Last month, I spent two weeks and 2,000km behind the wheel of the BMW M440i. It is a great car, and left me wondering if 285kW of power from that delicious twin-scroll turbo 6-cylinder was enough for New Zealand roads. Was there really a need for a car like the $350,000 M8 Competition, with its two twin-scroll turbos and a 4.4-litre V8 engine?

With 460kW of power and 750Nm of torque, how much is too much in New Zealand?

The Range

You get to pick from either a 2-door version of the M8 – called the M8 Competition Coupe – or a 4-door version, the M8 Competition Gran Coupe.The wheelbase of the four-door car is 200mm longer than the coupe to give more rear legroom.

Both run two twin-scroll turbos attached to a 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine, putting out 460kW of power and 750Nm of torque. Each has BMW’s all-wheel-drive system that they call xDrive. Performance is listed at 3.2 seconds to 100km/h, and fuel consumption is rated at 10.4L/100Km.

Standard equipment on both is high, as you’d expect it to be. This includes an M Sport exhaust system, an M carbon engine cover, 20″ M light-alloy wheels with performance tyres, an M Sport Differential, M Steptronic Sport transmission, tyre pressure indicator, alarm system, automatic boot opener, keyless entry and start, soft close doors, BMW Display Key, M Carbon roof, floor mats in velour, active seat ventilation in the front seats, electric lumbar support, carbon fibre interior trim, M seat belts, Heat Comfort package – front (includes seat heating, steering wheel heating and heated armrests), High-Beam Assist, Driving Assistant Professional, BMW Laserlights, Parking Assistant Plus, Teleservices (including ConnectedDrive Services, Connected Package Professional, Drive Recorder).

There’s also wireless phone charging, BMW Live Cockpit Professional, BMW Night Vision with person recognition, a DAB tuner, Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System, M Sport Seats, M Rear Spoiler, BMW Individual High-Gloss Shadow Line, M Competition Package, M Driver’s Package, BMW Individual full-leather ‘Merino’ upholstery, a heads-up display (HUD), an Alcantara headliner, automatic wipers, automatic headlights, BMW Gesture Control, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, a 12.3” high-resolution central display, dual-zone AC, and electric front seats.

For the interior, there are some no-cost options, such as Carbon Fibre, BMW Individual Piano Finish Black, Fine-Wood Trim Ash Grain Grey Metallic High-Gloss, and BMW Individual Fine-Wood Trim Ash Black Silver Effect High-Gloss.

No-cost options for upholstery are:

  • Silverstone, Black interior colour, 
  • Sakhir Orange, Black interior colour
  • Midrand Beige, Black interior colour
  • Taruma Brown, Black interior colour
  • Black, Black interior colour

You can option carbon fibre ceramic brakes with matte gold callipers and M logo if you wish at $16,500.

The M Carbon Exterior Package at $7,500 includes the front apron (air intake inserts, front left and right), mirror caps, the rear spoiler, and the rear diffuser. Our test car was fitted with this package, bringing the as-tested price to $350,400.

On the outside, there is one non-metallic colour (Alpine White), then 6 metallic colours, and also 5 “BMW Individual Special Metallic Paintwork” options. Interestingly and happily, all paint options are at no cost. There are also 8 leather interior options, as well as 4 Interior Trims options.

PRICING

BMW M8 Competition Coupé $342,900

BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupé $336,900

You can read more about the M8 Competition on BMW New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

I knew this would be the same M8 Competition that I drove at Hampton Downs in April, and so was prepared for its greyness, namely Donington Grey. Such a shame this car is finished in such a flat colour, however the design of this car really shows itself off in the flesh. Forget the photos, this is a car you need to see. And yes, even in grey it looks superb.

There’s a real air of both performance and style here, especially when you get to the rear three-quarter view with those hugely blistered rear guards. The car feels stretched out, but BMW has pulled it off with some nice proportions all around. Up front there’s a grille that’s (thankfully) not over the top, and some carbon fibre extras like the front apron that is part of the optional M Carbon Exterior Package.

