Is the new M8 as good as the notably more expensive DBS Superleggera?

Unveiled in June 2019, the 2020 BMW M8 is the first M version of the 8 Series, a nameplate that dates all the way back to the late 1980s. With the M8 on the horizon, it seems as if BMW finally has a competitor for the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe. But that’s not exactly true. While the Merc remains a stylish coupe with loads of power, the M8 is a grand tourer that delivers sports car-like performance. So it qualifies as an entry for more powerful, supercar-like GTs. The primary candidate: the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, Britain’s replacement for the iconic Vanquish. Is the M8 good enough for this aggressive looking and powerful GT? Let’s find out in the comparison below.

Exterior

The M8 has all the main features that define a GT, including a very long front hood, a sloping roofline, and a short decklid

Just like its predecessor, the BMW 6 Series, the 8 Series is a full-fledged grand tourer when it comes to exterior design. It has all the main features that define such a vehicle, including a very long front hood, a sloping roofline, and a short deck lid. It’s front and rear fascias are also tall and massive, two cues that set a grand tourer apart from a sports car.

But the M8 remains a pure BMW overall, boasting the same wide grille above the sturdy front bumper, rear fenders that aren’t necessarily wider than other coupes in the lineup, and a somewhat generic rear end that borrows heavily from existing sedans. It’s a grand tourer alright, but one that seems heavy. That’s good if you want a sporty but elegant cruiser, but it’s a notable departure from Aston Martin’s take on this segment.

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When viewed from above, the DBS has that sexy coke bottle shape

The DBS Superleggera replaced the Vanquish as the company’s range-topping model. Also a grand tourer by tradition, the DBS boasts similar features to the M8. However, it’s a bit more aggressive overall. The flatter nose, the massive grille that basically deletes the traditional bumper, and the sculpted engine hood give the DBS a supercar-style front end.

Similar features define the DBS’ profile too. There’s a big vent carved into the front fender, the side skirt is notably wider the body, while the rear fenders extend even more away from the central body panels. When viewed from above, the DBS has that sexy coke bottle shape we usually see on full-fledged supercars. The roof is also significantly more aggressive than the M8’s. Whether it’s the more aggressive slope toward the rear or the angular kink in the quarter window, the DBS is as sleek as they get.

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The DBS may be a grand tourer, but it looks like an authentic race car from behind

While the M8’s rear end is somewhat generic, the DBS boasts a cool blend of horizontal features that give it a wide stance. The taillights incorporated in a very slim light bar that runs the entire width of the car, while the bumper is a massive extension of the race-inspired diffuser. The DBS may be a grand tourer, but it looks like an authentic race car from behind. Sure, it’s missing a proper wing, but it has a spoiler, just like the M8.

So how do these grand tourers compare size-wise? They’re very similar actually, with the M8 being only 5.7 inches longer than the DBS Superleggera. The latter is actually 0.4 inches wider than the Bimmer, and it’s also 2.6 inches shorter from the ground. While it’s notably longer, the M8 has an only slightly longer wheelbase at 111.1 inches, which is 0.7 inches longer than the DBS Superleggera.

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Interior

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I'm a bit disappointed that this M-badged car doesn't have a flat-bottom steering wheel

The M8’s interior is as luxurious as they get. While entry-level BMWs aren’t exactly rich, M cars usually come with all the niceties. And the M8 is no exception from this rule. The overall design is fairly modern and familiar. There’s a clean dashboard with big A/C vents at the corners and a somewhat busy center stack with A/C controls in the middle and a massive, 10.25-inch infotainment display at the top. The entire center stack is slightly oriented toward the driver compartment for better access to all the features.

The large 12.3-inch instrument cluster is pretty standard for today’s premium cars, but the graphics are unique due to the speedo and rev counter being designed as horizontal arches on each side of the center section. The steering wheel in front of it is pretty common though. I’m a bit disappointed that this M-badged car doesn’t have a flat-bottom wheel. The door panels are just as luxurious as a full-size sedan’s, combining brushed aluminum, leather, quilted leather, and contrast stitching.

2019 BMW M8
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BMW ditched the 8 Series' regular seats for sportier units with thicker side bolsters.

This means that the M8 provides better lateral support for spirited driving and even some track action. They’re obviously wrapped in leather and feature a brown diamond pattern on the center. There’s a brand-new shifter on the center console, which also features a glossy control panel and carbon-fiber trim.

