FARO, PORTUGAL - Finally the BMW M8 Competition Coupe and M8 Competition Convertible have broken cover and are ready to drive in anger on South African roads.
Gifted to either be a gentle cruiser or a complete hooligan thanks to the various settings that you can personalise, the M8 Competition must rank as one of the most potent yet easy to drive Competition models ever.
Last week we brought you the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe and today the veil has been lifted on the M8 Competition Coupe and the M8 Competition Convertible. There’s also an M8 Competition Gran Coupe, which has just been unveiled.
The M8 is a driver’s car, no doubt about it.
To begin with, the 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 in the Competition is the most powerful engine that BMW has ever built for an M car. That translates to 460kW and 750Nm, which will get you to 100km/h in 3.2 seconds in the Coupé and 3.3 seconds in the Convertible. That’s seriously quick any way you look at it.
Both are limited to a top speed of 250km/h but with the optional M Driver’s package it will even out at 305km/h.
As part of the Competition model's design, special engine mountings have been designed to allow direct engine response and immediate transmission of power to the drivetrain. That power is distributed to all four wheels by an 8-speed M Steptronic automatic transmission. There’s also a paddle shift which changes the setting to manual the moment you change gear with it.
Used for the first time on the M5, the M xDrive channels the engine’s torque between the front and rear wheels as needed, with a bias towards the rear. You can also set up the distribution between front and rear via the Set-up menu. In 4WD Sport the system pushes more power to the back while deactivating DSC makes it fully rear-wheel-drive, with no control systems making it everything an original M stood for.
But to handle everything that the M8 competition has it needs a special chassis tuning as you can imagine. The stiffer engine mountings, as mentioned previously, increased camber at the front axle and toe links with ball joints rather than rubber mounts that provide precise wheel guidance at the rear axle, all translate into better steering precision and cornering dynamics aided too by 275/35/20 rubber on the front and 285/35/20 on the rear fitted on light alloys.
Inside, as you would expect, the M8 Competition lacks nothing, with soft touch surfaces, quality leather, red accents, carbon fire strips and everything virtually ergonomically perfect.
Like its siblings there is Apple CarPlay but again only mirroring for Android users.
The fully digital gauge cluster is easy to set, but as I said in the Gran Coupé review last week, it takes getting used to the colours and fonts and comes across as impersonal despite the fact that you can set it up to your preference.
Using the Set-up button via the iDrive controller, we saved most of the settings in sport mode with one or two sport plus options when we slid behind the wheel of the Convertible with the top down and headed to the Algarve International Circuit via an almost 140km scenic route.
Once we had left the city outskirts, the first thing we noticed was a significant roar from the exhaust but a definite lack of the snap, crackle and pop as we shifted between the gears.
We asked a senior engineer about that and apparently that’s the legislation in the EU so an extra filter had to be attached to the exhaust to limit the noise that so defines cars of the M’s ilk.
Fear not, though, for our market and others such as Russia and Australia the sound will be as we know and like it.
The roads through the mountains of the Algarve region are narrow with tight, blind corners and hairpins and pass small villages with the elders going about their daily business. But they have a keen eye and ear and smiled broadly when the car burbled past them.
Because of the tight twists there were only a few sections that allowed us to test the car’s real ability.
To say that it sets off like a rocket is an understatement, it blasts through the gears with ease and enters corners without any fuss.
There was an occasion or two, though, that we noticed a twist on the steering heading hard out of a corner with the accelerator floored, the result of it being a cabriolet with the same outputs as its solid top sibling.
There was none of that on the track, though, with the Coupe driving hot laps around the 4.6km circuit.
I had managed to hitch a ride with one of the BMW works drivers before our slot and paid careful attention to his entry and exit points as well as his speed and braking markers, keeping in mind the pace car was fitted with optional ceramic brakes.
With all the settings set for the track the M8 Competition proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable track car. With blistering acceleration, out of corners I had it drifting on a couple of occasions and never did it feel like it was about to land in the kitty litter, even with the power being driven exclusively to the rear wheels.
The sometimes dull steering experienced on the Gran Coupe was gone as driver feedback remained enthusiastic throughout the experience.
Staying as close as possible to the pace car in the final lap coming in on the sweeping right-hander before the straight, I probably had the car as close to the limit as any sane person would but it stayed the course.
The end of the straight was over 200km/h, which needed hard braking before a sharp turn. Again, it merely hunkered down and carried on as if it was another country lane.
For a car that weighs in at just under 2000kg the M8 Competition is remarkably nimble and slots in comfortably between burning rubber on the track and being a looker on the red carpet.
BMW certainly seem to have got almost everything right in the M8 Competition and there’s no doubt that it will have aficionados drooling and probably their eyes watering at the price before options when it comes to our shores in the first quarter of next year.