There’s a carbon fibre roof, complete with a dip down in the centre, just like a real super car. Side-on is where it’s at with the M8 Competition; it’s low, long, and sleek. Then there are the rims; 20” M light-alloy wheels Star-spoke style 813 M Bicolour, is the official name and style. These got both positive and negative feedback from people, with one DriveLife Facebook post saying. “1992 called and they want their rims back.” I was more on the liking-the-rims team, and for one main reason: they show off those massive discs, and red 6-pot callipers. Side-on and with those rims and brakes, the car yells “I can move it move it” at you.

The rear half reminds me of the Audi R8 and around the back there are real, functional exhaust tips – nothing fake here.

All in all, this car turns heads. It wasn’t just my impression that it’s a great-looking car; everywhere I went, people looked. Sure, they were mostly car guys, but BMW has nailed the latest design of the M8 Competition. At Caltex in Masterton, I even managed a discount on my fuel. I went to pay, and the cashier said, “I love your car, it’s stunning. I have to give you a discount.” Who was I to argue? In traffic when I was pulling out from a car park, cars would stop and let me out all the time, and at the lights, I could see other people in cars simply staring. This isn’t a car for an introvert and so for this reason, my wife didn’t enjoy her time as a passenger.

I only wish it was in a different colour, especially since there’s such a huge range available. Okay, one more for the wishlist: how cool would this car look if it was pillarless?

The Interior

I was won over after opening the door – frameless. Was there ever a bad-looking car with frameless doors? I think not. And then, there it was; red leather. That’s my kryptonite, and I was sold instantly. Not just the red leather either; there’s some stunning diamond pleating in the seats, and the red leather door panels finished me off. There are illuminated ‘M8’ badges in the top of the front seats, and the magpie in me likes these very much. This was going to be a great week.

Sitting in the car, my eyes instantly went down to the front of the centre console; ah, a European car, since there’s an ashtray available to use. It takes up one of the cup holders, so it’s simple to lift it up and chuck it in the glovebox and gain back space for your coffee. Also on the console – thankfully – is a bright red stop/start button. Good to see that BMW has kept the buyer in mind, and not stuck in a boring-looking start/stop button. It’s a small touch, but necessary. Another M touch on the seatbelts; they have red and blue stitching in them, just to remind you that you are in something special.

Right there in front of the driver is a 330km/h speedo. Another good sign. The instrument binnacle itself is a little disappointing; it’s leather-wrapped, so looks nice, but it’s a bit underwhelming. I think, for me, it’s too small, and when I’m paying this sort of cash I’d like to see more of it right there in front of me when I’m driving. The wheel itself feels fantastic, as most of the current BMW steering wheels do. I like that they’ve put the heated steering wheel button right there on the lower spoke – so easy to turn on or off. There’s no point hiding this in a menu system, and yet some brands still do just that. The wheel itself is not flat bottomed at all which was a surprise, but it is 4-way electrically adjustable.

Another surprise are the seats; there’s cushion length adjust for you taller people, but it’s manual with a lever under the seat. I’ve driven cars under $150K where this adjustment is electric, so at $350K, I thought this would be standard. One thing I was happy not to see was the glass finish on the volume knob, iDrive knob and gear shifter, as we saw in the X5 M50d as part of the Glass Craft Elements package. I did not like this at all, the shifter felt awkward and in a car like this, that would be out of place. So thank you, BMW, for not optioning this for New Zealand M8s.

Up top, there’s grey suede used on the headlining and pillars. It’s a dark grey, but it’s better and a little lighter than black and feels fantastic to the touch. There’s no sunroof in this car, and since headroom is at a bit of a premium, it’s likely a good idea not to have one. I’m not sure why, but the M8 Competition does not have any grab handles up on the roof. Instead, there’s some pretty decent grab handles on the doors.

