By virtue of its name the M8 is the mightiest M from BMW. But is it really so?
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What gets us more excited about a BMW? If it has an M badge on it! The excitement for the M8 is higher still as it sits right at the top of the M lineup and promises to be the most M of them all. By virtue of its all-wheel drive system and the grand tourer claim, the M8 is walking a slightly unconventional path. Does that keep it from being the mightiest and meanest M out there? On this quest we discovered five things you can’t do in a BMW M8!
First: You won't be able to keep a straight face
It’s hard, it really is. Just the first peek at the M8 caused my jaw to drop. We first met on a dimly lit road. It looked incredibly low, incredibly racy. As the long frameless doors swung open the astonishment was replaced with amazement as I peered into the cabin.
Like a cockpit, the cabin glitters with lights of different hues and vibrancy. The ambient lighting strip on the door turns red and pulses softly when the engine is running and the door opens. The M colours really pop on the backlit M8 badges on the racy seats. The digital instrument cluster looks rich and racy too.
The crisp and sharp infotainment screen looks on confidently as the warm tones for the centre console light gives a sense of comfort. There’s the cherry red start-stop button on the centre console and the beautiful red M paddles on the steering. The large colourful and customisable heads-up display can dominate your field of view.
If, somehow, you kept a straight face till now, the next bit will strain your facial muscles. The quietness of the night was shattered as the M8 came to life, coughing and growling angrily and loudly too! No amount of prodding the exhaust mode button mellowed the M8’s wake-up-the-neighbors act. As worries of a cane-waving uncle disappeared, a silly smile appeared.
Strangely, the exhaust rumble settled down as soon as Drive was engaged. This being the M, I started off in Sport Mode. Crawling through the city, you could feel the undulations even on a smoothish road, you could hear the plinking of gravel in the wheel wells, and the absolute unhinged responses from the engine even when prodded lightly was enough to set a smile firmly on my face.
Second: You can’t stop thinking about rockets!
Not the Diwali phataka variety, but the outer space variety. If you find your back is pressed firmly into the seat, eyes are straining to make sense of the blurring scenery, you must have pressed the accelerator hard. While you marvel at the M8’s potency, it reaches the second stage of its explosive performance. Like a rocket freed of earth’s gravity and atmosphere, the M8 finds its second wind from 3rd gear onwards. Now, the 750Nm of torque and the 600PS of power are just dumped and the X-Drive all-wheel drive system distributes it all cleanly. The fast-acting 8-speed transmission keeps the shove relentless. BMW claims that the 4.4 litre V8 will haul this near-2 tonne GT from standstill to 100kmph in 3.3 seconds. Incredibly, even though we couldn’t get Launch Control activated, the M8 did the run in 4 seconds!
Third: You can’t stop thinking about neck exercises
The M8 is no dainty machine. The CarbonCore platform's carbon fibre roof, dent-resistant plastic for the bumpers and the boot lid undoubtedly do an admirable job of keeping this AWD-equipped rocketship 40kg shy of the two-tonne mark! Even then, as you beat down a highway its weight is palpable. So, when you attack a corner the M8 feels...
... light. Unbelievable? Yes. True? True. From behind the wheel it feels all the more incredible, because there is no transition to speak of. One moment it didn’t feel light, the next second it did. How? I will take a few good guesses. First, the steering: it’s super sharp and it makes the M8 feel very pointy. Secondly, the wheelbase: it’s shorter than the M5 and that’s an important genetic code. And of course, it carries its weight much lower than the sedan.
Finally, the AWD system. It zaps power from one wheel to the other, front to back, inside wheels to outside wheels in a telepathic manner. As a result, the weight never really moves around, and hence you just don’t feel it. As a result, the M8 turns fast, holds hard and tears through corners. As a result, your neck will end up feeling a bit sore after all the direction changes. On the upside, that’s the best exercise for stronger neck muscles!
Fourth: You can’t stop philosophising
What does M stand for? Where is M going? Questions such as these are hard to keep out of your head. The M division went to the ends of the world to hone their machines with the finest balance, precision and intimacy. The resulting slice of heaven could only be unlocked by skilled drivers carefully and attentively learning the limit and exploiting it expertly.
With the all-wheel-drive-equipped M8 the relationship between the car and driver is a more casual and distant one. Putting all the power down, even around bends, won’t make your knuckles go white with fear. The steering won’t chatter away about the grip on offer and the balance of the chassis instead just quietly reassures you to keep at it. Despite the added coolness, the M8 is still a tempestuous machine to be in when pushed hard.
I'm not going to complain about this trade off because it means more people will be able to enjoy the M8’s mad performance more often without thinking of life-changing consequences. But, if you are one of the elite few who rates his driving reflexes as lightning quick, you could turn it into a rear-wheel drive! All you need to do is, ahem, turn the DSC off -- grow a pair, will you! Then select 2WD mode from the XDrive settings. Now go drift!
Fifth: You can’t stop thinking of road trips
The M8’s GT promise is hilariously real. Hilarious, because who would dream of dragging its low-slung carbon-fibre belly, its 98 octane guzzling 4.4 litre V8 twin-turbo engine and gorgeous 20” rims across the country. But, you could. Using the configurable M modes on the steering, I dialled the M8 into a full cruise-mobile - engine, suspension, steering, brakes, set to Comfort - and just chilled. The engine was well behaved, the suspension accommodated speed breakers with relative grace. On highways, the suspension could even be dialed up to Sport mode for better body control without things getting bumpy!
Despite the 20” wheels, there was enough sidewall on offer that the trips into the potholes didn’t halt our drive. While it took a few of the hits on its chin I wouldn’t ask you to go looking for potholes either. Incredibly, it didn’t scrape its belly either! Even its chin stayed clean and there’s an interesting rubber flap at its lowest edge to give you added peace of mind! So you could choose to travel in the M8, provided you do exercise some control and have your own supply of 98 octane. Simple.
So is this the mightiest M you can buy in India? Well, for a less mighty price tag you could get the M5 Competition, which aside from being a bit more hardcore is also a proper four-door sedan. Sweet, right? But while the M5 can be called a sleeper, the M8 is an attention grabber. So then, the M8 is about making an entrance, about taking it easy when but without compromising on the thrillingness that befits the M division’s highest ranker.