BACK AND BEAU­TI­FUL

BMW’s mega coupe is back and on a mis­sion to rid the world of s-Class coupes

Top Gear (Philippines) - - New Metal - Words by JA­SON BAR­LOW

you might ‘look,’ but car de­sign­ers ‘read.’ And the first read of a new car is usu­ally the most sig­nif­i­cant. This is the one that gen­er­ates the gut-punch, the wow, or pos­si­bly the eeeu­urghh. That first in­stant you clap eyes on some­thing is also the one in which your mind is in­vari­ably made up.

BMW’s 8-Se­ries con­cept is chal­leng­ing be­cause it isn’t par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing. In a good way. Sit­ting in a hangar in BMW’s Mi­ra­mas test fa­cil­ity in France, it is­sues one state­ment on that first read: it’s beau­ti­ful. Sim­ple as that. There’s noth­ing jar­ring about its pro­por­tions, its form is that of the clas­si­cally el­e­gant lux­ury coupe, and your eye will wan­der in vain in search of a gim­micky de­tail. What gives? Aren’t con­cept cars meant to blast brands on a risky jour­ney into the un­known?

For­tu­nately, BMW’s head of con­cept de­sign, Marc Gi­rard, is on hand to clar­ify. “The first goal is to pre-com­mu­ni­cate the new 8-Se­ries,” Gi­rard says. “That car’s job is to broaden the lux­ury-plus seg­ment. I wouldn’t say it’s a new start, but this is def­i­nitely a new form lan­guage. It’s ab­so­lutely re­duced, there are less lines on the car, and a greater em­pha­sis on sculp­ture. We are demon­strat­ing our abil­ity to con­trol com­plex form and shapes.”

BMW has a long track record in con­cept cars, and the 8-Se­ries went pub­lic, a week af­ter TG’s ex­clu­sive pre­view, at the glit­ter­ing Con­corso d’Ele­ganza in Villa d’Este—fol­low­ing the likes of 2008’s M1 Hom­mage, 2011’s 328 Hom­mage, and 2015’s 3.0 CSL Hom­mage. They were cool, mis­chievous and retro. The 8-Se­ries is dif­fer­ent, and much more rel­e­vant. What you see here isn’t just 90% of what you’re go­ing to get on next year’s all-new pro­duc­tion car, it’s pre­mier­ing an ap­proach that’s go­ing to in­form the next wave of BMWs. So that first read is more vi­tal than ever.

It seems a lit­tle odd that BMW al­lowed the 8-Se­ries name to lie fal­low for so long. The orig­i­nal car ar­rived in 1989, and stayed in pro­duc­tion for a decade. It’s held to be the pet project of Wolf­gang Reit­zle, BMW’s ur­bane and un­com­pro­mis­ing for­mer prod­uct de­vel­op­ment master­mind, a wildly over-en­gi­neered and over­weight su­per-coupe that ar­rived pow­ered by a 5.0-liter V12, looked like it was chis­elled out of

Bavar­ian un­ob­ta­nium, yet failed to chime with the Nineties. Just over 30,000 units in 10 years has at least given it cult sta­tus.

The year the orig­i­nal 8-Se­ries ceased to be, BMW was un­veil­ing a new con­cept coupe, the Z9. His­tory records this as the first of then-new de­sign di­rec­tor Chris Ban­gle’s icon­o­clas­tic de­signs, a dis­so­nant slab of mod­ernism for a Y2K world, that teed up the E65 7-Se­ries and E63 6-Se­ries. Com­pare those to the new 8-Se­ries for a fas­ci­nat­ing over­view of one com­pany’s 20-year aes­thetic jour­ney.

The new car also sig­nals BMW’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to thrust fur­ther up­mar­ket, leav­ing room for a 6-Se­ries spun off the new 5, and plac­ing the anti-BMW that is the 2-Se­ries Ac­tive Tourer firmly in the rear-view mir­ror. “The num­ber 8 has al­ways rep­re­sented the pin­na­cle of sports per­for­mance and ex­clu­siv­ity at BMW,” chair­man Har­ald Krüger says. “The 8-Se­ries will be the next model in the ex­pan­sion of our lux­ury car of­fer­ing. In the process, we will strengthen our claim to lead­er­ship in the lux­ury class.” That clears that up, then.

“We’re al­ways cel­e­brat­ing key icons from the BMW stand­point: there’s still a red thread that keeps our roots alive,” Gi­rard adds. “And what a great thing to be able to do. What I can say is that this is def­i­nitely a new step in terms of how we deal with sur­fac­ing and moder­nity.

“To make a lux­ury car you have to get to the essence. Dy­namism is the key to ev­ery BMW, and we’re mak­ing that even more ob­vi­ous by fo­cus­ing on the es­sen­tial. Re­duc­ing has some­thing of a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion be­cause it sug­gests you are get­ting less. But in fact we are de­liv­er­ing more. We are re­duc­ing to en­hance.”

Maybe it’s a re­ac­tion to the deaf­en­ing white noise else­where in the world. Sure, you’ll no­tice ele­ments of As­ton Martin or Jaguar F-Type in the kick above the 8’s rear arches, and per­haps some Lexus over­tones at the front. But go deeper and this is a car of ex­em­plary nu­ance and vis­ual con­trol. The paint fin­ish is called Barcelona Gray Liq­uid—more of a blue-gray, pep­pered with irides­cent pig­ments—and it helps to smooth the tran­si­tion from the edgier ele­ments on the car’s front end into its gor­geous body-side sur­faces.

The 8-Se­ries con­cept marks the first time BMW’s fa­mous grille(d) kid­neys have been con­joined, and they’ve also mi­grated ag­gres­sively south­wards here, too. The front in­takes clev­erly split the air flow, al­though the con­cept is closer in in­tent to a likely M8 than the reg­u­lar car. BMW loves its laser lights, and it’s these and LEDs that are in­creas­ingly dic­tat­ing the flow and feel of con­tem­po­rary car de­sign. Ev­ery­thing looks a lit­tle… cross these days, don’t you think? “This is very close to the fin­ished car,” Gi­rard says. “Close, but a lit­tle bit more, shall we say, en­hanced.”

The rear end is where it cuts loose a bit, while giv­ing a re­spect­ful nod to the still bril­liant i8 (a par­al­lel world, Gi­rard reck­ons, de­spite shar­ing a badge). The lights are L-shaped blades that pro­trude be­yond the top of the rear arches, am­pli­fy­ing the car’s vol­umes and max­imis­ing its width. There’s a lot go­ing on here, and in less able hands this con­flu­ence of ele­ments could buckle the 8-Se­ries un­der the weight of its own am­bi­tion.

The 8-Se­ries cleaves to one very sim­ple rule. “You have to fall in love with some­thing straight away. You don’t get a sec­ond chance to make a first im­pres­sion.”

In­te­rior has some con­cepty trin­kets but is close to prod ver­sion Ul­tra high-res graph­ics— mar­ket­ing wonk ve­toed the retro 8bit op­tion

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