It took 30 years, but now it’s here. Behold the BMW M8 Competition, the first production 8 Series developed by the M Division. Those hard-core BMW fans will surely remember when the Company let them down by never announcing an M8 during the original E31 production run. As the story goes, they did produce one but it was kept in almost complete secrecy and unveiled in 2010 to a selected group of journalists.
The M8 was perhaps the best promise BMW didn’t keep: 550hp deriving from a tweaked V12, manual gearbox and a lightweight and wide bodywork sounded like the perfect recipe for the definitive hi-performance GT. However, after 30 years, the modern interpretation of BMW’s ultimate grand tourer is here and thriving before our eyes. Powered by a 4.4 litre twin turbo V8, 625 hp mated to a Steptronic 8 speed transmission with M X Drive with an electronic limited slip diff. It’s a great recipe that we already saw with the M5 and the new X4 and X3 M SUV’s. Also, the possibility to disengage the front wheels means that the M8 can be also driven as a 2 wheel drive coupé. Knowing BMW, the M8 has been developed as its ultimate Uber Grand Tourer. Luxurious and filled with buttons and switches, it represent the fulfillment of a missed opportunity. Needless to say that this isn’t the car you save up for driving exclusively in the twisties but rather the one you want to take on a long journey where you have nice scenery and lovely roads. Here, fun comes from just driving it everywhere rather than going just on a hunt for corners.
The M8 is the M Division’s first step into the luxury segment. This means that it presents you with a true opulence overload: rich leather, plenty of buttons and multiple choices regarding the different drivetrain configurations. Since the car is lavishly equipped and a bit posh, there was only one place where we could drive it to in order to maximize our winter driving experience: St. Moritz. Not that we care about being spotted by the heirs of rich families but we truly have a feeling that the M8 Competition will be soon a part of this sort of landscape. Yet, the roads leading to this exotic skiing location are some of the best you can experience for a proper GT experience. Also, do not forget that the Swiss Alps represented one of the most breath-taking sights of the famous Grand Tour, i.e. that long journey that rich young heirs to noble families took between the XVII and XVIII century upon reaching around 20 years of age. On their way to south Europe, they always passed through the Alps to admire the beautiful landscapes: it was a real passage ritual for these young gentlemen. Sure, nowadays the grand tour can be done any day you like… but passing through the Alps has not lost any of its charm.
The M8 Competition can be a sort of the perfect tool for the ultimate modern Grand Tour. It’s BMW’s ultimate concentration of high tech and it’s extremely capable on the road. It’s supposed to be the jack of all trades… with an eye set to performance. Right after the first meters, the presence of more rigid damping is felt: over the bumps the car maintains its composure but the big GT surely doesn’t do much to isolate you from the road. Power delivery is linear and immediate as expected from the excellent forced induction system and so is the handling. Incorporating all the great elements of the contemporary M Division creations the M8 Competition is perhaps the spearhead of these special BMW’s. Saint Moritz is perhaps the most ideal landscape for this car. The roads leading to this exotic ski-heaven are the most suited than the corners of the Nordschleife. It’s the ideal car that you would love to have when you’re late for the skiing week end: fast and consistent at all times, and incredibly safe, it carves icy roads with great amounts of confidence and precision. A mix between fast two-lane roads to tight mountain passes constitute a right proving ground for this modern Grand Tour machine. Press your foot down and the M XDrive system will guarantee traction under every circumstance. Despite being a car with a rear drive bias, it provides you with neutral handling and predictable behavior. Not to mention its presence, which is felt by any 20 year-old walking down the street in Saint Moritz. It’s a wonderful motorcar but it’s not… as “M” as you would expect from a car wearing that badge. On the contrary, the X3 and X4 M feel more focused, despite their bone-shaking ride and the fact that they’re suv’s.
In the end, you’re left wondering where the M8 can be located in the performance car panorama. It’s blistering fast and supremely agile as you would expect but it lacks that edge that defines M Division’s cars. The bellow of the V8 and the longer gearing is made more for a relaxing high-speed pace rather than full attack mode but still, if cornering is what you love the M8 can pull the classic M Division tricks eagerly. In the M8, the term Competition has a more “non-plus-ultra” meaning rather than the usual no-nonsense track-focused development. In other words, Competition here is a synonym for more luxury rather than more rawness. And it’s fine, in the end. We do not believe that we’ll see M8’s during track days, contending the fastest lap times with M3’s. Still though, you’re left with a bit of disappointment as it’s a different animal than the M5. It doesn’t push you to drive it on the limit as you would expect but rather invites you to take advantage of the low-range torque and just maintain a fast pace on the road you’re driving on.
In a way, the original idea of the 8 series has been developed into a modern car fit for a new generation of drivers. Opulence where raw performance should be is perhaps what is wanted nowadays and BMW engineers have done a wonderful job in creating a car fit for a new generation o eager drivers.