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BMW M8 Competition Review

Introduction

When BMW replaced the 6 Series with the 8 Series (don’t ask why), the arrival of a go-faster M8 model was inevitable. Perhaps less inevitable was the way this engineering masterpiece would compete not only with the world’s big luxury coupes, but also with some of the best supercars on the market.

Yet that’s exactly what the M8 Competition does. With more power than most heads of state, the agility of a gymnast and all the luxury of Downton Abbey, it’s an astoundingly complete grand tourer, capable of dashing across continents stylishly and speedily. If you want to travel long distances in a short space of time, the M8 is second only to a business jet. 

Select's rating score* - 3.6 / 5

At a Glance

When the standard BMW 8 Series has power and quality in abundance, there seems little point in choosing the full-fat M8 Competition. Although the outrageously high list price is tempered by the economics of leasing, there is a price difference, and all you get in return is a bit of extra performance.

But in that oh-so un-German way, you can’t just choose the M8 on the basis of facts and figures. Hiding behind the more aggressive styling tweaks and the flashes of red that adorn the cabin, the high-performance version of the 8 Series is the best of the bunch. Beautifully engineered and more lively than its less powerful siblings, it’s the car the 8 Series should always have been.

However, the price tag and the performance figures put it head-to-head with supercars including the go-faster Porsche 911s and the V10-powered Audi R8. Yes, the BMW is more practical – particularly in four-door Gran Coupe form – but supercars come with an aura that’s hard to match. But if any BMW can do that, it’s the M8.


Key Features

As with any M car, the M8 Competition is set apart by its startling turn of pace, incredible handling and fabulous power unit, but there’s more to this big coupe than performance. In fact, it’s still a very luxurious, high-tech bit of kit.

The head-up display, for example, is a standard feature across all M8 models, and it’s worth its weight in gold. With a slightly fiddly, difficult-to-read digital instrument cluster, the head-up display simply boils everything down to the key information. It’ll tell you where to turn next if there’s a route in the navigation system and it’ll tell you how fast you’re going. If you’ve picked one of the sportier driving modes it’ll also tell you how fast the engine is turning, helping you choose when to change gear.

Considerably less high-tech, but no less important, are the seats. BMW has done a cracking job of making the M8’s chairs superbly comfortable and supportive, while still trapping you in place. That means you won’t get thrown around in fast corners, but your back won’t hate you every time you do a long journey. And as an added bonus, convertible models get heaters in the headrest to keep your neck warm when you’re on the move. It sounds like a pointless gimmick, but it’s great when you have the roof down on a sunny winter’s day.


Performance & Drive

Performance is key to the M8 Competition experience, which is why the beating heart of the M8 is such an imposing hulk of metal. The huge 4.4-litre V8 is assisted by a pair of turbochargers, which enables it to churn out an enormous 625hp. That power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and it allows the big, muscular coupe to offer prodigious pace when you put your foot down.

Turn the myriad settings up to the max, and those German horses will catapult you from 0-62mph in just 3.2 seconds. That puts it on a par with the V10-powered Audi R8. And at full chat, the car will cover ground at a rate of 189mph – assuming you opt for the optional Driver’s Package. Otherwise you’ll have to settle for the traditional 155mph.

If truth be told, the M8 doesn’t feel that rapid. Not because those figures are fanciful, but because the BMW is just so fabulously engineered. With such well-sorted suspension, the M8 feels beefy and muscular, but agile and nimble with it. It’s like a winger on a rugby field; light on its feet and as strong as a bull.

All BMWs drive well, but the M8 Competition is on a whole other level. Where the standard 8 Series feels a little soft and light, the M8 feels much sharper and more direct. The throttle feels livelier, the steering feels faster and the gearbox feels tighter. It’s as though BMW’s engineers have worked tirelessly to create the perfect 8 Series, with stunning effect.

The M8 Competition is unbelievably competent, never hiding its size but always offering an impressively sharp change of direction. While it can hold its own on a race track, its chunky, rugged character is better suited to the fast A-roads on which a car like this will spend most of its life. The stability and performance allows it to wolf its way through corners like a particularly gluttonous child with a bag of Percy Pigs. And it does it all while making the driver feel like an integral part of the machine.

