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BMW M8 2020 review: Competition

The M8 Competition coupe goes as well as it looks. Does BMW's M8 Competition coupe make sense?
Positioned as BMW M's flagship model, the M8 Competition coupe is in a tough spot, with most of its oily bits shared with cars and SUVs that cost considerably less money. So, does it really pay to look good? The answer: yes and no.

The all-new BMW M8 Competition is finally here, but does its existence actually make any sense?

As the high-performance M division’s flagship model, it is undoubtedly a brand-builder for BMW. But with low sales expectations, will buyers actually see one on the road?

And given its positioning within the BMW M range, why would anyone buy one when they can have more car (read: BMW M5 Competition sedan) for a hell of lot less money?

Looking to piece all of this together, we put the M8 Competition to test in coupe form to see where it stands.

Safety rating
Engine Type4.4L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10.4L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$352,900

Is there anything interesting about its design?   10/10

We’ll go ahead and just say it: the 8 Series is the most attractive new car on sale today.

As always, styling is subjective, but this is a coupe that hits all the right notes when it comes to exterior design.

The M8 Competition has one hell of canvas to work with, and so it unsurprisingly looks even better than the ‘regular’ 8 Series.

The M treatment starts up front, where the M8 Competition’s kidney grille has a double-slat insert and gloss-black trim, which also appears elsewhere.

Below it resides a chunky bumper with a huge air dam and even larger side air intakes, all of which have honeycomb inserts.

The 8 Series is the most attractive new car on sale today. The 8 Series is the most attractive new car on sale today.

This look is rounded out by the sinister Laserlight headlights, which incorporate BMW’s signature dual-hockey-stick LED daytime running lights.

Around the side, the M8 Competition is more discrete, although it does pick up an intricate set of 20-inch alloy wheels as well as bespoke air breathers and side mirrors.

Look a little higher and you’ll notice the lightweight carbon-fibre roof panel, which helps to the lower the centre of gravity while looking plain cool thanks to its double-bubble design.

At the rear, the M8 Competition is just as tasty. While the lip spoiler on its bootlid is subtle, its aggressive bumper certainly is not.

The menacing diffuser is our favourite element, mainly because it houses the black chrome 100mm tailpipes of the bi-modal sports exhaust system. Drool.

Inside, the M8 Competition serves up a lesson in luxury, just like the ‘regular’ 8 Series, although it adds a little aggro with several bespoke elements.

At the rear, the M8 Competition is just as tasty. At the rear, the M8 Competition is just as tasty.

The eyes are immediately drawn to the front sports seats, which look the business. But while those seats are supportive, larger occupants can find them a little uncomfortable on longer journeys.

Other M-specific features include the steering wheel, gear selector, seatbelts, start-stop button, floor mats and scuff plates, all of which add up to a meaningful upgrade.

As mentioned, the M8 Competition is otherwise luxurious from top to toe, with the high-quality materials used throughout helping to justify its high price point.

Case in point: black Walknappa leather covers the upper dashboard, door shoulders, steering wheel and gear selector, while Merino leather (black and Midrand Beige in our test vehicle) adorns the seats, armrests and door inserts and bins, sections of which have honeycomb insert stitching.

A 10.25-inch touchscreen sits proudly atop the dashboard. A 10.25-inch touchscreen sits proudly atop the dashboard.

In a surprise, black Alcantara upholstery isn’t confined to the headliner, as it also covers the lower dashboard, knee rests and front seat bolsters to add a sporty touch alongside the centre console’s gloss carbon-fibre trim.

Technology-wise, a 10.25-inch touchscreen sits proudly atop the dashboard, powered by the now-familiar BMW Operating System 7.0, which has gesture and always-on voice control, neither of which come close to matching the intuitiveness of the traditional rotary dial.

A 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster is located to the side, while a windshield-projected head-up display is above, both of which have a unique M Mode theme that is focused in nature and also disables the advanced driver-assist systems during spirited driving.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

Measuring 4867mm long, 1907mm wide and 1362mm, the M8 Competition is on the large side for a coupe, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s practical.

Cargo capacity is decent, at 420L, and can be increased by stowing the 50/50 split-fold rear bench – an action which can be performed via the boot’s manual release latches.

The boot itself comes with four tie-down points to help secure your load, while the side storage net will come in handy on occasion. That said, bulkier items will be difficult to load due to the small bootlid aperture and the high load lip.

The front door bins aren’t particularly wide or long. The front door bins aren’t particularly wide or long.

Hoping for a spare wheel underneath the boot floor? Dream on, as you get the dreaded ‘tyre repair kit’ instead, which, of course, is headlined by a frustrating can of goo.

