Tuesday 19th October 2021
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First drive: BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe
This 625hp 8 Series ought to have been so, so good. But it isnít quite operating at the highest level, for one painfully apparent reason.

 



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BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

The ultimate iteration of the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe benefits from the same monster 4.4-litre biturbo V8 as its two-door high-performance siblings, but while it might look like a more elegant version of the M5 Competition on the face of it, and therefore worth serious consideration, there's a significant problem with the new M8 Competition Gran Coupe which precludes us from recommending it without hesitation.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe
Pricing: 8 Series Gran Coupe range from £72,575, M8 Competition from £123,880, car as tested £141,065
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: M xDrive all-wheel drive with M Active Differential rear, eight-speed M Steptronic automatic
Body style: four-door performance coupe-saloon
CO2 emissions: 255g/km (VED Band 226-255: £1,850 first 12 months, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 25.4mpg
Top speed: 180mph (limited)
0-62mph: 3.2 seconds
Power: 625hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 750Nm at 1,800-5,800rpm
Boot space: 440 litres

What's this?

Aah, what a lovely start to a BMW review in 2020 which doesn't have to begin by either tiptoeing around or dealing head-on with the thorny subject of 'contentious styling'. After the German company has subjected us to some real eye-horrors like this and this in recent months, the 8 Series - not something which blew us away the first time we saw press photos of it ahead of its launch in 2018, we must confess - has now become the marque's de facto poster pin-up. Short of any of the smaller BMW X SUVs, which aren't pretty but are at least unoffensive to behold, and maybe the 3 Series and 5 Series saloons, there's nothing aesthetically in the current Munich catalogue which can hold a candle to the Eight. With the Gran Coupe's wheelbase stretched by 201mm over an 8 Series Coupe's figure to more than three metres in total, and with the whole car bolstered by the usual M accoutrements of quad exhausts, huge alloys and restrained detailing, the M8 Gran Coupe is a stunning-looking thing.

Same goes for the inside, where the generally superb 8 Series fascia is enlivened by M-specific displays and buttons, as well as those gorgeous front bucket seats. Shame there's the usual 'too big' steering wheel from M, its proportions too dominant in terms of both the circumference of the whole item and also in terms of the over-stuffed wadding used for the grip, and there will also be those who don't like the BMW digital instrument cluster - we get on OK with it but will admit it's not the clearest nor most intuitive TFT dial pack we've ever seen. Nevertheless, the M8 Gran Coupe has a cabin which, overall, is brilliant and it's a reasonably practical car, although its boot capacity is only ten litres greater than that of the M235i GC some considerable way down the BMW hierarchy.

On which note, good news if your heart is set on an M8 Competition and you think the physically biggest model of the three available is also going to be the most expensive. Actually, it's quite the inverse: this 625hp Gran Coupe is £2,500 less than an M8 Competition Coupe and undercuts the Convertible equivalent by a huge £9,500. Or whatever those figures work out at on PCP, more likely. As with various other BMW M ranges, the 600hp non-Competition version of the M8 which is available in other markets is not going to be sold here, so it's the black-badged Comp or nothing. And that leads us onto the dynamics of this newcomer...

How does it drive?

Oh dear. The M8 Competition Gran Coupe drives very, very well, in the main, as you would expect of a machine which - as tested with a few options - would set you back more than £141,000 and which has that engine installed. The S63 B44T4, to give it its full and somewhat clunky nomenclature (so-called to differentiate it from essentially the same motor which appeared way back in 2009 in the original X6 M), is an absolute diamond of a powerplant. OK, as V8s go the S63 doesn't make the greatest noise in the world and the M8 GC is no exception to this rule, sadly, but its low-down grunt, its phenomenal mid-range and its almighty reach ensure that complaints about this unit are few and far between.

