Formula 1 is a showcase of the world’s best drivers competing at breathtaking speeds across a varied collection of incredible circuits. Its popularity crosses international borders the world over, and this pinnacle of racing has the ability to transform drivers into global celebrities.

But for me, there’s nothing quite like the FIA World Endurance Championship, specifically because it contains the ultimate test of automotive technology and human willpower: the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

And BMW is returning to the Circuit de la Sarthe in June.

Even though BMW won’t be competing in the record-breaking LMP class, the M8 GTE will still be reaching awe-inspiring speeds down the Mulsanne Straight—and the manufacturer is also using the event as an opportunity to reveal what’s expected to be the M850i xDrive coupe.

BMW has made no secret of the close link between the M8 GTE endurance race car and development of the new M850i xDrive coupe. Currently concluding its final stages of testing, with the focus on fine-tuning the various technologies that handle the big coupe’s interface with the road, the new model could be up there with the likes of the current M5 and earth-moving M760Li xDrive in terms of the sprint to 60 mph and other widely used metrics. While the  Eight’s xDrive system reportedly lacks the ability to route power exclusively to the rear wheels like the current M5’s, it appears that the car still retains the ability to throw its rear end around the corners with ease. Regardless of its large footprint, the big coupe seems to get loose enthusiastically in some footage of it being tested on the Nürburgring.

When comparing the photo of the BMW Concept 8 Series above with the shadowy silhouette in the background of the header photo, it looks like a few changes have been made to the production car. BMW often suggests that their concepts are very close to what we’ll eventually see on the road, and for the most part, it looks like changes have been centered around softening the rougher edges and filing down some of the more aggressive angles. Some patent photos for the 8 Series have also surfaced, which reinforce the more refined, production-ready visuals. The wheels appear quite similar, and the heavily sloped almost-fastback rear roofline looks quite attractive; it will be interesting to see how the upcoming 8 Series slots against cars like the Jaguar F-Type and its range-topping trim levels—not only in terms of looks, but performance as well.

Also recently announced is a long-term technical partnership between Panasonic and BMW. Kicking off with the return to Le Mans next month, the M8 GTE will be wearing Panasonic sponsor decals along with those from the likes of  Michelin, Puma, and Shell, the latter of which uses the car as a billboard for their Helix Ultra oil, which is coming on the market in a variety of weights, including 10W-60 for owners of M cars that use that specification.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]



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