BMW M8 to get brake-by-wire and new M control system

Lots of new tech coming to the new M flagship

BMW M8 in camouflage
BMW M8 in camouflage / Image Credit: BMW
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The BMW M8 and M8 Competition are on their way, and there's some new tech coming to the new flagship M cars. BMW says it has developed a new display and control system for configuration of the powertrain, chassis and driver assistance systems. The new "Setup" button you'll find on the center console allows you to customize the mode for the engine, suspension, steering, all-wheel drive system and the brakes.

Yep, you read that right. The brakes on the M8 will be adjustable via a button on your center console. This is a first for a BMW M car. How might this possible? Well, BMW says it's going to use a brake-by-wire system (also used on the regular 8 Series). Here's how it's described in the press release:

"The new system brings together the brake activation, brake booster and braking control functions within a compact module. The integrated braking system reduces weight by around two kilograms and employs a vacuum-free brake booster to enhance the car's overall efficiency. The brake pressure required is triggered by an electric actuator ..."

We'll clarify that this system isn't entirely electronic. BMW didn't spell it out, but it will still use brake fluid and traditional calipers to clamp onto the rotors. The brake pedal under your foot will more or less function as a big electric button, though. Before you go shouting blasphemy, know that other hot cars use a similar brake-by-wire technology. Alfa uses it on the Giulia and Stelvio (including the Quadrifoglios) and Acura with the NSX. Brake-by-wire still isn't commonly used for performance applications, and more for hybrids and full electrics. However, Formula 1 has been using the tech since 2014 and the introduction of the ERS system to brake the rear wheels (the front brakes are still hydraulically operated).

BMW claims this tech allows a driver to apply brake pressure more dynamically, and allows for faster and more precise interventions from stability control. It also allows for customization of brake pedal feel, for which BMW is offering a Comfort and Sport mode. BMW says the modes essentially just alter the amount of pressure needed on the pedal to stop the car. Comfort provides a "comfort-oriented perception" of braking, while Sport provides a "direct, instantaneous response."

Then, there's also the question of brake feel. Traditional hydraulic brakes talk to us, letting us know if they're fading or giving us an idea of the surface we're on like ice or dirt. It feels different trying to stop on different types of surfaces through the pedal. BMW claims driver feedback is entirely unimpaired by "wet road surfaces, significant lateral acceleration or high brake temperatures." We'll need to drive it to confirm, but the high-performance applications of this tech already do a bang-up job at convincing you they're normal brakes. This system will be used on both the conventional and the M carbon ceramic brakes.

We've asked BMW for greater clarification about the brake-by-wire system it uses. Redundancies in case of any electrical failure will surely be in place, but hopefully BMW clarifies this, as well.

Moving on from the brakes, the rest of this setup is pretty typical of many performance cars these days with ultra customizability. Everything can be adjusted independently using "M Mode," so you can have the loud exhaust with the soft suspension, rear-drive bias, comfort steering and so on. So yes, to get the most out of your M8, you better be using M Mode. The M8 Competition also gets a dedicated Track mode that turns off the car's audio, infotainment display and all the driver assistance features. You get a special Track mode instrument cluster and HUD, showing shift lights, fluid temperatures, speed and current gear. Think of it as a highly focused mode with very purposeful information.

BMW alludes that future M cars will be getting a similarly redesigned control system, so expect this same thing for the upcoming M3 and M4.

The M8 and M8 Competition are expected to be revealed relatively soon with bonkers horsepower — think over 600 ponies from the twin-turbo V8.

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