What Car? says...
To explain the difference between the BMW M8 and the regular BMW 8 Series we’ve devised the curry rating. The regular 8 Series is rated jalfrezi, because it’s pretty pokey. The M8 – the subject of this review – tops out at vindaloo.
Yes, the M8 – whether you choose the coupé, convertible or four-door Gran Coupé version – is a luxury car that's as spicy as a tabasco pepper soaked in methanol then set on fire. It uses the same engine as the BMW M5 saloon but with even higher power and torque outputs: 616bhp and 553lb ft respectively.
It comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, but you can set it to rear-wheel drive if you’re feeling bold. Performance upgrades are available, such as a delimited top speed of 189mph (the default is a limited 155mph) and carbon-ceramic brakes, which retain their effectiveness for longer on a race track.
Despite all the above, the M8 isn't solely about performance. No, BMW says it’s as much about luxury, hence it comes equipped with many toys. If many isn’t enough, you can option many, many more. You can further individualise your M8, upholstering it with bespoke leathers or Alcantara, or adding lashings of carbon-fibre to its exterior.
Is it any good, though? Read on to find that out, as well as, more importantly, how it stacks up against its rivals. In the sportier corner there’s the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 while the Bentley Continental GT covers the luxury end of the market. The M8 is designed to sit between those two extremes.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Does the M8 deliver on its brief of sporty luxury? Well, let's explore the comfort side of things first. Switchable adaptive suspension is standard, and the softest of its three modes (Comfort) allows the M8 to float gently over the ups and downs of a subsiding B-road with just a little brittleness over any sharply calloused sections.
Admittedly, things can get a bit too floaty if you start pressing on, especially in the fractionally softer Cabriolet; this is when you’ll want to cycle up to Sport or Sport Plus mode to anchor the car down. It's much more cosseting than a Porsche 911 and no worse-riding than a Bentley Continental GT, but for more waft, the Mercedes S-Class Coupé is the one to choose. The four-door Gran Coupé version, meanwhile, is a little harsher than a Porsche Panamera but far less comfortable than conventional four-door luxury cars
The suspension settings are linked to a drive mode selector that lets you choose how the engine and gearbox responds, too, along with how heavy the steering is. You can select a preset mode or set everything up to your own taste. That means, for example, the steering can be left in Comfort mode – its most relaxed setting – even with the wick turned up on the engine.
Incidentally, that’s the best way to have the steering set; it maintains enough weight that you can gauge your inputs accurately, without feeling unnaturally heavy. Is the steering as direct and feelsome as the 911’s? No, but it offers a better sense of connection to the road than that of the Mercedes-AMG S63.
Similar is true of the M8’s body control, grip and traction. The Coupe and Convertible lean more than a Porsche 911 or Aston Martin DB11 and feel much heavier, which, in truth, they are. Yet, flick it between some high-speed left-right kinks and it’s more alert than a Continental GT, while the Gran Coupé feels a little bit more exciting than the equivalent Panamera Turbo S. With the four-wheel drive hooked up it’s also reassuringly planted out of corners, but if you want rear-wheel-drive playfulness, you can dial that in at a whim.
Just be careful, though: with such pent-up energy lurking under its bonnet, the M8 can be made very playful indeed. The engine is a belter that, despite being turbocharged, responds almost the instant you prod the ‘go’ pedal. Do so and it feels like it has the legs to outrun an Aston Martin DB11 and it’s certainly fast enough to give your passenger the willies. If you have a head for cold, hard facts, the coupé and Gran Coupé hit 0-62mph in just 3.2sec, while the convertible is less than a blink of an eye behind.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox plays its role effectively, kicking down on demand or producing sharp shifts if you choose to pull the steering wheel paddles.
Does the M8’s V8 engine sound good? Well, it’s not up there with the best: the 911’s rasping flat six, or the DB11’s baleful, Mercedes-AMG-derived V8. It makes a better noise than most recent M cars, though, the BMW M5 included; by comparison, it’s purposeful and less obviously synthesized. It’s still ‘enhanced’ through the car’s speakers, though, so it’s not entirely natural.
Good brakes are extremely important on a car like this. The M8’s stop you effectively, and BMW makes a big play on the fact that you can adjust the pedal’s response for a relaxed or sporty feel. The truth is that neither setting can match the reassuring solidity and progressiveness of a 911’s or R8’s brakes. And that, right there, is perhaps the biggest criticism of the M8: why have yet another mode to distract you when one good setting for most things is really all you need?
At high speeds, there’s far less road roar than you’re subjected to in a DB11 or 911, and there’s hardly any wind noise, even in the convertible – assuming the roof is up. It doesn’t match the serenity of the whisper-quiet S-Class, but if we focus solely on convertibles for a minute, the M8 has less shudder through its body than the S-Class Cabriolet and, with its roof down, next to no buffeting – provided you have the wind deflector up.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Outside, the M8’s menacing, bullyboy-in-a-Savile-Row-suit appearance grabs more than a casual stare from onlookers. Look inside, though, and it's mildly anticlimactic. It’s a case in point of relative understatement: plush, without aping the gentrified air of an Mercedes S-Class Coupé or a Bentley Continental GT.
