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2020 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe review

The BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe is a remarkably capable car, but it always feels slightly out of place on Australian roads.

2 months ago
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Scott Collie
News Editor
PROS
  • Animalistic engine
  • Lovely, leather-lined cabin
  • Fiendishly clever xDrive system
CONS
  • Ride never settles
  • Interior similarities to cheaper BMWs
  • You can't stretch its legs in Australia

BMW M is on the charge at the moment. Along with the recently-updated M5, there’s a fresh X5 M and X6 M, not to mention the X3 M and X4 M revealed last year.

The biggest, baddest M car of them all is the M8 Competition Gran Coupe, though. Essentially a longer, four-door take on the M8 Competition, the Gran Coupe is dripping with presence and intent in Frozen White.

The interior is a leather-lined palace fit for even the most discerning customers, and that long bonnet houses a weapons-grade twin-turbocharged V8 hooked up to all four wheels through the smartest, most adjustable all-wheel drive system BMW M has to offer.

It’s a tantalising list of ingredients, which makes the fact they don’t quite gel on Australian roads all the more disappointing.

How much does the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe cost?

Brace yourself. No BMW 8 Series is cheap, as you’d expect of a flagship coupe, but the M8 Competition Gran Coupe is among the most expensive picks of a pricey bunch.

The starting sticker is $354,900 before on-road costs, making the M8 Gran Coupe a healthy $110,000 more than the M5 Competition with which it shares its engine and all-wheel drive system.

It’s also $30,000 more expensive than the Audi RS7 Sportback, although BMW has undercut the Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4-door by $4000. Pocket change at this end of the market, but a win nonetheless.

What do you get?

At least BMW M has been generous with standard kit in the M8 Competition Gran Coupe. It’s utterly loaded with equipment, inside and out.

For starters, you get one of the most handsome BMW designs going around at the moment. There’s no disguising the fact this is a massive car, but its proportions are classically beautiful and the detailing relatively restrained.

There’s no doubt staring directly at the rear is its best angle, where the broad hips, subtle spoiler, and fat exhaust combine to deliver a stance that’s equal parts graceful and pugnacious.

We’d stick with the star-style M alloy wheels though, because the black 20-inch units on our tester are slightly swallowed by the car’s gargantuan arches.

This being a Competition model, the exterior highlights are all finished in gloss black as standard.

Perhaps the highlight, though, is the laser headlights. BMW doesn’t want to hear about your puny halogens, and it spits on your Matrix LEDs. If you want to turn night into day, there’s nothing like a pair of frickin’ laser beams shooting out the front of your car.

With that said, the lasers only kick into action above 60km/h. Below that speed the lights operate as LED Matrix units.

BMW backs the laser lights with a fiendishly clever night vision system. Not only can it show a military-style heat camera feed on the touchscreen, it’s capable of picking out hidden animals and people, before targeting them with a beam of flashing light to warn the driver.

The car actually spotted our videographer lurking in the bushes wearing all black on the dark fringes of Melbourne at one point, before illuminating him with a flashing pulse of light as I passed at 80km/h.

If you live somewhere wildlife lurks looking for an opportunity to smear itself across the front of your car, it’s invaluable technology.

The cabin is trimmed in waxy, soft Merino leather as standard, and there’s lashings of carbon-fibre trim on the dashboard and transmission tunnel to remind you this isn’t any 8 Series, it’s the M8 Comp. Both front and rear seats are heated, along with the front armrests (seriously), but only the front pews are ventilated.

There’s glitz and glamour galore, from the configurable ambient lighting to the backlit M8 emblems embedded in the seat backs.

BMW OS7.0 is standard, which brings a dual-screen infotainment system which can be controlled with touch, voice, and rotary dial inputs. There’s also gesture control, which allows you to change the volume, answer calls, and pause music with a kingly wave of your wrist.

It’s a gimmick best reserved for people who don’t talk with their hands – Italians beware. I was trying to make a point during a conversation with my girlfriend and accidentally changed the radio station.

If it can be powered, it’s powered. If it can be automatic, it’s automatic.

Is the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe safe?

There’s no ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash rating for the 8 Series, so we’ve left the scoring blank for this section.

It wants for nothing when it comes to safety gear, however, both active and passive. There’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, reverse AEB, and one of the best surround-view cameras in the business.

There’s also 10 airbags, including knee airbags for both front passengers.

Given every BMW built on a variation of the CLAR underpinnings used for the 8 Series has scored five stars in crash testing, there’s no reason to assume the 8 Series would be any different.

