100.
The Competition model is the one to have. Despite the modest increase in power and performance, it's the ultimate Gran Coupe and also gets those sexy M wheels, an M sport exhaust system, a special Track mode, unique exterior trim, and upgraded interior trim with Alcantara. We'd add the $1,100 Driving Assistance Package to get access to driver aids like active blind-spot detection and lane departure warning, along with the $2,500 M Driver's Package which includes a day-long high-speed driving course and an increased top speed of 190 mph. Yes, you can only make use of this higher maximum speed in controlled environments, but that seems worthwhile for the fastest BMW you can buy. Including destination, you're looking at a final price of $147,595.
For every BMW, there's a Mercedes-Benz competitor gunning for it with a spec sheet that reads so similarly, it's challenging to separate them. The GT 63 is also long, low and wide, also gets to 60 mph in around three seconds in the 63 S thanks to a ridiculously powerful turbocharged V8, and also boasts a trick AWD system that allows for silly RWD antics. It's in their character that the two begin to deviate - the GT 63 actually feels like the more explosive machine, while the Gran Coupe is more technical and precise. A lot of this has to do with the AMG's louder, ruder V8 engine. The Merc has a slightly larger trunk, but BMW gives you a middle rear seat for occasional use. Each has a thoroughly modern and carefully constructed cabin, but the Merc's greater sense of theatre is again on full display with a more striking layout and design. Despite the GT63's higher price, these are performance cars designed to excite and the feeling is that the Mercedes is just a little bit more of a riot. For that reason alone, it just about edges the fantastic M8 Gran Coupe.
You'll have to fork out $153,000 for a Porsche Panamera Turbo to get close to the base BMW M8 Gran Coupe's performance, and even then, the 550-hp Panamera Turbo's 3.4-second sprint to 60 mph (when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package) lags behind the BMW. The Porsche is an otherwise superb high-performance luxury sedan - it has a quiet and beautifully made cabin, enough space in the back, handles like no car this big should, and boasts a significantly bigger trunk. The Porsche's steering is also more natural in its workings than the M8's helm. But the BMW's fresh new image makes the Panamera look awkward and stale, the M8 has a far superior infotainment system, and you get more equipment as standard in the Gran Coupe. In another close call, it's the M8 Gran Coupe that squeezes past the Porsche.
Check out some informative BMW M8 Gran Coupe video reviews below.