BMW M8 Competition: confused identity but a cracking 4.4-litre V8
Ever since the M8 Competition arrived in the TG Garage, we’ve all struggled to work out if it’s more of a performance car or luxury car because – rather awkwardly – it’s trying to do both. And three months in… we still can’t work out which one it’s better at.
One major factor that sways the pendulum (excuse the pun) firmly in the sportier end of the spectrum is the ride. Yes, the M8 has adaptive suspension and electronically controlled dampers as standard, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s as soft and cosseting as a lazily filled lilo. Even in its most supple ‘Comfort’ setting the ride is firm and at times fidgety; not helped by those big, beautiful 20-inch Competition wheels. One of which was recently snagged in a width restrictor. But more on that another time… after I’ve stopped lashing myself with chains.
See, being a big, long barge, the folks at M have worked hard to make the car as agile as possible. So they’ve stiffened it up to make it sporty. But to do so they’ve added a few metallic corsets to make sure its 1,975kg muffin top doesn’t fall out. Compared to a standard 8-Series, there’s M-specific forged links improving rigidity in the anti-roll bars. The front end has increased torsional strength courtesy of a tower-to-bulkhead strut and an exceptionally rigid shear panel. More than that, there’s a full-on steel X-brace and an aluminium transverse strut. Long story short: it’s stiff.
But having just returned from two weeks driving on African washboard roads with only archaic leaf springs (laminated sheets of steel stapled together and dampened with half an old pogo stick as a shock absorber) to ease the ride, the 8 Series feels softer than ever thanks to some airy suspension sophistication. Yes, it’s still jiggly but boy it’s better than cart springs that buckeroo you over a speed bump. Better than that, it looks better than ever (I’m really starting to dig the mean Beemer’s looks) and feels more luxurious.
The third world and opulent abstinence offers useful perspective as it’s really made me appreciate the low-key luxurious butler service the M8 offers. Things like the automatic heated seats, wheel and armrests that click on when the ambient temperature is below whatever you care to set it at. And the seemingly infinitely adjustable and fast-moving memory seats and wheel. The cool customisable nightclub-esque lighting and the smooth and clear (now bigger) 12.3-inch display. Plus, that smooth 8-speed auto box. But I do wish the M8 had double-glazing to snuff out more of the road noise – something that the M5 does.
But the real treat on return was the engine. Firing up a delicious V8 is a joy. It used to be common but the staple rhythmic, bassy eight cylinder soundtrack from the 4.4-litre twin-turbo lump is currently ephemeral at best and on a way to extinction at worst. It suits the M8. A cold start is assertive but not overpowering. However, it may also be the hottest engine in the world. Even during this cold snap and temperatures plummeting to -4, after even the shortest drive the fans run incessantly for literally minutes once the car has been switched off. This is rather perplexing to the public, who often run up to you and say, “Mate, you’ve left your engine on”. It’s then I bore them to death with a lesson in thermodynamics and the joy of a V8. Which I’ll bore you too with soon.