Rear seat passengers suffer the most here; if your passengers don’t have legs, they’ll be fine. Otherwise, it’s barely a 2+2. I am not tall by any means, and yet even for me the passenger behind me will need to have surgery before getting in. Headroom in the rear is very tight too, so while I’m expecting this car to be an awesome Grand Tourer, I wouldn’t suggest taking three friends on a long trip. The rear seats dip down massively to try and gain some headroom, but it’s still not enough for anything but a quick drive. Average height rear-seat adult passengers will have their heads touching the roof.

Like the M440i, the rear windows don’t go down, if that’s important to you. There’s no rear seat bins in the quarter panel that the M440i does have, in their place are some illuminated speakers, which felt a little tacky in a car at this level. More on the audio system later.

Fit and finish inside is outstanding, as you’d expect. It’s bordering on a work of art, this interior. It’s very much current BMW design, with the same controls as most other models, but the way the red leather plays into it and those catch-your-eye grab handles on the doors really makes this interior something special.

Checking out the boot – it’s pretty decent, and at 420 litres, there’s a heap of usable space in there. Plenty of room for a couple of passengers with long legs who can’t fit in the back seat, or perhaps three sets of golf clubs. There’s no spare wheel; instead, there’s a tyre pump.

The Drive

At last, time to drive away. Memories of the M5 came flooding back; that same twin-turbo V8 burble. Subdued, but suggesting some potency at the same time. A slightly – and I’m talking ever so slightly – harder press of the gas pedal away from the dealership and I hear the rear wheels spinning already. Yes, it is all-wheel drive, but over my time with the car I’d experience this time and again; just push that right pedal a bit harder than is needed, and those rear wheels will let go. It’s no drama though, and settles down very quickly, even in the wet.

Speaking of wet, for almost the entire time with the M8 Competition, it rained. I was thankful for the AWD, but was desperate for a dry, sunny day, the likes of which we haven’t seen for what feels like months.

This car is fitted with an 8-speed automatic gearbox, and true to BMW, it’s not a dual-clutch transmission (DCT) so changes were smooth, as was low speed driving. DCT fanatics will say that a DCT gearbox will change much more quickly than a straight torque-converter automatic transmission like the M8 has, but honestly, it’s almost impossible to tell. Even in its default settings, quick acceleration will see quick gear changes; Switch the car into M1 or M2 mode and those changes are lightning quick. While there are some brands that can do a DCT and make it smooth at low speeds, in general I’d rather have a straight automatic gearbox over a DCT any day of the week.

The M8 comes standard with BMW’s Display Key but for some reason, our test car did not

New for this year’s M8 is the Drive Logic button on the shifter; you can choose from three settings, and this will alter the frequency of gear changes. Stick it on 3, and the ‘box will change down sooner, and hold the gears longer before changing up. You can also set this for each of the M1 or M2 drive modes, so (for example) if you stick it in M2 mode, the Drive Logic setting would likely be on 3. For that reason, for me it seems a bit pointless to stick the rocker switch for this on the gear lever. If you are tootling around in Road mode, you probably aren’t going to be playing with the Drive Logic setting – you’d just stick the car in M1 or M2 if you wanted to. Still, it’s there if you want to play with it.

Like the M5, the M8 Competition has those two red in-your-face buttons at the top left and right of the steering wheel boss. You can program them to do whatever you want to the car’s drive settings, but the general setup is M1 for balls-out track mode, and M2 for more fun but sensible mode. Within each you can define the steering, engine response, exhaust mode, and suspension.

