Back when the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe was first announced, fans had grand visions of a new generation of M6 Gran Coupe. That car was an oddity in the M Division lineup, as it was big, heavy, had four doors and more luxury than any other M car, yet was also the best of the bunch to drive. For some reason, the M6 Gran Coupe had the old-school M Division magic about the way it drove. So fans were naturally excited about a potential successor; yet another car with sensational styling and thrilling dynamics. However, the M8 Gran Coupe isn’t that. In fact, it’s something different altogether.
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Cruising for a Bruising (Okay, that was corny even for me)
For better or worse, depending on your view, the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe is not the sharp, thrilling and engaging car that the M6 Gran Coupe was. Instead, it’s smoother, more comfortable, more luxurious and much more expensive. Rather than acting like a hooligan in a tuxedo, the M8 Gran Coupe’s approach to speed is far more sophisticated. It doesn’t want to slide about or attack a track.
Instead, it’d rather travel across continents at blistering speed, in serene silence and comfort, with glasses of champagne in the hands of its rear passengers. The M8 Gran Coupe is more of a four-door private jet on wheels than it is a proper M car.
Angry Looks, Calm Demeanor
Simply walking up to the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe brings visions of leisurely long distance travel. It looks like the sort of thing wealthy European playboys use to take their mistresses to Monaco for the weekend, not like something that’s going to tear up a race track.
For all of its carbon fiber, aggressive wheels and pseudo-double-bubble roof, the M8 Gran Coupe never invokes visions of motorsport, it never seems to capture the passion of the M brand that we all know. It’s a different beast altogether, unlike any other M car I’ve driven before it.
Despite its departure from the tradition of aggressive M cars, it’s a great looking thing. Few cars in BMW’s lineup look as absolutely stunning as the M8 Gran Coupe, especially in Competition spec, which gets blacked out badges and trim. It’s pretty but has just enough aggression to make it look like a proper GT. So it not looking like a traditional M car doesn’t make it bad looking, far from it.
I do wish my test car had a more interesting color. While the Brands Hatch Grey Metallic is a good looking color in its own right, I think we’re all sort of sick of grey, white and black M cars. To be honest, every non-Individual M8 Gran Coupe color is a bit boring. If you’re spending that much on an M car, though, you can afford a cool Individual paint.
Living the Jet Set Life
Step inside and the cabin is as calm as the rest of the car. While good looking, the M8’s cabin isn’t something you’d expect to see in a car costing closer to $200,000 than $100,000. The design is nice and ergonomic and seems to make sense. I do wish it were a bit more interesting, though. In something as powerful and as expensive as the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe is, I would like a bit more flash, a bit more pomp.
No one can deny its material or build quality though. Slide into its gorgeous M-specific seats and you’re immediately ensconced in a chair that’s as comfortable as it is supportive. In a car that can eat hundreds of miles at a clip with ease, you’re gonna want good seats. The M8’s got ’em.
It’s not just the seats, however. Touch literally any part of the interior; be it your traditional touch points or not; and you’re met with astounding build quality and some of the highest material quality around. The leather is lovely and even smells high quality, the stitching is as close to perfect as you’ll get this side of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley and everything feels as if it will last a hundred years. It would be a safe bet to say that I’d die of old age before the M8 Gran Coupe gained a single squeak or rattle.
As per usual, the M8 Gran Coupe is also a relative tech-fest. The iDrive screen is bigger than my first laptop’s, the digital gauge cluster has enough info to confuse Alan Turing and there’s even BMW’s typical overly-eager virtual assistant that springs to life if you even utter a word similar to “BMW”.
Appeals to the Mind, Not the Heart
It feels that high-tech to drive as well. Few cars can grip and stick to the road like an M8 Gran Coupe. Thanks to monster wheels with ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport tires, a tenacious all-wheel drive system and enough electronics systems to make the Space Shuttle blush, the M8 is nigh unflappable. Even the brakes, which are brake-by-wire and adjustable with two modes, seem to be able to haul the big bruiser down from any speed with shocking ease. However, all of that competence sucks the life from it.
Sure, it’s steering is sharp but entirely lifeless. Its suspension is surprisingly comfortable but lacks any sort of feedback to your two rear cheeks and its chassis never wants to let you in on the action. It goes about its business in a wildly efficient, incredibly effective but entirely lifeless manner. The M8 is all business and no play. It’s more of a four-door German GT-R than a big BMW M4.
None of that matters, though. What matters is what happens when you put your foot down. No matter the speed your traveling, nor the gear your in, if you bury your foot in the go-pedal, the M8 Gran Coupe accelerates in such a manner that Han Solo would go white-knuckle.
Powering the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe is a 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8, the same one that powers the M5 Competition. So it makes 617 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. All of which is sent through an eight-speed auto ‘box to all four wheels. The ubiquitous M Division V8 is a masterpiece, with a seemingly never-ending reservoir of instantaneous thrust, along with a silky-smoothness that makes you wonder whether or not it uses heavy cream, rather than engine oil.
Gearbox calibration is also brilliant. Out of three shift-speed settings, the middle is the sweet spot. It’s just fast enough and sharp enough to do a decent dual-clutch impression but also smooth enough so as to not be intrusive. It really is the best automatic transmission I’ve ever used. However, there is a downside to that. Because it’s so good, I never once used the paddles or shifted myself because I never needed to. That sucks some of the fun from driving a performance car, if I’m honest.
That said, its ability to choose the absolute perfect gear for every situation without a moment’s hesitation is remarkable. Combine that with the engine’s never-ending torque and the M8’s speed is simply brutal at all times. Traveling at 80 mph on the Autobahn and some dingus is going too slow in your lane but won’t get over? No problem, just flex your right ankle and the M8 will go from 80-100 mph in what honestly feels like two seconds. The rate at which the M8 picks up speed is genuinely alarming, in the best way possible.
I’ve never been in a private jet but I imagine that it feels a lot like being in the M8 Gran Coupe; sitting in a big, comfy leather chair, surrounded by a whisper quiet cabin, watching the view of the outside world zipping past your window. However, when the pilot comes on the speaker and says “We’re seeing clear skies for the rest of the way, so we’re going to increase our cruising speed and get you to Munich a little bit faster.”, the M8 Gran Coupe can seriously increase the cruising speed.
Should M Cars Be… Calm?
Like it or not, that’s the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe in a nutshell. BMW M can show us all the b-roll of M8 Gran Coupe’s going sideways on tracks or demolishing the Nurburgring it wants, but what the M8 does best is cruise at absolutely blistering speeds with the sort of relaxed calm you’d expect from a Bentley or Aston Martin. Sure, it can do the loud stuff; it can roast its rear tires if you turn the four-wheel drive system off and it can lap a track quickly. But it never wants to. Or at least it never lets you know it.
Instead, it wants to get you across Europe as quickly and as comfortably as possible. And there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s not a bad thing. It is a different thing than most BMW M customers are used to, though. So if you’re looking for an M car to be your road-going scalpel, the M8 Gran Coupe isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking for something to mitigate the cost of flying private all the time, the M8 Gran Coupe can be a great alternative.