A few weeks ago, we tested the 2020 BMW M340i’s Harman Kardon system and found it unimpressive when compared to its competition, such as the Volvo V60 Bowers & Wilkins. Although the system is a more expensive option, the Volvo altogether was better value and felt more isolated going down the road providing for a better experience. Charlie was given the opportunity to sample the BMW 8-series Bowers & Wilkins setup, specifically in the 2020 BMW M8 Competition Coupe, to see if this luxury coupe can live up to the Bowers & Wilkins name or if BMW needs to get their act together.
The BMW 8-series-specific Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system pipes up to 1,400 watts through 16 speakers placed throughout the cabin, though Charlie only found nine speaker grilles and two subwoofers hiding under the M8’s driver and passenger seats. QuantumLogic Surround/Dynamic Sound Equalizing provide constant adaptations, settings, and 10 adaptive channels for a premium listening experience. Inputs available through BMW’s intuitive iDrive infotainment system are AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio frequencies, Bluetooth , USB-A and C ports, and Apple CarPlay support. Unfortunately, there is no CD player, 3.5-mm auxiliary jack, or Android Auto support, though it is apparently coming soon.
After Charlie’s test, he found the mid-bass range to be hollow and frustrating on the BMW M8 Bowers & Wilkins system which makes for music that doesn’t sound as crisp as it should, at least for a sound system that costs $3,400 on top of a $170k performance luxury coupe. Missing are low, strong bass humps that makes the system sound like the music is being listened to on an old MP3 Player. Charlie had to turn the bass equalizer up three-quarters of the way and the treble up one setting just to get an appropriate amount of force.
In the end, if this Bowers & Wilkins system was in a vehicle below $65k, it would be excellent. But this is a $180k luxury car, so objectively speaking this system scores an 8/10 altogether for ease of use and quality of the infotainment, but after factoring in the price and the class of vehicle, it comes to a 5.5/10. Charlie goes on to say he doesn’t even think it’s as good as the lower-tier Harman Kardon system in the BMW 840i Gran Coupe he drove. Therefore, it seems BMW has some kinks they need to work out if they want to get to Volvo’s level for a justifiably premium sound system.
Update 10/6/20: It appears there is a software update for the M8 that some users claim results in improved audio quality.
How We Test the M8 Bowers & Wilkins:
Here at Daily Motor, we take sound systems seriously. We take every car, from budget sedans like the Hyundai Elantra to luxury cars, or supercars, like this BMW M8, and put them through our in-depth sound-system testing. We use the same lossless, uncompressed WAV audio files on a USB stick plugged into the audio system so that every system we test starts from the same baseline. To give a realistic impression for the sound test, we use high-quality binaural microphones for recording. We test every radio with its sound settings set to their factory settings, since that is how the radio’s engineers designed it to sound, but we test all the sound settings on many types of music before shooting these reviews. After demonstrating the sound settings, adjustments, inputs, speaker locations, and Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay functionality, we start out on the road to listen to our sample tracks at freeway speeds. Most cars can sound good while stationary, but road, wind, and engine noise can deteriorate music quality. At the end of the test, we give a rating based on sound quality and overall system usage as well as a subjective rating factoring in vehicle attributes and cost. Thanks for joining us for the 2020 BMW M8 Bowers & Wilkins Sound Test!