M8: fast and easy on road and track

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

The M850i xDrive coupe and cabri­o­let al­ready rank highly for re­fine­ment and boule­vard man­ners but the M8 Com­pe­ti­tion ver­sions that have been added to the range en­joy greater mo­tor­sport en­gi­neer­ing fo­cus that hits the spot whether used as track or road tools.

I took the 1,960kg coupe with its full-fat 460kW and 750Nm on the swoopy as­phalt of cir­cuit Por­ti­mao dur­ing its in­ter­na­tional launch in Por­tu­gal, while the con­vert­ible’s 0-100km/h time of 3.3 sec­onds and its re­stricted 250km/h top speed came along for a whirl­wind drive in the moun­tains of the Al­garve. These are quick numbers for a 2,085kg and 4,867mm long yacht.

Weaponised with the 4.4l bi­turbo V8, once un­der way early in the morn­ing, roof down and care­ful not to be lured by the mighty fig­ures un­der my right foot, the M8 Com­pe­ti­tion cabrio wafted in style when its me­chan­i­cals were set for Com­fort on a new dig­i­tal lay­out.

Tai­lor­ing the many driv­ing al­go­rithms now hap­pens via an en­hanced menu de­sign through the com­mand screen in the cen­tre. The pa­ram­e­ters vary from Com­fort and Sport to Sport Plus and are eas­ier to or­gan­ise now.

A new track-only M Drive but­ton joins oth­ers in the cen­tre tun­nel next to the stubby gear­lever and its pur­pose is of a sin­gle-ac­tion kill switch for ev­ery con­ceiv­able safety sen­sor and also the dis­play screen, which means no nav­i­ga­tion or mu­sic in this mode.

In terms of driv­ing dy­nam­ics, the M8 Cab of­fers a very sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence to the coupe ex­cept a re­fresh­ing wind rush­ing past your head. If it misses the sharp­ness and so­lid­ity of its hel­meted cousin due to its be­ing 125kg heav­ier than the coupe and with a trun­cated roof, then BMW en­gi­neers have hid­den this well.

Far away from the city of Faro where the roads started open­ing up and be­com­ing twisty, it was ap­par­ent very quickly that the drop-top has plenty of dy­namic abil­ity and su­pe­rior grip lev­els for a spir­ited break­fast run.

What it doesn’t do well enough is sound bet­ter than the more pedes­trian M850i xDrive. No points for guess­ing that strict Euro­pean noise emis­sion reg­u­la­tions have played a part here. But it’s an en­ter­tain­ing enough au­ral ex­pe­ri­ence, which set­tles down into an en­joy­able rather than an­noy­ing tim­bre when you turn down the histri­on­ics.

Driven kindly, the M8 cab is claimed to munch 10.6l/100km and it’s a wall poster for a week­end top-down cruise pro­vided it isn’t on Por­tu­gal’s fa­mously nar­row outer city roads, where the car’s 1,908mm girth was a truly in­tim­i­dat­ing prospect given that we were in left-hand drive cars.

The cabin er­gonomics are ex­cel­lent, the am­bi­ence top shelf and the sound sys­tem crisp and pow­er­ful. With the wind de­flec­tor firmly in place where the heads of rear pas­sen­gers would nor­mally poke out, the 2+2 cabin be­comes free of nasty wind buf­fet­ing. It’s made for this life­style, with its Franken­stein char­ac­ter a small stretch of an arm away to the felo­nious but­ton.

The sweet com­bi­na­tion of M xDrive, Pirelli rub­ber, sharp­shift­ing eight-speed Step­tronic auto trans­mis­sion and a stiffer

A blacked-out grille with fewer slats aids cool­ing and dif­fer­en­ti­ates the M8 from other 8 Se­ries mod­els.

The cham­pi­onship siz­zle of the M8 coupe on track should trans­late into a fe­ro­cious road per­former. Be­low: The only de­par­ture from the reg­u­lar 8 Se­ries cabin is a new dig­i­tal menu lay­out made for eas­ier ac­cess and the ap­pear­ance of an ex­tra M Mode but­ton on the cen­tre tun­nel.

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