The 2020 BMW M8 gets to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds.
The all-wheel-drive 2020 BMW M8 (and M8 Competition and M8 Gran Coupe and M8 convertible) has three modes for traction control. On is, of course, on. And off is even-German-engineers-can’t-save-you off. But the middle mode? It’s just right. A lot of cars have some sort of sport/track setting for the traction control. Some, like my Mustang, are just teasers, allowing you to slip about 5 degrees before reining you back in. It’s like, “I’m going to let you look like a hero—oh nevermind, here are some brakes to kill your lap time.” But in this BMW M8, with all-wheel drive and M Dynamic Mode selected, I kicked the tail out 45 degrees (like a drift god) before a combination of the front wheels and rear brakes pulled me back in line. Turns out electronic nannies are fine, as long as they’re clever.
The M8 and M8 Competition are at the very edge of BMW performance mechanically and electronically. They both get the same 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 and stellar eight-speed automatic transmission. The M8 delivers 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, while the Comp ups hp to 617. The S63 engine features a “hot V” setup (both turbochargers are positioned within the V of the engine) to improve thermal efficiency and response. The direct fuel injection operates at 350 bar, which isn’t that impressive, unless you list it in pounds per square inch, in which case it’s 5,076. It also has two separate water circuits, one for the intercoolers and one for the engine and turbos. What’s more, one of the cooling fans is electric so that even when the engine is turned off components still cool as required. That’s what makes the M5 so damn loud in your driveway after a spirited drive. Top speed is either 155 mph or 189 mph, depending on if you spec the M Driver’s Package. Sixty mph takes either 3.1 seconds or three seconds flat.
The 2020 BMW M8 comes with a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8.
The 2020 BMW M8 delivers either 600 hp in base form, or 617 hp in Competition form.
The 2020 BMW M8 is all-wheel drive, with the option to drive in 2WD.
The 2020 BMW M8 gets a fantastic eight-speed automatic sourced from ZF.
The 2020 BMW M8 gets a double wishbone front suspension and a five-link rear.
The 2020 BMW M8 only sends power to the front when necessary.
The 2020 BMW M8 has adjustable brake settings.
Also, like the M5, the M8 has BMW xDrive all-wheel drive and the Active M Differential that only sends power forward when too much slip is detected in the rear, and only after the differential splits power side to side in back. If you’re really brave, and 45 degrees of slip isn’t enough, you can turn the traction control all the way off and select 2WD mode for full-on donuts.
The M8 gets a double wishbone front suspension setup and a five-link rear. It comes standard with adaptive suspension that has three settings. The M8 Competition is a step firmer in each mode with stiffer engine mounts, increased front negative camber and rear toe-link ball joints instead of rubber bushings. Both come with a carbon-fiber roof, eliminating weight at the highest point.
The M8, and probably most BMWs going forward, has a setup button in the center console that gives the driver individual controls over the modes. It includes settings for the engine, suspension, steering, AWD … and brakes. In what might be my favorite new feature on any car, you can dial in more brake pedal with the brake-by-wire setup. And it works. In sport, the pedal moves about half as much as in comfort mode.
The 2020 BMW M8 has seats in the back, but we wouldn’t suggest using them for a road trip if you’re an adult.
Like the rest of the lineup, the 2020 BMW M8 has different driving modes for different situations.
The 2020 BMW M8 is mostly a grand touring car, with a dash of track rat thrown in.
My first stint in the M8 came at BMW’s Performance Center test track in South Carolina, with test drivers leading us around a rising and running piece of asphalt that must have a dozen configurations when necessary. I’m instructed to push the M1 paddle on the steering wheel, which takes me into sport-plus mode with that fantastic MDM traction control active.
“The rear end will step out in MDM, so be careful,” the instructors told us. And they weren’t lying. After a reconnaissance lap I put my foot down a bit more than required and feel the rear just start to slip out of a tight corner before straightening out. Later I push it further—the turn onto the makeshift front straight starts out tight but opens up considerably—and swing the tail almost a quarter of the way around before the front wheels kick in and pull me straight.
