It’s a perfect day. You’ve got the roof down, the breeze blowing in your hair, your favourite playlist is streaming through the 16 Bowers & Wilkins Diamond speakers in the cabin and an octave below is the earthy rumble of BMW M’s twinturbopetrol 4,4-litre V8. To maximise comfort, you keep the Air Collar integrated into the headrest on a low setting. Life doesn’t get much better and, in this moment, the R3 630 862 you’ve just spent on your BMW M8 Competition Convertible is money well spent. You’re relaxed, energised and, most importantly, feel like a premium member of society as droves of pedestrians and fellow motorists swivel their necks to get a proper look at Bavaria’s latest cabriolet finished in a tasteful Motegi Red metallic paint contrasted by Merino Midrand Beige leather upholstery.
The astute enthusiast, however, may walk up to you as you’re filling up the 68-litre fuel tank after a little over 400 km of driving and inform you that for “just” around R400 000 more, you could be behind the wheel of an Aston Martin or Bentley; badges that some may argue hold more prestige. Are they correct? Well, even in this instance, when it comes to BMW’s two-tonne convertible, there’s a bit more to it than meets the eye.
For starters, the aforementioned powerplant delivers 460 kW and 750 N.m of torque to all four wheels via an eight-speed torque converter automatic; as you’d find it in the M5 Competition.. In practice, the power delivery is prompt, seamless and downright hair-raising. BMW claims acceleration from zero to 100 km/h in 3,3 seconds but even with the launch control system armed, the best we achieved was 3,83 seconds. Given that it weighed in at 1 991 kg and launches via a torque converter rather than a dual-clutch transmission, we believe our tested figure is more realistic. Regardless, this is an impressive time for such a heavy car.
Where in-gear acceleration is concerned, the BMW M8 Competition Convertible doesn’t disappoint, despatching 100-120 km/h in 1,15 seconds and 120-140 km/h in 1,36 seconds – numbers comparable to the M850i Coupé we tested in October 2019. The M850i uses a mildly detuned version of the same engine, developing 390 kW state and an unchanged 750 N.m of torque. Based on our measurements, it’s also eight kilograms lighter and, rather than using the Pirelli P Zeros found on our M8 test unit, it wore a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. This car was able to achieve a 0-100 km/h time of 3,93 seconds.
Thankfully, without the WLTP filter, the M8 Competition possesses a robust and characterful V8 engine note which can be heard from streets away when the engine and exhaust are in their sportiest settings. It’s not shy and pops and crackles on the downshift, so expect smiles (and admonishment) from passersby when you come to a stop at the next traffic light.
Our test unit featured optional M Carbon ceramic brakes which will add R128 200 to the overall price and brought the performance cabriolet to a stop from 100 km/h in an average time of 2,62 seconds, garnering an “excellent” score as per our ratings. The best of 10 stops was achieved in 2,39 seconds and the worst took 2,88 seconds. The variance is not the most consistent we’ve experienced in a performance car, but impressive nonenthless.
Praiseworthy as these numbers are, the question remains whether the BMW M8 Competition Convertible possesses the driving characteristics synonymous with a traditional BMW M car. As we reported after a drive of the M8 Coupé on the Algarve International Circuit back in 2019, this is not just a two-door M5. It’s an out-and-out performance car that feels lively on the edge and goads you into you testing your limits. Considering the only tangible difference between the two is the foldable roof, the convertible shouldn’t be too far off the hardtop, surely?
Unfortunately, the Convertible’s marginal weight penalty and concession to structural integrity provided by the Coupé’s carbon fibre roof, means it’s unable to match the cornering capabilities of its fixed-roofed stablemate. In extreme hard cornering, there is a hint of flex in the body that prevents you from tackling apexes at ten-tenths like you’re channelling your inner racing driver. The M8 Convertible is a fine performance car but first and foremost, with all the settings in comfort, it’s an even better GT. The ride may be firm on even tarmac in Sport mode but bump it into Comfort and, for the most part, it’s a plush and composed luxury conveyance. This is complemented by a smooth and direct steering system and fluid transmission.
That being said, is it a bang-for-your-buck purchase at R3,6 million? Impressively, the M8 Competition Convertible has a lengthy list of standard features that includes adaptive cruise control, BMW adaptive laser headlamps, the Heat Comfort package (including heated seats and Air Collar) along with numreous comfort and convenience features. Not included are the aforementioned carbon-ceramic brakes and Night Vision with object recognition for R32 000. A rather handy feature was the Drive Recorder which uses the front and rear cameras as a sort of dashcam to record footage you can download onto a flash drive and play back to your friends. Or perhaps the cops? Who knows … for R3 000, it’s reasonably priced and a nifty option.
Furthermore, the overall perceived quality of the cabin is what you would expect from vehicles in this price bracket. Most of the cabin surfaces are trimmed in premium leather or rubberized plastics, lending the interior an upmarket and refined air. NVH levels are also impressive; creaks and rattles are all but absent, which is a major challenge when it comes to big, fast cabriolets. Roof down, the wind starts to buffet the cabin once you pass the 80 km/h mark but only becomes really noticeable when you pass the 120 km/h mark.
There are many technological innovations for the driver and passenger to enjoy, but thankfully BMW has kept its obsession with touchscreen interfaces largely in check. The infotainment screen can be controlled via touch but there is a plethora of physical buttons to control the infotainment, climate control and drive configurator. The M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel – used in previous M products – are a highlight as they provide a quick and easy transition through driving modes.
The BMW M8 Competition Convertible is a rare and special creation. From a design standpoint, it’s drop-dead gorgeous thanks to its sleek and elongated lines. Within the BMW stable, the only open-top product to overshadow it is the i8 Roadster. However, as an M product, we can’t help but think the M8 Convertible is a bit of a miss. Yes, it offers thrilling performance but without the benefit of the hard-top’s structural integrity, it can’t be pushed to its full potential.
If you’re after a fast open-top V8 GT, the M850i Convertible is a relative snip at just R2 367 244 and is the more compelling offering. Better still, based on our test results, it isn’t too far behind when it comes to straight-line performance and has just as much presence on the road.
Price:R3 630 862
Engine:4,4-litre, V8, turbopetrol
Power:460 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque:750 N.m @ 1 800 - 5 600 r/min
0-100 km/h:3,83 seconds (tested May 2021)
Top Speed:305 km/h
Fuel Consumption:12,96 L/100 km (Fuel Index)
Maintenance Plan:5-year / 100 000 km