What’s in a name: Origins of the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe explained

What does the Gran Coupe name mean for BMW? We break down what the 8 Series Gran Coupe is and explore the origins of its name
The BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe doesn't have as long a legacy as some other model lines, but it is way more desireable
The BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe doesn't have as long a legacy as some other model lines, but it is way more desireableBMW 8 Series Gran Coupe

Carmakers have all sorts of funky names for their cars. More often than not, they are dreamt up by marketing chaps who get paid pennies, and signed off by older marketing chaps who get paid millions. These names are, at their most basic, just a combination of the 26 letters of the alphabet. But they are designed to do many things — communicate what the car is about, give the car an identity and (their favourite bit) build the brand. Something like the C 300d — it immediately tells you everything you need to know about the car. Some names — the Phantom, for example — have a heft to them that lends a seriousness to the cars. Something like 911? That is a name that actually came about by complete accident (thank Peugeot for that!), but has gone on to signify everything we love about sportscars. But then again, some names aren’t so easy. The Celerio mostly conjured up images of bitter, green juice. So when BMW launched the 8 Series Gran Coupe in India, it got me thinking — what does that name tell me about the car?

The 8 Series: Origins

The 8 Series that has been launched in India is only the second generation of the 8 Series. Which is odd for a brand like BMW. I mean, the 3 Series and 5 Series both have seven generations while the 7 Series has six generations. And yet, the G16 (if you’re talking about the Gran Coupe) that was launched here is the second generation after the E31 that started things for the 8. The 8 Series was cooked up by BMW in the late 80s and went on sale in the early 90s, in the aftermath of BMW’s not-so-pleasant fallout with Lamborghini over building the M1. So BMW went back to the drawing board and cooked up a grand tourer, with styling inspired by Giugario’s lines on the M1 but repackaged to suit the nature of this car. It really was a worthy flagship at the time. It was the first ever production car to have been designed using CAD, debuted plenty of features like dynamic stability control, rear-wheel steering and even the sport button. Plus it had a V12 — an engine from the same family that McLaren stuffed in to the back of the F1 — and a manual gearbox. How’s that for some proper credibility?

The OG BMW 8 Series was launched in 1990
The OG BMW 8 Series was launched in 1990BMW 8 Series (E31)

When it comes to BMW’s car names, the bigger the number, the cooler the car. Just look at the sedan line — 3 / 5/ 7 Series. Similarly with the SUV line up — X1 / X3/ X5 / X7. So the 8 Series then, has reserved its place at the top of BMW’s current range of cars. But, there’s more to the name than just that. The original E31 8 Series was a two-door coupe, while the car launched in India has four doors. What’s up with that?

The Gran Coupe: Origins

That is exactly where the Gran Coupe badge comes in. Internationally, the 8 Series can be had in three distinct body styles — the Coupe, Cabriolet and the Gran Coupe. The Coupe has two doors, very much like the original 8 Series. The Cabriolet, well, you know what is all about. And the Gran Coupe — the car that has been launched in India — is a stretched version of the Coupe with two more doors, more space at the rear so you don’t have to sell the car as your kids grow older, and with the same attitude as the two-door coupe.

The Gran Coupe name essentially refers to a car with four doors and a swooping roofline. BMW has another car that fits this definition — the GT — but the GT doesn’t command the same attention as the Grand Coupe. The Gran Coupe makes its sportscar inspirations very clear — much like the E31 drew so much from the M1 — and it looks absolutely stunning. The Gran Coupe has a wheelbase that is 201mm longer than the regular coupe to free up space at the rear, has more useable backseats, can actually seat five and that is not counting your neighbour’s kid that can fit in the boot.

The 6 Series Gran Coupe was the first ever four-door Coupe from BMW
The 6 Series Gran Coupe was the first ever four-door Coupe from BMWBMW 6 Series Gran Coupe

The first time we saw the Gran Coupe badge in India was on the 6 Series, which was incidentally the first BMW to ever wear that badge. The 6 Series Gran Coupe was brought to India in 2012 with a twin-turbo six-cylinder diesel and captured our imaginations. The 8 Series Gran Coupe carries on that legacy.

So what does the 8 Series Gran Coupe name bring to mind? It brings to mind space, it brings to mind style. It brings to mind a proper uncompromising combination of sportiness and luxury. The 8 Series Gran Coupe sits right up there alongside the 7 Series, but looks (and probably is) far more dynamic. Does it do justice to the E31? Most certainly — it is a worthy car to carry the name forward.

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