Test Drive: 2020 BMW M8 Competition Coupe

This sporty car's exaggerated dimensions work harmoniously

Sometimes a car can hit your eye exactly right; the 2020 BMW M8 Competition is one of those cars. At nearly 16 feet long, and with only two doors, its stretched-out proportions look like something a talented 10-year-old car fanatic might draw: exaggerated in such a way that the dimensions are simply right. We don’t always feel that way about current BMW designs—the M3 sedan was once a sleeper sports car, but the current iteration veers toward muscle-car braggadocio, while the new X7 SUV makes its strongest design statement by dint of its intimidating dimensions. The M8 is the BMW design we’ve been waiting for.

The M8 is based on the 8 Series, which was reintroduced last year after a 20-year-long pause in production. By way of background, the 8 Series was a swaggeringly cool car of the 1990s, and its proportions spoke to its specialness without resorting to wings or a crazy grille. BMW has done a great job of returning to that ethos: the new grille is blacked out and is a natural extension to the angled hood and the character lines throughout flow into one another in a holistic way. There’s nothing forced.

In typical BMW fashion, the series comes in many iterations including a four-door Gran Coupe model, the convertible, and a regular M8. In our view, the best expression of the car is the Competition model. That “competition” in the name manifests as a bit more power (17hp) and a slightly firmer suspension. But it also gets rid of the shiny chrome around the grille and side intakes in favor of simple black trim, and changes the wheels to all-black. Those little tricks are transformative. The frippery fades away and what’s left is a focus on the car’s more purposeful lines.

The M Carbon Exterior Package isn’t going to make the car drive better or any faster, but it too does heavy lifting to the look. The side mirrors and bits of front trim are outfitted in a carbon weave. Previously our favorite of current BMW designs was the hybrid i8 sports car, in either coupe or roadster forms. It looked like a car of the future. However, the interior was always a slightly oddball place—it was cramped and the general occupant placement was off. (Blame, partly, the mid-engine placement and scissor-style doors.)

The M8 isn’t as special as the i8 in terms of novelty, but the interior is spot on—it’s simply a great place to be. The mix of materials work together beautifully. Ours had Alcantara on the seats and carbon-fiber trim. The backseats are usable by adults for quick trips or for longer use comfortably for kids and dogs. Clearly, the M8 is fast and plenty powerful. The 1990s 850Ci had a V-12 inside that managed 322 horsepower. That was good for its era. The power of progress (and the efficacy of modern twin-turbo engines) means that the new car’s 4.4-liter V-8 gets nearly twice that power with four fewer cylinders. The engine makes 617hp and will take you to 60 miles per hour in three seconds. It also has the ability to switch between all-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive modes.

There’s something magical about a really good grand-touring car. The Competition hews to the best kind of GT, where beauty dances with aggression, and you’re as happy outside gawking at the car as you are driving.

Our test car was painted an almost iridescent Java Green Metallic ($5,500 extra) which we were particularly enamored with. It’s nearly as good looking in vibrant Fire Red or Frozen Marina Blue. Other options like the $5,400 M Carbon exterior package raise the $146,000 base price to $175,000.

Images courtesy of BMW