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FIRST DRIVE: BMW M8 Competition Coupé

The apex of the M-Car hierarchy promises the poise of a GT and the agility of a track car. We get 24-hours to evaluate this…

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You can’t argue its credentials. It’s the big one, the top-shelf M-car with a price tag on the other side of R3-Bar. It’s a beast of a thing flexing its complexity not just in name and hierarchy but also through unsubtle cues across its bodywork. There’s generous portions of cut carbon fibre along the front and rear aprons, the roof itself, the rear spoiler and surrounding those quad tailpipes. Open the door and you’ll see a ‘Carbon Core’ badge on the door sill more clues that this M8 means serious business.  FYI – these are all optional as part of the M-Carbon Exterior Package.

You can have the M8 Competition in Convertible and Gran Coupé cuts as well but the stuff underneath is the bonkers V8 that we’ve come to know very well. It does work in all the new upper-M ranks from the BMW M5 Comp to the new X5M and X6M Comps. In case you’re wondering – YES – we only get the Competition models. We don’t seem to be a market that likes anything other than the item right at the top.

BMW M8 Competition Coupé certainly commands attention especially in this Frozen Marina Bay Blue metallic colour. At 4,867-metres in length and 1,362-metres in height, it’s a long and low profile with a long bonnet and an extended rear overhang. I wouldn’t say the proportions are entirely harmonious but I am not going to argue with its road presence. It does turn heads - that colour again.

The M8 gets the Blackout treatment on the front grille and grille bezel as well as apron.

Power on Tap

This is an engine we know. The now famed ‘S63’, 4,4-litre V8, TwinTurbo petrol engine that does work in a few of the upper M-Competition cars is also employed in this M8. It’s famous for its brutal 460kW of power and 750Nm of torque that make it stupendously fast off the line as well in gear. That 0 – 100km/h is taken care of in 3,2-seconds, and it will hurtle to 200km/h in just over 10 and on it will go to a top end of 305km/h if you’ve specced the M-Drivers Package that unlocks the top end.

 

The S63 designation 4,4-litre V8, TwinTurbo petrol engine in the BMW M8

Of course it has the full M-configuration ability and you’re able to sort and customise the dampers, the brakes, the steering, the transmission severity, the engine mood and of course, the 4WD system that can send it all to the rear should you want some entertainment. You could call it Drift mode(no ESC safety in 2WD) but I’d highly recommend you keep the power going to all four wheels. BMW has programmed in a Sports 4WD which sends a lot of the power to the rear, so it still  allows for some rear slip but all within the confidence that comes with some power going to the front and a forgiving ESC mode. That 2WD mode is a lesson in understanding just how much power that engine is producing and just how thankful we all are that BMW went 4WD on us.

It’s the fastest, most powerful M-car I’ve driven thanks to its 1,96-tons. It hurtles off the line with snappy launch control and then pounces through the gears with quick precision and barely any drama. And this could be a problem. Even with the exhaust flaps open, the car doesn’t sound particularly ferocious certainly not as wild as the speed, the looks or the exhausts suggest. I couldn’t really pick up a big difference between the two sound modes. Make no mistake, it’s certainly a sporty and throaty sound especially at cold startup, but under hard acceleration its not going to win any awards in this department.

That said, its GT ability is telling. When you need to haul in the distance and settle into low-slung cruising, the M8 is a gem. Even on the 20-inch Star Spoke wheels, the ride is comfortable and the cabin experience is hushed. Should you find a set of twisty tarmac sometime thereafter, the M8 will perform in the manner that it should. It corners with a confident and communicative steering and front end. It’s not prone to understeer and responds instantly to direction changes, weight transfer from the brakes and then hard throttle applications with a predictable behaviour. Again, this is thanks to its 4WD system and how it’s been set up.

As excellent as it is at devouring corners, I must say that it lacks the playfulness and character of some lesser numbered M-cars. Its perhaps the exhaust note or the luxo sound deadening they’ve used at this level but the experience is just quieter and not as dramatic.

It’s still a Luxury GT

Of course, at this level the BMW M8 Competition plays to a much more well-heeled audience. The owner of a BMW M8 might just have an M4 in the garage as well. The M8 is in effect a luxury tourer with an innate ability to devour the track if ever there was occasion to do that. But I really don’t think that would be the case very often.

Which leaves me then to talk about the luxurious aspects of the car. Depending on the options you tick, the BMW M8 can be loaded with every bit of safety and assistance tech you could want. The seats can be tailored in a mix of materials and contrasting/matching colour schemes and the entire cabin can be trimmed in leathers and Alcantaras to your heart’s and wallet’s content. That said though,in most respects, so can any standard 5-Series, 4-Series and of course a non-M8-Series. And I do feel, having driven the 840i recently that for 80% of the daily drive, you could have a M850i with M-Sport Package fitted and not really feel any different. It has the same torque, 70kW less but it’s a R1-Million cheaper. It’s a thought.

 

M-Modes and Confugrable Setups set the M8 apart from 'lesser' 8s

Except for that colour – that colour is just stunning.

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