What is the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe like on the inside?

Although its bones are pure BMW, the quality of the finishes inside the M8 Gran Coupe make it feel more special than any other Beemer. It’s just beautifully put together, from the waxy leather seats to the cool metal speaker grilles.

Because it’s a BMW, the ergonomics are excellent. The front seats drop all the way to the floor, so even taller drivers can get themselves bunkered down behind the wheel. You sit in the M8 rather than on top of it, even if the hip point is still higher than in a Porsche 911.

There are plenty of familiar parts, from the chubby steering wheel to the pleasingly tactile BMW M gear selector.

In most cases that’s a good thing, but we’d argue this $355,000 four-door flagship deserves better than the plastic-backed paddles from a 1 Series.

Although familiarity means everything falls easily to hand, there’s also the question of whether a car like the M8 Gran Coupe should really have so much in common with more mundane metal from the BMW catalogue.

There’s no doubt BMW OS7.0 is the best infotainment system in the business. It’s not quite as flashy as MBUX, but it’s much easier to use thanks to the rotary control on the transmission tunnel.

You don’t need the gesture control, and Hey BMW is still a work in progress, but it’s the most logical, sharpest, smartest infotainment system in the business.

The standard driver display is a bit more confusing than it needs to be, with a backwards tach and finicky fonts, but the M setup and head-up display is much, much better.

Things aren’t great in the back seats. At 5098mm long and 1943mm wide, the M8 GC is actually the broadest beast in the BMW stable, but headroom is average at best, and legroom is really poor unless the front passengers are tiny.

Sure, the seats look nice, but the sculpted rear bench only seats two. Yes, there are three seatbelts but the transmission tunnel is so pronounced, you’d have to be a jockey to comfortably straddle it.

At least the climate control pod, sliding sun blinds, and heated seats will keep the kids entertained.

The boot only holds 440L worth of kit, with a narrow opening that made slotting in a set of golf clubs – surely something the average 8 Series owner is likely to do – trickier than it should have been.

If you want to carry more than two people, the M5 Competition is a far better bet. And if you only want to carry two people, what’s the point of the Gran Coupe in the first place?

What’s under the bonnet?

A nuclear reactor masquerading as a 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, if the performance is a guide.

With 460kW of power and 800Nm of torque on tap, it teleports the M8 Competition Gran Coupe, a two-tonne luxury four-door car, to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds. That’s utterly ludicrous, no matter which way you spin it. In fact, it was also quicker than a BMW S1000RR motorcycle when we tested it.

The engine is mated with an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission and a clever xDrive M all-wheel drive system. It’s rear-biased in normal mode, but can be locked into a full rear-wheel drive mode if you’re feeling brave on the track.

Claimed fuel economy is 10.7L/100km, but there’s no way you’re getting close to that in the real world. We saw around 15.0L/100km in a mix of city and highway driving.

How does the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe drive?

Say what you will about its ever-expanding model range, confusing styling choices, and the shift to front-wheel drive at the low end of its range, the BMW engineering team has never forgotten how to make a cracking engine.

The 4.4-litre V8 being rolled out across the M line-up is exceptional, there’s no other word for it. It’s a pussycat in normal mode, with silky smooth take up from standstill and masses of low-down torque. The torque converter slides effortlessly from gear-to-gear in its least aggressive mode, freeing the driver up to enjoy the excellent Harman Kardon stereo.

Save for the burbly exhaust note, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a regular 8 Series at low speeds.

And then you bury the accelerator and it inhales the horizon and spits it out of those four chunky exhaust pipes. It’s knock the wind out of you, laugh out loud quick through the lower gears, lunging for the redline through, first, second and third without pausing to draw breath.

It’s intoxicating, but it’s also potentially very costly in Australia.

It’s lucky we’ve previously had the benefit of a drag strip to test the M8’s potential because you’re doing the legal limit in 3.2 seconds, just 3.5 seconds on the right-hand pedal will earn you a talking to from the police, and 4.1 seconds has you comfortably in licence suspension territory.

Any longer than that and you’d want to know a very, very good lawyer.

The exhaust sounds good in its loudest mode, with a hard-edged motorsports bark in the cabin. This isn’t a lazy bent-eight, and it has the snarl to prove it. Cranking the engine into Sport Plus brings about a fusillade of pops and cracks when you lift off the throttle, and the guttural whumph it makes during full-throttle upshifts is nothing short of pornographic.

