The BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupé, to give it its full name, is a car trying to be two very different things. On one hand, it is a luxury four-door coupe, with all the trappings one would expect: heated and cooled seats, premium audio and a cavernous trunk to house at least two sets of golf clubs. On the other, it is a raw performance machine, with extensive use of carbon fiber throughout its structure and a twin-turbocharged, 625bhp V8 mated to BMW’s x-drive AWD system.
The problem is that in trying to hit these two diametrically opposed marks, it excels at neither. The Grand Coupé doesn’t have the refinement of a true grand tourer, and the compromises made to try and achieve this blunt its sporting credentials. Maybe my view is distorted somewhat by having recently sampled BMW’s driver’s champion, the M3 Competition, but the M8 lacks the immediacy of response its M credentials suggest. Where the M3 has an almost telepathic link between driver inputs on throttle and steering, with the M8 there was always a slight lag requiring a more measured approach. The car’s size and mass also start to make themselves apparent when the road surface is anything other than smooth, with the chassis becoming unsettled through bumps under braking.
However, the element that shines through is the V8, which has the flexibility to meet the car’s varying characters. BMW’s hot-vee S63 engine, hidden in the engine bay under a sliver of carbon trim, has been around for some time now, but the M8 Competition’s is the most potent variant to date (or at least it was until the M5 CS pipped it by 1bhp).
Recent revisions to the ‘Competition’ spec M cars’ V8 (which are shared across the M5 and M8) included upping the injection pressure to 350 bar, improving mixture control in the combustion chamber and sharpening the throttle response. Additionally, the lubrication system now features a constantly variable, electronically controlled oil pump coupled to a sump and oil circuit designed with track use in mind.
Response once rolling, even in the sharpest M setting, is not overly aggressive and the sensation is more relentless than savage. Complete the rigmarole needed to engage launch control though, and the engine’s full character becomes apparent; the 0-60 dash of marginally over 3.0 seconds is an almost uncomfortable experience.
Flexibility is where the engine excels thanks to its 750Nm of torque being available from just 1,800rpm. Rather than wringing out every gear, it soon became apparent that the car’s character better suited short shifting and letting the wave of torque take over. Regardless of gear, after a prod of the throttle and a whiff of lag, it would swallow straights in an instant, with the x-drive keeping everything in check out of corners.
Overall, the M8 Competition Gran Coupé is undoubtedly a hugely capable car and the V8 is mighty, but the compromises its Jekyll and Hyde personality force upon it beg the question, why would you choose it over an M5?