Sketching out a spectacular sports car is one thing, bringing it to life is another entirely, but that’s what BMW has done with the new 8 Series, an elegant fastback GT. The Coupé and Convertible models went on sale in May, and this September the manufacturer’s new flagship range will be joined by the four-door Gran Coupé.
A BMW always signifies the experience the driver can expect, and one glance at the Gran Coupé is enough to know that it’s a powerful, dominant and very luxurious ride. “We wanted to create a new character with a strong identity, a design icon,” says Domagoj Dukec, BMW head of design.
The 8 Series Coupé and the Gran Coupé are the product of two different teams. The ambition for it went far beyond merely adding two additional doors, as was the case with the popular 6 Series Gran Coupé, launched in 2012. “It’s a very different car,” agrees Dukec. “The Coupé is a real sports car and the Convertible brings extravaganza, but with the Gran Coupé we wanted to make it as exotic as possible. Our ideal concept was something along the lines of a sporty 7 Series with added decadence, so we altered the body shape.”
The 8 Series is the manifestation of a new design era for BMW, featuring lush, full lines and sculpted surfaces. The challenge for the new team was to marry that vision with the demands of a scaled-up car. The obvious thing to do would have been to play safe and err towards an inflated, saloon-orientated look, but there have been no compromises. Instead they have managed to reshape the vehicle’s proportions to accommodate four people, while remain true to its sporting ethos and adding gravitas.
The Coupé is necessarily compact, its sibling more generous. The four-door is longer, standing over 5m. Upon examining the profile, the front windscreen is less raked and the rear roof is higher but the demands of practicality have not been allowed to tarnish the essence of the car. The Gran Coupé appears both refined and muscular.
“We wanted it to be more serious,” explains Dukec, “On the Gran Coupé you have some crease lines on the body that you don’t have on the Coupé. We wanted to give the car its own character. When you look at the 7 you see the double character line [the classic horizontal undercut line that runs nose to tail on many BMWs] and on this car we did something similar. There’s the lower signature curves on the panels like the Coupé, then another line to bring some added strength to the profile, to make it look more business-like.”
The front, with its large, shark-like kidney grille and arrow-slit lights, is identical up to the A-pillar. At the rear, the Gran Coupé’s shoulders flex muscularly around and over the rear arches. The Hofmeister kink is more pronounced around the quarter light and there is a subtle flying buttress behind the C-pillar as it floats down to the rear deck, a solution to securing the side panels. The finishing folds in the metalwork need to be effected by hand, meaning each car is unique.
The Gran Coupé is especially imposing when viewed from behind. It’s now wider, the track of the rear wheels having been expanded. The vivid twin scoops and the trapezoid tail pipes in the rear apron remain but it has added heft. This is a car that knows it owns the road.
“It’s so low, its proportions give the impression that it’s as wide as our SUVs,” agrees Dukec, “But it’s about making a powerful statement. You’re not only paying for functionality, you’re paying for expression. But, equally, this isn’t a concept car, it’s a production model and it’s a challenge to make something so expressive in design terms. I think the Gran Coupé is a real achievement in that respect. BMW has always had a history of attempting to combine the contradictory: elegance with maximum high performance, sporty proportions with hedonism.”
When you take into account the lavish interior with its Vernasca leather trim, optional panoramic roof, driver assistance systems, connectivity, performance and ride comfort, the Gran Coupé is exceptional.
In many ways this is the car BMW had to produce, a bold expression of its status, a car with real presence.