The BMW 8 Series was once referred to as the automaker’s ‘best-failed experiment’. And while there have been several rumblings about a possible revisitation, they never seemed to progress past hushed whispers and suggestions posted on enthusiast forums. However, this changed over the course of the last eighteen months with BMW presenting a concept vehicle that would inspire a mass production, and a return of the 8 Series (at least in name).
But what would the redesign consist of in terms of both design and performance stats?
With almost two decades having passed since BMW discontinued production of the original E31 8 Series, it’s safe to say that many eyes have remained fixed upon its development. With January’s leak of new images, it might even be fair to say that the anticipation of the 8 Series reintroduction is greater than ever. Especially since there are no signs that it will carry over any passing reference to BMW’s ‘failed experiment’ outside of its name.
Historically speaking, the original version never stood a chance of being looked upon as one of BMW’s most enduring, or endearing offerings. Offered for barely a decade, sales for the lion’s share of the ’90’s alone would fail to meet 7,500 units in North America. While it certainly offered some strong powertrain options with both V8 and V12 engine configurations (the latter of which provided the platform for the McLaren F1) it lacked the kind of classic design that so many Bimmer models benefit from. With this in mind, BMW had little, if anything, to lose when they began their work on the concept vehicle that would resurrect the defunct 8 Series moniker. And with a clean slate, they began to craft something falling neatly in-line with their evolving corporate image.
From the Dead
Describing it as “The essence of a modern-day BMW coupe wrapped up in an enthralling design study”, BMW could be accused of reliving their own design missteps. However, to the credit of the iconic Bavarian automaker, BMW seems to have reaffirmed a certain passion that one doesn’t naturally associate with German performance vehicles. Stating a “new BMW design language from all perspectives and in all details” it appears they have recommitted to design innovation with the same enthusiasm with which they tackle engineering.
Summoning praise and criticisms alike, it’s safe to say that BMW’s approach feels inspired in its divisiveness. Showing no signs of ‘playing it safe’ in terms of styling, the new G14 / G15 8 Series speaks to the automakers long-standing (yet restated) commitment to innovation. But does that departure from classic styling work against its long-term potential the same way it had with the failed E31?
The enthusiastic response, in the opinion of this writer, is that it doesn’t. In fact, the upcoming 8 Series might be the most exciting and intoxicating BMW that I’ve ever seen. Based on the information made available, let’s take a closer look (albeit with a grain of salt, as to accuracy).
To assuage any concerns regarding a departure in style, traditionalists and loyalists alike can rest easy. The impactful first impression made by the 8 Series comes from its front fascia which appears to be consistent with that of its Bimmer stablemates. This includes the front bumper’s three-piece intake, as well as its elongated and angular headlights. Any notable difference comes as a result of a slightly modified grille styling. Don’t panic though, as it still reads completely on-brand (even without badging).
Cascading backward, the 8 Series boasts an extended hood design, contoured with a more bold ridging that begins to set it apart from its brethren. Flowing seamlessly into a low-sloping windshield and curved-roof, the result is a striking profile. Splitting the difference between luxury and performance sedan isn’t undiscovered territory for BMW, but never before has the automaker favored performance styling so notably. Even the body contouring that flows from the front wheel wheels across the door panels speaks to both speed, power and (dare we say) attitude, in a manner that might feel more at home on an American design. But to use an American turn of phrase, BMW has made no secret that this is ‘not your father’s BMW’…and frankly, it is thrilling.
Based on initial feedback, the most divisive features is its rear fascia which marks a true departure from traditional BMW design notes. Accented by elongated, wraparound tail-lamps the bold rear-end has an aggressive, pinched feel that contradicts the relaxed feel of most other Bimmer. A key area of contention is the recessed license plate area that has been called ‘larger than necessary’ and has been described as creating dead space.
We disagree. The tapered bottom of the area in question, combined with the black trim of the rear diffuser, add to the 8 Series’ more aggressive appearance. Granted, we understand that purists may prefer a more traditional BMW aesthetic, but it’s hard to criticize them for honoring their pledge to embrace a new design language.
With no hard dates as to the planned release of the 8 Series, there is always the question of how accurate any leaked images are. Just as modifications are expected between concept and production stages, initial images (especially partial ones) may not always be accurate representation of the models that will hit dealer floors.
But if the images are accurate, everyone involved in the development of the BMW 8 Series deserves a hearty handshake and a pat on the back. Sleek, streamlined and sexy it boasts a far more aggressive stance and aesthetic than I’d ever expect to see in a BMW.
Considering that there are more than a few drivers who share my taste in styling, and strong expectations of performance, the 8 Series is bound to convert a good number of people who may not have otherwise found themselves seated behind BMW’s iconic badging.