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BMW M8 2021 review: Competition Gran Coupe

The BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe has a planted, low-slung, wide-track stance.
EXPERT RATING
8
The M8 Competition Gran Coupe is the ultimate expression of BMW's flagship four-door coupe. But it's huge performance and substantial price tag beg the question; when is enough enough?

The right lane on Aussie freeways is occasionally referred to as the ‘fast lane’, which is laughable because the highest legal speed in the entire country is 130km/h (81mph). And that’s only on a few stretches in the Top End. Other than that, 110km/h (68mph) is all you’re getting.

Sure, a 'buck thirty' isn’t hanging around, but the subject of this review is a 460kW (625hp) four-door missile, capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, and on to a maximum velocity somewhat in excess of our legal limit. 

Fact is, the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe is born and bred in Germany, where the autobahn’s left lane is serious territory, with open speed sections, and the car itself the only thing holding you back. In this case, to no less than 305km/h (190mph)!

Which begs the question, isn’t steering this machine onto an Aussie highway like cracking a walnut with a twin-turbo, V8-powered sledgehammer?

Well, yes, But by that logic a whole bunch of high-end, ultra high-performance cars would instantly become surplus to requirements here. Yet they continue to sell, in healthy numbers.  

So, there’s got to be more to it. Time to investigate.

BMW 8 Series 2021: M8 Competition Gran Coupe
Safety rating
Engine Type4.4L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10.4L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$349,900

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

At $349,900, before on-road costs, the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe sits in an interesting part of the upper-luxury, high-performance market, the unifying theme being a forced induction V8 engine under the bonnet. 

On price, it lines up almost exactly with Bentley’s twin-turbo Continental GT V8 ($346,268), but that’s a more conventional, two-door coupe

If it’s four doors you’re after, some compelling options, within shouting distance of the M8’s price, include the supercharged V8 Jaguar XJR 575 ($309,380), twin-turbo V8 Maserati Quattroporte GTS GranSport ($299,990), and the presidentially powerful and imposing twin-turbo V8 Mercedes-AMG S 63 L ($392,835).

But, arguably, the competitor that lines up best in terms of intent, performance, and personality is Porsche’s Panamera GTS ($366,700). You guessed it, a twin-turbo V8, also designed to prowl the autobahn’s left lane. 

So, in this exalted company you need to bring your quality and features A-game, and the M8 Competition Gran Coupe doesn’t disappoint. 

Running through all the car’s standard equipment would be a tedious exercise, if only for the sheer volume of features, and hopefully, the following highlights package will give you a feel for the level we’re talking about here.

Aside from copious amounts of active and passive safety tech (covered in the Safety section) this brutal Beamer features, four-zone climate control, configurable ambient (interior) lighting, keyless entry and start, ‘Merino’ leather trim covering the seats, doors, dash, M steering wheel, and gearshift, ‘Anthracite’ Alcantara headlining, 20-inch alloy rims, active cruise control, a digital instrument panel, head-up display, and laser headlights.

The seats are covered in ‘Merino’ leather trim. The seats are covered in ‘Merino’ leather trim.

The electrically-adjustable sports front seats are ventilated and heated, while the leather-trimmed steering wheel, front centre armrest, and even the front door armrests can also be dialled up to a toasty setting.

You can also add a 10.25-inch multimedia display featuring navigation (with real-time traffic updates), Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as gesture control and voice recognition. The exterior mirrors are heated, folding, and auto-dimming. The Bang & Olufsen surround sound audio system boasts 16 speakers and digital radio.   

Inside is a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen. Inside is a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen.

There’s also a digital dash display, panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, soft-close doors, power sunblinds on the rear, and rear side windows, and a l-o-t more. Even in this price range, that standard fit-out is impressive.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

Want to start a vigorous car enthusiast discussion (more a verbal punch-up)? Simply ask whether a four-door car can be a coupe.

Traditionally, the answer is no, but over time numerous automotive brands have applied that description to cars with more than two doors, including SUVs!

So, here we are. A four-door ‘Gran Coupe’, and the M8 Competition version retains the smoothly tapering turret and frameless side glass that help give selected BMW four-door models the same swoopy, coupe look.

