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8 Oct, 2019 11:00pm Steve Sutcliffe
The new BMW M8 Competition is monstrously fast, but is it a true sports car? We find out..
If you look at the raw numbers, the new BMW M8 Competition is a sports car of vast ability. In simple terms it’s the fastest production car BMW has ever produced – but it’s also one of the brand’s most sophisticated models thus far.
There’s a digitised four wheel-drive-system, brakes that can be adjusted electronically to give differing responses on road and track, plus an ability to cover ground that is genuinely astonishing given how big and heavy it is.
The engine is especially monstrous in its outputs. Thanks to a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers, a ‘high precision’ injection system and an indirect charge air cooling system, the 4.4-litre V8 produces 616bhp at 6,000rpm, and a whopping 750Nm all the way from just 1,800-5,800rpm. So despite a kerb weight of 1,960kg, the M8 can hit 62mph in just 3.2 seconds, which makes it faster than a McLaren F1.
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Its top speed is also impressive. In normal trim this is limited to the usual 155mph, but can be raised to a still-restricted 190mph by specifying the optional M Driver’s Package. Were the M8 to be completely untethered by electronic trickery it would be capable of more than 200mph.
And then there’s the chassis and its hyper-sophisticated four-wheel drive system, which can actually be switched to rear-wheel drive – just like the M5’s system can – if you’re feeling particularly brave. The M8 is faster and more capable in its AWD setting, however, because it constantly deploys the car’s torque exactly where it’s needed, giving it traction and balance that simply can’t be offered in such a powerful rear-driven model, says BMW.
As you’d expect, given the £123,435 asking price, the M8 comes extremely well specified inside. It features a new version of BMW’s iDrive system, a pair of sports front seats swathed in beautifully stitched leather, a huge touchscreen in the centre of the dash, and two M buttons on the steering wheel.
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These enable you to individualise the settings for the engine and transmission maps, the differential map, the steering response, the damping rate, the ESC system, and even the braking response, depending on whether you’re driving on road or track.
So in theory it’s hard to see how the M8 could be anything other than a deeply appealing car to drive, especially considering how sportingly luxuriant it is inside and how practical it is compared with less spacious, less well equipped cars like the Aston Martin Vantage, Porsche 911 and Audi R8. True, the BMW is expensive, but even the 911 comes up close to the M8’s price when specified to a similar level – despite the fact it’s less powerful and less practical.
So why is this new M8 not a five-star car? Well, in spite of its dazzlingly impressive technical ability and its undeniable straightline speed, the M8 is a curiously soulless car to drive compared with the aforementioned rivals. The engine is the main culprit. Yes, it provides an almighty hit of acceleration across a vast rev range, but the noise it emits is strangely anodyne and somewhat industrial.
BMW’s engineers quietly admit this is a result of having to make their car comply with the latest range of emissions regulations, but these are the same regs that Aston Martin, Porsche and Audi need to adhere to, all of whose cars make much nicer noises than the M8.
The gearbox, too, works well enough in isolation, but feels more like a transmission that belongs in a grand tourer, rather than a sports car. And the same, ultimately, goes for the steering, chassis and brakes. Even in its most aggressive settings the M8 feels maybe a bit too friendly and a bit too sensible for its own good.
So while it can no doubt cover ground at an astonishing velocity, the interaction that the M8 offers from behind the wheel is too blunt for you ever to emerge from it wearing a great big smile. For a supposed sports car that’s a significant omission.
3.5 The new BMW M8 is a deeply effective car that delivers monstrous performance allied to a depth of sophistication that’s hard not to be impressed by. Yet we can’t help feel it lacks soul alongside other true-blue sports car rivals in this lofty price bracket. The engine, though massively potent, feels like it belongs in a refined GT rather than an out-and-out sports car.
- Model: BMW M8 Competition
- Price: £123,435
- Engine: 4.4-litre V8, twin-turbo petrol
- Power/torque: 616bhp/750Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 3.2 seconds
- Top speed: 155mph
- Economy/CO2: 26.9mpg/238g/km
- On sale: Now