New car road test: BMW M8 Competition xdrive Coupe
BMW delivers the perfect mix of performance and pampering, with the emphasis firmly on the former.
Despite challenging market conditions, local sales of BMW’s M-badged models are up more than 6% this year, ranking the proportion of M models in the overall BMW Australia sales mix second highest globally.
By the way, that’s M, as in “motorsport”, belonging to the Bavarian brand’s M GmbH stables, the division of BMW set up in 1972 to focus on developing race cars.
The M8 Competition is their new-ish flagship model and it’s intended to ruffle feathers in the high-end sports segment.
Along with its head-turning looks, the M8 Competition also carries an eye-watering price tag but then it does come with the cachet of being the fastest BMW M road car ever.
It’s stupendously powerful, of course, rapid to boot, and comes crammed with high-end features and tech all wrapped in a lavishly equipped and luxuriously finished package.
The equipment list includes a comprehensive safety package that extends to a full suite of airbags, BMW night vision with pedestrian recognition, driver assistant plus which includes active cruise with stop/go, lane control assistant, front/rear cross traffic warning, lane control assist, and side collision warning.
There’s also such niceties as heated M sports front seats, heated leather steering wheel and armrests, active front-seat ventilation, ambient lighting, soft-close doors, a head-up display with configurable M specific content and a BMW drive recorder to keep track of your antics.
On the dynamics front, the big coupe features an active M differential, M Sport exhaust system with quartet of black-chrome outlets, M aero-dynamics pack, M Competition pack, 20-inch forged M alloy wheels shod with high-performance tyres and liberal splashes of lightweight carbon-fibre, including for the roof.
Of course, if the standard quota of carbon-fibre leaves you unimpressed, you can always whip out the plastic and add the optional M Carbon Exterior Pack, which for a cool $10,300 extends the high-tech finishes to the Beemer’s front air curtain intakes, mirror caps, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser inserts.
If money is no object, then also plump for the $16,500 M Carbon Ceramic brakes with matte gold brake calipers.
With all that expensive kit surrounding you it no doubt provides peace of mind to know the ballistic Bavarian also features parking assistant plus which includes active park-distance control, 360-degree multi-view camera, automatic parking and a reversing assistant, to avoid taking skin off when parking.
Both the M Carbon Exterior Pack and M Carbon Ceramic brakes were fitted to our test car, bringing its list price to a dizzying $352,900.
Aside from adding more glamour to the already eye-catching styling, there’s no denying the stopping performance of those massive cross-drilled carbon-fibre rotors at each corner.
Inside, the luxuriously appointed cabin features BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional system with 10.25-inch infotainment display, customisable 10.25-inch instrument cluster, gesture control for the iDrive 7.0 operating system, Apple CarPlay, DAB+ radio and voice control for functions including phone, audio, nav and climate.
If the plummy tone of the personal assistant is not to your liking you can always crank up the volume on the epic Bowers and Wilkins surround-sound system.
Speaking of which, the latter’s drilled and polished metal speaker grilles offer a suitably high-tech complement to the beautifully crafted and finished interior, which is swathed in gorgeous Merino leather upholstery and trims with hide-like Walknappa leather dash pad, suede-like Alcantara hood lining, plentiful stitch detailing and quilted door and seat inserts.
The shapely and supportive front pews are endowed with all the adjustment you could ever want, including wind-in side bolsters to hold the driver snug while cornering.
There’s no such luck for the two rear-seat occupants, though, who are faced with a notably firm perch, upright backrest and lack of head, leg and foot space.
There are even two ISOFIX child restraint points back there but getting a child in and out of the tight space would be mighty awkward.
As impressive as all the above most certainly is, it’s the updated version of the 4.4-litre TwinPower turbo V8 engine that really gets the juices flowing.
Among its technical highlights are two twin-scroll turbos mounted in the V between the cylinders, cross-bank exhaust manifolds, high-pressure direct fuel injection and a sophisticated lubrication system with oil cooling to ensure reliable oil supply even under the G forces imposed by track driving.