The M8 Competition Gran Coupe is a compelling combination of strong, confident character lines. The M8 Competition Gran Coupe is a compelling combination of strong, confident character lines.

At close to 4.9m long, a fraction over 1.9m wide, and under 1.4m high, the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe has a firmly planted, low-slung, wide-track stance. Always a subjective call, but I for one, think it looks stunning, especially in our test car’s ‘Frozen Brilliant White’ matt paint finish.

In an era of comically oversized BMW grilles, things are relatively under control here, with a bright black finish applied to that ‘kidney grille’, as well as the huge front bumper air intakes, front splitter, front fender vents, exterior mirrors, window surrounds, 20-inch rims, lip spoiler on the boot, rear valance panel (incorporating a functional diffuser), and quad exhaust tips. The roof’s black, too, but that’s because it’s made of carbon-fibre.

The M8 stunning, especially in our test car’s ‘Frozen Brilliant White’ matt paint finish. The M8 stunning, especially in our test car’s ‘Frozen Brilliant White’ matt paint finish.

Overall the M8 Competition Gran Coupe is a compelling combination of strong, confident character lines along the bonnet and lower flanks, with tightly wrapped curves following the high hip line, and more organically irregular, yet distinctly BMW shapes in the head- and tail-lights. 

The interior is a beautifully balanced design with a broad centre console sweeping up to the middle of the dash and wrapping around to focus on the driver, in typical BMW fashion.

The interior is a beautifully balanced design. The interior is a beautifully balanced design.

 The multi-adjustable sports front seats are immaculate, with high-end quilting in the centre section matching a similar treatment in the doors. The dark grey (full) leather trim is offset by carbon and brushed metal trim elements for a cool, calm and focused feel.

Crack the bonnet open and a spectacular ‘BMW M Power’ carbon cover dressing the top of the engine is guaranteed to impress friends and family.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Of the M8 Competition Gran Coupe’s 4867mm overall length, 2827 of it sits between the front and rear axles, which is a pretty healthy wheelbase for a car this size (and 200mm more than the 8 Series two-door coupe).

Space up front is generous, and one upside of a four-door, rather than two-door coupe, is you’re not struggling quite so much for space to get in and out when parked next to other cars.

Once inside, there’s plenty of storage up front, with a large lidded box/armrest between the front seats, twin cupholders in the centre console, as well as another covered area for wireless phone charging and extra bits and pieces in front of that. Long door pockets provide space for bottles, and the glove box is a decent size. There’s 12V power as well as USB sockets for media connection, with charging outlets in support.

Space up front in the M8 is generous. Space up front in the M8 is generous.

At first glance you’d swear the rear seat was designed as a two-seater only, but when push (literally) comes to shove a centre passenger can squeeze in, legs straddling the rear console.

In terms of legroom, at 183cm (6’0”) I could sit behind the driver’s seat set for my position with knee room to spare, but headroom is another matter, with my noggin making solid contact with the soft Alcantara headlining. It’s the price you pay for this car’s racy profile.

There's enough leg and knee room in the back seat, but head space is lacking. There's enough leg and knee room in the back seat, but head space is lacking.

There’s a neatly trimmed storage box and two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, plus door pockets with enough room for small bottles. The rear console houses dual climate controls, twin USB power sockets, and a small oddments tray, as well as buttons for the optional rear seat heating fitted to our test car ($900).

The 440-litre boot is a bit like the car itself - long and wide, but not very high. The rear seat split-folds 40/20/40 if you need more space, and the boot lid is automatic with a hands free function. But don’t bother looking for a spare of any description, a tyre repair kit is your only option.

  • Cargo capacity is rated at The 440 litres. Cargo capacity is rated at The 440 litres.
  • The boot was large enough to fit two of the CarsGuide suitcases. The boot was large enough to fit two of the CarsGuide suitcases.

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

The M8 Competition is powered by an all-alloy, 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, featuring direct-injection, as well as the latest version of BMW’s ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing and ‘Double-VANOS’ variable camshaft control, to produce 460kW (625hp) at 6000rpm, and 750Nm from 1800-5800rpm.