The tech package comes from the standard 8 Series, so it includes the complete BMW Live Cockpit Professional, a premium audio system, and plenty of active safety systems. The M8 comes with Personal Co-Pilot, a suite of assistance technologies that give it semi-autonomous capability. It also features standard Cruise Control and Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking.

2019 BMW M8
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When it comes to trunk space, the M8 can swallow up to 12.4 cubic feet of luggage, which isn't bad for a grand tourer.
2020 BMW M8 vs. 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Exterior
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Just like the exterior, the interior of the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is a tad sportier than the M8's.

Sure, the DBS doesn’t have a unique interior, as almost everything is borrowed from the DB11, but the latter is surprisingly sporty for a fancy grand tourer. Features that place the DBS higher on the sporty ladder include race-inspired instrument cluster hood, the flat-bottom steering wheel with large paddle shifters, and the aviation-inspired center stack.

The standard sports seats are wrapped in leather and feature a diamond-quilted pattern that has become quite familiar in recent Aston Martins. Just like the M8, the door panels are adorned with leather inserts, include diamond-quilted pieces, contrast stitching, and carbon-fiber. The cool thing here is that you can opt for either twill carbon or open-pore Tamo ash, but you can also select a trim made from chopped carbon-fiber, which adds a unique look to both the door panels and the center stack.

The DBS' infotainment display is much smaller than the M8's at eight inches

The digital instrument cluster is almost as big as the M8’s at 12 inches and features three different graphics, including a Sport Plus function. The infotainment display, on the other hand, is much smaller at eight inches. The good news is that even though it’s a bit small for modern standards, it provides access to a wide range of systems and features. The list includes satellite navigation with wi-fi, an audio system with DAB, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, iPod, iPhone, and USB compatibility, and a standard 360-degree camera with Parking Distance Display and Park Assist. Pretty much features that you can get with the M8 as well. The big difference here is that the DBS Superleggera doesn’t have as many driving assist features as the M8.

It also seems that the Bimmer offers a bit more legroom and headroom for rear-seat passengers. The difference is only marginal, but it’s what sets the M8’s four-seat layout apart from the DBS’ 2+2 configuration.

2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Exterior
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Aston Martin has yet to release trunk space information so we don't know exactly how many cubic feet of luggage you can stick in there.

The Brits claim that the trunk is big enough to accommodate two large trolley bags and smaller carry-on baggage, but it seems a tad smaller than the M8’s.

All told, the Bimmer wins when it comes to passenger space and technology, while the DBS Superleggera is the better sports car. They’re on par when it comes to luxury features, with both models fitted with plenty of leather, aluminum, and carbon-fiber trim.

Drivetrain & Performance

2020 BMW M8 vs. 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
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The M8's 4.4-liter V-8 cranks out up 617 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque

The BMW M8 is quite the powerful grand tourer thanks to a twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V-8 that cranks out 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. Add the competition package, and power jumps to 617 horses, but torque remains the same. This rating makes it the most powerful BMW in production, alongside the M5, but it falls behind the DBS Superleggera by a large margin.

The British grand tourer also features twin-turbo engine, but Aston Martin opted for a larger, 5.2-liter V-12. This mill cranks out a whopping 715 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. Compared to the M8 Competition, it delivers an extra 98 horsepower and 111 pound-feet of twist. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

But despite having almost an extra 100 horsepower at its disposal, the DBS Superleggera is actually slower. The British GT needs 3.2 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start, while the BMW M8 needs three seconds flat. So the German machine is two tenths quicker. The DBS Superleggera wins the top speed battle though with a rating of 211 mph. By contrast, the M8 will do 155 mph in standard guise, and 189 mph with the limited takes off optionally. The Aston Martin wins by 22 mph.

BMW M8 vs. Aston Martin DBS Superlegerra - drivetrain specifications
BMW M8 BMW M8 Competition Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
Engine type V8 V8 V-12
Displacement cm³ 4,395 4,395 5,204
Compression rate :1 10.0 10.0 9.3:1
Engine power hp 600 HP @ 6,000 RPM 617 HP @ 6,000 RPM 715 HP @ 6,500 RPM
Engine torque 553 LB-FT @ 1,800 – 5,700 RPM 553 LB-FT @ 1,800 - 5,860 RPM 663 LB-FT @ 1,800-5,000 RPM
0-60 mph seconds 3.1 3.0 3.4
Top speed (optional) mph 155 (189) 155 (189) 211
2020 BMW M8 vs. 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Drivetrain
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Aston Martin opted for a larger, 5.2-liter V-12 that cranks out a whopping 715 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque

Both grand tourers feature eight-speed automatic transmissions. And both are sourced from ZF. Of course, they’re not identical by any means. BMW uses an M-prepped dual-clutch, while Aston Martin uses a revised version of the DB11’s transmission. The latter was modified to cope with the DBS’ extra power.

