OVERVIEW - What is it?
This is a bit of simple maths even TG can do: four into eight. BMW’s 8 Series with 200mm added to the wheelbase and four doors, with added ‘Competition’ upgrades. Mind you, the non-Comp car isn’t available in the UK (a nation of optionistas, us) and if you’re being picky, this is just an M5 Competition with a slinkier profile and less comfortable rear middle seat. Mind you, that still means quite a lot of car for your £120,970 starting price. A twin-turbo V8 with 625bhp and 750Nm, low threes 0-100kph and a supercar top end just shy of 306kph. All figures shared with the two-door, making it BMW’s equal-fastest production variant. Not to be sniffed at.
There’s performance-biased M xDrive, bringing with it all-wheel drive surety but also the ability to switch to rear-wheel drive if you want to slash everywhere broadside, Road, Sport and Track settings for the various fiendishly-complicated suspension and traction controls, active diffs, an active exhaust, a plush interior and more gadgets than you can comfortably list in a ten-minute greatest-hits rundown. It’s also …er… massive. And has quite a lot going on in the styling stakes.
Broadly, it stands against other big-mile GT bruisers like Mercedes’ AMG GT 4-door Coupe, the Porsche Panamera and Bentley’s Flying Spur, although there are a myriad of other options at around this price point - not least a standard M5 Competition for twenty grand less (£100,850), and not including whatever discounts you can batter out of head office. There’s a proliferation of the usual Competition carbon-y addenda - including roof, wing mirrors, front intakes, rear spoiler and rear valance - all bracketing a styling aesthetic that’s on the punchy side.
Even in a fairly modest colour, this car makes a statement, and that statement is capped with at least a couple of exclamation marks. But, and this is a big ‘but’, the GC might actually be the most natural 8 Series shape. It sits well in profile, and apart from a rear-end that seems to have included ALL the ideas from the designer’s mood board, it’s a very pretty basic shape.
DRIVING - What is it like on the road?
As you might expect, the M8 Comp is pretty much an M5 in feel, with possibly just a touch less inertia when turning in - but we’d have to back-to-back both cars to be absolutely certain. That means a decent but not pillowy ride quality in the standard Road setting, a little thumpy in Sport mode, and a slight feeling of disconnection. Obviously that’s generally a basic function of these big GTs that go to great lengths to disguise their weight and size across the board, but razor sharp, this is not.
Lots of grip, mind you - the xDrive four wheel drive feeling resolutely rear-biased, the centre and rear diffs doing plenty of work to eke out the best from those meaty tyres - 275-section on the front axle (285 on the rear). In the wet it’s a lifesaver, and makes for a car that’s safe and stable even in extremis. The rear-wheel drive mode is a bit of a trackside party trick though: drifting something this big on the road is, bluntly, a bit silly, and if you clock into the correct modes the M8 GC will happily give you half a turn of oversteer even in four-wheel drive. Just dial in your specific preferred driving modes to one of the two ‘M’ buttons at the top of the wheel (you can set all the usual parameters like suspension/throttle/traction) and you need never really go through the rigmarole of selecting 2WD unless you want to go all Chris Harris on a trackday. All in all, it’s one of those cars that doesn’t demand a great deal of attention to provide a huge dose of speed. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you.
Saying that, it’s a hugely impressive car in certain circumstances. The 4.4 V8 uses that pair of turbos to great effect, and mid-range shove for overtaking is eye-widening. It’s not the kind of car that scares or particularly exhilarates, but once you clock just how rapidly that speedo rises from 80kph to properly illegal, attention must be paid for the sake of your licence, if nothing else. It sounds throaty without being obnoxious, the gearbox (with paddles) is good without being of particular note and it absolutely keeps the promises made by the looks. It’s just that it’s a bit of a broad brush of character - possibly one that would shine more brightly in somewhere like Germany where stretches of Autobahn would undoubtedly show just how impressive this car could be.
ON THE INSIDE - Layout, finish and space
As you might expect of a four-door flagship, the M8 GC is not lacking in interior comfort, gadgets and flash. Of special mention are the superbly comfy front seats (some of the best we’ve tried), and the driving position - all A-star for ergonomics, at least for the six-footers among us. It’s a five-seater, although the centre rear seat passenger is forced to splay their legs across the full-length centre console, and there’s a very generous 440-litre boot - a wee bit bigger (20-litres) than the Coupe.
There are big screens and M-specific modes - including in the head-up display - a myriad of buttons to push and some very nice materials and touch points. Leather, carbon and metal are not in short supply. It’s also very well-equipped as standard, with only a few extras like a hi-fi upgrade and Laser headlights as options, and you will need those parking cameras - as mentioned, the GC does not feel small. Yes, the interior does feel like an aggregation of all the best bits of the rest of the BMW range - it’s an interior that any modern BMW owner would recognise - and no, it’s not exactly full of surprise and delight, but there’s a calm efficiency to the way it all operates. Is it special enough for £120k+? Just. But it might not blow your socks off.
OWNING - Running costs and reliability
It’s a bit new, so there’s no real data on the GC as yet, but seeing as this is basically an M5 it should be as easy to own as a 340i. There are plenty of dealers happy to extract your cash for servicing, and support is widely available. There’s also a whiff of deals to be done even with brand-spanking new cars, so a bit of haggling might well bring this slice of German muscle down a few grand.
In terms of the practicalities, it should manage just over 25mpg (11.3 litres/100km), but pushed it’ll drop to single figures, and driven like you have sore feet will manage more than 30 (9.4 litres/100km). One long and restrained trip managed 33-34mpg (8.3-8.5 litres/100km), so that 4.4 can be efficient. It’s a bit boring getting that out of it though.
It’s also a 625bhp, 100k+ super-saloon, so insurance is unlikely to be cheap no matter how old/rural you are, and depreciation on these things is not traditionally very kind, so there’s a definite argument for waiting for someone else to take the hit and picking up a pre-loved tidy one in 5000 miles’ time.
This is the best 8 Series. There, we’ve said it. It looks extremely neat - if a bit shouty - there’s some very useful space and it performs exceptionally well. It’s also got the dynamic ability of the Coupe for that subjectively nicer shape, smashing the sporting GT brief out of the park.
Make no mistake, a trans-European jaunt in one of these would be a delight. But the problem is that this is a car that impresses in isolation. It’s a smooth, cool, efficient delivery, full of muscle and intent, but lacking any theatre past absolute thrust - a bit of a synthetic rocketship. There are flickers of emotion here, but nothing that really grabs you by the heart and squeezes.
With that in mind, it’s a solid score here on points, but check out the competition before you sign on the dotted line - there’s some cracking metal out there for this kind of money.
A big-mile GT bruiser that feels hugely impressive, if not outright exhilarating
|Crushing high-speed competency, surprisingly nimble for such a big car, presence||Thirsty if you push, it’s big, the M5 exists and crushing competence isn’t always emotional|