“We’re absolutely convinced, and not just about its performance, which is a whole new level for us. In terms of agility, it is every bit as good, if not better, than the competition. Even with four-wheel drive, we’ve been able to program it to deliver traditional rear-wheel drive traits when the driver wishes,” he says.
Häcker, who has presided over the engineering of all recent M models, indicates a lot of effort has been focused on providing the M8 Coupe with even greater response and sharpness than the M5, with which it shares its mechanicals.
“We’ve done a lot of detailed tuning to the steering, springs, dampers and bushing. The individual components are much the same, but they are set up differently” he enthuses.
As the camouflaged prototype arrives in a blaze of exhaust noise, it is clear some of the uniqueness Häcker talks about is down its exterior design, certain elements of which take their cue from the M8 GTE race car campaigned by BMW Motorsport in the World Endurance Championship.
Before I open the long frameless passenger side door and climb in I’m told the ride height is lower than that of the M850i. This, acknowledges Häcker, gives the M8 Coupe a centre of gravity that is 24mm lower than that of the M5.
What followed over the next three laps of the former F1 circuit was a mostly sideways display of what that reduction in the centre of gravity means. While it is never easy forming binding conclusions from a brief run in the passenger seat, Häcker’s enthusiasm for the dynamic qualities of the M8 Coupe certainly appears justified.
There was never really any doubt about the accelerative qualities of the M8 Coupe; with over 600bhp and four-wheel drive translating to a 0-62mph time under the 3.4sec of the standard M5, as well as a top speed in excess of the benchmark 186mph.
No, the real question hanging over the M8 Coupe up until now has been its ability to match this speed with the sort of handling enthusiasts will cherish. However, after witnessing its outstanding body control, ability to change direction with all the deft precision of much smaller and lighter car and ease at which it can be coaxed in lurid oversteer it is clear it is not just another high priced grand tourer seeking to be regarded as a sports car but - and feel free to take this with a grain of salt at this stage - a true sportscar in its very own right.
Like that of the M5, the M8 Coupe’s four-wheel drive system is programmed to send up to 100 per cent of drive to the rear wheels in M Dynamic mode. There’s also a torque vectoring function built into the rear differential to apportion that drive to the wheel with the most grip. The result is car that provides all the security of a four-wheel drive car when you want it and, at the press of a button, all the tail-happy traits of a powerful rear-wheel drive sportscar when the conditions allow.