Moving over to the chassis, the M8 handles like a pure sports car thanks to a double-wishbone front suspension and a five-link rear axle. This setup isn’t unique in the lineup, but BMW used lessons it learned from the M8 GTE race car in order to develop a bespoke setup that provides extra agility on the track. The stiffer anti-roll bar at the rear and the steel X-brace aluminum strut further enhance the M8’s capability. The M8 also features BMW’s latest Active M differential that splits the power between the rear wheels as needs. It’s also worth noting that the M8 has an all-wheel-drive system. The rear-biased unit distributes torque between the front and rear axles via the transfer case’s electronically-controlled, multi-plate clutch. The M-spec brakes measure 15.5 inches in the front and 15 inches in the rear.

2019 BMW M8
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BMW M8 - tires and brakesa
Tires, standard, front -- 275/40ZR19 275/40ZR19
Tires, standard, rear   285/40ZR19 285/40ZR19
Wheels, standard, front inches 9.5 x 19 9.5 x 19
Wheels, standard, rear Inches 10.5 x 19 10.5 x 19
       
Brake disk dia., front mm 395 395
Brake disk dia., rear mm 380 380
Brake disk dia., opt. front mm 400 400
Brake disk dia., opt. rear mm 380 380
Brake calipers, front / rear pistons 6 / 1 6 / 1

The DBS Superleggera rides on a similar setup. There’s forged double-wishbones at the front and a multi-link system in the rear. A mechanical limited-slip differential with dynamic stability control and dynamic torque vectoring handles all that power and improves cornering by braking individual wheels. Stopping power comes from carbon-ceramic discs that measure 16.1 inches up front and 14.2 inches to the rear. These are standard on the DBS Superleggera, whereas you need to pay extra to get carbon-ceramic discs on the BMW M8.

2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Exterior
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Aston Martin DBS Superleggera - suspensions and brakes
Suspensions
Front independent double wishbone design coil springs, anti-roll bar and adaptive damping
Rear multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar and adaptive damping
Adaptive Damping System (ADS) with Skyhook technology modes GT, Sport and Sport Plus
WHEELS AND TYRES
21” Forged Y spoke wheel – silver
Front 21” Pirelli P Zero 265/35/21
Rear 21” Pirelli P Zero 305/30/21
Brakes
Front ventilated carbon ceramic brake discs 410mm diameter
Rear ventilated carbon ceramic brake discs 360mm diameter

Which is Better?

2020 BMW M8 vs. 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
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If I were to make a choice, I'd definitely go with the DBS Superleggera. But that would be a very subjective choice since I'm a big fan of British sports cars and I don't really fancy BMWs.

But objectively speaking, it’s a difficult choice, and it depends on what you want in a high-performance grand tourer. If you’re after the looks or a supercar that’s not as expensive as a Ferrari, the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is an excellent choice. The M8 is on the more elegant side of things, as it’s pretty much an M5 with a sleeker body. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

You’re good with any choice when it comes to luxury items, but the M8 will get you a bit more technology, more driving assist features, and semi-autonomous capability. You might be able to score fancier upholstery options from Aston Martin though.

2020 BMW M8 vs. 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Exterior
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Output-wise, the DBS Superleggera is obviously the more powerful choice here. With more than 700 horsepower at its disposal, it packs more punch than high-profile sports cars, and it almost matches the cool Ferraris and McLarens out there. It also has a far superior top speed that exceeds the 200-mph mark. The M8 is quicker to 60 mph though, mostly thanks to its all-wheel-drive system.

But while the DBS Superleggera is the cooler car in most departments, it's also notably more expensive.

The British GT comes in at $305,000, a sticker that rivals offerings from Bentley and even Ferrari. By contrast, the BMW M8 is significantly more affordable at $133,000 before options. So which will it be?

Further reading

2020 BMW M8 vs. 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
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Read our full review on the 2020 BMW M8 Coupe.

2020 BMW M8 vs. 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera.

2020 BMW M8 Convertible
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Read our full review on the 2020 BMW M8 Convertible.

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