Red BMW M8 E31 Prototype with a new BMW M8

AHEAD OF ITS TIME.

The BMW M8 E31 prototype.

Ahead of its time.The BMW M8 E31 prototype.

The first BMW M8 caused a sensation when it launched a new era of high performance M automobiles in 2019. What is less well known is that around 30 years ago, a model was already in development that bore the same name. In the early 1990s, BMW’s engineers created an M8 prototype based on the then E31 8 Series Coupé – all top secret, of course. However, the very first M8 remained under wraps for almost two decades, and it wasn’t until 2010 that this superlative sports car was finally revealed. Its fate never brought it to the streets as a production model, but the unique prototype would certainly have made waves around the globe had it been released. Here is its fascinating story.

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5 POWERFUL

FACTS:

  • 01 M Version based on the 8-Series Coupé E31
  • 02 6.0 litre V12 engine
  • 03 Max. output: 640 hp
  • 04 Max. torque: 650 Nm
  • 05 M specific exterior and interior
The V12 engine of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype
The V12 engine of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype

The V12 engine of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype

POWERFUL GIANT: THE ENGINE.

The outstanding feature of the BMW M8 E31 prototype is its large 6-litre engine. V12 engines have always been amongst the most desired by true car enthusiasts, but this one is a particularly unique. The power unit, derived specifically from the S70 engine that was known for top performance, combines superiority, smooth running and enormous performance potential with an impressive appearance. Among the numerous technical highlights, the highly visible intake system, made entirely of carbon fibre, and the roller valves used instead of classic throttle valves, stand out. In addition to the weight advantage, the components allow an unimpeded flow at full load. Top performance was highest priority during development: the M version of the E31 coupe would have rolled onto the road at the beginning of the 1990s with up to 640 hp – a figure almost without competition back then. To put that in context: the most powerful BMW 8 Series at the time was the BMW 850Csi, which produced 380 hp.

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CAPABLE OF OVER 300 KM/H.

In conjunction with the manual 6-speed manual transmission, the BMW M8 prototype sprints to 100 km/h in very short time. Official measurements were never carried out, but the BMW 850CSi from 1992 can again be used for comparison: it reached this mark in less than 6.0 seconds.
Added to that is the fact that the M8 prototype only stops accelerating at over 300 km/h – something that would have also been considered astonishing at the time. Even by today's standards, the figures still put this grand tourer in the premier league.

 

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Detail shots of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype

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Detail shots of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype

THE EXTERIOR: COMMITTED TO HIGH PERFORMANCE.

The striking bright red paint scheme aside, the BMW M8 prototype presents itself in a slightly more reserved manner, given what lies beneath its progressive bodywork. Yet several exterior features make it stand out from the normal 8-Series E31, underlining the M specific character of this refined racer. Immediately striking are the aerodynamically shaped racing wing mirrors and the widely flared wheel arches. The latter are reminiscent of the legendary first-generation BMW M3 and are further accentuated by the large air intakes in the side panels in front of the rear wheels. The prototype’s wider drive axle creates space for a significantly wider track that, in addition to giving it a bolder stance, also benefits the vehicle’s driving dynamics.

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Detail shots of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype

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Details shots of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype

SPORTY YET REFINED GRAND TOURER.

The M8 prototype also sets itself apart from the standard BMW 8-Series at the front – or more precisely on the bonnet – where it does without the folding headlights found on all other E31 models at the time. Instead, the dipped and main beam lights are completely integrated into the bumper. This design feature means the one-piece bonnet eliminates any additional gaps that could create additional air resistance, resulting in significantly better aerodynamics, particularly at high speeds. On the other hand, the many lightweight components of the body are barely visible. For example, the doors, boot lid and bonnet are constructed from lightweight glass reinforced plastic. The result is impressive, enabling the high-performance coupé to weigh less than 1,450 kilograms.

 

Its intended selling point as a luxury sports car was not hindered by the car’s powerful exterior: the BMW M8 radiates timeless elegance, and the modifications fit seamlessly into the overall image of a large sports coupé, reinforcing the impression of an almost production-ready M automobile.

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Details shots of the interior of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype

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Details shots of the interior of the BMW M8 E31 Prototype

THE INTERIOR: MOTORSPORT FLAIR WITH FINE ACCENTS.

The interior trim was given an appropriate level of sportiness that matched the car’s high performance characteristics. The tightly-cut bucket seats provide uncompromising lateral support, while the motorsport-style Sabelt seat belts set a colourful contrast. There is also a short gear lever for quick gear changes and additional instruments in the centre of the dashboard, which is angled towards the driver. The generous use of Alcantara ranges from the door panels across the entire dashboard and onto the centre console.

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BMW M8 E31 Prototype and all-new BMW M8 Coupé

BMW M8 – COMBINING LUXURY AND MOTORSPORT.

It‘s the luxurious elegance combined with genuine M performance that links the E31 BMW M8 prototype with its rightful heir, the BMW M8 F92 from 2019. Both share avant-garde aesthetics and the unrivalled combination of luxury feeling with motorsport performance. The BMW M8 replaces the almost archaic V12 with an ultra-modern BMW M TwinPower Turbo 8-cylinder petrol engine with 460 kW (625 hp). However, the most important feature the two cars share has remained: the BMW M8 receives BMW M’s most powerful engine – but this time it is going into series production.

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BMW M8 E31 PROTOTYPE TECHNICAL DATA:

  • Basics
  • Engine
  • Drive
  • Electrics
  • Body
  • Chassis
  • Dimensions

BMW M8 Coupé / BMW M8 Competition Coupé:

Fuel consumption in l/100 km (combined): 10.6
CO2 emissions in g/km (combined): 242

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  • The models illustrated include optional equipment.

    Official data on power consumption and electric range were determined in accordance with the mandatory measurement procedure and comply with Regulation (EU) 715/2007 valid at the time of type approval. In case of a range, figures in the NEDC take into account differences in the selected wheel and tire size; figures in the WLTP take into account any optional equipment. WLTP values are used for assessing taxes and other vehicle-related charges that are (also) based on CO2 emissions, as well as for the purposes of vehicle-specific subsidies, if applicable. Where applicable, the NEDC values listed were calculated based on the new WLTP measurement procedure and then converted back to the NEDC measurement procedure for comparability reasons. For newly type-tested vehicles since 01.01.2021, the official data no longer exist according to NEDC, but only according to WLTP. For more information on the WLTP and NEDC measurement procedures, see https://www.bmw.com/wltp.

    For further information about the official fuel consumption and the specific CO2 emission of new passenger cars can be taken out of the „handbook of fuel consumption, the CO2 emission and power consumption of new passenger cars“, which is available at all selling points and at https://www.dat.de/co2/.

    All vehicles, equipment, combination possibilities and varieties shown here are examples and can differ in your country. In no way do they constitute a binding offer by the BMW M GmbH. Visit your local BMW website or see your authorised BMW M Retailer for accurate details on the offers in your country.