However, the M8 Competition’s most frustrating ‘feature’ is its token second row, which can only be used by children.

Behind my 184cm driving position, legroom is tight, with my knees brushing up against the front seat’s contoured shell, while toe-room is almost non-existent.

Headroom is its weakest point, though, with my chin needing to be tucked into my collarbone to come close to achieving a straight back while sitting down.

The M8 Competition’s most frustrating ‘feature’ is its token second row, which can only be used by children. The M8 Competition’s most frustrating ‘feature’ is its token second row, which can only be used by children.

While child seats can be fitted in the second row via top-tether and ISOFIX anchorage points, doing so is difficult due to the lack of space. And let’s not forget this is a two-door coupe, so getting a child seat into the cabin in the first place is a challenge in itself.

In-cabin storage options include an average glovebox and a huge central storage bin. The front door bins aren’t particularly wide or long, meaning they can only take one small and one regular bottle apiece – at a pinch.

  • Cargo capacity is decent, at 420L. Cargo capacity is decent, at 420L.
  • This can be increased by stowing the 50/50 split-fold rear bench. This can be increased by stowing the 50/50 split-fold rear bench.

Two cupholders are hidden in the front storage bin, which also contains a wireless smartphone charger as well as a USB-A port and a 12V power outlet. Speaking of connectivity, the central storage bin contains a USB-C port and a 12V power outlet.

As for the token second row, there are no connectivity options. Yep, rear occupants aren’t able to recharge the devices. And it’s bad enough that they miss out on air vents…

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Priced from $352,900 plus on-road costs, the M8 Competition coupe is an expensive proposition. As such, it is absolutely loaded with kit.

That said, the M5 Competition costs $118,000 less and has a much more practical sedan body-style, so the M8 Competition coupe’s value is questionable.

Either way, its main rivals include coupe versions of the yet-to-be-released Porsche 992-series 911 Turbo and Mercedes-AMG S63 ($384,700), which is approaching the end of its life.

Priced from $352,900 plus on-road costs, the M8 Competition coupe is an expensive proposition. Priced from $352,900 plus on-road costs, the M8 Competition coupe is an expensive proposition.

Standard equipment not already mentioned in the M8 Competition coupe includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, auto-folding side mirrors with heating, soft-close doors, LED tail-lights and a hands-free power-operated bootlid.

Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, wireless Apple CarPlay support, DAB+ digital radio, a 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, a power-adjustable steering column, a heated steering wheel and armrests, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and ambient lighting feature.

Uncharacteristically, the options list is super short, with the $10,300 M Carbon Exterior Package and $16,500 M Carbon Ceramic Brakes the key highlights, neither of which are fitted to our test vehicle, which is finished in Brands Hatch Grey metallic paintwork.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The M8 Competition coupe is motivated by a bahn-storming 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine, which punches out an intimidating 460kW of power at 6000rpm and 750Nm of torque from 1800-5600rpm.

The M8 Competition coupe sprints from a standstill to 100km/h in a blistering 3.2 seconds. The M8 Competition coupe sprints from a standstill to 100km/h in a blistering 3.2 seconds.

A superb eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) is responsible for swapping gears here.

This pairing helps the M8 Competition coupe sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a blistering 3.2 seconds. Yep, this is the quickest series-production BMW model to date. And its top speed is an eye-watering 305km/h to boot.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

The M8 Competition coupe’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 10.4 litres per kilometre, while its claimed carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 239 grams per kilometre. Both are keen given the level of performance on offer.

In our real-world testing, we averaged 17.1L/100km over 260km of driving heavily skewed towards country roads, with the rest split between highways and city traffic.

Plenty of spirited driving led to that inflated figure, but don’t expect it drink too much less with a more balanced effort. This is a sports car that will require frequent trips to the service station, after all.

For reference, the M8 Competition coupe’s 68L fuel tank takes 98RON petrol at minimum.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

ANCAP is yet to issue a safety rating for the 8 Series range. As such, the M8 Competition coupe is currently unrated.

Advanced driver-assist systems impressively extend to autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, speed-limit recognition, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, tyre pressure and temperature monitoring, hill-start assist, Night Vision, park assist, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, among others. Indeed, you’re not left wanting here…

Other standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain plus driver’s knee), the usual electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and brake assist (BA), among others.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Like all BMW models, the M8 Competition coupe comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which pales in comparison to the five-year standard set by Mercedes-Benz and Genesis in the premium segment.

That said, the M8 Competition coupe also comes with three years of roadside assistance.

