The X8 will be the luxurious yin to the XM's performance-oriented yang.
Luxury automakers like to leave no stone unturned and no niche unoccupied. That's why BMW created the 'Sports Activity Vehicle' with the X5, why Mercedes-Benz created the four-door coupe with the CLS-Class, and why both brands went hell-for-leather in creating a slew of coupe SUVs that no one really ever asked for. Now they're here, though, they aren't going anywhere. And with the sedan going the way of the dodo in years to come, automakers are investing heavily in building a diverse lineup of crossovers and SUVs. For months, BMW was hard at work developing a new range-topping SUV. Rumors swirled that the X8 would sit atop the tree as a halo model, but then recently, it was confirmed that the new car would simply be called the BMW XM, and it would be a bespoke BMW M product unlike any other.
However, we recently caught wind that the X8 is still on the agenda. So, what should we expect of the new model?
Bigger number, bigger SUV, right? Sort of. BMW made a big fuss a few years ago about odd numbers representing sedans and core models, and even numbers being coupes. That was all fine and well until the 2 Series Active Tourer and the 6 Series Gran Turismo came along to completely mess with everything. So where would the X8 fit in? It will definitely be X7-based, but a large three-row SUV doesn't exactly convert into a four-door coupe too well, so don't think of the X8 as a coupe version of the X7.
Instead, we think the X8 will become a more luxurious alternative.
Expect the X8 to lose the X7's third-row seats, and the second-row to be pushed further back to create more legroom and allow for fully reclinable seats and the like. Effectively, the X8 will become the 7 Series of SUVs, which in our mind, the X7 isn't quite.
That doesn't mean it won't inherit some coupe-like cues, however. Because there's no third row of seats, the roofline will be able to taper off to make it appear smaller. It'll also likely be shorter overall than the X7 to drive this point home. We can also expect slimmer-styled headlights and taillights, and of course, the massive grille treatment. Inside, there will be more luxury, more space, and likely a whole lot more gadgetry.
It has been said on more than one occasion that BMW is no longer a builder of great driver's cars, but a builder of great engines. It's true. To that end, we can expect six- and eight-cylinder powerplants to feature in the X8, giving it the soundtrack and performance needed to justify what will be a steep asking price. While trademark filings support the notion that a full-fat X8 M will come to pass, it's likely this has just been registered to protect the name. However, we wouldn't rule out the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 and plug-in hybrid propulsion system from the BMW XM featuring here, too, albeit in a slightly lower state of tune than the 750 horsepower offered in the range-topping M halo.
Beneath this, unassisted versions of that same V8 will make up the bread and butter of the range, generating around 600 hp as in other applications like the 5 Series, 7 Series, and 8 Series. The entry to the range will be the ubiquitous B58 inline-six, a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six with circa 380 hp on tap. The ZF eight-speed auto we've now become accustomed to finding in all BMWs will be the standard, but will probably be tuned for comfort over snappy performance. Unlike smaller SUVs that get RWD as standard with AWD optionally, the X8 is most likely to use AWD on all variants.
In moving upmarket, BMW will take the X8 out of the realm of the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class and target a segment with more luxury and opulence. The X8 will be something BMW can rival the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Mercedes-Maybach GLS with. That will place the X8 on an even keel with the XM, where the latter is a performance halo and the former a luxury halo.
As for price, it's a little too early to give concrete figures, especially considering the X8 is only in the early developmental stages. A reveal is only expected towards the end of 2022, while a market launch may only be in the early stages of 2023. By that time, the new Land Rover Range Rover SV will be around, as will the Bentley Bentayga Long Wheelbase we've spied recently. In moving upmarket, the price will increase drastically compared to the X7, but BMW will likely try to match or undercut the Maybach GLS. Currently, that's priced at around $160,000 before options, so expect somewhere between that and $180,000 when it eventually arrives.