How does the BMW M8 Competition handle a classic European roadtrip?

3d ago

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“Would you like to head through Eurotunnel and take a trip to the Nürburgring?”

“Well of course I would!”

“So what shall we go in?”

Not so easy…

DriveTribe’s video master Mike Fernie wants us to pay a visit to the world’s most demanding racetrack, not unfortunately to drive round it, but to wander down memory lane and relive some of the track’s iconic moments. Oh, and my race there in a Porsche 962.

Mike forcing me to unveil my 962 face

Mike forcing me to unveil my 962 face

My first thought was to see if we could get a new Porsche Taycan Turbo. But then I thought of the high speed cruising we’d be doing down the Autobahns and, with a fairly tight schedule, reckoned we could do without finding out how quickly its claimed 280-mile range disappears when cruising at 120mph.

Fortunately there’s another new, high-speed cruiser that’s just come on the scene that I’d yet to try – and BMW just happened to have an M8 Competition Coupe ready and waiting.

Having driven the 850i on the new 8 Series launch last year, I was intrigued to see what an extra 95 horsepower would do, espeically as 530hp is quite enough in the first place. Weirdly, while pushing up that power figure, tweaking the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, there is not a single Newton metre, pound foot or even Joule per radian of extra torque.

Emerging from Eurotunnel on Le Shuttle, Waze says it’s exactly 300 miles to the Nürburgring and it will take exactly five hours. We’ll see about that. But before you get to the hallowed stretches of deregulated Autobahn, you have to navigate a fair bit of France and Belgium, and that almost always includes at least one major bottleneck.

Every time I go to the Nürburgring I always mean to head further south in France and then cut across rural Belgium, possibly taking a look at the old Chimay race track on the way through, and missing out on all the Autoroute aggro. But it would still take longer and you’d miss out on the Autobahn blast as well.

So the first couple of hundreds of miles were fairly sedate and, with the interior pretty much the same, we might as well have been in an 850i. We passed Zolder and I bored Mike to death with my “that’s where I made my Grand Prix debut” stories, discussed how exciting a trip to Zandvoort would be for the ‘Max Fest’ in May and paid our respects to the wonders of Spa before finally emerging in Deutschland.

Seeing the speed limit circle in the dash display turn white with two little diagonally black lines brought a mischievous smile to our faces. Time to crank up the volume! With the ‘Ultimate’ options package fitted – for an extra £20,000 – we had the ability to max out at 191mph and use our gold callipers and carbon brakes to rapidly haul off the speed if necessary.

With its 625 horsepower this is the most powerful production BMW ever produced and, given the chance to stretch its legs, it bolted forwards like a racing greyhound let off its leash. We only ever got a clear enough stretch to safely wind the speedometer round to 240 – having switched the readout to kph and headlights to ‘continental’ mode – but even at 150mph the M8 was still accelerating strongly.

I found that 120mph was probably the happiest cruising speed amongst reasonably light traffic but even at that Waze was beginning to rapidly amend our predicted arrival time.

Unfortunately the A1 from Cologne – or Köln as the signposts say – comes to an abrupt stop some 30 miles or so short of the Nürburgring. Fortunately those 30 miles are made up of swooping scenic roads where the corning abilities of the M8 can be put to the test – awakening Mike from his motorway slumber.

F​rom DriveTribe HQ all the way to Germany, the M8 Competition was a beast

F​rom DriveTribe HQ all the way to Germany, the M8 Competition was a beast

You do however have to remember that this is a large, 1,885kg grand tourer you’re trying to hustle along, so it doesn’t dance through the bends like a Porsche 911. For some reason they’ve taken out the very effective rear-wheel steer of the 8 Series and replaced it with a range of sporty suspension tweaks to compensate, but even so it takes a few corners to feel confident with its handling.

With the two differentials of the four wheel drive system shuffling the power back and forwards as the computers feel necessary, and with relatively light steering, you sometimes feel a little disconnected with what’s going on underneath you. But once you’ve got used to it you can press on with renewed confidence.

I think it’s a shame the M8 hasn’t been fitted with a dual-clutch transmission to give it sharper gear changes than the eight speed automatic fitted, but then it does have the M5’s rear wheel drive option if you really want to make things come alive (not that it’s something I’d recommend on anything but the driest of roads). That 625hp will quickly remind you it’s there by lighting up those rear tyres in an instant.

With its aggressive styling, double bubble carbon roof and twenty inch rims we got plenty of complimentary looks as we cruised along, but it is a GT, best suited for doing exactly that. It got us to the Nürburgring with consummate ease, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for heading out to drive a lap of the fabled circuit.

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