This weekend sees BMW's 8 Series racer, the M8 GTE, make its Le Mans debut. Unusually, that car was launched well before its civvy-street counterparts, but wouldn't you know it - just as the 24 Hour hype reaches fever pitch, they've suddenly emerged.
Two model variants have been announced, the entry-level 840d and - until the arrival of a roadgoing M8, at least - the range topping M850i. The 840d is powered by a 3.0-litre diesel (obvs) in-line six producing 320hp, while the 850i receives a 4.4-litre petrol V8 putting out a much heartier 530hp. Both are twin-turbo, and both put their power to the road via BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive systems. The V8 though is not only considerably mightier, but also a brand new design for the 8 Series. Despite weighing the same as its predecessor, its hot-V configuration, direct injection system, thermal shielding, cooling, crankcase and electronics have been significantly overhauled since the previous iteration.
In the M850i it generates that 530hp between 5,500 and 6,000rpm, with 553lb ft of torque on tap from 1,800 to 4,600rpm for "prolonged forward thrust". Those figures, in tandem with an improved version of BMW's eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, make for a 0 to 62 time of just 3.7 seconds - compared to 4.9 for the 840d - and a limited 155mph top speed.
You'll be starting to get an inkling, then, that the 8-Series isn't just a cushy coupe for wafting down to the golf course (although the rear seats can be split 50:50, folding down to increase the capacity of the 420-litre boot). BMW claims that car was developed in parallel to the M8 GTE, with the primary objective being "thrilling driving dynamics", and the results honed to achieve "the supreme agility, precision and poise expected of a top-class sports car".
To that end the xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive of the M850i has a rear-bias by default, with fully variable torque distribution and an electronically controlled locking rear diff as standard. Also standard is Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers, Active Steering, M Sport brakes, 20-inch M light-alloy wheels and a specially configured sports exhaust.
Unsurprisingly, this kit is not standard to the 840d, although optional M Sport and M Technic Sport Packages add, among other things, 19- or 20-inch wheels respectively, the M Sport brakes, electronic differential lock, M leather steering wheel and M rear spoiler.
That spoiler is just one of a raft of visual cues, meant to allude to the 8 Series' sporting credentials. The "double-bubble" roofline, long wheelbase (2,822mm) and a wide track (1,902mm) are said to be defining elements of the car's proportions. An overall length of 4,843mm ensures it'll certainly have presence, as does its beefy styling; resembling a slightly stockier 6 Series - no bad thing - the new 8-Series' body is constructed from aluminium, magnesium and carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic, while the styling is said to be aerodynamically optimised to make the body virtually lift-free.
Inside the 850i there's leather on the newly developed sports seats, doors and instrument panel. A head-up display is standard, as is BMW's Live Cockpit Professional which features a fully digital instrument cluster with a 12.3-inch display to sit alongside the 10.25-inch display in the centre console. It'll be very comfortable, and very techy, basically.
As usual, every kind of driver aid imaginable is available in some guise, as are other extras from Active Roll Stabilisation to a Carbon package - featuring a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic roof, air intake bars, exterior mirror caps, rear spoiler and rear diffuser.
The new 8 Series will launch in November of this year, the expectation being that an M8 - likely powered by the same engine as the current M5 - won't be far behind. Pricing is as yet unannounced, but we'll make sure to bring you more details - and driving impressions - as soon as possible.