Actually, we wanted to present a really diverse bouquet here – a bouquet full of top-class sports cars. What ultimately remains is the sports car evergreen Porsche 911 Turbo and one that would like to be – the BMW M8 Competition.
The planning looked different, but then there was a hail of cancellations. The first rejection came from Mercedes-AMG: No, they won’t compete with the GT R against all the all-wheel-drive cars – and certainly not with the “normal” tires we requested instead of the semislicks. Next came Nissan’s refusal: No, they haven’t had a normal GT-R or a GT-R Nismo in their press fleet for a long time. The congruent answer came from Honda: Cancellation of the requested NSX.
Respect for the opponent
The Porsche 911 Turbo in its latest incarnation, the 992 generation, once again exudes so much respect that all its rivals run for the hills.
McLaren couldn’t find a GT, while Audi took a long look. The result was that they didn’t have a “small R8” (V10 Coupé with 570 hp) in their fleet at the moment, and they couldn’t get the “big R8” (V10 Performance Coupé with 620 hp) up and running in time because of short-time working at the Audi press shop.
Bottlenecks are not the only reason for test cancellations these days. If you, as a magazine, take a critical line with hardcore scoring, as we do at sport auto, then you have to expect that they won’t provide you with a test car for every comparative test. The Olympic idea of “taking part is everything” now only counts for very few manufacturers.
At Porsche in particular, strict validation is always carried out in advance and the possible test result is calculated as well as possible in advance. Afterwards, the thumbs go up or down. In Zuffenhausen, however, they don’t have to worry at all at the moment. The Porsche 911 Turbo in its latest incarnation, the 992 generation, once again commands so much respect that all its rivals run for the hills.
It’s all the more astonishing that BMW has unleashed the M8 Competition to do battle with the 911 Turbo. However, it’s not quite as clear-cut as the test results might suggest. Can the M8 perhaps use its performance advantage of 45 hp?
Speaking of BMW, from a sports driver’s point of view, they took a wrong turn at a crucial crossroads a long time ago. The board’s decision at the time in favor of the i8, then built from 2013 to 2020, and against the sports car concept ready developed by BMW M was the road to a dead end – with a run-up. The end of the story is well known: The recently discontinued i8 flopped.
And instead of the Bavarians returning to their once-celebrated virtues, BMW’s current decisions are highly questionable for traditionalists who brought the brand to where it is today. A sports car concept will not be realized in the foreseeable future, probably never again. In motorsports, they’re turning out the lights on legends like Schnitzer Motorsport and establishing BMW Motorsport in the virtual world of sim racing instead.
M8: the sports car longing
The M8 Competition is the automotive longing for a sports car. An elegant GT whose primary task is to shine visually and accompany comfortably in everyday life.
Then there are media faux pas such as the video that BMW USA posted on Instagram as a New Year’s greeting. The sequence of an M2 CS was underlaid with the V10 sound of a Lamborghini.
And then you sit in this BMW M8 Competition battleship today – the automotive longing for a sports car from Garching. In principle, the figure-eight concept is more Lake Como than Nordschleife. An elegant GT whose primary task is to shine visually and accompany comfortably in everyday life. Actually, a 1,856-pound colossus has no business in a sports car comparison test. In the case of the M8, however, the M team has created a raison d’être in the world of sports in a grandiose manner.
You’re probably wondering why I’m not going straight into the driving dynamics here. Quite simply because the Hockenheim GP circuit is currently still soaking wet. First rain, then snow and then more rain accompany the production phase of this comparative test – fast lap times are not a matter of course in the winter months.
After the photo laps, “our” drag strip measuring straight from the hairpin bend to the entrance to the Motodrom dried off tentatively in the afternoon. At least the acceleration and brake measurements can now be taken. 11.6 m/s² translates into 33.2 meters – a few years ago, that was the highest of feelings in the realm of sports cars when it came to deceleration from 100 km/h to zero. It’s respectable how vehemently the carbon ceramic brake system and the good ABS control compress the M8.
The 992 Turbo not only snuffs out the 0-100 test in 2.9 seconds, but also reproduces it like an assembly line – without any temporary reduction in power.
