BMW’s M division has wasted little time in making public its plans for the new 8-Series by unleashing an early camouflaged prototype of its upcoming M8 in the support program for this year’s Nurburgring 24 hour race.
The impromptu appearance of the M8 prototype at the circuit where much of the chassis development work on the new performance coupe is set to take place comes just two days after the Concept 8-Series design study was unveiled as a preview to the forthcoming 8-Series at the Concorso d’Eleganza in Como, Italy.
Set for Australian sale in 2019, the new M8 is planned to challenge the likes of the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe and Bentley Continental GT at the upper end of the performance coupe spectrum with a mechanical package shared with the upcoming sixth-generation M5.
BMW M boss, Frank van Meel, promises a car with greater performance ability and dynamic dexterity than its standard sibling.
“The M8 will build on the genes of the 8-Series and augment its DNA with added track ability and generous portions of sharpness, precision and agility,” he says. “It all flows into a driving experience that bears the familiar BMW M hallmarks.”
Stylistically, the prototype version of M8 holds true to the Concept 8-Series with a long sweeping bonnet, flowing roofline, a two-plus-two configured cabin that sets the driver well back within the wheelbase and an elongated rear.
Although BMW is yet to reveal the production version of the new 8-Series, BMW’s M division says the M8 will receive a number of classic M styling features, including larger air intakes, modified brakes, more heavily flared wheel arches and a sport exhaust with the company’s signature quad tailpipe treatment.
Detailed features such as the kidney grille as well as the taped over headlamps and tail lamps reveal how BMW intends progressing the look of the Concept 8-Series to the definitive production version of the new 8-Series.
BMW’s M division is yet to confirm the mechanical aspects of the new M8 though high levels sources suggest the new performance coupe will receive the same twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine, eight-speed torque converter equipped automatic gearbox and xDrive four-wheel drive set-up as the sixth-generation M5 due out later this year.
With a newly developed electronics system that incorporates a central processing unit to constantly control the apportioning of power, the driver can choose between full time four-wheel drive, four-wheel drive sport and rear-wheel drive via the M-Dynamic driving mode controller.
Nothing is official just yet, though BMW M division engineers suggest early computer simulations hint at 0-100km/h time for the new M8 in the “low three second bracket”.
The decision to push ahead with the M8 comes after an earlier aborted attempt at mating the original 8-Series, produced between 1989 and 1999, with BMW M’s performance know-how. In 1990 the German car maker produced a one-off prototype of the 8-Series fitted with a naturally-aspirated 6.0-litre V12 engine from the McLaren F1 supercar, though despite considerations to launch it with M8 badges it never made it into production.
Confirming the new range topping M-car has been an integral part of the reborn 8-Series’ development program since its inception, van Meel said: “The conception and development of the standard BMW 8-Series and the M model run in parallel.”
BMW announced at the Nurburgring 24 hour race on Saturday that the M8 will form the basis of a new production-based endurance race car, the M8 GTE.
Under development at BMW’s Motorsport department in Munich, Germany, the new coupe is set to make its competition debut at the Daytona 24 Hour race in January 2018 before being pressed into action in the 2018 World Endurance Championship and its highlight event, the Le Mans 24 hour race.
“The M8 GTE development program for our Le Mans comeback is in full swing, says BMW Motorsport director, Jens Marquart. “I can’t reveal anything yet, but I can promise you that it will look spectacular.”