One tap of the M1 buttons kicks the mode off, but you still need to tap it again to confirm, since this disables traction control and depending on how you have it set up, can put the car into rear-wheel drive mode. Perfect for drifting? Yes. One tap of the M2 button is all it takes to engage M2 mode. BMW have taken away their normal drive modes of Eco, Dynamic, Sport + etc, so instead there’s an ‘M.Mode’ button on the centre console that allows you to pick from Road, Sport, or Track. These are separate from the M1 and M2 buttons. You can also configure these modes how you want. Sport mode will also change the dash to a much sportier look, with everything in your face for brisk driving. On the driving side of things, in the Sport settings drivers can select to send a higher proportion of drive to the rear wheels.

And hallelujah! BMW has listened to us, and now when you switch the car into M1 or M2 mode, you get a rev counter in the heads-up display (HUD). This was missing in the M440i, and every other BMW I’ve driven. With such smooth engines, it’s vital to know right now what revs the engine is doing, and the HUD is the best place to show the driver that info. I was so happy to see this. You can customise the HUD too, and select what info you want to be shown there, including by mode; this means you can select what you see in the HUD in Road mode, and this can be different from Sport or Track modes. Awesome.

I aimed to take the car to Masterton later in the week, so until then it was using the M8 as a Daily Driver. How did it fare? On the whole, pretty good. With that much torque, anything is easy. Want to pass someone on the motorway?  Effortless. At 100km/h, the engine is a quiet, tamed beast, making very little noise – even with the loud exhaust button on. In fact, every time you start the M8 Competition, it reverts to having the loud exhaust button turned on. I started off my week turning that off each time I got into the car, but then just left it. When in Rome, and all that.

It was interesting to hear Ken Salto’s view on the engine noise, in his recent post, “5 things about the M850i”. One of these was the engine noise, and how fake it sounded. I’m not sure if this was because he was driving a Japanese-specced car, but I enjoyed the engine noise very much – as did my passengers – and couldn’t pick up a hint of it being fake.

Visibility is not a selling point in the M8; it’s low, as I said, and a shoulder check on the driver’s side sees big, fat B pillar, and forward vision is blocked by a chunky A pillar. But there is active blind-spot monitoring, so you are fairly safe from the rear side. That A-pillar is a concern, so it means you need to move your head back and forth a bit to make sure there are no hazards you are missing.

Like I went on for too long in the M440i review, the M8 has the exact same adaptive cruise control system. This means stop/go, and superb steering assist. You can read more about this in the M440i review, but man, it’s one of the best systems out there.

On the negative side of things, ride quality is not great even when it’s set to Comfort. On Wellington’s streets, the M8 Competition is, well, very firm. It doesn’t bounce, but it’s not very forgiving either. Sport mode makes this more pronounced of course. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but you can sure feel every bump in the road. Tyre noise is pronounced on coarse chip seal, but otherwise more than acceptable.

I don’t often use the synced aircon of any car, but I did with this one. That means that the heated/cooled seats, and heated steering wheel are tied into the AC controls. If it gets below a certain temperature, the heated seat and steering wheel would automatically turn on. During the cold, wet week I had the car, I appreciated this. Of course, there’s also a heated centre console (split left and right for driver/passenger) and heated armrests on the doors. Weirdly, sometimes both heating and cooling come on together. I turned off the synced AC, but sometimes both seat heating and cooling still came on together.

On the commute in the M8, you might get a chance to listen to the Bower & Wilkins Diamond sound system, if you ever get sick of the exhaust note. Aside from the engine and everything else in this car, the audio system is excellent. There are a few sound profiles to choose from; Studio, Concert, Stage, Cinema, or Lounge. Each has a distinctly different sound to it, so you can choose your favourite. But it is the sound quality that is stunning – I heard instruments in songs that I’ve never heard before, with crystal-clear higher frequencies, and a what felt like a very high-frequency range. I couldn’t find out what that number was, but man, it’s good.

You also get access to the Reversing Assistant in this car; we last saw this in the BMW X5, and while I didn’t need it, I can imagine there are some that would. Let’s say you have to traverse a car park, and it’s tight with lots of turns, and you need to go backwards. Reversing Assistant will reverse the car, turning the wheel at the same points you did, for up to 50 metres. It’s a cool party trick, and a nice use of technology.

