It's a Guy Thing

The Fast and Flawless

BMW’s methodical approach to speed and comfort leaves a few other exotic supercars blushing

This is a big one in the preservation of the low-slung, two-door BMW supercar as something of a metaphorical island in a global wave of SUVs and electric powertrains. The numerical eight is regarded as the magnum opus for engineering and performance within BMW, despite its somewhat incongruous lineage along the better part of three decades. From the wedge-shaped 850i circa the 90s to the beguiling Z8 in the James Bond film, The World is Not Enough, and of recent times the hugely influential hybrid i8. These are all definitive halos of engineering in BMW’s history, so the natural expectation around the M8 is that it needs to be an absolute gamechanger

But I digress over these metaphorical crossroads, this is as far as BMW has pushed the envelope in terms of exclusivity and outright speed (especially in Competition specification as featured here) and when you think about it as having Aston Martin Gran Tourer qualities, Ferrari performance and an interior that eclipses either of them, well you might just believe BMW has pulled the cashmere rug from under their feet.

For starters, the 4.4-liter V8 produces a stratospheric 617 horsepower and it’ll consistently catapult itself to 60mph before you can say turbo lag… which obviously is non-existent or overcome by that V8 muscle. And the M8 Competition continues buck physics with astute professionalism and brutal efficiency from its all-wheel-drive system that any memory of lairy rear-wheel-drive BMW M cars are – temporarily – banished. It’s a stunning and shocking combination of clutches and differentials, carbon core weight saving and configurable driving modes but its depth of talents run far deeper than mere acceleration tests.

First, though, the BMW M8 needs to be pretty, if only because some of BMWs other recent designs have courted vitriolic remarks from the internet’s comments section. But it also needs to be pumped with attitude to ensure it’s not viewed as just a longer and wider 4 Series every time its reflection is caught in the tall windows of an adjacent boutique café.

However, the M8’s styling is rather conservative with the usual M car tropes of bigger grilles, blistered arches, smatterings of carbon, including the roof, and quad pipes. Sure it’s aerodynamic in silhouette but it’s not bite-the-back-of-your-hand beautiful, although the convertible version is a little closer to achieving that. But those shark-nosed looks that often define the genre usually come at a cost to practicality, which the designers at BMW weren’t willing to compromise on – it’s form versus function, or should that be functions

A plethora of functions, working from sensors delivering millisecond adjustments – sometimes autonomously or by driver command. The highlight among these is the M8’s party mode – the all-wheel-drive system that can, with a few stabs at the right menus, become a hooligan rear-wheel-drive supercar with a vicious bite in the backside. Fortunately, the M8’s behavior is not as binary in as that, with plenty of intermittent modes offering a more delicate transition for those skid-loving drivers who like to leave breakfast runs without embarrassing themselves all over the internet. It’s still BMW’s rear-wheel-drive flair in most modes but cloaked in all-wheel-drive mode security, like an invisible hand straightening out the car with flattering subtlety.

Like all modern BMW M cars the configuration is superbly detailed and separable from the next; engine, gearbox, dampers, braking, exhaust noise modifying the car instantly but also progressively. 

The M8’s near-infinite configuration goes one step further – the brakes. This truly is the golden age of configuration so why have brakes that can’t provide the same responsiveness irrespective of temperatures and wear? BMW’s engineers in white jackets must have asked themselves the same question and devised a system that does exactly the above with two modes offering a discernible difference in feel. Just who would use such a thing, I’m not sure because the M8’s brakes are massive with plenty of stopping power in reserve. Could be one of those technologies that hasn’t quite matured in its current format but with the growth in autonomous drive and regenerative braking, could offer more in the coming years. Nevertheless, a juicy feature to boast about when a circle of car enthusiasts forms around the communal barbeque.

Allied to this, the M8 Competition is stiffer than the still-absurdly-fast BMW 850i which leads it to give more feedback and texture through the steering wheel. The 850i by comparison floats along whereas new dampers and roll bar settings in the M8 Competition forcibly nail it to each apex.

In the old days, a suite of driving modes such as these would have led to a significantly cluttered interior. Not so with the high-resolution touchscreens that can store and organize these in menus and sub-menus. You know you’re in an M8 rather than the M850i by flashes of color. The starter button is red, as are the M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel, and the headrests are illuminated with M signature colors. It’s all sportily sculpted around one’s ribs and posterior, but upmarket at the same time. 

It’s not all that exclusive, however, as the leather is probably sourced from the same cows as in a 4 Series. So the 8 Series suffers some mainstream recycled bits but the technology and graphics are reassuring at the same time and there’s a lot to be said for that!

Does it make the jump into the rarefied space of an exotic gran tourer with supercar aesthetics and performance? It’s certainly flawless in most respects; a series of rolling and expanding accomplishments all packaged together in perfect harmony. However, it’s this harmony that can see the overall product come off as somewhat clinical at the same time. 

The M8 is positioned on the toes of supercars with much higher prices, bereft of the glitzy extras that come standard on the M8. We don’t often mention value in the realm of sacrosanct supercars, but it’s certainly another highlight in a colorful prism of features. Pawan Dhingara

Fast Facts: BMW M8 Competition  

· 4.4-liter V8 twin-turbo

· 617bhp

· 0-60mph in 3.2 secs