Yet for all the directness and the visceral attributes, the M8 is still comfortable. Okay, it isn’t as soft as an entry-level 840d, but it’s remarkably pliant for something with such a remarkable turn of pace. It offers supercar speeds and luxury saloon levels of comfort – a feat matched only by the noticeably more expensive Bentley Continental GT and the Porsche Panamera with which the Continental shares a chassis.

That means the M8 is an incredible tourer and an irresistible motorway monster. If you had to pick a car to whistle you from Hamburg to Munich in the shortest time possible, you’d pick one of these. Enough power to hustle past all but the most enthusiastic supercar drivers and enough luxury to ensure stretching your legs is a luxury, rather than a necessity.


Running Costs & Emissions

Few customers will lease an M8 Competition to save money, and it’ll come as no surprise to find the 4.4-litre V8 does not top Greta Thunberg’s Christmas card list. Officially, the big twin-turbo motor will return around 25mpg, and customers can expect something in the low-20s in day-to-day use. The least polluting version is the two-door Coupe version, which emits ‘just’ 260g/km, which is significant, but par for the course when compared with other models in the class.

But company car drivers will find even this most frugal (or should that be least thirsty?) version of the M8 falls well beyond the emissions cut-off for the top 37% Benefit-in-Kind tax rate. Still, you can look down on drivers of the Gran Coupe, knowing the extra doors are making their car marginally worse for the planet.


Interior & Technology

The M8 Competition’s cabin is brilliant, but not what you’d call groundbreaking. If you’ve driven a high-performance BMW – or any other BMW, for that matter – in the past few years then you’ll have no trouble navigating the M8 cockpit. The usual BMW mix of high-quality materials, impressive ergonomics and modern style is plain to see.

Of course, BMW has livened things up with some lashings of red for the performance-orientated parts – the steering wheel, gear selector and so on – but it’s generally standard BMW fayre. Which means it’s less inspiring than an Aston Martin DB11, fussier than an Audi R8 and more solid than a Ferrari Portofino M. The skeletal gear selector is a particular highlight, if only because it’s a notable improvement on the standard car’s ‘crystal’ gear knob.

But sharing an interior with other BMW M cars is no bad thing. Not only is the quality impeccable, but the technology on offer is absolutely first rate. The standard-fit digital instrument cluster is a bit fussy, but the iDrive infotainment system is the gold standard among luxury coupes. The rotary controller makes it easy to use on the move, but you still have the option of navigating the relatively logical menus by touching the screen, using your voice or even by using gestures.

The highlight, however, is the head-up display. It isn’t quite as clever as it might sound, but it’s pin sharp and it changes depending on which mode you’re in. Ramp up the sportiness, and it changes to provide a better representation of the engine revolutions, perfect for helping to time your gear shifts on a track day.

In truth, you aren’t likely to need such fripperies often, but they are nice to have. The voice assistant isn’t that much use, and the ability to change the radio volume by drawing a lazy circle in the air with your finger is a gimmick of the highest order, but it’ll impress your mates when you’re giving them a lift.


Practicality & Boot Space

Fortunately, the M8 Competition is certainly capable of giving out lifts. Yes, the back seats are cramped in the Coupe and Convertible models, but the Gran Coupe is a genuine four-seater. It’s hardly palatial for those in the rear seats, but legroom is perfectly sufficient, and even headroom is acceptable.

Compared with rivals such as the Porsche 911 and Panamera, the M8 is every bit as usable on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it’s probably slightly more spacious. It even has a big boot, with the Coupe, Convertible and Gran Coupe models offering 420, 350 and 440 litres of luggage capacity respectively.

To put those numbers into context, a Porsche 911 has about 130 litres of carrying capacity, while a Panamera offers around 500 litres. A Bentley Continental GT offers 358 litres. The Coupe and Convertible models, therefore, provide strong practicality relative to their rivals, although the Gran Coupe is edged by the Panamera. That said, 60 litres isn’t a huge gulf, and you’ll find the BMW more than large enough to cope with most situations.


Safety

The M8 has not been crash-tested by Euro NCAP – and nor has the standard 8 Series on which it is based – but there’s every chance the bruising BMW would pass with flying colours. Not only did its predecessor, the 6 Series, achieve a five-star rating, but every BMW tested in the past five years has also received a full five stars.

