M8 drop-top an elegant refined rocket, near supercar …
The first may vary wildly depending on how long ago you bought your home, but if you’re thinking Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, or McLaren for the supercar, you’re likely imagining a price tag north of $1 million.
Relax, this new 2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible is much cheaper. But at $180,245 it’s nearly double what we paid for the 1950s Savage ranch (home) about 30 years ago, and the darned M8 doesn’t even have a bathroom.
This Brands Hatch Gray Metallic M8 was a cyclone unto itself and easily the most expensive car I’ve tested in 30+ years of reviewing cars. I’ve had plenty in the $100 grand to $125,000 range. This one blew them away in virtually every conceivable way, plus it’s a convertible.
With squinty head and taillights the BMW looks lean and sleek, especially with its black cloth power roof retracted. Some thought it Jaguaresque and I see that. It’s a looker, but not so overwhelming as to shout about its owner’s wealth. Jaguar has epitomized that look for years and now BMW is onto it too.
While Ferraris and the like resemble racers, the M8 simply looks elegantly racy, although I’d go for any color other than gray, whether metallic or not. See my video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SEyZsqd3rI&feature=youtu.be
Beyond the price, which took people’s breath away, its performance numbers are like a whirlwind being spit from a super computer.
Start with its mighty 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. While a base M8 convertible’s similar engine churns 600 horses this Competition model explodes with 617 and 553 lb.-ft. of torque. The regular model is limited to 156 mph of top speed, while this one will do nearly 190 mph due to its optional M Driver’s package ($2,500). That’s enough power to get the M8 to 100 mph by the end of a highway entry ramp. Not saying how I know!
And get this, Car & Driver got its M8 Competition model to do 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds and happily notes this is quicker than a Ferrari 488 Pista, which packs 710 horsepower. It also notes that the monster 15.7-inch rotors up front and 15.0 rear rotors don’t just look massive, but helped the M8 stop in a piddling 146 feet during a 70-mph panic stop. Impressive!
That stopping power is enhanced with the addition of a carbon ceramic brake package (quicker stops, better cooling) that adds $8,150 to the price tag. But let’s be honest. You’ll want that stopping power if you plan to use the full twin-turbo power to push the AWD M8 into a tight turn. That’s right, AWD is standard, but the car defaults to rear-drive and can be adjusted to push this drop-top forward, which is how most performance cars put the power down. Still, putting drive to all the wheels adds stability and the M8 is a beautifully balanced roadster that is easy to control at all speeds.
While ripping up to highway speeds and beyond, no matter the weather, the tested M8 got excellent grip from its Michelin Pilot Sport 4S ZR20 performance-rated tires. These were wide and beefy, but not as crazy wide as the Dodge Challenger’s meaty foot-wide 20-inchers the week before. For fun I put the BMW through its paces on winding rural roads at medium to higher speeds and handling was always superb, no body lean. The difference from other high-end roadsters is the balance that never allows the car to feel it’s about to get away from you.
Of course there are all the usual safety devices, although for some reason BMW charges $2,800 extra for most driver assist features. I’d think all should be standard at the car’s $156,495 starting price. But the optional add-ons include adaptive cruise control, stop & go, active lane keep assist, blind-spot and side collision avoidance, evasion assist, automatic lane change, cross traffic alert and a few others. Standard is front collision warning and emergency braking.
As with last week’s Challenger there also are many drive mode features that you tune through the touchscreen and/or a large console-mounted control knob.
Overall there are three modes, Road, Sport and Track, the later really being for race course action only.
But under these M Modes enacted via a console button are settings for the engine, chassis, steering, and brakes. For each you can select Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus. I left the engine on Sport Plus mostly because I loved the burble and gurgle it created, plus a little crackle at times when the slick 8-speed automatic was downshifting. And really, you’d be buying this for power, so why limit it?
For the multilink suspension (chassis) Comfort is the way to go in town, and still the ride is stiff, while steering and brakes could be set in any of the settings and provide great feedback. Each level further stiffening the steering feel and responsiveness, while the brakes feel most natural in Comfort, but become touchier and more impressive in the other modes.
Visually there’s an M Carbon Exterior package ($5,400) to spiff the M8 with a carbon fiber rear spoiler, chin spoiler, an upgraded diffuser and M drive exhaust system to give you those excellent engine tones via four exhausts.
