[REVIEW] 2021 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too” is a popular English idiomatic proverb that illustrates the concept of trade-ffs or opportunity cost. Tracing its origins back to as far back as the 16th century, it can be used to say that one cannot have two incompatible things.

With BMW’s latest flagship M car though, it would seem that you can indeed have your cake and eat it too, provided you are willing to loosen the purse strings enough.

The vehicle in question here is the four-door 2021 BMW M8 Gran Coupe which sits alongside the two-door M8 Coupe and two-door M8 convertible.

Whether or not you are a fan of the four door coupe category, it’s clear that it’s not going away anytime soon given that even entry-level luxury cars can now be had in this four door variant. BMW themselves have started offering their smallest vehicle, the 2-Series, as a four door coupe variant to compete with Mercedes-Benz’s highly successful CLA-class.

The latest M8 Gran coupe now enters an increasingly crowded market and rivals against the Mercedes-AMG GT63 four door, the Porsche Panamera, and perhaps even the CLS63S AMG.

Having your cake and eating it too

Like its coupe and convertible siblings, the BMW M8 Gran Coupe is available in two states of tune, one with 592 horsepower and the other with 616 horsepower. The latter “Competition” badged model is how my test vehicle was spec’ed out as for the purposes of this review.

The latest M xDrive all-wheel-drive system and an Active M differential has also been fitted to the Gran Coupe, similar to the Coupe. Various M modes allow for selection of a more rear-biased setup, while a dedicated Track mode allows you to turn everything off and reverts the M8 Gran Coupe to become rear-driven only. Think of it as being able to scare your rear passengers in more comfort than in the Coupe or Convertible.

Despite a stretch of 201 mm in wheelbase – in order to accommodate the rear doors – as well as two extra rear seats, BMW conservatively claims the same 0-100 km/hr times of 3.3 seconds for the base car and 3.2 seconds for the Competition Gran Coupe. My tester’s M Driver’s package further raised the top speed from 155 miles (249 km/hr) to 190 (306 km/hr).

How is it different than a BMW M5?

Under its longer four door body, the Gran Coupe is essentially mechanically identical to the standard M8  Coupe with the same twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 and the trick M xDrive all-wheel-drive system. If you’re being pedantic, the M8 is an M5 Competition with a slinkier profile and tighter rear seats.

Just as no one truly “needs” an M5, no one “needs” an M8 Gran Coupe. To my eyes, the Gran Coupe’s shape is more stunning than the M5 sedan and is arguably the most natural 8-Series shape. Not only does it sit well in profile, but it improves upon its predecessor, the M6 Gran Coupe, particularly when it comes to the rear-end.

The newly stretched wheelbase means that six-footers can stretch out in the rear cabin. Only the tallest people will grumble on account of the sloping roofline. The trunk is also 20 litres more generous than the two door coupe’s and there is even a ski hatch pass through.

Like the M5 Competition, all of the expected Competition package carbon bits and bobs are present, from the carbon fibre roof, rear spoiler, front intakes, rear diffuser, and the carbon fibre roof.

While the dark paint colour on my test vehicle results in the expensive carbon weave detailing being lost unless you’re in direct sunlight, anyone looking for an understated but blisteringly fast car can show up at a client’s workplace without attracting too much attention from non-car enthusiast folks. As the kids say these days, IYKYK (if you know, you know). But even in a fairly modest colour, this car makes a big statement.

How does it drive?

BMW’s engineers have done an amazing job in hiding the Gran Coupe’s extra weight over the two door coupe. Although the Gran Coupe feels like a big car compared to an M4, the vehicle hides its weight well.

Like its big GT rivals, the M8 Gran Coupe feels most at home on open highways versus on a tight and twisty track. As you might expect, the M8 GC Comp is most similar than an M5 in feel, meaning that the ride is firm in the standard setting, or with different levels of thumpiness in the various Sport modes. With the big wheels, low profile performance tires, the ride is certainly not pillowy but yet never harsh.

A lot of engineering has gone into disguising the car’s weight and size across the board. While it may not offer the razor sharp handling that an M2 does, the M8 Gran Coupe is a nice place to spend a lot of hours behind the wheel, whether on the daily commute or on a weekend excursion out of town. On a track though, there is no disguising its weight.

Part of the credit for the M8’s easy-to-drive demeanor has to do with the latest iteration of the M Division’s M xDrive combined with the meaty 275-section front and 285-section rear tires. Despite M xDrive being heavily rear wheel biased, the active chassis management and traction management systems have plenty of grip to work with.

While the M8’s predecessor, the M6, was skittish on slippery surfaces due to its rear-drive-only configuration, the M8 is stable and inspires a lot of driver confidence even in extreme conditions at the limit. Despite its long wheelbase, it does what M Division cars do best, with poise, control, balance. There is a surprising level of agility in Sport modes and the active rear differential really helps to turn the car on the track, making it feel smaller than it is.

If you’re feeling particularly wealthy and, in the mood, to show off trackside, the rear-wheel-drive-only track mode will happily give you as much tire shredding oversteer or rear wheel burnouts as you can manage. Just keep in mind that decoupling the front axle also disables the traction control system.

Like other M cars, there are two individually customizable red M buttons where you can pre-customize a dizzying array of driving modes to suit your fancy. From the content displayed on the heads-up display to the steering wheel weight, dampening control, transmission shift speed, it’s all up to you. You can even choose how responsive you want the brake pedal to be.

Whether or not actual M8 owners will use this functionality is up to debate. However, the point is that BMW gives you the choice of setting up your vehicle “just so”, even though this is one of those cars that demands more in responsibility than great deal of skill or attention to provide blistering straight-line speed.

On that front, proper attention must be paid for the sake of keeping your driver’s license. The 617 hp 4.4 litre V8’s twin turbos provide an effortless mid-range shove for overtaking and the speedo rises from legal to illegal speeds in practically no time at all.

Due to the excellent sound deadening and the silky engine, there is practically no difference when cruising at 140 km/hr or 80 km/hr. No doubt you’ll need to be somewhere in Germany on one of their unrestricted Autobahns to truly show how impressive this car could be.

What about the interior?

Like many modern high-end BMWs, the M8 GC is a nice place to sit. The materials are plush, the seats are seemingly infinitely adjustable, and iDrive truly remains the benchmark for infotainment systems thanks to its sharp graphics, intuitive menus, and combination touchscreen/iDrive rotary wheel.

A hefty transmission tunnel and climate control panel exists in the rear, so the M5 and M760iL are still best choices if you must frequently carry three in the back in opulence and with speed. Only two fit in the back of this four door coupe. However, this M8 Gran Coupe has new-found length when compared to its M6 Gran Coupe predecessor.

Perhaps as a bit of a curse or a blessing, depending on how you look at it, all of the switchgear feels high quality but doesn’t feel particularly special since even the lesser BMWs are equipped with it these days.

Nonetheless, there are still the various flashes of brilliance such as the carbon fibre bits, the power sunblinds, the triple coloured M stitching, and the M specific steering wheel and gearshift lever. And of course, there are the requisite amounts of top-grain leather, alcantara, aluminum trim and chrome everywhere.

Final thoughts

With the S-Class Coupe and convertible soon to be wheeled into retirement with no replacement planned, BMW is the only manufacturer left to offer the same model for three different body styles.

Whether you prefer the M8 Gran Coupe’s svelte four door silhouette over the classic two door coupe/convertible design is a matter of taste. It’s clear that buyers tend to favour the former though, and the M8 Gran coupe has the potential to be someone’s consummate all-season all-rounder.


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