Still on that commute, if it gets dark then Night Vision is standard in the M8 Competition. You turn it on by a switch on the right-hand side of the steering wheel, next to the main light switch. I’m not sure how usable it is – it would have been better to have it in the driver’s display, rather than the centre display – but it is effective, showing up other cars and pedestrians that you might not see. The jury is still out for me on this one, but like Reversing Assistant, it’s another party trick to show off to your passenger. Speaking of pedestrians, the HUD will also pop up with an icon of a pedestrian right there on the windscreen, just in case you haven’t spotted them.

At night-time, those laser headlights that are standard on this car will fill the road ahead with light, up to 500 metres aware. Self-levelling of course, and directional. But it’s the quality of light that impresses; they are truly excellent. One potential issue I had with them was when I was using my Passport Max radar detector, which has laser radar capability. Every few minutes, the radar detector would go off with a ‘laser radar’ warning, and yet there was none, and this was with the headlights turned off. I’m not sure if it was the frequency of the headlight (especially since they weren’t turned on) but it was surprising.

At last, a sunny Friday and time to head to the Wairarapa for the day, mainly to take photos but any excuse to get this car out into its natural habitat. Heading over the Remutakas, the M8 Competition shows that while it may be a large, heavy beast at over 2,000Kgs, it can hustle in the corners. Body roll is almost non-existent, and grip is, as expected, phenomenal with AWD and those massive tyres – 275/35 front, and rears at 285/35. You can still break that grip with a prod of the gas pedal, but get that corner just right and the M8 will fair fly around it with little drama.

Hills? With 750Nm of torque in a two-door coupe, hills disappear and you can barely feel them. This engine is like a diesel locomotive, it pulls like nothing else. It can sprint too, with 100km/h coming up in 3.2 seconds, 200km/h in 10.6 and the quarter-mile in 10.7.

Steering feel is good, but not great. Even in M1 or M2 mode with steering set to Sport, there’s some feedback coming from the front wheels, but it’s not fantastic. With that much weight up front and those wide front tyres, that was to be expected. But it’s enough to allow you to push the car along at a fair pace through the bends. Slipping the gear shifter to the side to slip into manual mode, and time to use the paddles for gear changes. This is where the M8 Competition shines, as it howls around the corners, with snap-crackle-pops coming from the exhaust on the overrun. My God, this engine sounds fantastic, holding it at around 6,500rpm in second means you are rewarded with an awesome 625HP soundtrack.

Coming down the other side of the hill, time to test out the brakes. As mentioned, these are enormous 398mm front discs with 6-pot callipers, and 381mm rear discs. There is excellent brake feel from these, and you can really feather them well to make the most of them and get smooth, clean braking down into the bends. Fade? Nope – zero, as you’d expect.

On the tighter corners, the car does show the weight it has behind it, and noticeably more than the M440i, but it’s all so controllable, and for over 2000kg – fun. We can’t leave how the car goes on a twisty road without mentioning the seats. They are supremely comfortable on the Daily Drive, but spirited driving is where they excel. You can crank up the bolsters to really hold you in, using the button on the side of the seat. I’ve got to say, even on the widest setting, they are still pretty tight. But on a windy road, they come into their own, keeping you locked in place. So good. But keep in mind that if you are wide of girth, they might be a struggle.

According to BMW, the M8 Competition should sip fuel at the rate of 10.7litres/100Km. That seems pretty optimistic, and in our driving of the car over 800Km, it managed to do 13.0L/100Km. For a large twin-turbo high-performance V8, that’s very reasonable.

[John’s Point of View]

When Fred was away in Auckland for another press launch, I saw a window and nabbed the M8, so that I could drive it for the last few days. It wasn’t all bad, I left him with the new Tiguan R-Line I was reviewing, which seemed like a fair swap to me. 