That’s not to say it isn’t screwed together impeccably. Everything feels as solid as a mature oak – not something you can say about every square inch of an Aston Martin DB11. And for a little extra glamour you can swaddle your M8’s interior from the palette of optional, upscale leather and Alcantara suede upholsteries that are available.
What is a masterpiece is the M8’s infotainment system. BMW’s latest-generation iDrive betters its rivals’ systems by a mile – or a country mile in comparison with the DB11’s antiquated equivalent. Firstly, it’s very responsive and its menus are generally logical; secondly, by sticking with a rotary controller and shortcut menu buttons – instead of touchscreen-only interfaces like the Porsche 911 has – it’s a far less distracting proposition to use on the move.
You can still use its 10.3in display as a touchscreen if that suits, or you can use the optional gesture control feature instead. With a flick of the wrist you can, for example, turn up the stereo volume or answer a call, but be warned: you might end up looking like a Harry Potter wannabe who’s lost his wand. There’s always BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant as another alternative; it’s like Amazon Alexa, except you shout out “Hey BMW” to wake it up.
As you’d expect, the driving position is tuneable to the nth degree. The steering wheel and seat are both electrically adjustable, the seat is comfortable and nothing feels out of kilter. There’s a head-up display as standard, which beams plenty of information into your sightline, and the digital dials can be set up in all manner of styles and display all sorts of useful info.
No M8 provides great visibility; the front pillars are fatter than those of the 911 and obscure your vision through tight corners, and it’s hard to judge the extremities of the huge Gran Coupé on the road. All-round parking sensors and a rear-view camera are standard, as are ultra-bright, adaptive LED headlights that can shape their output at night to avoid dazzling other road users without switching from main beam. If LEDs are a bit ‘last season’ for your liking, laser lights are an option.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
While the interior is styled to envelop you, there’s plenty of head, leg and shoulder room in the front, along with lots of useful storage points. However, in the coupé and convertible, the rear is much more cramped; adult passengers and even some teenagers will find their knees jammed against the seatbacks and their head touching the roof. For more usable rear seats, buy a Mercedes S-Class Coupé or Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet.
You can forget about getting most types of child seat in the back, too; tilt the front seat forward and it gives you only a small gap for rear-seat access – much smaller than is provided in the S-Class. And unlike the 911, the M8 doesn’t compensate by providing Isofix mounting points on the front passenger seat so you can carry a child seat there instead.
If you want a practical M8, the Gran Coupé is the best option. Its passenger compartment is far longer and provides ample leg room for a six footer to sit behind another comfortably, and there’s a decent supply of head room for them, too. We should point out that there’s not a great deal of room under the front seats for rear seat passengers to put their feet, though, and that the small, high windows make it feel more claustrophobic than it is. If rear seat space is really important, an Audi RS7 or Porsche Panamera would be a better bet.
The boot is relatively long, even in the M8 Convertible, but with quite a narrow opening and a big lip at its entrance. A set of golf clubs or a few carry-on suitcases might just fit, but you’ll struggle to accommodate anything bulkier. The good news is that all M8s have rear seats that can be folded down for extra load space if required. That’s a rarity in this type of car; with the Aston Martin DB11 and, to a lesser extent the S-Class, you’re stuck with a relatively small, non-expandable boot.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The BMW M8 isn’t cheap. The coupé comes in at well into six figures, and the convertible is even pricier. Surprisingly, the Gran Coupe is the ‘bargain’ of the range, undercutting the regular coupé by a four-figure sum. If you’re weighing up your options, you can buy a Mercedes S-Class in S560 Coupé or Cabriolet form, or a Porsche 911 for much less, but then any M8 is small beer next to the cost of an Aston Martin DB11 or Bentley Continental GT.
And if you have an eye for investments, the 911 will retain much more of its value after three years than the M8. The DB11 will have lost over half its value by then, though, and the S-Class’s value will have plummeted.
Then there’s the cost of running an M8; you’ll struggle to top 25 mpg, even driving like a virtuous nun, and the tax implications of choosing one as a company car will make you wince, thrice.
On the plus side, it is marvellously well equipped, with 20in alloy wheels, keyless entry, a leather interior, a carbon-fibre roof and heated seats as just some of the highlights. The optional extras list is eye-watering, some of them being bundled into the several packs you can choose from.
The M8 hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but you do get a range of safety aids as standard. These include automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keeping assistance, while the convertible comes with roll-over protection.
Meanwhile, you can expect middling reliability: BMW came 21st out of a possible 31 manufacturers in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey. That was above Mercedes and Porsche, but below Audi. Aston Martin wasn't included.
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|RRP price range||£147,215 - £168,215|
|Number of trims (see all)||1|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||24.8 - 24.8|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£10,697 / £12,251|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£21,394 / £24,502|