Pigs can’t fly, but apparently nobody told the engineers at BMW. The new M8 coupe is positively soaring down the main straight of a racetrack at 230, 240, 250 kilometres an hour before rounding a series of tightening right-handers. The M8 hits the apex of every turn as if by sheer force of will, and a little help from 617 horsepower metered out just so by a smart all-wheel-drive system. Out on the road, in the real world, it’s even more impressive. The full-size, four-seat luxury barge drives and feels like a smaller machine. It may be porky, but this car can fly.
After an absence of 20-odd years, BMW is bringing back the 8 Series to replace the 6 Series coupe and four-door Gran Coupe models. Why? Well, essentially because 8 is a higher number than 6, so it seems more impressive, which means BMW can charge higher prices. I’m not even joking. It’s a belated response to Mercedes, which has a bigger lineup of high-end machines, including the S-Class Coupe, SL Roadster, GT sedan and GT coupe. BMW wasn’t about to let its main rival own the top of the market.
The 8 Series comes in many flavours, the spiciest being the M8 Coupe and Convertible. The M850i Gran Coupe (BMW-speak for a four-door sedan with a rakish roofline) is less spicy, but more practical. The soon-to-be-unveiled M8 Gran Coupe combines the best of both worlds – high performance and four-door practicality, just like the Audi RS7 we recently tested.
Apologies for the alphanumeric hodgepodge there, but until car companies get back to giving cars cool names – such as Interceptor (Ford’s reinterpretation of the classic muscle cars in the sixties) or Countach (Lamborghini) – car buyers are going to have to learn to crack these codes.
Uwe Greiner is the project manager for the four-door 8 Series, but before that, he worked on product strategy for BMW. He was adamant that the company should bring back the 8 Series and that it should be different. “The 6 Series, in the perception of the customer … wasn’t so much seen as a sports car,” Greiner says. “We were sure this wouldn’t work again.” To make it sportier, the M8 coupe is actually shorter overall than the old M6, he adds. Rear-seat space wasn’t as much of a priority this time around. The carbon-fibre roof is a dead giveaway of sporty intent, like Spandex on a cyclist.
On Portuguese roads barely wide enough for two Fiats to pass safely, the M8 doesn’t embarrass itself. The long hood stretches out in front of you as the car dives into corners with an easy flick of the steering wheel, resisting understeer and carving lines like a figure skater. The old M6 would have felt like an oil tanker here.
At higher speeds, on the Portimão racetrack, fighting understeer becomes an issue. Here, you can feel the full size and two-tonne heft of the machine. There’s a lovely sense of balance, though, so drive it like a hooligan – slow in, power-slide out – and it’ll put a big grin on your face. Just be prepared to burn through a lot of expensive tires and premium fuel.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the M8 is based on the M5 sedan, which is currently our favourite fast sedan. The M8 gets the same twin-turbo V-8 with 608 hp (617 in the Competition model). It’ll do 0-100 km/h in 3.2 seconds.
It’s undoubtedly more fun to drive than the old M6, but the M8 is still not exactly a sports car. If you want a sports car, a Porsche 911 is better. Greiner says the target was more akin to an Aston Martin or Maserati. If you want fast grand tourer though, the coming M8 Gran Coupe has two extra doors, similar performance and cooler style. Four-door coupes have made cars such as the M8 Coupe and Cabrio irrelevant. They exist in an odd no man’s land now.
It doesn’t help that there’s not much to justify the enormous $20,000-$30,000 jump in price compared with the old M6. It’s not surprising, then, that even though the M8 coupe is brand-new, its days appear numbered.
Cars like this – unnecessary cars – are at the mercy of the global economy. When things turn sour, these frivolous purchases are the first things to go. Automobile Magazine reports that BMW and Mercedes are killing off their big coupes once the current models have run their course. So, if you want a two-door flying pig like the M8 or S-Class, this may be your last shot.
Base price: $151,000 (Coupe); $160,500 (Cabriolet)
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V-8
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): TBD
Drive: All-wheel drive
Alternatives: Porsche 911, Polestar 1, Mercedes S-Class Coupe and Convertible, Mercedes-AMG GT, Aston Martin Vantage, Maserati GranTurismo, BMW M8 Gran Coupe, Jaguar F-Type SVR.
One of BMW’s better recent designs. The M8 looks so big it became a meme: #bigM8. It started at the 24 Hours of Le Mans when people began posting Photoshopped images of the M8 as a Godzilla-sized machine running over other cars and squashing the competition.
BMW’s new seats are supremely comfortable. The iDrive system is still among the easier infotainment setups to use.
Just know what you’re getting into. Nice balanced chassis and steering, with the caveat: for a big heavy coupe.
There are more modes and settings than ever to fiddle with. Thankfully, you can program two custom drive settings, selectable from two buttons on the steering wheel.
Rear seats are for emergencies, or luggage. Trunk has plenty of space for a two-up road trip.
Big, fast and entertaining, but not exactly a true sports car. Wait for the four-door M8 Gran Coupe.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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