Designated ‘S63’, the engine’s two twin-scroll turbos are located, along with a cross-bank exhaust manifold, in the engine’s (90-degree) ‘hot vee.’ 

The idea is consistent transmission of exhaust energy to the turbos for improved response, with the reversal of usual practice completed by inlet manifolds positioned on the engine’s outer edges.

The 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine produces 460kW/750Nm. The 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine produces 460kW/750Nm.

Drive goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed ‘M Steptronic’ (torque converter) auto transmission with ‘Drivelogic’, and dedicated oil cooling, as well as BMW’s ‘xDrive’ all-wheel drive system.

The xDrive set-up is built around a central transfer case housing an electronically-controlled, variable multi-plate clutch, with front to rear drive distribution set to a default 40:60 split.

The system monitors multiple inputs including, wheel speed (and slip), acceleration and steering angle, and is able to vary the ratio up to 100 per cent rear thanks to the ‘Active M Differential.’ 

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 10.4L/100km, the M8 Competition emitting 239g/km of CO2 in the process.

Despite the standard auto stop/start function, over a week-long combination of city, suburban, and freeway running we recorded a (dash-indicated) average of 15.6L/100km.

Pretty thirsty, but not outrageous when you consider this car’s performance potential, and the fact that (purely for research purposes) we exploited it regularly.

Recommended fuel is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 68 litres of it to fill the tank. That equates to a range of 654km in line with the factory claim, and 436km using our real-world number as a guide.

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

The BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in terms of active and passive safety tech.

As well as expected crash avoidance features like stability and traction controls, this M8 features the ‘Driving Assistant Professional’ suite which incorporates active cruise control (with ‘Stop & Go’ function) and ‘Night Vision’ (with pedestrian recognition).

Also included are AEB (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), ‘Steering and Lane Control Assistant’, ‘Lane Keeping Assistant’ (with active side collision protection”, an ‘Evasion Assistant’, a ‘Crossroads warning’, ‘Wrong-way warning’, as well as front and rear cross traffic alert.

The headlights are ‘Laserlight’ units incorporating ‘BMW Selective Beam’ (with active high-beam control), there’s a tyre pressure indicator, and ‘Dynamic Brake Lights’ to warn those behind of an extreme braking event.

Plus, M8 Competition owners score complimentary enrollment in the BMW Driving Experience Advance 1 and 2 courses.

To help guide your parking efforts there’s a hi-def reversing camera (with panoramic view monitor), rear parking distance control, and ‘Reverse Assist’. But if all else fails the car can park itself anyway (parallel and perpendicular).

If all of that isn’t enough to avoid an impact, you’re protected by 10 airbags (dual front and front side, knee bags for the driver and front seat passenger, as well as side airbags for the second row, and curtain airbags covering both rows).

An automatic emergency call function contacts the BMW call centre for connection to relevant services in the event of a crash. And as has been the case with BMW since the dawn of time, a first-aid kit and warning triangle are on-board. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

BMW offers a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is at least a couple of years off the mainstream market pace, and lagging other premium players like Mercedes-Benz and Genesis, both sitting at five years/unlimited km.

Roadside assistance is included for the duration of the warranty period, and the standard ‘Concierge Service’ provides everything from flight information, to global weather updates, and restaurant recommendations, from a real human.

Technically, service is ‘condition based’ with the car telling you when it’s time to hit the workshop, but you can use every 12 months/15,000km as a guide.

BMW Australia offers ‘Service Inclusive’ packages that require customers to pre-pay for servicing, allowing the cost to be covered off in finance or leasing packages and reducing the need for concern about paying for maintenance further down the track.

BMW says there are different packages available, from three to 10 years, or between 40,000 and 200,000km.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

There’s something teutonically symmetrical about the way the M8 Competition Gran Coupe delivers its prodigious thrust.

Peak torque of no less than 750Nm is available from just 1800rpm, remaining on full song across a broad plateau all the way to 5800rpm. Just 200revs later (6000rpm) peak power of 460kW (625hp!) takes over to finish the job, with the rev ceiling sitting just over 7000rpm.