On that note, an optional M Driver’s package increases the M8’s top speed to 305km/h and comes with complimentary BMW Driving Experience Advance Level 1 and 2 to ensure the driver’s skills are up to the car’s undoubted performance potential.
Mustering a staggering 460kW/750Nm, the high-revving and superbly refined bent eight responds instantly to the throttle, thrusting occupants back in their seats and propelling the M8 to the legal highway limit in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 3.2 seconds.
Should you ever get to experience it on a racetrack or similar, the next 100km/h comes up in another 7.4-seconds, meaning 200km/h is reached in a scarcely believable 10.6 seconds.
Of course, most Australian drivers will never get to experience that sort of speed or acceleration but the engine’s effortless grunt, characterised by a plateau-like peak torque curve between 1800 and 5800rpm, means vast quantities of instant urge are readily available at any speed or revs.
To put that further into perspective, engine output and acceleration bragging rights go the BMW’s way over the marginally more expensive 4.0-litre twin-turbo Mercedes AMG GT R Coupe, and the less-expensive 3.0-litre twin-turbo Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. The latest Porsche 911 3.8 Turbo Coupe also trails the Bavarian’s power, but matches its torque output and gets the better of it on 0-100km/h and 0-200km/h acceleration times.
Not surprisingly, the recommended fuel for that piece-de-resistance V8 is 98 RON premium unleaded with our on-test fuel consumption logged at 15.4L/100km over a mix of urban and enthusiastic back road driving.
That’s 5.0L/100km higher than the official combined-cycle figure but reasonable in the circumstances.
Frankly, anyone with the loot to drive a $353k, 460kW supercar like this is unlikely to be noticing the fuel bills.
The engine is married to an eight-speed M Steptronic auto with Drivelogic feeding power to all four corners via BMW’s xDrive system which offers 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD modes with the latter essentially being a “drift” mode for track use.
The gearbox does an exemplary job of smoothly selecting the right ratio for the conditions making use of the paddle shifters unnecessary in most circumstances.
The driver can also manually select from one of three different transmission shift-timing maps.
Configurability goes beyond the gearbox too with the engine, steering, dampers and driver assistance intervention levels all able to be controlled by the drive.
Selectable modes include Efficient, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ while individually composed M Modes can also be stored and accessed via two red M buttons on the steering wheel.
Another interesting innovation of the M8 Competition is the ability for the driver to adjust the brake pedal “feel” between Comfort and the more immediate response of Sport, for both the standard and optional carbon ceramic brakes.
The bi-modal sports exhaust system is also switchable from the console and provides a range of outputs from a neighbour-friendly mode through to a richer, deeper and more aggressive bark.
Somehow, though, even with the sportiest exhaust, engine and transmission settings in play, the epic engine never quite sounds as vocal as its outputs suggest.
Technical sophistication extends to the chassis and suspension, resulting in incisive and crisply accurate steering, an exceptionally flat cornering stance, and a confident agility that entices the driver to seek out curves.
The xDrive system displays a distinct rear-wheel drive bias that draws a clear line back to the fine rear-drive dynamics BMW is renowned for.
Pleasingly, the M8’s dynamic precision doesn’t come with the penalty of stiff and uncompromising ride.
As firm as it is, the big coupe is still eminently liveable with Comfort mode the setting of choice for everyday running.
In summary, the M8 Competition coupe delivers a richly rewarding experience for the enthusiast driver yet still pampers with the sort of luxury accoutrements the well-heeled desire.
Good luck to anyone fortunate enough to have one in the garage.
ENGINE: 4.4-litre twin-scroll, twin turbo, V8 petrol.
ANCAP CRASH RATING: Not rated.
FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined cycle, litres/100km): 10.4 (239g/km CO₂).
FOR: Delivers in spades for the driver, turbo-V8 performance, luxury finish and equipment.
AGAINST: Price, poor rear seat space, 98 RON fuel, exhaust not as exhilarating as it could be.