BMW Concept 8 Series previews a stunning luxury coupe comeback

This is the BMW Concept 8 Series, revealed for the first time today, and it's enough to give BMW fans palpitations. The return of the classic 8 Series nameplate is no mere show car tease, either. Sure, today it might be a concept, but very soon it'll helping shape BMW's return to the luxury coupe segment.

It's been almost two decades since BMW ceased production of the first 8 Series. Just over thirty thousand of the grand tourers were built over a ten year period, targeting well-heeled drivers who wanted a high-performance V12 engine and the pinnacle of BMW's technological know-how. It was a car of firsts, too, debuting CAN bus wiring that later went on to become the auto industry standard, and among the first vehicles to use drive-by-wire throttle technology.

While the 8 Series developed a cult following, world events were less welcoming to the car. Amid global recession and spiraling gas prices, BMW first ceased North American sales before axing the car altogether. Sadly, that also happened before the single M8 prototype created by the automaker's M Division could spawn a production version.

Now, though, the old adage that good things come to those who wait seems to be playing out. The German automaker has revealed the BMW Concept 8 Series, billed as a design study, at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este in Lake Como, Italy, and described as "the essence of a modern-day BMW coupe." Best of all, though a concept today, it previews a production BMW 8 Series Coupe which is on the roadmap for 2018.

"The forthcoming BMW 8 Series Coupe will demonstrate that razor-sharp dynamics and modern luxury can go hand-in-hand," Harald Krüger, chairman of the board of BMW AG, said of the car. "This will be the next model in the expansion of our luxury-car offering and will raise the benchmark for coupes in the segment. In the process, we will strengthen our claim to leadership in the luxury class."

From what we've seen of the concept, we can only hope most of its DNA carries forward to the production 8 Series Coupe. Though there's room inside for four, BMW is insistent that this is a driver's car. The long hood and low-slung roofline are reminiscent of the original 8 Series, but given surfacing details that the engineers of the 80s could only have dreamed about.

BMW's traditional kidney grille has been pushed down, closer to the road, and stretched out horizontally. Widening as it gets lower, it also emphasizes the broad stance of the coupe. It's flanked by slimline laser headlamps and broad air intakes, with the lower fascia finished in carbon-fiber.

Sizable "Air Breathers" behind the front wheel arches pick up character lines that flow up, across the hood, and along to the widening rear flanks of the Concept 8 Series. There's more deep surfacing there, too, into which the slim, stretched-out tail lights flow into the sides of the car. More carbon-fiber shows up on the rear diffuser, wrapped around the trapezoidal tailpipes.

As you'd hope, it's rear-wheel drive, and BMW has finished the concept car off with 21-inch light-alloy wheels with a brand new multi-spoke design with aero detailing. The Barcelona Grey Liquid paint job is another exclusive, a grayish-blue spiked with iridescent pigments to better catch the interplay of light with the complex bodywork.

Inside, it's a combination of sports and luxury. The dashboard streams into the door trim, making a cocoon of the driving position, with the instrumentation clustered into the center console, center stack, and the doors. Sports seats with a slimline carbon-fiber shell are given a high-end finish with premium leather, while the steering wheel makes a jewelry-like element of the paddle-shifters, giving them a red anodized finish to contrast with the wheel's own polished aluminum spokes.

Otherwise, there's lashings of Merino leather in either Dark Brown or Fjord White, with accenting picked out in carbon-fiber and hand-polished aluminum. BMW's designers couldn't resist a little drama, mind, and so there's a smoky quartz finish Swarovski glass iDrive Controller and faced ground gearshift lever.

What BMW isn't talking about at this stage is what sort of powertrain it envisages under the curvaceous hood. The original 8 Series was known, of course, for its V12, an engine which has notably returned in recent months to BMW's line-up in the shape of the M760i. That M Division-tuned 7 Series sedan, with its 601 horsepower and 590 lb-ft. of torque, is certainly no slouch – as we discovered ourselves – but we almost daren't imagine what the V12 could do inside a smaller, more lithe grand tourer like the new 8 Series Coupe.

For now, we'll have to wait and see. All the Germans will say for the moment is that the production 8 Series will arrive next year and "bring together razor-sharp dynamics and modern luxury" in its segment. It will be, BMW promises, "a genuine dream car"; see, 8 Series fans, dreams really can come true.