And its service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first. Several capped-price servicing plans are available, with the regular five-year/80,000km version costing $5051, which, while expensive, isn’t out of place at this price point.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

Ahead of its reveal, BMW M boss Markus Flasch described the new M8 Competition as a “Porsche Turbo killer”. Fighting words? You bet!

And after spending half a day with the coupe, we reckon he’s not far off the mark, even if such a suggestion seems ludicrous on paper.

Simply put, the M8 Competition coupe is an absolute monster in a straight line and around corners. Is it on the 911’s level? Not quite, but it’s damn near close.

A key ingredient is its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, which is one of our favourite engines being built today.

In this instance, a colossal 750Nm of torque kicks in just above idle (1800rpm), meaning occupants are almost immediately shoved into their seats as the M8 Competition charges towards the horizon.

The full whack lasts into the engine’s upper reaches (5600rpm), at which point an awe-inspiring 460kW of power is just 400rpm away.

The M8 Competition coupe is an absolute monster in a straight line and around corners. The M8 Competition coupe is an absolute monster in a straight line and around corners.

Needless to say, the sensation experienced during the M8 Competition coupe’s ferocious acceleration is addictive. It certainly feels as quick as, if not quicker than, BMW's claims.

Of course, this level of performance wouldn’t be so if it weren’t for the eight-speed torque-converter automatic, which does a stellar of shifting gears by being quick but smooth. That said, it does have a habit of holding onto lower ratios for too long when the fun is over.

Just like the throttle, the transmission has three settings, with the intensity progressively increased. While we prefer the former at its sharpest, the latter is best when balanced, as it’s otherwise too conservative or too frantic. Either way, it’s very responsive.

All of this is very well and good, but you want an emotive soundtrack to accompany it, right? Well, the M8 Competition coupe certainly sounds good when its V8 is on song, but we can’t help but think BMW M could’ve done more with its bi-model exhaust system.

There’s plenty of burble on the overrun, which is superb, but the gunfire-like crackles and pops that we love in other BMW models are missing, although there is some of the former when downshifting under hard braking. Overall, it’s good, but not great.

True to its GT roots, the M8 Competition coupe complements its straight-line performance with a relatively comfortable ride.

Its independent suspension consists of double-wishbone front and five-link rear axles with adaptive dampers, which ensure there’s plenty of slack on hand.

In their softest setting, the M8 Competition coupe is more than liveable, with challenging road surfaces dealt with aplomb. The hardest setting amplifies these imperfections, but they’re never overwhelming.

That said, there’s no denying the firm overall tune, which is prevalent no matter what, but the trade-off (better handling) is well and truly worth it.

It does have a habit of holding onto lower ratios for too long when the fun is over. It does have a habit of holding onto lower ratios for too long when the fun is over.

Indeed, the M8 Competition coupe eats corners for breakfast. Even if its 1885kg kerb weight is occasionally a factor, it remains in control (read: flat). This ability, of course, is partly due to its stiffened chassis and other BMW M wizardry.

Speaking of which, the M xDrive all-wheel-drive system is undoubtedly the star of the show, offering outstanding grip when pushed hard. Its rear bias is certainly apparent when powering out of corners, an action aided by the hard-working Active M Differential.

It’s worth noting this M xDrive set-up has three modes. For this test, we kept it in default AWD, but for reference, AWD Sport is looser, while RWD is drift-ready and therefore track-only.

And, of course, the M8 Competition coupe wouldn’t be as fun in the bends if it wasn’t for its electric power steering, which is speed-sensitive and has a variable ratio.

It’s surprisingly light in hand by BMW standards, but switch from Comfort to Sport and the stereotypical heft makes another appearance. Pleasingly, it’s nice and direct, and provides plenty of feedback through the wheel. Tick, tick.

Given the level of performance on offer, it’s no surprise the M Compound Brake system on hand consists of massive 395mm front and 380mm rear discs with six- and single-piston callipers respectively.

Speed, of course, is washed away with ease, but the really interesting part is how you can adjust brake-pedal feel between two levels: Comfort or Sport. The former is relatively soft, making for an easy drive, while the latter provides a lot more resistance, which we like.


If you take common sense out of the equation, we’d be happy to own an M8 Competition coupe every day of the week.

It looks stunning, feels luxurious, is safe and serves up epic all-round performance. As such, it’s so easy to fall in love with.

But think with the head instead of the heart and you’ll quickly question its positioning and therefore its bang for your buck.

That said, a used example could prove tempting in a few years’ time. And yes, we’d happily live with its high fuel bills…


Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

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Justin Hilliard
Deputy News Editor