Ever since the F90 M5 came out, something’s been missing from the BMW lineup. The M6 Gran Coupé was stunning both in terms of design and performance capability when new, but with the arrival of the M xDrive-equipped M5, a serious performance deficit was created. BMW has now made things right, with the launch of the M8 Gran Coupé and its Competition derivative. No one can deny four-door practicality, and although the M5 will remain the utilitarian executive super sedan of choice, the M8 Gran Coupé has arrived to offer a four-door performance luxury of the highest degree.
We’ve long known about the existence of an M8 Gran Coupé in development at BMW, but when the 8 Series Gran Coupé was unveiled this summer, things began to take shape in a tangible form. The conventional 8 GC is a sharp car left alone, with a nicely updated feel to it over the 6 Series GC that it replaced. BMW’s widened kidney grilles seem to be a hit (especially in comparison with the bimmerlife kidney grille on the 7 Series and X7) and it’s clear that customers like the idea of four-door coupes, as different flavors of the body style are now available from Audi and Mercedes-Benz to Kia, and even BMW will be introducing it to the entry-level market via the upcoming 2 Series GC.
The M8 differentiates itself and stands out in all the right ways though. Aero bits and body panels have been flared just enough to really set things off, and the aggressiveness of the bumpers, which is practical in that it allows for greater ventilation and increased downforce, gives the front and rear ends a distinct personality. Of course, M-specific hallmarks like aerodynamic mirror housings and a standard carbon-fiber roof are present as well, but the trademark quad rounded exhaust tips are among our favorite model-designating cues. Slim lighting adds to the overall sharpness, especially on the aft section, and it’s great, if not absolutely necessary, that the license plate mounting area has been kept below the trunk lid.
This stunning purple color harkens back to Daytona Violet on the E34 M5, and is called Ametrin Metallic. It is accompanied by various other colors offered on the M5, M8, and 8 Series, but the 400 First Edition M8 Gran Coupés will be finished exclusively in BMW Individual Diamant Green Metallic, with M star-spoke wheels finished in something BMW refers to as Goldbronze.
Wheels for Competition models use a distinct gloss-milled three-dimensional design that has surfaced in a few far more adulterated styles on other newer BMWs, and they house standard 395 and 380mm brakes front and rear. Braking force is controlled via the same drive-by-wire system found on the M8 and regular 8 Series, which actuates the six-piston calipers for the front and the single-piston floating calipers in the rear. M Carbon Ceramic brakes are, of course, optional, and will likely add about $10,000 to the MSRP. The carbon ceramic units use 400 and 380mm rotors front and rear.
The cabin of the M8 GC obviously takes substantial heed from the 8 Series GC, which is by no means a bad thing. Demarcating touches like an M steering wheel and shifter work to set things apart, along with unique trim options and exclusive upholstery choices. Perhaps most noticeable are the enhanced drive modes, which are accessible through bright red M buttons on the steering wheel. The full suite of BMW’s latest iDrive system 7.0 is also on hand, and comes paired together with Live Cockpit Professional which has taken the place of conventional gauges, and a heads-up display.
We’re really more interested in the backseat, however, because this is where the M8 GC makes its value proposition. Like the 8 Series GC, passenger room has grown a not insignificant amount over the outgoing 6 Series, with all metrics like legroom, headroom, and shoulder room having been expanded. There are seatbelts for three rear occupants in the photo below, bringing the total capacity to five individuals, but the person riding in the center will need to straddle the wide and nicely finished (be careful!) center console. Better yet, the seats can be folded down using the 40/20/40 split, which means each backrest can be moved independently. You might actually need it though, as curiously enough, trunk volume of the M8 GC and Competition is listed at just eleven cubic feet, a substantial reduction from the 15.5 of the regular 8 Series GC.
But we wouldn’t be talking about rear occupant room or trunk capacity to begin with if it weren’t for the staggering performance offered by the M8 GC, and even more so, the Competition version. Horsepower ratings for the conventional and Competition versions are the same as the M5, M8 coupe and convertible, and the upcoming X5 and X6 M models; the regular M8 GC comes with 600, while the Competition gets 617, thanks to the S63 M V8. Torque of 553 pound-feet is identical between them, (and N63 M50i-powered BMWs), but it lasts for a longer plateau than the non-M cars, and perhaps more importantly, is routed through rear-biased M xDrive. The xDrive system can be defeated so that motivation is routed exclusively to the rear wheels, just like in the M5, but it’s the all-wheel drive capability that allows BMW’s current V8 M cars to compete in a realm previously occupied only by supercars—and the Porsche 911 Turbo range.
BMW lists a zero-to-60 time of 3.1 seconds for the M8 GC, and three seconds flat for the Competition variant. For the sake of comparison, that’s identical to the M8 coupe and the M8 Competition coupe, and just ahead of the M8 convertible and M8 Competition convertible which are measured at 3.2 and 3.1 seconds respectively, according to BMW. The M5 is rated at 3.2 seconds, while the M5 Competition takes 3.1 seconds. The real world has provided very different data though, with conventional M5 launching from zero-to-60 in as few as 2.8 seconds according to Car and Driver. As we’ve explained before, the weight savings and lowered center of gravity will likely help all hardtop variants of the M8 outperform the M5 range, and other seriously expensive cars with fewer doors, less seats, and smaller trunks.
The M8 GC has a drag coefficient of 0.34, which is identical to that of the M5, but not as slick as the M8 coupe at 0.33. As expected, the regular 8 Series GC, which features less aero, slips through the air with a drag coefficient of just 0.32. The M8 coupe is also lighter at 4,295 pounds, while the M8 GC is actually heavier than the 4,370-pound M5, at 4,480. The M8 coupe will probably be the performance leader, while the M8 GC will most likely offer range-topping four-door performance in a more attractive and striking suite than the M5.
The starting MSRP for the M8 Gran Coupé is $130,00, while the the M8 Gran Coupé Competition will start at $143,000. The models will be introduced at the Los Angeles International Auto Show next month, and production is scheduled to commence around the same time. If you want one, you’ll have to wait until April of 2020 when they officially go on sale.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]