Some well-heeled folks don’t buy BMW’s M vehicles because they want stonking power or immense handling prowess – they buy them because they’re the most expensive variants on offer. No one is immune to vanity. Normally, I’m fine with that, because it means OEMs will keep makin’ the things. But the 2020 BMW M8 Competition might want to be offered with a warning sticker: “Sacrifices must be made.”
- Sharp looks
- Sharp handling
- Peachy powertrain
- More car than most places can handle
- Diminished GT credentials
While the 8 Series is technically considered a grand tourer – a comfortable, powerful two-door meant for long journeys – the 2020 M8 Competition leans hard on the last part of its name, making many GT-flavored cuts in order to squeeze out every inch of performance. My tester’s adaptive suspension has a Comfort mode in name only, communicating expansion joints and bad roads through the chassis with vigor at all times. Some people are fine with a harsher ride if it means better handling, but people who want something that can be soft should stick with the 840i or M850i instead.
GTs usually carry enough sound deadening to fill a standard-size concert hall, keeping the interior whisper quiet so occupants can focus on music or conversation or whatever. While the top half of the M8 Competition is more than happy to make any wind-related noise disappear, that’s not the case for the bottom half, where tire roar is constant and hard to ignore. Granted, the M8 is wearing Pirelli P-Zero performance summer tires, and fat-ish ones at that (275 millimeters up front, 285 in the back), but a little more Dynamat probably wouldn’t hurt its track times all that much.
When I take the M8 Competition around my usual “fun road” loop outside the Detroit metro area, it’s obvious that it’s too much car for regular ol’ roads. The Big M8 memes are all warranted, because this coupe is big, big enough to where I have to keep checking the mirrors to make sure I’m not unintentionally leaning over the white line (it’ll happen). Visibility is pretty good, though, thanks to suitably sized mirrors and glass that doesn’t sacrifice views for fashion.
Not only is the M8 Competition too much car for a normal road because of its physical size, but also because its powertrain is pretty much cranked to the max. Its 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 puts out 617 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. Unless your sole source of driving excitement comes from jamming the gas at stoplights, you’ll never touch the upper ends of the car’s performance envelope. Hit the throttle at any point, and within the span of two of the eight-speed automatic transmission’s gears, you’ll quickly realize how many points your current speed will add to your license.
Powering out of a corner whips the M8’s traction control into a frenzy unless your tires are red-hot and you have plenty of room to track out, which you do not on public roads. It’s worth noting that, while all-wheel drive is standard, there’s a two-wheel drive mode on offer for extra drifty goodness. It’s also worth noting that, in order to access this fun party trick, you need to switch off stability control, which I absolutely do not recommend unless you are far, far away from public roads. A big body means more controllable yaw in a slide, but it is surprisingly easy for the car to overpower the driver at anything beyond three-tenths.
There are a few methods of adjustability present on the M8 Competition. Instead of having the usual modes, a push of the Setup button brings up a straightforward menu of what can be tweaked and in how many ways. The engine and suspension have a Sport Plus setting that the steering and brakes do not, but I find the throttle far too touchy and the ride far too harsh in these modes. The steering and engine are best left in Sport for a bit more liveliness, while the brakes and suspension should be left in Comfort to mute their communication as much as possible. The brake-by-wire system gets entirely too sensitive in Sport mode, which is best left for the track (along with… frankly, 90% of this car). In Comfort mode, the steel stoppers at each corner are easy to modulate to a smooth finish, and carbon ceramics are available for those wanting more halting power.
Trying to drive the M8 Competition in a sedate matter is doable, but it’s not really a fully posh-ified GT experience. The engine will happily putter along at low revs, providing enough torque to get up to speed without drama, but even when its active exhaust is turned off, it’s still plenty vocal on a cold start in the neighborhood. The eight-speed automatic is a little rough under low engine loads, especially when decelerating to a stop, but it’s smooth enough once you’re at pace, and it will rattle off lightning-fast swaps when you take control via the paddles or the shift lever. Again, stick to a lower trim if you want a softer powertrain experience.
The M8 Competition has very little chill, and that extends to fuel economy, as well. The EPA rates the car at a paltry 15 miles per gallon city and 21 highway, numbers that are definitely doable if you try to stay out of the boost as often as possible. If you even remotely value fun, though, expect to shell out even more in gas – which, considering the M8 Competition starts around $146,000, shouldn’t present a budgetary constraint.
If there’s one place where the M8 Competition does feel like a GT, it’s inside. BMW’s full complement of craftsmanship is on display. While I may be tired of the carbon fiber trim, however genuine, I am obsessed with the quilted leather on the door panels and how well they blend into the laser-cut grilles covering the Bowers & Wilkins sound system. The front seats, plenty comfortable and supportive, also carry some of that quilting to great effect. The rear seats, while equally opulent, are almost entirely nonfunctional, with no room for legs or heads back there — but. The trunk makes up for some of that, though, by being properly cavernous, enough for some golf clubs or suitcases for a long weekend.
BMW’s usual complement of quality in-car tech is on display in the M8 Competition. Most of it comes by way of the 10.2-inch display on the dashboard running BMW’s iDrive system. As with every other new-gen Bimmer, iDrive works fantastically. It’s responsive in daily use, it’ll boot in a hurry on a cold start and I appreciate the fact that I can use either the touchscreen or the control dial on the center console. Wireless Apple CarPlay is standard, but Android Auto remains a notable (and frustrating) omission, although that changes in July with the addition of wireless AA. Voice recognition works flawlessly in my experience, too.
Safety tech abounds, but you have to pay the piper. Standard driver-assist kit includes automatic emergency braking and… that’s it. If you want access to BMW’s single-lane-holding system that covers things like full-speed adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, you’ll have to pay for it – and you should, especially if you will be taking GT-style trips, as it works with the utmost competence. The car can also be outfitted to park itself, but with surround-view cameras and parking sensors on offer, you probably don’t need the help. It’s kind of appalling that this stuff isn’t standard on a $130,000-plus car, but that’s a luxury automaker for you.
There’s no shortage of BMW’s best efforts in the 2020 M8 Competition. It will perform to within an inch of its life and impress everyone along the way. It looks the absolute business inside and out, with the former packing plenty of luxurious and technologically advanced offerings. But unless you are either constantly at a racetrack or someone who is literally only purchasing it for peacocking, the M8 Competition will be too much for most mere mortals.