If you thought this M8 Competition might feel, to drive, like an M5 with two fewer doors and quite a lot less roof, you may be more surprised by how differently the car rides and handles from its saloon sibling than by its rapacious pace. Although an M5 is already a fairly firm-riding, agile-feeling saloon car, the M8 seems unmistakably lower and a little wider set on the road and it feels slightly more firmly sprung still.

It also steers quite a bit more directly, its off-centre handling response in particular exhibiting a keenness you don’t often find in cars this size. The more comfort-oriented driving modes take the edge off this initially quite alarming appetite for an apex, as does familiarity, so that, over time and in one way or another, you get used to the way the car darts around roundabouts and junctions. But for a big GT car, the M8 certainly pushes the boundaries of what constitutes entirely natural- and intuitive-feeling handling.

It feels surprisingly eager to dart towards the apex, given the car’s heft, but there’s fine composure once you learn to trust it and, when desired, tail-out entertainment

For that reason, it takes a little while to be able to place the car on the road exactly as you’d like. The confidence needed to explore the car’s handling at speed also takes its time to build. A steering set-up about which there is just a hint of elasticity of feel, and that doesn’t telegraph building cornering load as clearly as you might like, doesn’t speed the process up much. However, there is bountiful handling stability and dynamic composure to discover once you feel comfortable enough to discover it.

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Just like the M5, the M8 offers ‘4WD’, ‘4WD Sport’ and ‘2WD’ driveline configurations, each of which allows progressively more in the way of throttle-on cornering balance and rear-driven handling adjustability; but even in the first of them, the chassis develops neutral handling manners and resists power-on understeer very robustly.

The car’s blend of grip, handling composure and incisiveness is certainly compelling, then. It’s quite a bit more convincing on smooth, widely marked roads than it is on more uneven ones, though, and on the latter, when it has bigger vertical inputs to deal with, it can struggle to harness its mass with that ideal meeting of supple compliance and progressive control that the very best fast GTs strike.

With all of its various systems set to their firmest, angriest Sport and Sport+ settings, the M8 Competition has quite remarkable levels of grip and agility. Lateral body control is very tightly checked; handling response builds very quickly off centre; balance is more neutral than is the norm for a big GT; and the steering is quite lightly weighted. For all of those reasons, you end up hitting apexes a lot more easily and quickly than you might expect to.

BMW’s 4WD Sport driveline setting and its M Dynamic stability control mode allow you to animate the chassis under bigger helpings of throttle, and with a reassuring ultimate safety net in place. But it’s a safety blanket you’re quite welcome of because the M8’s quietly feisty demeanour doesn’t make it the most benign of cars when it – sometimes quite suddenly – begins to slide.

Comfort and Isolation

This section remains a pretty big hurdle for any big, heavy, luxury cabriolet to negotiate, even in 2020. The M8 Competition is a car with respectable touring manners that, with its roof down and its windows and wind deflector up, shields its occupants from the elements as well as any soft-top you might compare it with; not so well, however, that you’ll be inclined to drive it too far at fast motorway speeds in that configuration, even on the warmest and stillest of days.

With the roof up, it filters out wind noise quite well and doesn’t let too much of the hum and roar of nearby traffic penetrate into the cabin, although a good folding hardtop option would do better, and by a margin big enough to notice it.

Considering the other compromises a folding metal roof might have imposed, though, you’d be very happy to take the cloth-top execution, warts and all. And roof-up cabin refinement is anything but objectionable: we recorded 67dB at a 70mph cruise, which is probably only a decibel or two higher than coupé noise level.

The car’s body structure appears to have laudable integrity, declining to shake its A-pillars at all over rougher terrain, although the firmish ride does leave the chassis given to the odd thump and the slightest shudder over sharper edges and craggy potholes. Ride isolation is, overall, a shade below what is typical of a big sporting GT.

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