Review: BMW M8 Competition

13th December 2019
Ben Miles

It’s safe to say that we are quite big fans of the BMW 8 Series. Partly because we, like most, enjoy a good ‘Big M8’ meme, and partly because we drove the standard M850i last year and were immediately impressed. So we were really looking forward to driving the latest reworking of a BMW by the geniuses at the M division, the M8 Competition.


The standard 8 is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. That’s not to say that it’s the master of none, but that there are cars that do most of the things that it does better, but not one that does everything that it does so well.

With the M8 Competition (it seems there will be a standard M8, but it won’t be coming to the UK), BMW claims the M division’s first foray into luxury motoring. That is taking a large, luxury coupé (a car that has a crystal gearknob as standard) and turning into a performance car that deserves an M badge.


Its result is the BMW M8 Competition Coupé and M8 Competition Convertible. Two pretty hefty two doors that come with twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8s, producing 625PS (616bhp), rear-biased all-wheel-drive, and a 0-62mph sprint time of 3.2 seconds for the coupé (the convertible gets there a frankly barely-noticeable 0.1 seconds later). There’s also a top speed of, you guessed it, 155mph (although that can be increased to 189mph with the optional M Driver’s Package, which also includes a BMW driving day) and combined fuel consumption of around 25mpg.

The 8 Series’s 4.4-litre V8 has been breathed upon until it spits out 750Nm (550lb ft) from 5,800rpm, while that 625PS figure is reached at a barely higher 6,000rpm. This has been achieved through two twin-scroll turbochargers, high pressure injection tech and improvements that BMW say have optimised both cooling and oil supply to the engine. Away from the V8 BMW make much of the new front stiffening plate and an enhancement to the engine mounts that should increase steering precision


At just under 5m long, and 2m wide, the M8 is definitely a GT, rather than a sportscar. We’re already confirmed fans of the way that the 8 Series looks, and the makeover from the M division has done nothing to spoil the aesthetic. If anything the more aggressive stance (big chin, big bum, big skirts, big exhausts) has made the 8 look better. We drove the car in ‘Ultimate’ spec, which has every possible option ticked, including a raft of carbon-fibre goodies; the 8’s double-bubble roof becomes a carbon affair, so too the inserts on the side ‘gills’, the rear wing and more. That wing, a spoiler really, sits atop the M8’s bootlid and is designed to ape the double-bubble roof.

The convertible retains almost all of the looks of the coupé, except obviously for the fabric roof, and indeed everything is the same on both cars until the end of the A-pillars. The canvas lid descends to join the boot sooner than the coupé’s, giving it more of a notchback look – a deliberate styling play by BMW and one which frees some space in the boot that would be taken by a more rear-mounted folding system.


The M8 Competition is fitted with BMW’s now pretty common ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ buttons on the wheel, allowing you to pre-programme two different setting for the car’s engine, chassis, drivetrain, steering and even the brakes. In this case, with the ultimate option ticked, these are carbon, as notified by the slightly garish gold calipers. We tried both settings on the brakes, comfort and sport, and found not a great deal of difference under heavy load, although around town the Sport brakes become a little more snatchy.

Inside the M8 keeps much of the standard interior, but dismisses some of the trinkets in favour of more M style fare, for example there’s no crystal gearknob. The infotainment system is as complex as it was before, but can be used in pretty simple form should you not wish to spend hours customising it. Up front is an all-digital dash, which can be configured into three different settings, Road, Sport and Track, tailoring what you’re shown as you drive for the situation. It’s all reasonably straightforward on the surface, but we found that changing the driving settings and trying to customise the M buttons did send you down rather a confusing set of sub menus. So it’s best to get these sorted before you set off.

As standard the car comes with automatic cruise control, climate control, sat-nav and the other trinkets you’d expect, but it also comes with BMW’s new ‘Drive record’ system. This constantly records a 20 second loop of footage from all the M8 Competition’s exterior cameras, so you can use the footage in case of an incident. It will allow you to keep footage from 20 seconds before and 20 seconds after an incident should you need, hopefully meaning no need for dash cams on your M8.


