2021 BMW M8 Gran Coupe F93
Stealth tax. Almost subtle, almost practical, almost a supercar… and in no way cheap.
Very occasionally you’ll come across a BMW M5, an already über-stealthy machine, whose self-assured driver has opted to leave off the model badge, resulting in there being little more than the quad tailpipes as a clue to the firepower under the bonnet.
The M8 Gran Coupe, even in understated Donington Grey, isn’t one of those cars. And – go on, I’ll admit it – I’m probably not one of those drivers. Barrelling towards 50, hair on its farewell tour, and needing something to distract people passing my house from noticing that I only painted half my garage last year before getting bored and giving up, I rather liked the M8’s cool, hey-check-meee-out swagger.
Dammit, if I’m going to be Clark W Griswold – the adventure-hungry dad from National Lampoon’s Vacation – I don’t want to be driving a Wagon Queen Family Truckster if 2021’s equivalent of Christie Brinkley ever pulls alongside in her Ferrari.
In my eight months with the M8, she never did. But then two national lockdowns during our time with BMW’s flashiest four-door meant I covered a fraction of the miles I normally do in a CAR long-term test car. They usually go back having done 10,000-12,000 miles, but this one arrived with almost 3500 on the digital instrument pack and by the time it departed I’d only added 5000 more.
There were financial upsides: I didn’t have to replace the massive 20-inch tyres, or have it serviced. And the middling fuel economy, which on a couple of gentle runs hit the high 20s, but generally hovered around 23mpg, didn’t seem too horrendous when I pretended to myself it was actually 46mpg because I was doing half as many miles as I normally would.
But if you can afford the M8, you can almost certainly afford the fuel to run it. This is a seriously expensive car. An M5 lists at £102,385, but our M8 carried a base price of £119,000 on the road (it’s £123,950 now). When I looked at lease deals I discovered it could cost over £1700 per month, but Lease4wheels tweeted me pointing out that PCP deals looked much more affordable. According to franchised dealer John Clark BMW, you could slap down a £9k deposit and put one on your drive for a far more palatable – if still out of my league – £999 per month.
Those figures are for the standard car, but ours came with the £21,000 Ultimate Package. On the face of it, grouping a large number of goodies into one package does simplify the buying process. But while I loved the adaptive BMW Laserlights, the rich sounds of the Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi, and the look of the exterior carbon goodies, I could have happily lived without the carbon engine cover, electric rear sunblind and carbon brakes.
I didn’t take the M8 on track and I can’t imagine many owners doing so. And I found the brakes a little grabby at very low speed, which spoiled the refinement. As did the strangely over-strong engine braking effect when trickling down the 20mph hill near my house, and the slightly tough urban ride.
I reckon most people are going to buy the GC as a big GT, not because it’s some kind of four-door sports car, and are probably more interested in enjoying the beautiful interior (particularly handsome in our car’s red) than pretending they’re in an old M3 GTS every time they hit a road with a couple of bends.
Thing is, the M8 is outrageously capable when you do start to crank up the pace. The only factor holding you back is the sheer size of it. At 5.1 metres long and 2.1 metres wide it makes supermarket car park spaces and British B-roads feel conspicuously small.
But find a bit of room and it’s a riot. And though we’ve covered BMW’s selectable four-wheel-drive system many times, it’s worth reiterating what an absolute game-changer it is for a Jekyll and Hyde driver like myself to be able to toggle from four-wheel-drive and DSC security one minute to the ‘rear-wheel drive and everything off’ party mode at the tap of a steering-wheel button.
It’s one of the reasons why the M8 Gran Coupe is more appealing than its Porsche Panamera Turbo S rival, and I think that if BMW could just dial in a little more ride comfort for the 90 per cent of the time when you’re not in banzai mode, it would have a brilliant dual-role car on its hands.
But even as it stands, there’s plenty to like. Yes, it’s expensive for ‘just’ a BMW, but the frameless doors, the mini-Bentley interior and, yes, the admiring glances (at the car, not the driver) from other drivers mean the feelgood factor is sky high.
You can keep your boring M5.
Count the cost
Cost new £144,950
Cost per mile 25.6p
Cost per mile including depreciation £9.42
Most will buy it as a big GT, not as some kind of four-door sports car
An expensive car, but you can see why
BMW M8 Gran Coupe
The story so far BMW M5’s slinky alter ego has plenty of presence, takes up plenty of space
+ Presence; interior; performance; rear room
— Expensive; ride could be better
- Price £123,950 (£144,950 as tested)
- Performance 4395cc twinturbo V8, 617bhp
- 3.2sec 0-62mph,
- Max speed 155mph
- Efficiency 26.4mpg (official), 23.5mpg (tested),
- 256g/km CO2
- Energy cost 23.6p per mile
- Miles this month 882
- Total miles 8520