With the covers taken off at the 2018 Paris motor show, and the new BMW 8 Series sitting resplendent among the raft of new product on the BMW stand, you could be forgiven for asking: what took so long?
Indeed, with the long-lasting affection for the '90s 840i and 850i, it does seem like BMW has taken its time returning to a segment that so characterised its previous success.
"We need cars that seek emotion, have substance, offer products that fascinate people, that deliver unbeatable driving characteristics," Carsten Groeber, vice president of product management, luxury models, told Australian journalists in Paris
"We are selling dreams and that is the story behind the car."
While Groeber, and in fact no-one else at BMW, will list precisely which Porsche 911 variant the new 8 Series targets, he admits the 911 has been benchmarked as a sports car offering both emotion and grand touring ability in the real world.
"Competitors would be the AMG GT, the Porsche 911, the Aston Martin Vantage for sure," Groeber said. "We believe that this is an interesting segment, but you must offer a compelling product, derived from the racetrack with amazing driving capability, great performance on a handling course, but also comfort for long distance too."
Lenore Fletcher, General Manager for BMW communications in Australia, told CarAdvice the 8 Series marks the first move into a new standard for the brand.
"The 8 Series is the first ultra-premium car, and the BMW brand is trending upwards," Fletcher said. "We’re working through how it will be specified and priced locally for Australia, and that will define competitors."
Groeber went on to explain the 8 Series will be a dual-purpose performance GT, capable of proper track performance (for the small percentage of owners so inclined) but able to cover long distances should owners desire touring comfort.
"We want this car to appeal to people who drive long distances, something not every sports car can offer," he said. "The GT spirit is built into it, its heritage is sport, but we don’t want to lose the daily-driving capabilities."
Groeber reckons the BMW buyer profile for the 8 Series is someone who already has at least two vehicles in the garage, if not three or even four. That means the owner can choose when to take their 8 Series out, and doesn't have to drive it everyday if they don't want to.
"But for the ones who want to go with a longer distance drive, you can go comfortably with this car," Groeber said. And yes, there will be a hi-po M variant coming, it's obvious as the performance nature of the chassis would imply.
"The M8 is coming next year, yes," Groeber said. "The M850 has some M genes, but the real M8 comes next year," he said.
On the subject of the timing being right to re-enter this segment, it's tempting to compare the new 8 with the sometimes maligned 6 Series.
"I wouldn’t compare it too much with the 6 Series," Groeber said. "It was a logical car for a logical period of time, but we wanted to go to the sport luxury segment with no compromises."
Groeber explained the 8 Series will be a more expensive car than the 6, but said BMW is proud to be weighing in at this price bracket, with the metal to justify the outlay.
"The 8 Series is driven by substance and emotion, the 6 Series was not designed to be in this league," he said.
So, while BMW returns to the high-end GT segment, it's not like the German marque is completely unfamiliar with either the price bracket or the performance expectations.
"We had M5 in this end of the market, so it's not that we were out of it completely," Groeber said. "We went into the sports segment with the i8 as well. It's not that we have not thought about sports and high performance cars, but we’ve combined that thought with a more classical body style."
Timing really is everything in automotive terms, and Groeber reckons lightning struck at precisely the right time to deliver the 8 Series to market.
"Technically, we need to have contemporary, state of the art architecture, and we have the right engine in place - that was not ready two years ago," he explained.
With the increased price point comes vastly higher expectations from buyers, people with the cash to play at the higher end of the pricing game, but who expect a list of standard equipment and quality to match.
"Customers expect the highest level of driver assistance that we can deliver, good connectivity, instrument panels, but it must keep its driver orientation," he said.
"This is not the coupe version of the 7 Series," Groeber argued. "We wanted the 8 to feel as light as possible for the driver and it is not a typical track tool, but you can go fast on track if you want. You can easily and comfortably go home from the track as well."
Is a GT nearing 2 tonnes then, a realistic track performer for the small number of buyers who might want to test its limits?
"Our intelligence in the suspension allows for 1900kg no problem," Groeber said.
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