Big-hitting all-rounder lacks the single edge it needs over rivals on UK roads

What is it?

This feels like the ‘right’ BMW M8 to me. The Coupé, here driven in the UK for the first time. It’s smaller and lighter than a four door Gran Coupé and less floppy than a Convertible.

And two fewer doors than an BMW M5, with which this large ‘M’ platform otherwise shares a good amount – the same 616bhp 4.4-litre V8 and automatic four-wheel drive. Which can also be put into rear-drive. Goody. BMW’s big platform underpins 5, 7 and 8 Series but the M8 Coupé has a shorter wheelbase than the M5, sits 10mm lower and is firmly sprung to keep hold of its 1885kg.

There’s a 38mm wider rear track and, underneath, subframes are more firmly attached to the shell – so this is a more rigid car; more suited, you’d argue, to being a super-GT.

That, and its price, plus the fact that it’s the fastest BMW ever, gives it a vast array of rivals; everything from a Porsche 911 to a Bentley Continental GT, via the Mercedes-AMG GT, Audi R8 and even McLaren GT.

In essence, it’s a 2+2 that’s meant to do everything. A daily car designed to entertain, up to and including going on a race track. With a 0-62mph time of 3.2sec, a (delimited) top speed of 190mph and optional carbon-ceramic brakes, it has the credentials for a track, though I think an M8 Competition (there’s a less hardcore non-Competition one available overseas) would be surprised to find its owner had taken it to one.

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What's it like?

Inside, the M8 is thoroughly well finished; sumptuous and comfortable but with a bewildering array of driving mode controls, as if BMW and Mercedes-AMG are competing to see which can create this year’s most baffling cabin.

Familiarity helps a little and there are two red buttons on a busy steering wheel to programme your preferred modes. I suspect after a few weeks of trial and error you’ll find one that works as your base mode and another for occasional faster driving.

The M8, despite its girth, is more impressive during the faster stuff. As well as the 616bhp, the engine makes a flat 553bhp figure all the way from 1800-5800rpm. At a test track, the car’s inherent pace was evident. It doesn’t feel quite as urgent as its headline acceleration time suggests but I think that’s down to the soft, big-boosting nature of its performance. It grips brilliantly, starts to slide and then has the security of four-wheel drive to pull it straight easily (or, in rear-drive mode, it has all the scope you need to murder the rear tyres in short order).

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On the road, the M8 is an agreeable companion. Unlike most of its rivals, you can, at least, get a couple of people in the back (they’ll complain less than they would in a 911, though wouldn’t want to be there too long) while there’s a decent boot, too.

But for practicality, which could be a deal breaker, the M8 doesn’t have the ride deftness of the best GT cars. A 911 is no less comfortable, although it is less spacious and noisy. But it drives with so much more agility and poise you’d forgive it that one thing, given the BMW doesn’t pull out a strong comfort advantage.

In fact, the lesser 850i is a more pleasing every-day car, a better GT that’s more comfortable and has no little poise itself. As speeds rise, the M8 Competition doesn’t truly satisfy like a sports car to set it apart from this or its rivals, either.

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Should I buy one?

It lacks the steering feel of a 911 or the agility of an Audi R8, or the brute muscle car character of a Mercedes-AMG GT.

I like it a lot in isolation but, when it comes to it, would sign elsewhere.

BMW M8 Competition Coupé specification

Where Surrey, UK Price £123,435 On sale now Engine V8, 4395cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 616bhp at 6000rpm Torque 553lb ft at 1800-5800rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1885kg Top speed 155mph (190mph delimited) 0-62mph 3.2sec Fuel economy 25.4mpg CO2, tax band 242g/km, 37% Rivals Audi R8, Mercedes AMG GT

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Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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isaacu 17 May 2020

BMW M8 Competition Coupe

Berkeley Square W1. Dark Night. I am gazing at my first M850i in Black. No disappointments it is as was read BMW's 'tour de force' coupe. Fast forward 18 months and the Motor Division M8 is out.

If I'm in the market for BMW's ilk (a la M635CSi) I won't be doubting my testicles.



Nubian 30 April 2020

Plot & Lost Springs to mind

Looks like BMW are listening to their fan boy base rather than their engineers and designers. Go for all the headline figures and forget about a resolved design. It's a mess with one of the ugliest Butts I have seen on a BMW for years.
Peter Cavellini 18 May 2020

And counting

Nubian wrote:

Looks like BMW are listening to their fan boy base rather than their engineers and designers. Go for all the headline figures and forget about a resolved design. It's a mess with one of the ugliest Butts I have seen on a BMW for years.

A few months back I was sat looking out of a large plate glass Building onto a roundabout, I was sat there for about twenty minutes, and the most common car going round were....BMW , mostly three series, a few one series and a couple of X1's, 103 in total, that was just a random survey if you like, now these drivers aren't buying them on cheap deals, some must be buying them because they like BMW's, and that was only in twenty minutes, must be doing something right.

275not599 28 April 2020

I'd be embarrased to drive

I'd be embarrased to drive this car.  Brash, fussy styling that says I'm trying so hard to impress you.