First introduced in 1989, the 8 Series established a new design language for BMW by departing from upright and boxy forms in favor of a lower, wider stance and more angular nose. The full-size, four-seat coupe was immediately both iconic and curious as it stood out from everything else on the road at the time. Production ended in 1999, but now the 8 Series is coming back. Slated for release in 2018, BMW has just unveiled the Concept 8 Series as a preview of what to expect from the updated model. We had a chance to preview and photograph (don’t miss the slideshow above) the Concept 8 Series at a secluded warehouse in Milan ahead of its journey up to Lake Como for the official unveil during the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este weekend.
At first glance there’s an obvious nod to the original 8 Series, but an even more distinctive establishment of a new design language from BMW. Marc Girard, Head of Design Concept Cars BMW, walked us around the vehicle pointing out classic elements and new directions calling it “a yin and yang of reinvention and completely new design.” The car is low and wide, with its greatest distinction in the back end. Celebrating that it’s a rear-wheel drive, the tail is long for a contemporary coupe and the cabin tapers toward the rear further accentuating its hips. The brand’s classic L-shaped tail-lights are rendered in a single form emitting even red light from all angles. And in a homage to performance there’s an integrated ducktail that looks as if it’s pushing out from under the sheet metal.
From the profile you see the other yin and yang: the balance of performance and luxury. The side molding is formed by two simple, elegant lines that define the giant aero vent which screams performance. The sharp shark nose is reminiscent of the original 8 Series whereas the milled aluminum side mirrors feel like they’re plucked from the future. A liberty that can only be taken on a concept car—there are no handles. Simply swipe a hand over where you’d expect the handle to be and the door releases magically. The inside of the shut face is lined with supple leather exactly where you reach in to pull the door open. As Girard puts it, “The goal was to reduce, but enhance.”
The nose is undeniably BMW with its kidney grill and twin headlamps. Noteworthy is that the grill frame is one piece, not two—a BMW first. Girard tells us that rendering this form from one piece and not having a seam between the ovals helps widen the overall look of the car from the front. Inside the open hexagonal twin lamps is the subtle blue X of the car’s laser headlights.
Inside, that balance of performance and luxury is probably best embodied in the two front seats which are racing-style buckets molded in carbon fiber then covered in full-grain perforated leather and finished with subtly contrasting stitching. The deep steering wheel sports red anodized aluminum paddle shifters. “The way the materials are mixed together tells the story that this is a sportscar and a luxury vehicle,” Girard explains while pointing out that the carbon fiber door trim is woven with a thin thread of aluminum to elevate the typical carbon weave aesthetic beyond its usual sporty feel. And the all-digital dashboard forgoes the classic BMW circles for open hexagons that match the headlamps. These hexagons sit low and wide in regular driving mode, but then stand up taught and attentive during high-performance driving.
While we don’t have any details on the production 8 Series, a close look at this concept gives us confidence it’s going to be quite similar—magic invisible handles and narrow futuristic side mirrors not withstanding.
Images by Josh Rubin