It’s also crazy how catapult-like the almost two-tonner pushes off during launch control without any noticeable slippage. In the background, however, you notice how the all-wheel-drive and transmission control systems are working hard to slap the powerful 625 hp onto the cold asphalt. 3.4 seconds for the sprint to 100 km/h is impressive, although two tenths are left behind. More noticeable than the factory specification, which is not quite met, is the component protection, which noticeably throttles back the intensity of the sprint start already after a launch control start. Only after a short cooling phase can the M8 call up its full power again.
In a direct comparison, you notice once again that Porsche simply masters the Launch Control application better than most other manufacturers. The 992 Turbo not only snorts away the 0-100 test in 2.9 seconds, but also reproduces it like an assembly line – without any temporary power reduction. The braking value also testifies to an equally high level of tuning artistry. At 100 km/h, the biturbo 911 stops after 31.5 meters and presents an even more refined ABS tuning than the BMW.
Switching back to the M8. With its noticeably higher and more comfort-oriented seating position than the 911, the BMW can’t hide its GT genes. That it still wants to be perceived as a wolf in sheep’s clothing was already revealed on the highway and on country roads. The suspension comfort in Comfort mode isn’t really GT-like, but already gives you a good indication of what to expect on the race track.
Engine in Sport Plus, suspension in Sport Plus, steering in Sport, brakes in Sport, xDrive in 4WD and DSC off – the magic transverse cocktail is ready. It’s incredible how motivated the M8 is to hide its 1,856 kilograms at the limits. The carbon-ceramic braking system and ABS control conjure up an unexpected braking point.
The crux of dynamics magic
The highlight of the Bavarian driving dynamics performance: the variable drive concept with the three modes 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD.
Thanks to the stiff chassis connection, the wide-tracked M8 then claws its way into the curves with barely perceptible body movements, shines with turn-in precision and feels like it’s hungry for load long before the apex. The highlight of its driving dynamics performance: the variable drive concept with the three modes 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD. It’s amazing how the all-wheel drive in 4WD mode distributes the power on the racetrack. The M8 pulls out of the corners with traction and no understeer or oversteer worth mentioning.
The throttle curve in Sport Plus mode seems a bit exaggerated. The Sport setting is more appropriate here. The high-revving V8 biturbo named S63B44Tx, whose power unfolds over a wide rev range, wants to avoid the dreaded “unword” with all its might. Unword? Starts with “T” and ends with “urboloch.”
And then the M8 Competition is back in the pit lane, steaming and sweating like a racehorse that has just triumphed at Ascot. At the beginning of the 2000s, many a one-make cup race car with slicks would have been happy with a lap time of 1:52.4 minutes – today, that’s what a heavyweight road-legal coupe does. The crux of the story? After one lap, the supposed lateral dynamics magic with overheating brakes and tires is over. A lot of mass simply can’t be explained away.
Change of vehicle – low seating position, perfect ergonomics, welcome to the Porsche 911 Turbo. Anyone who thinks I’m describing the 911 Turbo in a particularly positive light here because my clear criticism of the Turbo S in the Super Test subsequently made waves within Porsche is mistaken. No, I’m praising the 911 Turbo today because I liked it in the current test context. Regardless, I stand by my criticisms (tires, suspension tuning, weight, responsiveness) as to why the S model was no faster than its 991.2 predecessor in the Super Test on the Nordschleife.
Dryness, rain, snow – the weather mix in the current test phase is virtually a feast for the wide-bodied all-wheel drive hero. Especially in the wet, the 911 Turbo shines like no other sports car with its high driving safety. The smooth straight-line driving at motivated highway speeds is unparalleled. When changing lanes at high speed, the 911 Turbo presents excellent driving stability.
Even though the 911 Turbo, at 1,656 kilograms, is no lightweight either, you notice what a weight difference of 200 kilograms means, especially when braking on the racetrack.
At this point, I turn to Reinhard Ammon – one of our most dedicated letter writers, whose contributions I greatly appreciate. He took my criticism in the Super Test of the 911 Turbo S, which displayed diffuse driving behavior with sometimes spiky and unpredictable vehicle reactions in the absolute limit range on the Nordschleife, as an opportunity to describe the biturbo 911 in his current letter to the editor as, quote, “freely available life-threatening 680-horsepower weapon.”
