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TEST DRIVE: BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe

David Haueter test drives BMW’s four-door M8 Competition Grand Coupe…

Photo: David Haueter

BMW’s M8 Competition is at the pinnacle of the brands M car lineup and is big and expensive but also incredibly quick and surprisingly nimble to drive. Ironically, it feels quite different to drive after you get into it than what you may expect as you walk up to it.

There are several different flavors of M8 to choose from. All are powered by a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8, with the “standard” M8 models making an even 600hp while the M8 Competition models make 617.

Both versions produce 553 lb-ft. of torque. Among the M8 and M8 Competition models, there are Coupe, Gran Coupe and Convertible models ranging in price from $133,000 for an M8 Coupe to $155,500 for the M8 Competition Convertible.

The M8 Gran Coupe is perhaps the most intriguing model in the lineup.

In BMW parlance, a Gran Coupe is a four-door model that features coupe design cues, with a more sloping rear roofline and smaller rear doors than you typically expect in a sedan. The benefit is that they’re often more sporting in appearance than a sedan would be, but also have easier access to the back seat and more room there when you need to use it.

Photo: David Haueter

One criticism of the two-door M8 Coupe is that it looks too much like a Ford Mustang.

With its rear doors, the Gran Coupe model does away with some of that resemblance and still looks sleek and fast despite its 200.9-inch length, which is 9.1 inches longer than the Coupe.

It tips the scales at 4,480 lbs., which is 185 lbs. heavier than the Coupe, but it’s just as fast as the Coupe in the 0-60 dash, with both cars getting there in 3 seconds. At $143,000, the M8 Competition Gran Coupe is priced a little less than the $146,000 M8 Competition Coupe.

Distinctions between the M8 Competition and the “regular” M8 are slight but amount to more than just bumping up the horsepower and putting on different wheels.

The 17hp increase over the regular M8 is really for bragging rights only as it’s nearly impossible to notice the different behind the wheel, but it also has more rigid engine mounts, firmer suspension tuning with more negative camber dialed in at the front, and solid ball joints instead of rubber bushings on the rear toe links.

The Competition models also include the M Sport exhaust, which gives a more sporting exhaust note but could be a little more vocal for a car like this.

Photo: David Haueter

Inside, the M8 Competition Gran Coupe is covered in leather and Alcantara with carbon fiber trim. The digital gauge cluster will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a new BMW recently and offers a lot of information aside from the usual tachometer and speedometer, including fuel range and mileage, tire pressure and temperature, coolant temperature and turbo psi.

The seats are supportive and comfortable, and you can certainly tell that you’re sitting lower to the ground than you would be in an M5 (which is nearly identical underneath). As you may expect, the rear seat is tight but they’re also surprisingly comfortable.

The M8 Competition Gran Coupe looks fast and aggressive but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s big. It also seems like a 7 Series when you walk up to it with its length.

Crucially, the car seems to shed some of its weight and size when you drive it quickly on a back road.

It can feel big and heavy at slower speeds, but it feels more like a sports car when you get it on a back road and start driving harder. Put simply, it’s more comfortable going fast than ambling around town.

Big power is on tap right away, with the car producing maximum torque at just 1,800rpm, and handling is precise and well balanced, especially with the shocks in the Sport setting.

The ride is certainly firm, but it’s a perfectly capable of hauling four people on a long drive on the interstate without complaints from your passengers, as long as you put the car in Comfort mode which softens the shocks.

The automatic transmission shifts quickly and accurately and there’s seldom the need to shift gears on your own with the paddles, and the huge carbon ceramic brakes provide great stopping power but can sometimes bite a little too aggressively.

Photo: David Haueter

The M8 is the first M car that allows the driver to choose a brake setting, just as they would with the suspension, steering and throttle response.

It features BMW’s brake-by-wire system, which allows the driver to choose between a Comfort and Sport setting. I left it in the Comfort setting in normal driving, and the differences are subtle in most driving.

I had some mixed feelings after driving the M8 Competition Gran Coupe. It’s very fast and handles surprisingly well for its size and weight but I wish it was a bit more exciting to drive.

Sure, it’s thrilling to feel all that power and speed, but the car could use a bit more of the intangible connection between driver and car that the best sports cars have.

You simply don’t feel like an integral part of the car like you do in other cars in this price range like the Mercedes AMG GT C and the Acura NSX.

On the plus side, the benefit of the M8 Competition Gran Coupe is that it’s just as fast as some true supercars but also has four doors and a back seat, as well as usable trunk space.

It may lack some of the excitement of more pure sports cars, but it’s more usable on a daily basis and more practical.

Photo: David Haueter

David Haueter has been an automotive writer and photographer for the past 20 years. His writing and photos have been published in Roundel, Bimmer, Forza and Excellence and SportsCarInsider as well as other automotive and racing magazines.

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