A thin line between love and 8?

So, what do we all think of the BMW 8 Series Concept, then? It’s central to BMW’s courtyard-located showcase at Goodwood, along with a smattering of BMW’s more high-profile coupes and roadsters. There’s a 507 in attendance, and a rather claustrophobically glass-ensconced E31, the last car to bear the 8 Series badge.
The car in these images is a teaser for BMW’s long awaited flagship coupe, and the smart money is on it not being wildly different to this nudge-nudge, wink-wink ‘concept’. Of course, some of the more extravagant details are a bit showcar silly and will be omitted on anything we can exchange fistfuls of cash for at your friendly BMW dealership – don’t expect to see a Swarovski crystal i-Drive controller in the real thing. But we’re still, effectively, looking at the new 8 Series, here, and I reckon it’s well worthy of discussion.

Firstly, we should discuss it as an object d’art. BMW has clearly moved beyond the interstallar-crustacean look of the i3, i8 and the concepts that inspired them. In place of jaggedly cut floating panels and the impression that the underlying car is trying to emerge from its shell, the 8 Series concept has a far more cohesive look.
It’s heavily sculpted, too. It seem that every panel has depth, thickness or twist to it in some way, and building it must use some very clever metal-forming techniques indeed. Many have said that it looks rather uncomfortably like an Aston Martin, and it does.

I don’t see this as BMW imitating the British marque, though. It just so happens that this has become the correct shape for an expensive, fast luxury sports car. Indeed, it seems to point to a metric having been established. These are now the default proportions for a luxurious two-plus-two coupe, having been shaped around the constraints of autonomy, safety and engineering feasibility.
I personally reckon it looks terrific and will be warmly embraced as the Ultimate Ultimate Driving Machine – regardless how it goes, stops and steers. As must-have products go, this will be hard to top. With its chiselled looks and the blue and white propeller on its bow, any new 8 series is bound to do well. However, like every #1 download chart pop music sensation, we’re very clearly looking at a car which was ‘built to sell’.

Once upon a time, you could identify a BMW by its silhouette – the grille and badge only served to confirm your suspicions. Nowadays, that’s largely a thing of the past, no matter how much BMW’s design bosses might protest that they’ve ‘re-invented established design cues’.
That, in itself doesn’t really matter either. There’s no point in flogging a dead horse if the butchers are ignoring you.
What’s sad, though, is when a the design of a car is no longer strong enough to convey a brand message without a massive visual pointer. Everybody knows what the BMW double-kidney grille looks like, and it goes without saying that it’s evolved to a wild caricature of what we once knew. On the 8 series concept, it’s more intricately wrought than ever, and totally dominates the look of the car. But did it need to?

The E31 8 Series had a double-kidney grille, but it was a diminutive affair mounted between the driving lights. You couldn’t even really call it a styling feature – it was more of an affectation – a signature. And yet, despite the pop-up headlamps, pillarless form and extravagant proportions, even the uninitiated could identify it as a BMW. After strolling around an E31, taking in the big, horizontal tail lights, tucked-away exhausts and broad shoulders, you’d arrive at the front, see the tiny grille, nod and mouth ‘I thought so’.
The grille of the 8 Concept is like the ‘killer hook’ of a disposable pop song. The words and music may offer little intellectual nourishment, but the hook sticks in your mind as a reference point, shouting loudly about its creator’s intent. This grille represents how the BMW of today wants to be perceived. Even if the production 8 Series is superb – and I find it difficult to imagine that it won’t be – The brand seems to have become far more important than the product.
And we’re not just talking about BMW, either. There are countless cars out there whose corporate grille is the most memorable feature of the entire car, in an over-successful bid to get noticed. It’s all because putting your brand out there is the most important undertaking of almost any business.
It’s no longer enough to rely on your values. Victory comes to he who shouts his name the loudest. I think that’s a shame.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017)

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10 responses to “A thin line between love and 8?”

  1. Mister Sterling Avatar
    Mister Sterling

    Well argued

  2. CraigSu Avatar

    “…it looks rather uncomfortably like an Aston Martin…”
    “…it looks like an uncomfortable Aston Martin…” There, I fixed it for you, although the front end reminds me more of a Fiskar than an Aston Martin.

  3. outback_ute Avatar

    Your comparison is spot on Chris, the grille does echo AM, I can see the Vulcan in that front. The back end looks weird too with the deep recess running across

  4. salguod Avatar

    It’s hard to tell from these pictures (a dark car outside under an awning doesn’t photograph well), but I’m not impressed. There certainly is a lot of styling going on here. Did they steal a designer from Lexus?

  5. casho2015 Avatar

    I like it. Just put some noise in it. Both inside and outside *real* noise, not speakers

  6. DoctorNine Avatar

    While it is undeniably a pretty beast, I just don’t know anymore how much of this seeking after prettiness that I can stand from these manufacturers. Form should follow function. Simplicity is the Mandate of Heaven. I feel similarly about these snouts and grills as I do about the excesses of Pre-WWII limited edition Bugattis or Salon Prive’s or Adler Diplomat Streamliners. I mean, for what are we doing these things? I get lost in trying to follow the logic of the design. Why is this our ‘Platonic Ideal’ in car form? I dunno if I even believe it any longer.

  7. kogashiwa Avatar

    Rather have an LC500.

  8. Vairship Avatar

    In general, car makers should move away from “the shape of the grille is our signature” thing. After all, electric cars are coming and they likely won’t have grilles. So why not take a more expensive item and standardize it across your vehicle range to both define your signature look AND save money through standardization? Headlight shape, taillights (especially now with LEDs, which allow a more stand-out-from-the-crowd shape), bumpers, even windows (like SAAB’s curved windshield). Really anything other than a low-cost and soon-won’t-be-there grille.

  9. Maymar Avatar

    I keep getting hung up on the lack of pop-up headlights, which I fully recognize couldn’t happen today, or the hoodline so low Barbados Slim couldn’t limbo under it (again, pedestrian impact regulations), but I’m having trouble seeing this as an 8-Series instead of a 6. Hopefully at least it’s a proper pillarless hardtop once it reaches production, and it keeps the dramatic dashboard.
    If nothing else, this further proves I’m utterly out of touch with rich people. I assume they’ll love it, even if it just gets them to buy the X8 BMW will inevitably make.

  10. crank_case Avatar

    Kinda looks more like a Maserati Granturismo rip to me, but not quite as elegant. Massive improvement on the 6 series though. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/34/Maserati_Gran_Turismo_V8.jpg

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