2023 BMW M8 Competition Review: When Too Much is Just Enough

Stefan Lombard

For the 2023 model year, BMW discontinued the standard-issue, 600-hp M8 after three years on the market. That left only the hotter, 617-hp M8 Competition. It’s unclear what percentage of buyers picked the base model over the “Comp,” as the in-crowd says, but I can’t imagine it was high. What customer strolling into their local BMW dealer with $150,000 to plop on the table walks out with the second-most powerful car on the 8 Series roster?

That base car was more like a bait car. Any Porsche salesperson, for instance, knows which of their customers simply want the most expensive, most excessive version of the car they like. (These people never fail to receive dealership Christmas cards.) Think about it: maybe you’ve seen a few new-ish Cayenne or 911 Turbo S examples in the wild … but have you ever seen a regular Turbo? I’m neither Kahneman nor Tversky, but I’d wager the mere existence of the latter psychologically bolsters the desirability of the former.

Most BMW buyers would be plenty satisfied with the silky straight-six in the 840i. And they’d be downright charmed by the healthy 523 horses in the twin-turbo-V-8-powered M850i. Six-hundred and seventeen horsepower is indeed excessive, albeit here that’s true in the more delicious, wonderful sense of the word. The M8 gobbles up back roads and eats up highway miles with an insatiable greed for speed.

2023 BMW M8 Competition Coupe head on driving close up
Stefan Lombard

BMW claims it can bang off 0-60 sprints in 3.0 seconds, which feels conservative given the violence with the M8 launches and the relentlessness of the engine’s 553 lb-ft torque. This kind of burly, boisterous attitude in a big two-door such as the M8 Coupe is logical for a car that’s all about making a statement.

Specs: 2023 BMW M8 Competition Coupe

  • Price: $155,345
  • Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8; eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Output: 617 hp @ 6000 rpm; 553 lb-ft @ 1850-5860 rpm
  • Layout: All-wheel-drive, two-door, four-passenger coupe
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, 17 mpg combined
  • Competitors: Mercedes-AMG GT, Aston Martin Vantage, Porsche 911

The statement that a flagship two-door makes in 2024 is in the language of sportiness, rather than elegance. Thus, the M8 Coupe looks like a Mercedes S-Class piped through a particularly aggro Betty Crocker decorating tip. The design is hardly pretty, but it commands attention in traffic. Proportions are almost comically chunky, the stance is wide, and the 20-inch rims really fill out the wheel wells. A standard quad-tip M Sport exhaust guarantees the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 will be heard, though at idle and low speeds the noise never verges on obnoxious. New for 2023 was a 12.3-inch center display, a handful of new colors, and the optional M Carbon bucket seats already offered on the M3 and M4.

The total MSRP of $153,345 placed our Brooklyn Gray Metallic test car closer in price to the 577-hp AMG GT 63 and 655-hp Aston Martin Vantage than the Porsche 911 Turbo. We borrowed an M8 for a road trip to some of Ohio’s greatest roads near Hocking Hills State Park, complete with a spendy suite of options appropriate for a car so committed to excess: Sakhir Orange full leather interior ($3500), Driving Assistance Pro Package ($1700), carbon-ceramic brakes ($8150), M Driver’s Package ($2500), and the M Carbon Exterior Package ($5400).

2023 BMW M8 Competition Coupe head on driving undulating road
Stefan Lombard

You can safely skip the expensive carbon bits, but the M Driver’s Package—which raises top speed to 189 mph from 155 mph—is interesting particularly because it comes with a ticket to an M driving academy at either California’s Thermal Club or the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The carbon-ceramic brakes, too, are appropriate for a car this large, fast, and heavy. Thanks to their heat-shedding properties, these high-diameter discs—400mm front and 380mm rear—don’t quit when you really need them.

BMW M8 Competition Coupe brakes

Though our previous test of the M8 Coupe—a 2019 track outing at BMW’s Spartanburg facility—showcased the car’s immense capability, it was clear that few customers would flex its muscles in this fashion outside of a BMW-sanctioned setting. That said, the M8 is not entirely at home on curvy country roads, either. For one thing, the Bimmer’s 191.8-inch length and 75.1-inch width make it difficult to place on roads that don’t have visible corner exits. Then there’s the 4300 pounds of mass, heft which the M8 never lets you forget as it heaves its way over twisting ribbons of pavement. You don’t dance through corners so much as you march through them with righteous indignation, constantly stomping on the sharp-grabbing brakes and relying on the handy all-wheel drive and M differential to right the ship.

Though it does not require any special skill to drive quickly in this fashion, the M8 is nevertheless entertaining. Imagine riding a mechanical bull that never quite throws you off into a cheering crowd of Tecate drinkers. The sensations of speed, power delivery and weight transfer are always apparent; I suspect this is in part a consequence of BMW’s choice to stick with adaptive suspension rather than an air ride setup, as well as traditional rather than active anti-roll bars. The chassis never responds unnaturally or feels disconnected from inputs, though the steering feel on center could use more nuance. The variable-ratio steering setup does result in quick reflexes at speed, however, and the all-wheel drive system maintained the M8’s composure despite changing road surfaces, temperatures, and sections with slick leaves. The chassis is, I must admit, supremely engineered and tuned to handle abrupt transitions with casual indifference. And despite the ride’s appreciable stiffness, the M8 glides across the interstate, its V-8 purring as you whisk away the miles.