That’s enough to slingshot this 1885kg bruiser from 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds, which is supercar fast. And the engine and exhaust noise produced by the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 during such rapid acceleration is suitably brutal, courtesy of electronically-controlled flaps in the system opening up. 

The exhaust noise can be controlled via an ‘M Sound Control’ button. The exhaust noise can be controlled via an ‘M Sound Control’ button.

On a more civilised drive you can reduce the exhaust noise via an ‘M Sound Control’ button on the centre console.

The eight-speed auto is fast and positive, especially in manual mode, which dials up the fun via wheel-mounted paddles. And when it’s time to direct this car’s forward momentum into lateral movement BMW has brought in the engineering heavy artillery.

Despite its frameless door body structure the M8 Competition Gran Coupe feels solid as a rock thanks in no small part to its ‘Carbon Core’ construction, using four primary components - carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), aluminum, high-strength steel, and magnesium.

The M8 Competition Gran Coupe features ‘Carbon Core’ construction. The M8 Competition Gran Coupe features ‘Carbon Core’ construction.

Then the ‘Adaptive M Suspension Professional’ (with active anti-roll stabilisation), the tricky xDrive continuously variable AWD system, and active M Sport diff combine to keep everything under control.

Suspension is a double wishbone front, five-link rear arrangement, with all key components in alloy to minimise unsprung weight. In concert with the electronic wizardry on-board, it helps keep the M8 buttoned down with only modest body roll in enthusiastic cornering, as the rear-biased AWD system seamlessly distributes drive to the axle and wheels that can make best use of it.

The price you’ll pay for the track-ready tune is in compromised ride comfort. Even in the ‘Comfort’ setting, the M8 Competition is firm, and feels corrugations and imperfections to a surprising degree.

An alignment of the BMW 8 Series planets left me with the keys to this car and the M850i Gran Coupe (also using the Carbon Core body) at the same time, and the difference between their softest settings is appreciable.

Also be aware that at 12.2m the M8 Gran Coupe’s turning circle is substantial, and it’s just as well all that camera, sensor and self-parking tech is available to help you guide this ship into port.

The M8’s electrically-assisted, variable-ratio steering features an ‘M’ specific calibration to deliver satisfying precision and good road feel. But in similar fashion to the ride a noticeable amount of unwelcome feedback comes through to the wheel.

The fat Pirelli P Zero rubber (275/35 fr / 285/35 rr) grips hard, and the monster brakes (ventilated all around, with 395mm rotors and six-piston calipers up front) wash off speed without fuss or fade.

The M8 wears 20-inch alloy wheels. The M8 wears 20-inch alloy wheels.

But overall, you’ll have to live with a less refined drive when you sign on for the M8 Competition. Straight away it feels faster but lacks the M850i’s lighter touch. No matter which drive or suspension mode you select, responses are more aggressive and physical.

To fully explore and enjoy the M8 Competition’s abilities it feels like the race circuit is its most appropriate habitat. On the open road, the M850i is all the Gran Coupe you’re going to need.

Verdict

With dramatic looks, a luxurious spec, and impeccable quality, the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe remains supremely well controlled as it delivers eye-widening performance and amazing dynamics. But there’s an ‘edge’ to the experience you need to be ready for. If I was determined to head for the Aussie ‘fast lane’ in a BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe I’d opt for the M850i and pocket a lazy $71K (enough for a cheeky M235i Gran Coupe to add to your collection).

Pricing guides

$281,400
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$204,900
Highest Price
$357,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
840I M-Sport 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $222,900 2021 BMW 8 Series 2021 840I M-Sport Pricing and Specs
M850I Xdrive 4.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $289,900 2021 BMW 8 Series 2021 M850I Xdrive Pricing and Specs
M8 Competition 4.4L, PULP, 8 SP $357,900 2021 BMW 8 Series 2021 M8 Competition Pricing and Specs
840I M-Sport 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $207,900 2021 BMW 8 Series 2021 840I M-Sport Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Price and features8
Design9
Practicality7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Safety10
Ownership6
Driving8
James Cleary
Deputy Editor

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