Don’t for a second think that BMW M’s first foray into the world of the luxurious super-GT means that it has suddenly come over all soft. On first acquaintance, the M8 Competition’s sharp creases, chiselled edges and gaping intakes lend it a look that’s as aggressive as any other M car you care to name – even when its shorn of its roof.
BMW hasn’t pulled any punches in terms of its technical specification, either. The 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8 that lies behind the M8’s large, high-gloss black kidney grille is the same heavy-hitting unit that powers the M5 Competition, here developing 617bhp at 6000rpm and 553lb ft at 1800-5800rpm.
This considerable firepower is deployed to the road via an eight-speed gearbox, BMW’s active M differential and a fully configurable, rear-axle-biased xDrive four-wheel drive system – and, just as in the M5, the xDrive system can send all of that power and torque rearwards, all of the time, if you want it to.
Meanwhile, a greater level of torsional rigidity, courtesy of an even stiffer M-specific CLAR platform, should help lift the M8’s appetite for quick direction changes over and above that of the standard 8 Series. Competition models also benefit from stiffer engine mounts and a greater wheel camber at the front axle than is found on the standard M8 to sharpen handling responses even further; and while the story is different in other markets, BMW UK will offer the M8 for sale in Competition guise only.
That’s not to say the chassis doesn’t have its work cut out for it, though. BMW claims a kerb weight of 1885kg for the coupé (5kg more than a four-door M5) and 2010kg for the droptop, with its folding fabric roof. On Millbrook’s test scales, our test car came in at 2020kg, with that mass being split 53:47 front to rear.
Such heft understandably requires suitably heavy-duty brakes, so M Compound brakes come fitted as standard, with carbon-ceramics optionally available and fitted to our test car. The M8 Competition is the first BMW to feature a new by-wire braking system, the response and behaviour of which can – just as with the adaptive dampers, electromechanical steering, four-wheel drive, gearbox and throttle mapping – be tweaked and customised to suit the driver’s preferences at the press of a button. In theory, the new electromechanical brake booster should make for a more consistent rate of pedal response as temperature builds into the system on track. We’ll see whether this proves to be true.