Allied, as ever in these mega-power Ms of modern days, to an eight-speed M Steptronic automatic transmission and M xDrive AWD, the performance of the M8 Comp GC is thunderous in the extreme. You won't for a minute think this confection weighs the wrong side of two tonnes, because even only modest throttle inputs in Comfort mode see the Eight haring off up the road with startling alacrity. It is quick, this car, and immediately, indecently quick at that. It's also mechanically very refined, with little in the way of vibrations from the V8 nor wind noise seeping into the cabin. Only the elevated chatter from the 20-inch tyres at all corners does much to upset the acoustic ambience in the passenger compartment, so basically you could imagine doing very long distances in one hit in this car. If it were not for one thing - the M8 GC's sub-par ride quality.

Whereas 'older' M cars, such as the aforementioned M5 Comp and also the shorter, stockier and sportier M2 Competition, seem to be able to summon up a significant degree of dignified damping comfort in their less aggressive modes, something seems to have switched with the arrival of the X3 and X4 M in 2019. Not only did they ride in way too brittle a fashion for SUVs, BMW M doubled-down on this sort of harsh comportment for the X5 M Competition and the X6 M Competition, neither of which had much grace at smothering out road imperfections at sub-Autobahn speeds.

It's bad enough that BMW M has made four of its fast SUVs - ostensibly fast family transportation, remember, not track-day-focused specials - ride like this, but for the M8 GC to fall into the same trap is unforgiveable. It has three-stage damping, for crying out loud, so it would have been ridiculously easy to make Comfort mode actually have some cushioned comfort, and leave the tough ride to Sport and Sport Plus. But no; instead, the M8 thumps and bangs around towns, amplifies only moderately ridged 'washboard' surfaces into bone-shaking sections of great displeasure, and never really settles down into anything acceptable even when the speeds have risen to near the national limit. Don't switch it out of Comfort on the public highways, either, because the incredibly abrupt vertical movements of the shell in this mode make the Beemer come across as if it is fully rose-jointed. Frankly, this M8 GC has to take on the likes of the Porsche Panamera, the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S four-door and maybe even the Bentley Flying Spur, but it doesn't come anything like close to any of them in terms of civility and suspension suppleness.

A pity, because this is a terrific car in many other respects. Like its handling, which places it amongst the sportiest big four-doors of the lot - thanks to its impeccable body control, the masses of physical grip on offer, epic traction from the M xDrive and, of course, a sensation of rear bias which is beautifully enhanced with the M Active Differential at the back of the M8. Truthfully, 2,032kg of mass shouldn't really corner with the sort of enjoyable vivacity that it does, so perhaps the unyielding suspension at least gives you this kinematic pay-off (of sorts). However, we'd counter and say that, as good as the M8 Competition Gran Coupe is at this kind of stuff, it's still a two-tonne limo at the end of the day and it's not going to feel as rewarding as a proper, dedicated sports car if you're pushing it to the absolute limits of adhesion and capability. Therefore, it needs more operating bandwidth, it needs to be just as plush and rewarding at low speeds as it is glittering and fun at high speeds. Regrettably, that just isn't the case with the BMW.

Verdict

We so wanted to adore this car, because... well, just look at it! The idea of a BMW M5 in a slightly better-tailored suit and with a soupcon of grand tourer majesty mixed in had raised our pre-drive expectations to feverish levels. And then gritty, uncomfortable ride manners brought them all crashing back to Earth. This M8 Competition Gran Coupe is always, always too nuggety over poorer road surfaces and we couldn't possibly suggest that British people buy this before the cosseting luxury that would be afforded by similar rivals like the Panamera or Flying Spur. Naturally, there's a solution at hand if you're a big fan of BMWs, as - for a whopping £22,335 saving - you could sacrifice a mere 95 horses and enjoy the much more pleasant M850i Gran Coupe instead. But doesn't it seem a bit mixed-up to you that the supposedly 'lesser' M Performance model is actually greater than the full-on M? To us, it's positively perverse.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 26 Oct 2020









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2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.

2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.








 

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