Dear Mr. Ammon, after your letter to the editor, I deliberately focused once again on whether the driving behavior experienced on the Nordschleife can be reproduced in everyday life or in Hockenheim in the current test with the 911 Turbo. If you stick to the traffic rules on the highway or country road, you won’t even reach 50 percent of the limit the Turbo S is capable of on the Nordschleife. In everyday driving, a Turbo or Turbo S is therefore miles away from critical handling and by no means “life-threatening.” On the contrary – as already mentioned, the 911 Turbo even scores here with a particularly high level of driving safety.
Even at the limits of Hockenheim, the Nordschleife-specific vehicle reactions do not occur, as the special Eifel topography is not present here. In direct comparison with the M8 Competition, the 911 Turbo impressively demonstrates the difference between a real sports car and one that would like to be one.
Even though the 911 Turbo is no lightweight either at 1,656 kilograms, you notice what a weight difference of 200 kilograms means, especially when braking on the racetrack. The braking points now shift even closer to the entrance to the bend. The optional PCCB ceramic braking system not only brakes the 911 Turbo with even higher deceleration values, but also provides even more controllable pedal feedback at the limits than its counterpart in the M8 Competition, whose pedal feedback feels comparatively harsh.
911: It doesn’t have to be a Turbo S
The Turbo handles like a board at the limits – a damn fast board. The optional PASM sports suspension with ten millimeters of lowering optimizes lap times on the race track.
While the BMW uses fairly traditional chassis technology, the 911 Turbo uses the latest driving dynamics aids such as PDCC roll assist and rear-axle steering. Against the unmistakable steering precision of the Turbo front axle, the M8 front axle seems a bit dull. Pitch and roll in the Turbo? Subjectively, that’s not the case with this 911 either. On the other hand, the M8 almost feels like a swell in the Hockenheim storm.
The turbo feels like a board at the limits – a damn fast board. The optional PASM sports suspension with ten millimeters of lowering optimizes lap times on the race track. However, anyone who finds the M8’s suspension too firm in Comfort mode will not be a fan of the even firmer Normal mode in the 911 Turbo – not to mention the crisp Sport mode of the adaptive dampers on transverse joints. On stretches of asphalt that the road maintenance department hasn’t let slide over the years, however, the optional sports suspension ensures enthusiasm even in everyday driving.
The 911 Turbo is fitted with tires of the same size and type as its larger S brother. The slightly greasy grip of the Pirelli P-Zero-NA1 tires, which was already discussed in detail in the Turbo S Super Test (sport auto 2/2021), can also be felt at the limits of the Turbo model without the S abbreviation. While the M8 remains neutral for a long time under load in its 4WD mode, the turbo rear end pushes a bit earlier in the limit range. However, even the 580 hp 911 remains neutral for a long time before this happens. The turbo assesses load changes calmly.
In the end, it becomes clear once again why you don’t necessarily need a Turbo S to command respect from the sports car competition.
Overall, the handling of the Turbo and Turbo S feels surprisingly identical. You only really feel the 70 hp difference in performance at Hockenheim on the Parabolika (top speed Turbo S: 271 km/h, Turbo: 262 km/h) when you analyze the data. Even without the S abbreviation, the Turbo frenetically pulls the driver out of his winter lethargy – regardless of whether he’s climbing the Vmax peak at 320 km/h (Turbo S: 330 km/h) or blasting around the Hockenheimring.
The response of the less powerful turbo unit is even a bit brighter than that of its big S brother. Although the torque punch of a maximum 750 Nm is nominally 50 Nm lower than in the S model, it hits 250 rpm earlier (Turbo S: 800 Nm at 2,500 rpm to 4,000 rpm). When accelerating out of the slow sections, the 911 Turbo also pushes even more greedily than the more powerful S version, which can then exploit its horsepower advantage on the longer full-load sections.
It’s not just after 1m 49.3s that it’s clear that the 911 Turbo is the more rounded overall concept. It completes the GP circuit at Hockenheim 1.5 seconds slower than the Turbo S, but a dismantling 3.1 seconds faster than the BMW M8 Competition. Once again, it becomes clear why you don’t necessarily need a Turbo S to command respect from the sports car competition.
BMW M once again shows how much sports car you can read into the GT base of the eight-series. Let the M team pull off a real sports car concept for once – and the sports car world would have one more representative to be taken seriously. A pious hope that will probably never come true. So it’s only logical how this comparative test ends: with a resounding victory for the 911 Turbo sports car concept that has dominated for decades.