The BMW M8 Competition delivers peak performance alongside sleek Seventies styling
Few men rival Keith Richards for gnarly pearls of wisdom or, let’s face it, “life hacks”, but one of our personal favourites is his description of Mick Jagger as a “nice bunch of guys”.
On which basis, the BMW M8 Competition is a nice bunch of cars. It’s the ultimate “ultimate driving machine”, to dust down one of ad-land’s greatest mantras, yet life is more complicated than it was when industry legend Bob Lutz of Ammirati & Puris came up with the tagline in 1973. Back then, BMWs were exclusively rear-drive, upwardly mobile long before the term took hold, and full of left-field Mitteleuropean character. The new M8 isn’t so much a fast car as the Starship Enterprise, minus the teleporter and dilithium crystals.
Some things are unarguable, though. This is Bmw’s most powerful road car ever, reflecting the brand’s relentless push upmarket. The company’s M division has a formidable reputation when it comes to transforming BMWs, but this is the first time it’s got its hands on an 8 Series. Although the convertible is £130,000-plus, it’s still a chunk of change cheaper than the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, Bentley Continental GT or Ferrari Portofino. But none of them sullies their brand equity with mainstream family hatchbacks.
If, like us, you think BMW has over-reached itself in terms of model range and visuals – and there are an awful lot of ugly Bavarian SUVs – the M8 is a callback to those slender-hipped Sixties and Seventies coupés. True, the signature double-kidney grille is outsized, as per the perplexing current BMW design philosophy, and the front end has to accommodate ducts, intakes and slashes, not to mention a 4.4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 good for 616bhp. It’s the same unit that’s in the M5 saloon and it might just be the best engine BMW has ever made – and it’s done a fair few.
Describing how the M8 works is tricky, not least because the different bunch of guys herein run the gamut through Jekyll, Hyde and beyond to someone who’s surely a dead ringer for the white-haired “architect” in the first Matrix movie. Even the main straight at the Portimão circuit in the Algarve isn’t enough to contain it and we’re doing 165mph before I hit the anchors. It’s the way it pulls – that’ll be the 553lb ft of torque, more pertinent here than the horsepower – and keeps on pulling, a relentless surge of fabulous kinetic energy and so well controlled it’s difficult to believe that four pieces of rubber can channel it all onto the tarmac. Turn 15 here has a blind entry, then plunges downhill in a fast right onto the pit straight, yet the M8 absorbs this high-speed assault in a way that beggars belief.
Four-wheel drive obviously helps here, but despite the literally hundreds of different chassis modes, there’s a button labelled M-Dynamic that shuts down “The Matrix” so you can let rip. But taking the red pill could end badly, so perhaps it’s wiser to store your favoured mix of engine, chassis, gearbox and even braking settings (yep, it has adjustable brakes), then access them via the anodised red M1 or M2 levers close to the steering wheel: one for Jekyll, the other for Hyde.
The truth is, the M8 Competition coupé and convertible are heroically over-engineered and capable of things most mere mortals – even rich ones – can only dream of. As monumental as it is, the Competition is too heavy to cut it as a track car and maybe just too much for road use, unless you absolutely must have that famous tricolour M badge. But simply by lowering its roof, the convertible reveals yet more aspects to this dense intense package and the semi-quilted leather, glass-topped gear lever and introduction of fresh air give this digital-era experience an analogue injection. And it looks prettier too, don’t you think?
Need to know: BMW M8 Competition
Engine: 616bhp, 4.4-litre turbocharged V8
Performance: 0-62mph, 3.2 secs; top speed, 190mph (delimited)
Price: From £123,435
Credit to British GQ