Competition-specification M8 and X5 M review: the highs and lows of BMW Motorsport
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BMW M8 Competition
- Terrifyingly fast everywhere you go
- No compromise on luxury and comfort
- Completely track-capable
- Staggering premium over similar M5 Competition
- Complex drive modes can be baffling
- Heavy (1885kg) and feels it sometimes
The M8 Competition boasts a 460kW/750Nm twin-turbo V8 that can propel it to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds. It’s a $332,900 concoction of high technology and terrifying noises, and officially the fastest BMW production car you can buy right now.
Arguably the ultimate M-car then, and even if you’re in more of a purist M4-type frame of mind, this model still demands maximum respect.
But it’s a sign of the times that this on-point M-brand monster shares a lot of its oily parts with other cars that might possibly enrage purists: the X5 M Competition and its coupe-style counterpart, the X6 M Competition. Yes, BMW NZ only imports the most extreme “Competition” versions of all these cars.
Don’t be misled by all the numbers: the common thread is that the M8 is essentially a two-door version of the M5, and the X5/6 are 5-Series-equivalent SUVs. So it’s not so strange that they share BMW’s S63 twin-turbo V8 engine (identical outputs across the board) and a whole lot of technology.
This might sound sacrilegious, but they’re actually not so different. The thing about proper BMW Motorsport models (as opposed to the likes of mildly tweaked M Performance models like the M850i or X5 M50d) is that they are developed with anal retentiveness to be not just super-fast, but also completely track-capable: mighty cornering ability, cooling, braking… you get the idea.
I’ve no doubt any of these cars could pound around a circuit all day. In fact, we did a bit of track-work in the X5/6 M models on a media event earlier this year, and they were surprisingly capable.
But “track day” doesn’t immediately spring to mind with any of these models. Not because they aren’t fast and exciting. But because they’re large, AWD luxury vehicles that are more about astonishing A-to-B open-road ability than lap times.
Don’t mean to make them sound dull. They definitely aren’t. And yes, the M8 is next-level. The performance is surreal, the soundtrack seems barely legal and it lives up to the M-reputation for being bewilderingly complex in terms of powertrain and chassis customisation. Every aspect right down to brake responsiveness can be individually selected, although if you find a combination you like (could take years) you can set it on one of the two steering wheel-mounted “M” buttons.
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Handling is theoretically superior to the M5 Competition, because the centre of gravity is 25mm lower. It’s an incredible thing on narrow, tight New Zealand tarmac and as with other BMW xDrive models, the AWD works proactively to keep the momentum up.
There’s no sign of AWD stodginess and as you get more aggressive with the drive modes, the bias goes further rearward.
But despite the sheer acceleration and sensational cornering speeds, it doesn’t feel edgy at all. In fact, this is one super-coupe where the edges have been completely smoothed over.
The cabin is unbelievably sumptuous and you get all the excellent driver-assistance tech of any other luxury BMW. So if you’re heading to the track and it’s gridlock on the motorway, this M-car can essentially drive itself there. Perhaps even chat to you via the “Hey BMW” intelligent voice assistant.
The same blend of eye-gouging performance and ultimate luxury is also evident in the X5/6 M models. No, a high-riding two-tonne-plus SUV is not as sharp on road as a low-slung coupe (although the M8 is no lightweight at 1885kg), but it’s still faster than most things on the road and you get the same level of dynamic personalisation as you do with the more focused M8.
We’re not really here to compare coupe and SUV, more to point out the common genes between the two. No true M-enthusiast would choose a massive SUV of course, but the point (get ready, this is going to be very-2021) is that the X5/6 M open up the word of BMW M to new people. Well actually, they’ve been doing that for a decade; but these latest iterations are the most sophisticated and impressive yet.
These mega-SUVs really are proper M cars; it’s hard to argue otherwise when you consider the engineering work and sheer ability at hand.
From this big M5-powered melting pot, of course the M8 Competition is the most incredible and accomplished thing to drive. But you could easily make a case that the X5/6 M paternal twins are an even more incredible achievement from the House of M.
Especially when you consider the massive premium for M8 compared with its SUV siblings: the X5 M is $219,990, the X6 M $225,600. So there’s more than $100k between them, although that’s not an entirely fair equation because the M5 Competition is more in the same ballpark at $234,300.
The M8 is really for those who want to be at a rarified M-car level and are prepared to pay a considerable premium for it.
By the way, the M8 does have drift mode, which allows the driver to make the powertrain 100 per cent rear-drive for maximum power oversteer. You can’t do that in any M-SUV. You have to draw the line somewhere, right?
BMW M8 COMPETITION
ENGINE: 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, AWD
0-100KM/H: 3.2 seconds.