2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible
Class: Premium Sporty/Performance Car
Miles driven: 236
Fuel used: 14.6 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 16.2 mpg
Driving mix: 70% city, 30% highway
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B|
|Power and Performance||A|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide’s impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. “Big” rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, “Tall” rating based on 6’6″-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||617-hp 4.4L|
|Engine Type||Turbocharged V8|
|Drive Wheels||All-wheel drive|
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 15/21/17 (mpg city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas required
Base price: $155,500 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Driving Assistance Package ($1100), Driving Assistance Professional Package ($1700), M Carbon Ceramic Brakes ($8150), M Driver’s Package ($2500), M Carbon Exterior Package ($5400), neck warmer ($500), Bowers & Wilkins premium surround-sound audio ($3400), Gas Guzzler Tax ($1000)
Price as tested: $180,245
More 8-Series price and availability information
The great: Incredible acceleration, braking, and handling, especially for a car of this size and weight
The good: Luxuriously appointed cabin; muscle-car V8 soundtrack; sleek top-down style
The not so good: Fuel economy; steep pricing; poor rear visibility with the top up
Reviewing the specifications for the M8 Competition, it will seem as though BMW poured everything into its grand tourer but the kitchen sink. If there was a scullery tub in there, it would probably have a carbon-fiber basin with dark-chrome faucet and handles, water flow electronically metered every millisecond to maintain consistent temperature, direct injection of dishwashing liquid, and a fill time to within six inches from the top of 2.7 seconds.
The car is a rolling showcase of systems, settings, and sensors in the service of high-speed luxury driving. The M8s, in coupe and convertible and “base” and Competition versions, are 2020 newcomers to the premium sporty/performance 8-Series lineup that began replacing the 6-Series in 2019. Consumer Guide tried out the costliest of all M8s, the Competition convertible that starts at $157,495 after delivery and $1000 in Gas Guzzler tax. However, a fuller display of the vehicle’s upgraded and microprocessed bells and whistles is available through a number of individual and packaged options. That’s how CG’s test car came to have a price of $180,245.
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All M8s come with a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8, an 8-speed automatic transmission, and xDrive all-wheel drive. There’s an “Active M” differential to partition power between the rear wheels, “M Mode” selection of electronic vehicle-control interventions, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, heated and ventilated Merino-leather sport seats, “Live Cockpit Professional” instrument display, iDrive 7 infotainment system, Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility, wireless charging, Wi-Fi hotspot, Harman-Kardon surround-sound audio, satellite radio, keyless entry and starting, remote starting, driver-fatigue monitor, and frontal-collision warning and mitigation. M8 Competitions throw in firmer suspension settings and stiffer engine mounts, adjustable-note M Sport exhaust, a “Track” setting for M Mode that shuts down all driver-assistance systems, specially detailed seat belts, and distinct 20-inch bi-color alloy wheels.
BMW says the powerplant in the M8s is the most powerful production engine it has ever made. With its turbochargers parked down between the cylinder banks and spun by cross-bank exhaust manifolds that shorten the distance exhaust gasses have to travel to the turbos, it makes 600 horsepower at 6000 rpm to start, but the Competition ups the ante to 617 ponies. Torque is the same 553 lb-ft in either variation, peaking as low as 1800 rpm. However, in the Competition, that maximum twist is maintained up to 5860 rpm, 160 revs beyond the point that the base engine begins dropping off.
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Drivers can select and save different engine and chassis characteristics (and access these combinations by tapping little red “M1” and “M2” levers atop the steering-wheel arms). Cycling through the engine menu to the “Sport+” setting—“Efficient” and “Sport” are the other choices—elicits a raucous exhaust blare at a press of the starter button, and menacing exhaust raps off throttle. Response to accelerator inputs is immediate and lusty. Considering its curb weight of 4560 pounds, the M8 Competition convertible is a quick car (the manufacturer cites 3.0 seconds to get from zero to 60 mph and includes launch control as a standard feature). Top speed is limited at 155 mph unless a buyer pays out $2500 for the M Driver’s Package option that raises the ceiling to 189 and buys the owner a day of training at one of the two BMW Performance Center schools in the U.S. This tester didn’t get anywhere near that loftier limit in expressway driving; he did average 17.9 mpg after driving 88 miles with 40 percent city-type motoring.
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Ride is, of course, always firm but not jarringly hard, even in Sport+, which was a surprise. Indeed, in base “Comfort” mode there’s pretty good suspension compliance. Grip-sustaining performance tires are wrapped around staggered-width wheels (rear rims are one inch wider than those in front). Steering and braking come down to a binary choice between Comfort and Sport. Bringing all the M8’s go to a stop has been thought out as well as anything else on the car, and CG’s tester was outfitted with the $8150 M carbon ceramic brakes that use a more heat-resistant material for the 4-wheel discs and employ slightly upsized rotors in front. Going to Sport conjures more forceful, almost grabby brake action.
Driving a couple of 8-Series convertibles—CG’s first was a 2019 M850i—confirms that BMW has done a good job of creating a solid open-car body structure. It takes 15 seconds to open or close the multilayer fabric top, which stows out of sight under the deck. These operations can happen while on the move at speeds up to 30 mph. In top-down driving, the wind blocker was effective at cutting down buffeting at free-flowing tollway speeds. When fully buttoned up, the cabin is pretty quiet, though over-the-shoulder visibility is quite restricted.
A sumptuous interior comes with standard carbon fiber highlights. Front passengers enjoy highly comfortable seats, with an available neck warmer for pleasant cruising in crisper climes. There are rear seats—at least that’s what those two things back there look like they are except for an abject lack of legroom. There’s actually a little bit more rear-seat headroom in the convertible than in the coupe, but that just points up the extreme limits of the closed car, not any great credit to the soft top. The trunk holds just 12 cubic feet of cargo that has to fit around the fixture that contains the lowered top, so the 60/40-split rear seats can make themselves useful as load space.
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Live Cockpit Professional displays driving and infotainment information on a pair of screens. Some info also shows on the head-up display, which emphasizes the horizontal-bar tachometer readout when the engine is in Sport Plus. The current iDrive system is more intuitive than earlier versions but still takes a lot of attention to use. Climate controls rely on an array of push buttons.
The BMW M8 Competition convertible is an eminently rewarding, even thrilling, driver with an indulgent environment for two. Even if there were room for it, the kitchen sink isn’t needed.
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