On the road the M8 is pretty relaxed around town and able to cruise long motorway drives without too much fuss. The trick dampers are quite relaxed in comfort setting, but never wallowy, and should you find some nicer tarmac you won’t suffer by leaving them in the same mode rather than fiddling through the settings.

Power delivery is lazy in ‘efficiency’ mode but sharpens up dramatically through Sport and Sport Plus. Stick the M8 into one of the higher settings and it feels remarkably like there’s a totally different power unit under the bonnet. That’s not to say it’s a bad unit in its normal mode, but it’s more setup for cruising. The whack of torque that comes in Sport is welcome, all delivered through BMW’s eight-speed auto ‘box efficiently, although the paddles leave a little to be desired, but ever was it thus with German performance cars.

Get to somewhere a bit more challenging and the coupé and convertible do differ in style. Both are undeniably big cars, but never in an unwieldy sense, even on some of the narrower Spanish lanes, and even with braking in comfort mode there’s little to alarm you waiting round the corner.

Stick the car into its more aggressive all-wheel-drive setting and it begins to feel properly like an M car. The standard system is undoubtedly impressive, but a little on the safe side, not allowing for much movement. But move up a setting and you can feel the car beginning to let itself loose. Interestingly you can’t change the settings of the xDrive system without turning off the stability control, which feels slightly counter-intuitive. Finally put the car in full rear-driven only mode and there’s a proper bit of bite comes through. Nothing too scarily lairy though, the car’s thoughts are transmitted to you with enough warnings that finding its, or far more likely, your limit is pretty simple. Pull the M8 through a corner and find the floor with the throttle and it’ll let off a little shimmy from the rear, just alerting you to the potential danger. As if the diff has been programmed to just give you a hint of what’s to come. Should you really want to find out what’s beyond that there is scope for some angles to be found, but remember this is a big old car, so we’re not talking about rivalling James Deane’s E92.


The convertible is around 125kg heavier than the coupé, and you can just about feel that as you approach a corner. In fact the car doesn’t give the immediate impression that it’s less stiff, but with that extra mass it feels slightly softer, even though BMW say the spring rates are the same. Conversely I don’t think this is a bad thing, it feels far easier to have a bit of fun in the M8 convertible, and you can do it at slower speeds, therefore not having to resort to scaring the living whatsit out of yourself just to feel involved. Instead the convertible retains the coupé’s ability to foreshadow any coming trouble, while also bringing the soundtrack of that big V8 directly into the cabin. It’s all communicated to you well through both steering and chassis, again allowing you to know when your limit is approaching rather than only finding out after you crash past it.

The Convertible also benefits from an air scarf system to keep you warm. That’s no remarkable feat in 2019, but the BMW system adjust itself based on your speed to maintain the right level of heat. Even if you’re barrelling along the motorway there’s also heated armrests to make sure the open air doesn’t affect you too much. Put the fabric roof up and it feels not too different to being in the coupé – perhaps there is a tiny bit more road noise and wind, but it’s not really noticeable. Especially when you utilise the massive, optional, Harman Kardon stereo system – one that truly could replace the PA system at Wembley if needed.


Perhaps the M8’s only real potential issue is it’s price point. With the Ultimate option ticked, ‘our’ coupé would set you back £143,435 (the Ultimate pack is £20k) while the convertible nudges £150,000. That’s pushing into territory of some serious metal, so you’d need to be certain before parting with your dosh. However if what you want is a stunning coupé or convertible that can cruise around without causing much trouble before acting like a complete hooligan in the mountains, then it’s hard to think of much that rivals it. Would you really want to throw an S Class coupé around?


BMW M8 Competition Coupé specifications

  • Price: £123,435
  • Engine: 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8 petrol
  • Power/torque: 620bhp @ 6,000rpm/750Nm (555lb ft) @ 1,800-5,600rpm
  • Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph: 3.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph (189 de-restricted)
  • Combined economy: 26.6mpg
  • Kerb weight: 1,960kg
  • Review

  • BMW

  • M8

  • M8 Competition

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