Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 14, 2023
The BMW M8 is often a misunderstood and understandably but considerably underappreciated sports car. If you wanted rocket missile propulsion from the Bavarians combined with cross-continent comfort and luxury knick-knacks, you’d get an M5. It has five seats and a spacious trunk, and when all the settings are dialled to their most comfortable, it’s no less intimidating than a chihuahua. No less vocal either.
But BMW also offers the M8, essentially the same car wrapped in different sheetmetal. Same platform and the same powertrain but with two doors lobbed off, miniature rear seats, a bigger price tag and a sleeker silhouette. There’s a four-door version of the M8 called a Gran Coupe to make things even more confusing.
So why would anyone choose a BMW M8? What’s going with this $160,500 two-door that has most of us scratching our heads, especially when the M850i, a cheaper, less feral version of the M8, remains one of our favourite grand touring coupes? That mostly comes down to the vehicles it competes against. BMW always seems to struggle at this elevated price point - remember the i8? There are just so many competent two-door grand touring coupes to ponder through like the Lexus LC 500, Porsche 911, Mercedes-AMG GT, and even upstream idols like the Bentley Continental GT and Maserati GranTurismo.
What the M8 used to have going for it was the claim of being the most powerful M car available, one shared with the M5, but they’ve both recently been eclipsed by the BMW XM and its hybrid-assisted 644 horsepower.
Still, the M8 is far from lacking, delivering 617 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque from its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8. That’s enough to launch it from 0-100 km/h in an eye-watering 3.2 seconds, faster than an Audi R8 V10 Performance Coupe. It carries prodigious power and is more immediate and responsive than the M850i, making casual acceleration so effortless. All horses in the stable are summoned in less than a millisecond and it’s like playing a video game in Easy Mode.
The fat 20-inch wheels and all-wheel drive setup definitely help, and while it’s not wanting in straight-line performance, BMW was keen on giving the M8 a proper slim-diet routine. With the right options ticked, everything comes in carbon, from the brakes to the seats and roof. But for a car that weighs as much as a mountain, we don’t think these weight-saving measures really amount to much on the road.
The ride is magnitudes stiffer than the M850i, which pares away at its long-distance appeal. Vertical movement is nicely contained but the ride becomes fidgety and on edge when negotiating pockmarked roads. It’s truculent at low speed too but dial up some velocity and the ride becomes more fluent.
That ride stiffness pays off in the corners where you can take a lot of liberties with entry speed. The M8 is easy to control and there’s a generous bandwidth of balance where the M8 and its Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S rubber enjoys tiptoeing around. Laxing up the ESC modes allows for a bit of rear slip, and the M8 ever so gently transitions into oversteer when you power through a corner. It turns like a RWD car but it doesn’t snap or suddenly relinquish grip like one. It hangs in and shuffles torque like an AWD car, so you really have the best of both worlds working in your favour. The nose is pointier than an M850i though not as sharp as a Porsche 911. More progressive than aggressive, and you feel more of the weight transfer shifting between the axles, which offers some extra sensory connection from the driver to the machine.
But there’s really nothing quite like this explosive V8 reactor. You can get on the throttle so early mid-corner and just explode forward as the 8-speed dispatches gears without hesitation and the exhaust emits sonic booms the moment the upshift kicks in and the needle bounces off the limiter. You will be hitting unholy speeds before your brain even has time to register them, but you can breathe a sigh of relief as the equally powerful $10,900 carbon ceramic brakes pull you back down to the legal limit. Rinse and repeat. That’s the M8 in a nutshell.
And while the M8 uses the same engine as the M850i, the exhaust is uprated to be boomier and louder, creating a more omnipresent noise that permeates into the cabin. Its vocals add a world of charm, more so than the vacuum cleaner noises coming from a 911. And while not as gravelly as an AMG or as rough and unpolished as a HEMI V8 from Dodge or Jeep, the BMW excites with its more refined, operatic, and deep-timbered V8 war drum that beats to a smooth, rich, and rhythmic dance.
By contrast, the steering is not rich in road detail but it’s still immensely satisfying to turn in, from the resistance, weighting, and connection to the front wheels and road surface. But the synthetic vagueness around its somewhat artificial rotation slightly disconnects us, especially when compared to the Porsche 911 where its telepathic steering amplifies the car’s dynamic acuity.
The M8 is a stunning piece of kit, especially when draped in the right paint colour like our Marina Bay Blue. The quad exhausts look great and its raked roofline instantly catches our attention, but it’s a shape and silhouette that looks better when stretched out in the Gran Coupe variant. Even the M5 looks wider and more imposing on the road.
But this being an M car, there are also many exclusive features over the M850i like red M buttons on the steering wheel to program your custom driving settings, suede inserts on the dashboard, and these wonderful carbon bucket seats that can be yours for $6,500. Whilst intimidating to look at, they are very supportive once you’ve slotted yourself inside them. But hopping in is as difficult as any bucket seat. Porsche’s are no less tricky, as the hard and fixed side thigh bolsters will needlessly slot themselves into you like a suppository if your ingress motions are not meticulously planned out beforehand.
The seatback only adjusts fore and aft and there is no headrest adjustment either. Not that you need them - the seat is so snug, racy, and comfortable, and it can be lowered very far to the ground so you feel like you’re almost touching the tarmac below. There are holes for multi-point seat belts and they are lighter in weight than the standard sport seats but we don’t think by much, as they still have heated and memory functions, as well as electronic adjustment. Even the M8 logo illuminates at night.
If you yearn for the top dog two-seater M car, the M8 will impress, dazzle, and rocket you to your destination in speed and style. The M8 is fiendishly fast and dynamically capable, and it sheds speed as quickly as it adds it, further flanked by aural fireworks bouncing off tunnel walls. But it’s not the most focused and refined performance coupe, nor is it the most cossetting and comfortable grand tourer. The M8 is trying to be two things at once, all the time, and it straddles that middle ground nicely, pleasing both audiences but unfortunately being the master of none. If you prefer comfort and daily usability in a two-door, get the M850i. But if want more performance and practicality, the M5 is always the answer. If you can’t decide, well I guess that’s where the M8 shines.
Model: 2024 BMW M8 Competition Coupe
Paint Type: Marina Bay Blue Metallic
Base Price: $160,500
Price as Tested: $187,150
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,867 / 1,907 / 1,362
Unladen weight DIN (kg): 1,900
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 617 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 5,860 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 15.0
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S; 275/35ZR20 front; 285/35ZR20 rear