While M8’s exterior is eye-catching its interior is particularly spiffy, not exactly what we’ve come to expect from German automakers, although that’s been changing of late. This one featured what BMW calls Sakhir Orange merino leather seats, dash and door trim. So the well-formed power seats are mostly bright orange with little black leather trim and insets, likewise the dash and door tops are black, but with orange leather trim below. Stunning!
Seats have gray stitching, and the thick leather steering wheel and shift knobs are black leather with M series red, blue and gray stitching. Sharp! Door trim and that on the dash’s center stack features a brushed chrome look while the console cover is mostly carbon fiber.
Front seats are powered, heated and cooled, plus the steering wheel is heated. The seats are supportive and comfy with power side bolsters and lumbar supports and the leather feels as delicious as it looks.
One other feature on the test car, neck warmers. That’s right, at the base of each front seat’s headrest is a screened area that can blow warm air on your neck, one supposes, if you are driving with the roof down in relatively chilly weather. I’d like a neck cooler too, but the $500 fee only warms a riders’ neck.
The rear seat is for appearances only as it would be hard to sit there with legs, although a sidesaddle approach may work. Plus there is a fine air deflector screen that is positioned over the rear seat and easily flips up or down. But you’d have to remove that to accommodate any rear seat passengers. A child seat could fit, but be difficult to get at.
M8’s convertible top is powered, naturally, and easily folds down in about 10 seconds, so fairly quickly. Plus the ballet-like opening process for the tonneau and storage of the roof is always fun for bystanders to gawk at.
In back is a power trunk lid too. It can be activated from the driver’s seat. A button on the trunk allows it to close, while manual closure doesn’t seem practical. Space under the tonneau in the trunk is limited, but listed at 12.4 cubic feet. A couple small bags would do it, or a couple could be tucked in the back seat.
Sound is fantastic from the special Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system ($3,400) and its 16 speakers. B&W says this has 1,400 watts of power, and it can be ear-splitting. But even at that it’s tough to hear well when the roof is down. Save the tunes for a damp day when the roof is deployed.
Elsewhere in the cockpit is a power tilt/telescope steering wheel with 10 buttons, one toggle and one roller on its hub while the dash contains 27 buttons or toggles on the center stack, and an SOS system overhead on the windshield frame. The screen and buttons are all easy to use and figure out.
My only complaint really were the massive A-pillars that make side views a bit tricky.
A few more things outside. I know, I know, there’s a lot to cover here. But where the rest of the performance world is touting its red brake calipers this baby goes with gold calipers, which certainly drives home the richness of the BMW M8 Competition model.
And then there’s the M Carbon Exterior package for $5,400 that includes carbon fiber mirror covers, rear wing and front chin spoiler along with the 4-pipe exhaust trim and an enhanced diffuser in back to keep it planted at racing speeds.
Final damage is $180,245 for this test car, but you can sneak into a non-optioned up M8 Competition convertible for $155,500 or slightly devalue your ride by going base M8 convertible with its paltry 600 horsepower for $142,500. Really!
Then there’s the real mundane, gas mileage. I managed 19.2 mpg in a week’s drive, often pushing the envelope on highway drives. The EPA rates this at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, and there’s a $1,000 gas guzzler tax, if you care.
In a word, the M8 Competition Convertible is … Fantastic!
FAST STATS: 2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible
Hits: Cool looks, awesome power, beautiful balance with responsive handling, plus AWD and impressive brakes. Power convertible top, power trunk lid, gorgeous interior, cooled seats, heated wheel, wind screen, gold brake calipers.
Misses: Price is a shocker, ride is stiff especially in Sport mode, massive A-pillars, and tight rear seat.
Made in: Germany
Engine: 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, 617 hp
Top Speed: 189 mph
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,251 lbs.*
Wheelbase: 111.1 in.
Length: 191.8 in.
MPG: 19.2 (tested)
Base Price: $156,495 (includes delivery)
Carbon ceramic brakes, $8,150
Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system, $3,400
Neck warmers, $500
Driver assistance packages, $2,800
M Driver’s package, $2,500
M Carbon Exterior package, $5,400
Gas Guzzler tax, $1,000
Test vehicle: $180,245
Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com
*Car & Driver
Photos: Mark Savage