A lot of cars try to do this. They try to let you get loose, look like a hotshoe and then save you. But it’s hard to do it just right. Like I said, my Mustang just doesn’t give enough rope. The McLaren 600LT does it well, making for a nice, controllable skid. The new Ferraris, I hear, are proficient, too. Now that I think about it, the Jag F-Type was lenient, and the all-wheel-drive GTC4 Lusso that I drove last winter had a good system, as well. I didn’t throw the M8 in full two-wheel-drive mode, but obviously that brings the full 617 horses to the back to do whatever hooligan activities you see fit.
Max torque comes in at 1,800 rpm, so not super-low, but that’s the sort of thing you only notice trying to mat the pedal at a stoplight to break into traffic. On the road or track, the M8 always feels ready to go. The V8 sounds brutish but clean, if that’s possible, though it doesn’t flabbergast with speed or acceleration. It’s plenty fast, but with the refinement and all-wheel-drive layout, it doesn’t feel like the car will kill you at any moment—like, say, the Ford Shelby GT500 or McLaren 720S.
The eight-speed automatic is the best. Full stop. It’s from ZF and it preternaturally knows what gear you want to be in. I didn’t go to the paddles, and it always chose the right gear. The seven-speed DCT did the same in the GT500, but I expect that in a near race transmission; this was a pleasant surprise. That’s mostly BMW’s work, by the way. ZF builds the box, while Bimmer does the tuning. Corvette’s old in-house eight was good; this one is great.
And then the brakes. They’re not carbon ceramics, surprisingly. But that makes them cheap to replace and guilt-free to stand on. And with the sport mode, the pedal just stays right where it needs to be. I hammered them all day, along with 20 other drivers, and they never got soft or sloppy. Later, driving the M2, I got a good dose of brake fade, so I was certainly familiar with the feeling.
On the road, I drive the M8 convertible, non-Competition version, with only 600 hp. It stays flat and comfy, even over the surprisingly rough roads of South Carolina’s hill country. The steering has a heft to it in sport mode—it eases up in comfort—but it’s a variable ratio so it feels quick. Bumps don’t upset it either. There’s not a lot of actual road feel, but it does snap back to center with authority.
Inside, the gauge readout is digital and symmetrical. The iDrive controller sits right of the gearshift, which features a button to adjust shift speed and harshness. True, there are a lot of setting combinations, hundreds actually, and that sometimes annoys me. But your M8’s setup modes should be programed and then left alone. The steering wheel is a little busy, with buttons for cruise control, volume, traffic jam assist and voice control, along with two paddles for shifting and two more paddles for your M modes, which can also be individually set. The seats have a ton of adjustments, so finding a comfortable position is easy. And in the convertible, outward visibility is good. I only drove the coupe on the track, and I was mostly focused on the road in front so I can’t really comment on blind spots there.
The M2 and M2 Competition might still be the best BMWs, particularly for the money, but I think the M8 is the best-looking BMW by a long shot—only partly because it’s shaped like (and sometimes colored like) a Mustang. It looks long and low and aggressive, though it’s still a big grand touring car at heart (it’s longer than a Bentley Continental GT). I logged about two hours on the road and could have done five more. Unfortunately, you can’t really use M Dynamic Mode on the road. I mean, you could, but you’ll probably get arrested, once the cops catch up.
Promise me this: If you decide to buy one of these ($133,000 for the coupe, $142,000 for the convertible, $146,000 for the Competition) take it to the track at least once per year. Otherwise the flawless transmission, clever traction control and dreamy brakes won’t ever get used to their full potential. And that would truly be a shame.
Base Price: $147,995
As-Tested Price: $158,645
Drivetrain: 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8, eight-speed automatic, AWD
Output: 617 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 553 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,860 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,295 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 15/21/17 mpg
Pros: Slick traction control, best-looking BMW in the stable, adjustable brakes
Cons: Expensive, lots of tech to learn, back seats are barely adequate
Options: Premium sound ($3,400); M Driver’s Package ($2,500); Dravit gray metallic ($1,950); Driver’s Assistance Pro Package with traffic jam assist ($1,700); Driving Assistance Package with parking assistant plus, drive recorder, active blind spot detection, forward collision warning with city collision mitigation, lane departure warning, rearview camera, surround view camera ($1,100)
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