2020 BMW M8 Review

2020 BMW M8 - The ultimate M, M8 finally realizes BMW's dream of the perfect blend of sports, technology and luxury.

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The BMW 8-Series is arguably the Bavarian automaker's most advanced vehicle. It is offered in coupe, convertible and coupe-like sedan body styles. Most recently redesigned in 2018 for the 2019 model year, the 8-Series is sold as the 8-Series Coupe, Gran Coupe and Convertible. There are also M versions branded M8. Changes for 2020 include the addition of a new base engine. Competitors include the Maserati Grand Turismo, Lexus LC, Mercedes-Benz CLS- and S-Class, and Porsche 911.

The M-Series comes with a 4.4-liter V8 that utilizes twin turbos to make 600 horsepower. Power is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission to a standard all-wheel drive system. BMW offers a competition package that adds an additional 17 horsepower, stiffer engine mounts, additional front-wheel camber, ball joints on the rear toe links to stiffen that attachment point, and a more aggressive tune for several of the car's electronic systems.

Standard features include 20-inch wheels, LED/laser headlights, selectable drive modes, dual-zone climate control, head-up display, leather upholstery, 10.25-inch infotainment screen with support for Apple Car Play, wireless charging pad and Harman Hardon sound system. Standard safety features include forward collision warning with emergency braking, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitor. The convertible comes with a power-operated soft top with glass rear window, which can open or close in as little as 15 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 31 MPH. Prices start at $130,000 and climb to more than $160,000.

If you feel you need more power than the M8 delivers, you probably shouldn't have a driver's license. The twin turbo V8 provides more than ample power in this 4400-pound luxury sports car. Most enthusiast magazines peg the 0 to 60 mph time at fewer than 3 seconds. In addition, the engine provides ample passing punch and a lusty exhaust note. There are various power settings that also make the M8 easier to drive around town and even give the driver the ability to somewhat silence the baritone exhaust note.

The engine mates well to the autobox, however, it should be noted that this is a traditional torque-converter automatic, meaning that responses to the paddle shifter aren't as quick as you might expect. Still, the all-wheel drive system does an excellent job of routing power to the wheels with the most grip and even offers a mode that sends additional power to the rear, to give the M8 the feel of a rear-drive sports car. Still, buyers of the M8 should seriously consider dedicated snow tires if they have any intention of driving the M8 in winter.

The M8 has several drive modes. Most people should just leave it in normal. There acceleration and economy are balanced and the electronic nannies that help prevent wheelspin are set to vigilant. Opting for performance yields better acceleration, more aggressive shift action, a stiffer ride and decreased fuel economy. Eco should be abolished; it just makes the M8 harder to drive and numbs throttle response at all times.

The M8 is EPA rated at a dismal 15 MPG city and 21 MPG highway. Premium-grade fuel is required. In routine suburban commuting expect to average 16-19 MPG. If your commute includes some gentle highway driving you might see 22 MPG overall.

At 4,400 pounds, the M8 is not a lightweight sports car, rather It's a grand touring car in the traditional sense. It's quite capable and has high handling limits, but the sheer size keeps it from being a true sports car. One big aid is standard 4-wheel steering. This makes the 8-Series feel nimbler at high speeds and a bit easier to drive in parking lots.

For the most part, the ride is firm without being harsh -- kind of like a sports car with a bit more polish. Set in Sport mode, you'll notice considerably more impact harshness. Steering effort is appropriate and increases in sport mode. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of feedback, but it is very accurate and responsive. When hauling down this hefty coupe, the firm brake pedal instills confidence. However, as the 8 comes to a halt and the engine prepares to autostop, there's an abruptness that's inappropriate for a vehicle of this price.

The M8 is likely the quietest car in the class. Wind and road noise are impressively silenced and you can hear the delightful V8 exhaust note in hard acceleration.

The M8 cabin is a model of luxury and efficiency. Materials are top notch and assembly quality is impeccable. Both the instrument panel and the center stack feature large and legible digital displays. Plus, there's a head-up display that helps reduce driver fatigue and distraction. In general, controls are well placed and pleasantly intuitive.

In addition to speed and engine-specific info, the instrument display provides lots of details about driving style, economy or even presents a map display. It's configurable and the design has become standard across the BMW lineup. For some it might be off-putting, but for after some time behind the wheel, it's nice to have a display that shows the driver exactly what they want to see. The same might be said for the infotainment screen, which is controlled by a jog dial. It's not necessarily the most intuitive in operation, but once familiar is relatively painless. Gesture controls for basic audio functions take some training, but may become preferred to traditional volume and skip functions.

The front seats are very firm and have serious side bolsters. Even the backrest of Grand Coupe models is highly contoured. Some might find the seats too confining, but there's no doubt they will hold you in place. Head room is adequate and leg room generous. The rear seats on the coupe and convertible are more for show than actual passenger use, but the rear seat on the Gran Coupe (with its longer wheelbase) is actually useful for adults. Though it needs to be noted that the Gran Coup is a 4-passenger vehicle. The low roofline means a long bend down to the low seating position. Doors are long on the coupe/convertible, which can complicate entry and exit. Though the front pillars are quite thick outward visibility is fine forward, but severely restricted to the rear.

Surprisingly all models have a relatively large trunk and, despite the Gran Coupe's sloping roofline, there's a traditional and secure trunk in back. Interior storage is tight.

Bottom Line -- The M8 is the ultimate BMW. It combines BMW's entire toolbox of tricks and pedigree in one delicious package. As you might expect, it deftly blends sport and luxury to provide a vehicle that is at home on the race track as it is at the country club. Still, the price premium over the standard 8-Series demands that buyers consider priorities.



Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.