With all-wheel drive and an army of onboard computers to apportion torque, traction is impressive even in the wet. The fact you’re able to use full throttle on a damp piece of road with 460kW and 800Nm on tap is pretty remarkable when you really think about it.

Some button pushing is required to completely unleash the beast. There are three gearshift settings, two brake pedal settings, two levels of suspension stiffness, three engine modes, and three steering weight options, all of which can be combined in any way you want.

Thankfully, there are two programmable M buttons on the steering wheel. I programmed the first with the engine in full-on Sport Plus for some extra exhaust snap and crackle, the transmission in its second-sharpest mode, and everything else in Comfort for city life.

The second was all-out attack, with all variables cranked up to 11 and the all-wheel drive system in the most rear-biased setting without going full rear-wheel drive. It’s amazing how BMW has managed to make such a big, heavy beast handle so sharply.

You can lean on the prodigious traction and torque to hoover up roads if that’s your style, but it can also be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and pushed properly hard without falling to pieces.

Get on the throttle and you can feel the xDrive system shuffling torque to the outside rear wheel to help tuck in the nose, and a handful of brave pills and a heavy stab of throttle will bring the back end into play when you’ve got the car dialled into its most aggressive mode.

We didn’t have a skid pan handy to try pure rear-wheel drive mode during our time behind the wheel, but it doesn’t take a genius to know it’d be brilliant fun.

It’s not all smooth sailing, though. With its huge tyres and all-wheel drive there’s a lot going on under the skin. When the roads are wet and cold it crabs slightly, pushing uncomfortably at the front end.

The ride is also an issue. It’s not uncomfortable, but even in the most comfortable of its three suspension settings the M8 Competition is sharp over imperfect roads, with small bumps and ripples filtering through to the cabin.

In a focused track car that wouldn’t be a problem, but this isn’t a pared-back weapon. It’s a two-tonne, four-door Gran Coupe with designs on hauling a family.

Frozen

Matte white

The matte Frozen White paint looks fantastic, and is a no-cost option on the M8 Competition

Speaking of which, there’s no hiding the Gran Coupe’s girth in the city. Those sensuous, broad hips might look great, but they don’t play nice with skinny underground carparks. And no matter how clear the cameras, parallel parking a car worth more than a Brisbane apartment on the street is nerve-wracking.

Then again, if you can afford to buy one you can probably afford to have it fixed when someone inevitably backs into you on Chapel St.

How much does the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe cost to run?

A big chunk of your running costs is going to be fuel. The M8 Competition drinks 98 RON premium unleaded, and you can expect to average at least 15L/100km with a relatively light right foot in the city.

A five-year/80,000km service package is included in the price of purchase, while the Plus package (which includes consumables) is a $7,727.50 proposition.

Disappointingly, BMW hasn’t followed Mercedes-Benz in moving to a five-year warranty. It instead backs the M8 with a three-year warranty.

CarExpert’s take on the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe

The petrol heads of the world are hard to please. All the ingredients in the M8 Gran Coupe are there, from the stunning engine to the luxurious interior.

It’s a winner on paper, but one that isn’t quite cohesive in practice on Australian roads.

This is a car that longs for the left lane of the autobahn, where its monstrous engine and clever chassis tech can truly shine. It also longs for silky smooth European tarmac and sinewy mountain passes, rather than our lumpy rural highways.

It’d demolish the run between Garmisch and Munich, no doubt about it.

But if you want a proper grand tourer, the regular 840i Gran Coupe does a better job in Australia.

If you want to scare your kids silly, the M5 Competition offers the same performance in a significantly cheaper, significantly more practical package.

And if you want the best M has to offer, the two-seat M8 Competition promises to offer a more focused driving experience.

The biggest M8 just isn’t quite Competition enough, nor quite Gran Coupe enough.

That’s not to say it isn’t a seriously impressive feat of engineering. But even irrational, expensive cars need to have a purpose, and it’s hard to see what role the M8 GC plays.

The two apocalyptic (and unusually professional) M8 shots in this story were taken by Jayden Ostwald. You can find him on Instagram here.


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OVERALL RATING7.9
Show Breakdown
Cost of Ownership 8.5
Ride Comfort 7.1
Fit for Purpose 7.3
Handling Dynamics 8.6
Interior Practicality and Space 7.2
Fuel Efficiency 7.5
Value for Money 6.8
Performance 9.5
Technology Infotainment 8.8
MRLP A$349,900
10.4L
460kW
239g