Well the BMW M8 certainly makes a statement, when you see it and hear it. It looks sharp and is one of those ‘moving fast while still’ in cars. Once starting it you and everyone around you knows there is a beast under the hood. And did this car fly, it’s one really quick car, pulling the horizon towards you at an incredible rate. The sound inside the car is nice too, not as loud as my own tastes would like, but in keeping with the luxury spec of the car. 

Standing back from the M8 and wiping down my glossed-over eyes I had to really think about this car. Fred has covered what it’s like to drive, it’s a monster, but there are other aspects of this car to really consider. Its price tag is huge, which pushes it way up into the next tier of luxury car brands like Bentley and Aston Martin. Was the M8 trying to be a performance car or the ultimate in luxury grand tourers? This is a problem for the M8; BMW are not used to being at this level, which was apparent after spending a few days behind the wheel. For instance the key we had was pretty basic, no different to the key you get with most BMWs. It should have been the display key, but for some reason was not.

The centre console had some nice haptic buttons, which were not carried on to the dash where it jumped back to normal BMW buttons. The controls were confusing when compared to other M vehicles, with the M1 and M2 on the wheel, both customizable, but the M button on the centre console was different again, with more settings or just a change of the dash. It needed to be simplified. The seats are narrow and small and I personally did not find them very comfy. Every time I got in the car, the heated or cooling seats would start, one time they were both on, never keeping the settings I had before. Even though it was a smart AC system, I felt it never got it right. I also found that the radio muted everytime I lifted my hand to use the indicator, due to the Harry Potter gestures system they have. There were far too many settings, buttons and it felt more confusing to drive than natural. All of these little things become issues for me when you consider you’re paying $350K for it, issues that other brands around this bracket do not have.

I really enjoyed my time in the M8, but I felt it had some of the same issues as my Audi RS6. It’s trying to be the swiss army knife that has all of the options on it, which for the first few seconds is cool, and awesome. But then when you use it for specific things, it feels a bit cumbersome and unnatural. The M8 was trying to be everything: sports car, every-day car and luxury grand tourer. It did some of these things well but it missed the mark on a lot of things too. This price bracket has an expectation to live up to, and with only a short time behind the wheel I was not as impressed with the M8 as I thought I should be. 

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/Torque
kW/Nm
0-100km/hCargo capacity, litresFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Bentley Continental GT4.0-litre, V8 twin-turbo404/7703.935811.3$387,600
Porsche Panamera Turbo S4.0-litre, V8 turbo463/8203.146711.6$373,900
Aston Martin DB11 V125.2-litre, V12 twin-turbo 447/7003.7NA13.4$365,000
BMW M8 Competition4.4-litre, V8 twin-turbo460/7503.242010.7$342,900
Mercedes-AMG GT-R Coupe4.0-litre, V8 twin-turbo 430/7003.617511.4$341,900

The Pros and Cons

Pros
Performance
Handling
Brakes
Engine/exhaust noise
Quality of finish
Design
Transmission
Headlights
HUD
Audio system     
Cons
Ride is very firm
Some expected equipment missing
Complicated Drive Mode settings
Rear space negligble
Vehicle Type2-door high-performance coupe
Starting Price$342,900
Price as Tested$350,400
Engine4.4-litre V8 petrol with two twin-scroll turbochargers
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
[email protected],000rpm
[email protected],800rpm
Transmission8-speed Steptronic
Spare WheelPump only
Kerb Weight, Kg1,885
Length x Width x Height, mm4867x1907x1362
Cargo Capacity, litres
Seats up/seats down
420/NA
Fuel capacity, litres68
Fuel Efficiency, L/100KmAdvertised Spec – combined – 10.7
Real-World Test – combined – 13.0
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
NA
Turning circle, metres12.2
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 years free servicing
5-year warranty
5 years Roadside Assistance
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
9
Performance
9
Safety
9
Styling
9
Value
6
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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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