2020 BMW M8 Gran Coupe review: Big power, small niche
There's a lot to be said for freedom of choice.
can split its new 8 Series into Coupes and Convertibles and Gran Coupes, and offer each with four different levels of power. That gives customers 12 versions of the 8 Series from which to choose. But at the same time, it makes the gaps between them almost imperceptible.
That's the problem with the new BMW M8 Gran Coupe. It's a fantastic car, blending all the performance of the two-door M8 with the luxury, comfort and style of the four-door 8 Series Gran Coupe. And while you could argue that it forms a best-of-all-worlds performance GT, through no fault of its own, it just ends up feeling redundant.
The car you see here is the M8 Competition Gran Coupe, which means its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 is tuned to produce 617 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. That gives it a 17-hp advantage over a standard M8, which is enough to shave one-tenth of a second off the sedan's 0-to-60-mph time (3.0 seconds versus 3.1). That's fine for bragging rights, I guess, but means next to nothing in the real world.
In addition to that all-important 17 hp, opting for the Competition gets you a Track mode, which completely disables the driver assistance systems, and even turns off the audio system and central infotainment screen, for less in-car distraction. The Competition pack also adds a unique set of 20-inch wheels, a sport exhaust system, lovely Merino leather, Alcantara trim and special seat belts. Whether or not that's worth the $13,000 upcharge over the standard $130,000 M8 is up to you. But unless you're planning to actually use your M8 Gran Coupe on the track with great frequency, which I doubt you are, then I'd say that's a hard pass.
Since the two- and four-door M8 models are largely mechanically identical, you'll be treated to the same great on-road experience. And I use the word "largely" on purpose. The memes are right, you guys: The M8 is big. At nearly 201 inches long, the Gran Coupe is a full 9 inches lengthier than its two-door sibling. It's 185 pounds heavier, too, despite having a standard carbon-fiber roof.
Still, I continue to be impressed with how well this big boy masks its heft on winding roads. You can really sense the weight through the steering, but it feels appropriately tuned for this car. I wouldn't want a rack that's overly light or darty when I'm pushing a 4,480-pound sedan through corners. I'd like a touch more on-center feedback, yes, but otherwise, the M8 Gran Coupe responds to inputs the way I'd expect it to, with a level of poise that belies its overall size.
You'll never want for power here, whether you're packing 600 hp or 617. The eight-speed automatic transmission is happy to hold the V8 at high revs as you slink between corners, and it takes barely any coaxing to get the gearbox to kick down when you apply some throttle. In fact, the transmission is so perfectly in harmony with the engine that I never once have the urge to use the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
BMW lets you customize the drive experience in a number of ways, and to be honest, I find this a bit unnecessary. You can alter the engine, chassis, steering, braking and all-wheel-drive parameters, and short of turning everything to Sport Plus, putting the M8 in its two-wheel-drive mode and hooning the hell out of it, I don't think you'll really experience a huge difference in day-to-day use. Comfort mode is perfectly fine for everyday driving and will definitely kick you in the ass when you stomp the throttle, and Sport mode sharpens things a bit for when the road gets curvy. Thankfully, if you do want to spend the time finding your precise preference, you can store it in the M1 or M2 modes, activated by the big red buttons on the steering wheel.
It's worth noting that, even in Comfort mode, the M8 Gran Coupe's ride quality is on the harsh side. You feel every impact through the 275/35-series front and 285/35-series rear summer tires, and coupled with the occasionally touchy brake-by-wire system, this makes the M8 harder to daily drive than its other 8 Series counterparts. For better or worse, you'll never forget you're in a full-bore M car.
The grand tourer
The 8 Series is BMW's flagship -- yes, even more so than the 7 Series , as far as I'm concerned -- and that's immediately evident from the moment you sit inside. It's so quiet and so comfortable. The leather is sumptuous, and the attention to detail on the armrests and door cards is the sort of stuff you'd expect to find in a Bentley or Rolls-Royce . The heated, cooled front seats are plenty cushy, and offer power lumbar and side-bolster adjustment for maximum support.
Accommodations aren't too shabby for rear-seat passengers, either, with similarly beautiful leather draped across the bench. There are three seatbelts back here, though considering the center console runs the full length of the transmission tunnel, I'm not exactly sure where a middle-seat passenger is supposed to put their legs. Still, the outboard riders won't complain about a lack of legroom or even headroom, despite the slick roofline of that not-a-coupe Gran Coupe shape.
You'll find a bevy of tech inside the M8, powered by BMW's latest iDrive 7 software. The 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is reconfigurable and can show things like vehicle data, multimedia info or active navigation directions. The fonts and colors feel a little too faux-futuristic for a car so otherwise classy, but that's a small nit to pick. A huge head-up display is also standard on the M8 Gran Coupe, which transforms into a big, analog rev-counter and digital speedometer in the car's sport drive mode.
Atop the center stack is where you'll find the main, 10.2-inch multimedia display, which you can control by touch, voice or a dial with surrounding hard buttons on the console. (I prefer the latter.) Apple CarPlay is standard, and can be used wirelessly, which is nice, so I can just keep my phone tucked away on the charging pad ahead of the cup holders. Android Auto isn't on the docket yet, but BMW is finally cozying up to this smartphone tech, and all its cars will be so equipped beginning in July -- wirelessly, too.
What continues to annoy me is BMW's insistence on charging you extra for driver assistance features that come standard on $35,000 midsize sedans . (This is a common theme among all luxury automakers, unfortunately.) LED headlights with BMW's Laserlight tech, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera and keyless entry come on every M8 Gran Coupe. But you have to select the $1,100 Driving Assistance Package if you want a surround-view camera, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, park distance control or BMW's active parking system. You could also pony up $1,700 if you want all the aforementioned niceties plus things like full-speed adaptive cruise control or BMW's Traffic Jam Assistant, which combines the ACC with lane-keeping assist for easier rush-hour commutes.
All things considered, the M8 Gran Coupe is a pretty lovely GT. I could spend all day in this car and never grow tired of its effortless power and superb quality and comfort. But would I be just as happy with an M850i? Hmm...
The BMW M8 Gran Coupe technically competes with luxury-sport four-doors like the Mercedes-AMG GT63 or Porsche Panamera GTS (or Turbo). But really, the M8's toughest competitors are the ones sitting next to it in the BMW showroom.
I'll give the Gran Coupe the edge over the two-door M8, only because the two cars are identical performers, but the four-door has more space inside and it's $3,000 cheaper. By that same logic, though, BMW's M5 sedan is the better buy here. The M5 is a full $27,300 less expensive, and has the exact same performance chops. Want to compare Competition models? There's a $33,000 difference. The M8 looks better, that's for sure, but I don't know if it looks 33 grand better.
Since most M8 Gran Coupe buyers will never, ever track their cars, grand touring is likely the key objective, and in that case, the M850i is the better option. You still get 523 hp and 553 lb-ft (that's the same torque number as the M8, by the way), and I can't imagine anyone needing more than that day to day. Plus, the M850i has a much nicer ride quality and doesn't skimp on any of the M8's cabin tech or luxe. Did I mention it's $21,000 cheaper, too? Hell, if we're talking about comfort above all, give me the 840i Gran Coupe -- even the turbo I6 packs quite a punch.
The M8 Gran Coupe is the result of splitting hairs -- a something-for-everyone, plug-and-play formula that BMW knows well. Is it a good car? Absolutely. It just struggles to make a case for itself within BMW's increasingly crowded lineup.