BMW has unveiled its bold concept 8-series design study at the Concorso d’Eleganza, previewing the production 8-series coupe that is planned to return to the carmaker’s international line-up in 2018 - after an almost two-decade hiatus.
The comeback of the 8-series is part of what the company bosses describe as the biggest model offensive in BMW’s history. Speaking at the 8-series concept unveiling, BMW board member Ian Robertson said: "We want to bring more cars into the upper luxury segment. We have already announced we are in the development phase of the X7. We are working on other products as we feel there is a lot of opportunity there. The new 8-series is part of this. In the next couple of years, we will see the most comprehensive change in the history of BMW."
The concept boasts a traditional two-door layout and classically hinged boot at the rear. It flaunts a bold look that BMW says will heavily influence the appearance of the next-generation models from the German carmaker.
“It showcases a new approach to the use of forms, which is reflected particularly prominently in the surfacing,” says BMW design boss Adrian van Hooydonk, who describes the new coupe as a full-blooded driving machine. “Crisp lines mark out clear surfaces, and the volumes are powerfully sculptured.”
Speaking at the launch, van Hooydonk added: "It is more than just a concept car; it is a very big step in BMW design. It is the start of a new form of [design] language - cleaner surfaces, more emotion, more sophistication."
While the concept’s dimensions and overall form will be reflected on the production version of the new BMW coupe, van Hooydonk acknowledges various elements and cues will be altered before it enters showrooms.
A number of characteristic BMW concept car flourishes, such as the oversized kidney grille, thin-line laser projector-touting headlamps, exaggerated air breather elements behind the front wheel arches and within the rear bumper and OLED imbued L-shaped tail lamps have all been altered with a more conservative appearance for the production version of the new 8-series.
Built on BMW’s latest rear-wheel-drive platform, the so-called CLAR (cluster architecture) structure, the new 8-series receives its own unique wheelbase and track widths to provide it with a suitably low and hunkered down stance reminiscent of the first-generation model. The 21-inch wheels will be retained as an option on the production car, according to BMW.
Among the hi-tech chassis features set to appear on standard versions of the new range-topping BMW is a double wishbone (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension with constantly variable air springs all around as well as an integral rear steer function aimed at providing it with class-leading agility. The car also adopts the lightweight construction initiatives found on the existing 7-series.
Alongside standard rear-wheel-drive versions of the new 8-series, BMW also plans a limited number of four-wheel drive xDrive models. BMW is holding back on details to the drivelines it plans to make available in the new 8-series, though it is expected to feature up to three standard front, longitudinally-mounted petrol units.
Recent trademark applications hint at a likely entry-level 840i model running a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder, an 850i with a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8, and an M860i xDrive M Performance fitted with the same turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 that powers the M760Li xDrive. Also under consideration is an 840e plug-in hybrid model using the same petrol-electric powertrain seen in the 740e iPerformance.
Set to challenge the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupe at the very top of BMW’s current 12-model-strong international line-up, the reborn 8-series will indirectly replace the existing third-generation 6-series, which is due to cease production in coupe and convertible guises after being superseded by a new fourth-generation liftback model in the form of the upcoming 6-series GT later this year.
Alongside the bullish coupe variant of the new model previewed by the 8-series concept, BMW also has plans for a plush open-top version of its new range-topping two-door. Set for an international launch in 2019, it eschews the folding hardtop arrangement favoured by BMW for its convertible models in recent years for an automatic multi-layer fabric hood.
Take a closer look at the 8-series concept in our image gallery