BMW M8 Competition Coupe front three quarter

Perhaps that last bit isn’t so surprising, given that the 8 Series is more of a luxury GT model than a true sports car. The 8 employs a modified version of BMW’s aluminum-intensive CLAR architecture, which is also used on the 5 Series, X5, and 7 Series. Though the four-door 8 Series Gran Coupe is more practical, the two-door is surprisingly spacious compared with a 911. With the back seats folded I was able to squeeze in three days of camping gear, groceries, and an extra-long pop-up tent. The standard M seats are all-day supportive and cosseting, and every single thing you touch feels high-quality. There are no squeaks, rattles, or fitment gaps. A lovely little compartment with a fold-up door, just in front of the gear lever, makes for convenient phone storage. Buttons and clear displays render radio and climate controls simple. There is a touchscreen, but the familiar iDrive rotary controller is much less awkward and more intuitive to use.

2023-BMW-M8-Competition-Coupe-EW-4 cluster steering wheel
Eric Weiner

BMW’s major miss here is the design of its all-digital instrument cluster, used across a variety of M and M-lite products, which is hopelessly illegible as it is aesthetically unimaginative. Other small demerits: the too-thick steering wheel—which never feels reassuringly handy when conditions call for fast work—and the wide center tunnel that noticeably impinges on the size of the pedal box. Harman Kardon’s surround sound audio system is solid, but it’s bottom of the pack compared with Audi’s Bang & Olufsen system, Volvo’s Bowers & Wilkins, or Mercedes-Benz’s Burmester.

2023-BMW-M8-Competition-Coupe-EW-2 gear level
Eric Weiner

After that track drive five years ago, our chief gripe was with the conventional eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission. Though it was a bit too eager to upshift when on maximum attack on a road course, that fault was not nearly as apparent on Ohio’s back roads where the gearbox—happiest in Sport mode, rather than the most aggressive Sport Plus—did not miss a step. In Comfort mode the powertrain settles nicely into the background, so you can drive through subdivisions and downtown areas without needing to manage rowdy power delivery. A touch of tire noise reaches the cabin at higher speeds, but I didn’t notice any wind noise, which can get tiresome on multi-hour drives.

I find it particularly delightful that BMW even offers the M8 in coupe form. Big two-door bruisers like this are all but dead, though the AMG GT has been reimagined for its second generation as a four-seater rather than a two-seater. More impressive still is that a car with so much girth, muscle, and appetite for absurd velocity remains balanced and even enjoyable on public roads. Some of the larger Mercedes AMGs and Audi RS products suffer in all-out performance guise, but the M8 manages to avoid this fate.

Too much, in this case, is just the right formula for a luxury car with an evil streak. So crank the volume to turn up the noise on Dave Matthews’ “Too Much” and chow down on whatever unsuspecting stretch of road appears in the M8’s windshield:

I told God I’m coming

To your country

I’m going to eat up your cities

Your homes, you know

I’ve got a stomach full it’s not

A chip on my shoulder

I’ve got this growl in my tummy

And I’m gonna stop it today

2023 BMW M8 Competition Coupe

Price: $131,995/$153,345 (base/as-tested)

Highs: Relentless V-8 engine. Drives smaller than it is. Materials quality inside is outstanding.

Lows: Ungainly styling. Illegible gauge cluster. Steering could be more lively.

Takeaway: Excess means little if it doesn’t add up to a memorable experience, and this ballistic missile version of BMW’s flagship coupe is hard to forget.


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    The exterior is not as bad as many of the mole rat styled fronts of too many new BMW’s. It is a bit busy, especially at the back end but it’s liveable. The interior is the worst part of the car, typical of the newest crop of BMW’s. The best part is their drivetrain’s as usual. Too bad they can’t put it in something I would want.

    There is some truth to the author’s comments – to a point. I take exception to the idea that just because I am willing to spend six figures that I MUST be looking for a track weapon. What if I just want a comfortable sporty coupe without the overpowered engine, the rock hard suspension settings, or the gaping jaws body kit. There’s room for those of us wanting something more civil than a teeth bared snarling track animal. Please don’t generalize. I am not here to live someone else’s lifestyle.

    I beg to differ. Those valets know this car will smoke almost every current super car in production. Car and driver has it on their #2 spot for fastest cars they’ve EVER tested

    Yes, unfortunately we don’t live in the 60’s or 70’s any more when the Italian styling houses showed the world what a car should look like. These days all they do is add lumps and bumps or change the tail lights and grills until we end up with a hideous monstrosity with no balance or artistic proportion. Cheers.

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