Perhaps the closest relation to have been through the rigorous test is the 5 Series, with which the 8 Series shares much. That car received five stars after it scored 91% for adult occupant protection and 85% for child occupant protection. And there’s nothing to suggest the 8 Series would be any less safe.

There’s even plenty of safety kit to ensure you’re protected from accidents ever happening at all. BMW’s driver assistance tech includes lane departure warning and a system that can automatically brake if it detects a hazard and the driver fails to respond. You also get a 360-degree manoeuvring camera that shows you the car’s surroundings when parking, and you get the usual array of sensors in the bumpers.

Options

The M8 Competition comes in a choice of three different body types, with each tailored to a slightly different audience. For those who’ll spend their lives hammering up and down the German motorways or finding the limit on a race track, the standard Coupe will be the model of choice, while the Convertible is a wonderful grand tourer, ideally suited to a flowing country road on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The four-door Gran Coupe, meanwhile, is the practical option with genuine space for four adults.

Once you’ve chosen your body style, there’s just one core list of standard features, supplemented by a range of choice options. On the continent, the M8 is available in ‘standard’ guise and the more impressive ‘Competition’ form, but we British customers can only choose the more expensive, more lavishly equipped Competition variants.

That means you get 20-inch alloy wheels, red brake callipers and metallic paint, as well as an electrically operated boot lid. Inside, the M8 Competition offers automatic climate control, carbon-fibre trim and heated seats, not to mention the head-up display, 10.25-inch infotainment screen and digital instrument cluster.

As part of that infotainment system, you also get the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration tech, satellite navigation and a wifi hotspot, plus a Harman Kardon sound system. Add in wireless charging and plenty of USB sockets, and you’ve got a very solidly equipped car.

But you can still add more with the optional packages. The Ultimate Pack, for example, gives you loads of carbon-fibre styling tweaks, BMW’s Laserlight headlight technologyand a Bowers & Wilkins sound system. The much cheaper Comfort Plus Pack, meanwhile, gives you ventilated front seats and some sun blinds.

In truth, you don’t need any of these extras – the standard car is perfectly well kitted out – but the Pro Pack might appeal to some. Offering carbon-ceramic brakes with gold callipers and an increased top speed, it also comes with a driving experience day to help you get to grips with such a high-performance model.

Other than that, the options are relatively run-of-the-mill. You get to choose from a wide range of colours, including the rather lovely Marina Bay Blue and Aventurine Red. Those who opt for the Convertible can also have a choice of soft-top colours, while there’s a surprisingly wide selection of interior colour schemes to choose from.



Rival Cars

The BMW M8 is operating in the rarefied atmosphere of the world’s greatest and most luxurious sports cars, although the choice of body styles only serves to increase its array of competitors. Starting close to home, BMW’s nearest neighbours – Porsche and Mercedes-Benz – are pitching their Panamera, 911, E-Class Coupe and AMG GT 4-Door models against the mighty M8.

The 911 is smaller and sportier, while the Panamera feels bigger and more practical. Nothing in the Mercedes-Benz stable feels as sharp as the M8, meanwhile, and Audi’s closest rival – the RS 7 – is nowhere near as lithe as the BMW. That said, if you ignore the M8’s back seats and focus on performance, it’s a match for the R8 supercar. Admittedly, the R8 is slightly better to drive, but it’s no more dramatic than the M8, and the BMW is more usable thanks to its back seats and big boot.

Other possible alternatives include the Aston Martin DB11, which is a beautiful car with fabulous long-distance capability, and the Ferrari duo: the Portofino M and the gorgeous Roma. But perhaps the best alternative is the most expensive, the Bentley Continental GT V8 – a Panamera derived coupe-convertible with an impressive combination of speed and comfort. It’s beautifully luxurious, too.


Verdict & Next Steps

Nobody needs a BMW M8 Competition. Nobody looked at the M4 and thought it too slow, and nobody looked at the V8-powered M850i and thought it incapable of long-distance motoring. If you look at facts and figures, there’s simply no real reason for the M8 to exist. But we don’t lease the cars we need, otherwise we’d all be driving Volkswagen Golfs. Instead, we lease the cars we love, and the M8 is unquestionably the best version of the BMW 8 Series. More than that, it’s more or less perfect in every measurable way.

Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the BMW M8 Competition

**Correct as of 02/10/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £13,009.18 - Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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