BMW M8 Competition - long term review - Report No:7 2023 | Top Gear
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Wednesday 4th October
Long-term review

BMW M8 Competition - long term review

£129,750 (£150,050 as tested)
Published: 09 Jun 2023
 
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Has the new BMW i7 demoted the M8 from Business Class to Premium Economy?

To quote BMW’s own website, “the M8 Competition Coupe is equipped with an elegant interior – offering the finest leathers, exclusive trims, and impeccable details that define a luxury BMW". It’s not wrong. Pretty much every interior panel of our M8 is quilted and stitched in sensationally soft (if not a little jean-stained) Merino leather. If you look a bit harder you’ll also find artistic use of metals, glass and a healthy smattering of carbon fibre throughout the cabin – all quintessential hallmarks of luxury. But there’s a problem: the BMW i7.

I recently spent a week in an xDrive60 (basically a fully electric 7 Series) and it single-handedly elevates BMW’s luxury watermark to a completely different altitude. A watermark so high the M8 now fails to keep up, so it instantly looks dated. That’s what the rise of screens and tech is going to do to all cars. Indeed never have my aspersions and prejudices had to do such a drastic about turn as they had when I drove the i7.

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In an era of challenging BMW design, the i7 was arguably the most challenging. That was until BMW did something we didn’t think was possible and out-muntered the i7 with the XM. At first glance the i7 is big, bluff and clumsily wears a picket fence-sized illuminated grille. It is overtly cantankerous and lacks refinement. However I then opened the fully electric doors and sat in it (where the door electronically followed me shut with a press of the brake pedal a la Tesla Model X) where I entered a whole new world and redefinition of living large and luxe.

The problem with the M8’s interior is that fundamentally you have the same displays, clocks and dash as a 3 Series or 116d. Which isn’t particularly empowering when you’re driving a £150k super-grand coupe designed to rival V8 Aston Martins and Bentleys but notice that the person next to you in the traffic in their three-cylinder diesel hatch shares 80 per cent of your cabin. For six figures you want exclusivity and differentiation. You get that in the tech-laden i7. In fact, it’s flooded with so much new tech it can be quite overwhelming. So much so, you don’t know whether to sit in either the front or back. And having tried both, I still can’t pick a clear winner.

Up front you’re cosseted in oversized supportive-yet-soft thrones while a river of interchangeable colours runs around the dash, panoramic sunroof and doors like you’re in a sensory cave. Where the exterior design is positively pugnacious, inside it’s opulent but not overtly kitsch. BMW’s latest generation curved display (which pairs a 12.3-inch dial display with a 14.9-inch infotainment screen) provides focus on the cabin but is typically overly complicated to operate and instantly makes the M8’s display feel like an iPod nano.

Now, you may remember from a few reports ago that in the back of the M8 you get two chairs for below-the-knee leg amputees and a few iso fix points. That’s it. In the i7 you get cloud like pillows, reclining massage seats and a fold-down 31-inch 8K screen that makes all previous rear-seat entertainment systems look about as impressive as a Game Boy Pocket. Plus, you get drama as you prod door-mounted touch screens that shut blinds above, behind and beside you, a robot in the seat presses and prods you with hot stones and Hans Zimmer blasts a soundtrack through the monstrous B&W sound system like you’re in the Royal Albert Hall. It’s a proper experience.

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The M8 doesn’t have any of this whizzy new tech, just brawn. But that’s OK because you’d think the i7’s sticker price would leapfrog the M8’s, right? Wrong. The fully specced up i7 actually came in three grand cheaper, at £147k. And it’s not like it’s sluggish either. The 536bhp xDrive60 hits 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and the more powerful M70 even trumps the M8’s power output with 650bhp. It’s also far more agile and nimbler than you’d ever expect a 2.6-tonne barge. Plus, with an overall range of up to 388 miles, you’ll also go as far in it as an M8. You’ll just have to sit around a lot longer while you charge the 101.7kWh battery.

The i7 is an incredible product and the most alluring electric car I’ve tried to date. Which (at the risk of sounding incredibly spoilt) didn’t make it easy getting back into the M8. That felt fun-sized in comparison having sailed a land yacht for a week. But after sampling the i7 the M8’s cabin did feel like a backwards step – it was like reluctantly going into premium economy having sampled Business or First. But there was one thing that the i7 didn’t have: a great big V8. And pressing that red ‘Start’ button on the carbon covered console did put a smile on my face in a way that the synthetic sounds of Hans Zimmer’s coursework would never.

Mileage: 6,997 // MPG: 22

Good: We’ve cracked a 22mpg average! Will this get us on David Attenborough’s Christmas card list?

Bad: The BMW i7’s cabin game is so strong it’s taken the luxury edge off the M8 and aged it instantly

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