Development work is under way at BMW on a luxury SUV flagship to rival the Bentley Bentayga, with new images giving a closer look at a previously spotted prototype.
Thought to be called the X8, following a series of global trademark filings in 2018, it is likely that the new arrival will be the most expensive model in BMW’s line-up when it goes on sale. A launch date this year was initially rumoured but, given the amount of disguise on this prototype, the car is probably still at least a few months away from being unveiled.
These early images suggest that the X8 will not, as previously thought, adopt a coupé-style roofline like that of the similarly conceived Audi Q8 and Lamborghini Urus. Instead, we can see that its upright rear, extended roofline and lengthy rear overhang should allow for three rows of seats inside, most likely with the choice of six or seven seats.
At the front, the prototype adopts different styling to that of its X7 stablemate, going against earlier indications that it will be heavily based on the existing car. Though the X7’s prominent front grilles look to have been carried across, the X8’s lower air intake appears to have been reshaped, with a new bonnet design and lower splitter further setting it apart.
The X7 is due for a facelift, but a recently spotted prototype indicated that changes to the front end will centre on the introduction of narrower new headlights, in line with the upcoming i7 electric saloon, which also appear to feature on the X8.
In 2018, then head of development Klaus Fröhlich told Automotive Daily’s exclusive partner Autocar that BMW was evaluating the idea of a new addition at the top end of its model line-up. “The sector is growing fast, so there will be opportunity,” he said. “It is early to talk about X8, but one of the first decisions I made when I worked on product strategy was to take the X5 and make the X6.
“Everyone said it was not necessary, but it worked. Now we have the X2, X4 and X6. They are emotional and sporty derivatives that work for us.
“There is room for X8 – especially in markets like China – but there are no decisions yet. Each car must have a distinct character, and these are the sort of areas that take time to evaluate.”
At the time, internal discussion was believed to be centred on whether the new flagship should serve as a coupé-bodied or extended-wheelbased version of the X7. The latter was said to be a popular option but more complex as it would require BMW to create a bespoke platform using elements from both the X7 and its Rolls-Royce Cullinan sibling.
Technical details have yet to be revealed, but the X8 can be expected to offer the same xDrive40i and xDrive40d engines as its X7 stablemate, while ushering in a plug-in hybrid version – confirmed by the mandatory hybrid stickers on this prototype – and a range-topping X8 M performance variant.