The 2020 BMW M8 Competition Is An Exercise In Engineering Excess
Cars & motorsport

The 2020 BMW M8 Competition Is An Exercise In Engineering Excess

BMW undoubtedly let its engineers loose on the company’s latest halo car, for better and for worse. It’s a mechanical force to be reckoned with on the road, but the M8 Competition cockpit experience is made complicated by a complex drivetrain computer.

By Bryan Campbell

Watching history repeat itself is almost as inescapable as death and taxes. Wait around long enough, and you’ll see a cyclical nature in everything. Politics, fashion, and art are notorious repeat offenders of this phenomenon, but the automotive industry is no stranger to it either. Horsepower wars, turbos, push-button gear selectors are all the rage now, but it’s not their first time in vogue.

BMW isn’t above dipping into its own archives for inspiration, either. Case in point: the 2020 M8 Competition. The original 8-Series was never blessed with an M model, and this is the very first M8 from the brand, but the newest G14 generation 8-Series mirrors its ‘90s predecessor more than you might know.

Visual Excess

The BMW 8-Series is back, nearly two decades after the previous generation ended production in 1999, and the similarities run much deeper than a few shared numbers in the name. The original 8-Series may have run from 1990-1999, but it was very much a product of the 1980s, oozing excess and proudly sporting a wedge-shaped silhouette.

The 2020 M8 Competition might not have inherited the V12, pop-up headlights, or manual transmission from the E31, but it does exude the same flashy presence.

Even in the relatively subtle Brands Hatch Grey Metallic color, like the one BMW loaned me for a week, there’s no escaping the big GT’s presence. Categorically, the 8-Series is most certainly a land yacht. From bow to stern, it is a long walk around at nearly 16-feet, and the stretched tail lights and headlights make the six-feet-wide car look even wider.

Brimming with Power

All of that girth comes at a price, however. The M8 Competition convertible tips the scales at over 4,400lbs. Which, for an interstate-devouring GT isn’t that unheard of, but for a car labeled “competition,” it seems a bit hypocritical.

While the 8-Series line shares the same engine, thankfully, the M8 Competition gets the highest tune of power output at 617 horsepower and 557 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough thrust to shift the two and a half-ton car from 0-60 mph in 3.0 seconds. For those keeping score, that’s more torque and hair-quicker 0-60 sprint than a Lamborghini Huracán Evo (and half the price).

Hiding the Heft

No matter how well you evenly distribute four tons, four tons still weigh four tons. How quickly the M8 gets going off the line is nothing short of impressive, and so is just reading the amount of horsepower it uses to do so. But with that much weight, that level of power is necessary if you want to get anywhere in the same day.

Getting that weight to move from one curve in the road to another in an orderly fashion is an entirely different party trick. And when put into practice, much more impressive.

Up along Hawk’s Nest Highway, where I gladly did runs back and forth for our photographer, there’s little room for error in either direction. On one side, you have a sheer rock face which occasionally juts out, flirting with the wing mirror and pristine body panels. On the other side, only a short stone wall separates you from a few hundred feet of nothingness before you’re introduced to the Delaware River.

Playing with 617 horsepower usually takes some serious restraint, and trying to control 4,400lbs takes some muscle and undivided attention. It should be stress-inducing. It should be a drive you think twice about. However, in the M8 Competition, it’s all wildly under control.

Watch Pairing

BMW had a brief relationship with Ball Watches around five years ago. That partnership produced a few limited edition timekeepers, each with their own quirky features like mechanical thermometers and BMW inspired “perforated” dials. While the collection never quite caught on, it’s certainly a valiant effort.

These days, you may spot a BMW owner wearing a more mainstream timepiece like a Rolex or Omega. For purposes of pairing with the BMW M8, we’ve selected the Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II BLNR on jubilee bracelet. Released in 2019, this GMT Master II with Blue/Black ceramic bezel is sure to turn the heads of even the most ardent watch and car enthusiasts.

Priced at $9,700, the affectionately named ‘Batman’ GMT Master II ref. 126710 has become quite the sensation within the watch collecting community and most retailers have difficulty meeting the demand for this piece. You can read more about the watch (HERE).

An Electronic Blessing and Curse

How BMW’s engineers managed to build an AWD, suspension, and drive train system that could tame supercar levels of power without destroying itself from the inside in an attempt to move a car as heavy as the M8, is nothing short of astonishing. It is a true testament to the M Division.

The “sport” mode on a car used to be easy. If you wanted a little more throttle response and maybe additional sound from the exhaust, then you just pushed a button, and you suddenly had a livelier car. But this is not the case with the M8 Competition.

Each drive system – the M-Sport AWD system, suspension, brakes, throttle, and steering – are all controllable with selectable modes ranging from Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. You can also have the AWD in two-wheel drive, adding an extra dimension to the other facets.

Five minutes after getting into the M8 for the first time, I made dozens of decisions. None of which concerned the music or inputting your directions into the navigation, because I was still figuring out how aggressive I wanted the brakes or how soft I wanted the suspension. But then do I want heavier steering? What about the exhaust note?

It seemed all too convoluted for a car that’s meant to be enjoyed as a driver’s car. But then, the M8 isn’t a driver’s car. It’s an engineer’s car. Ironically, it’s a flashy option in BMW’s lineup, the boulevard cruiser, the one that’s only bought because it is the most powerful and most expensive.

There are people out there that can get the most of their smartwatch or use every complication and function on their timepiece daily. But for the most part, those apps and complications live in the background. They are unused and exist merely as conversation pieces and bragging points.

The M8 is like a dive watch that will only ever be submerged in swimming pool water. It’s a chronograph that’ll seldom see a racetrack or time a hot lap. For most of the hands it’ll end up in, the M8 is unnecessarily complicated, and only a fraction of what it’s capable of will be appreciated.


– Engine: 4.4-liter V8 Twin Turbo
– Horsepower: 617
– Torque: 553 lbs./ft
– 0-62 mph in 3.0 seconds,
– Top speed of 190 mph.
– MSRP: $155,500
– Price as tested: $178,250

(Photography by Jean Pierre Kathoefer, Watchonista photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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