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The BMW 8 Series (chassis code BMW E31) is a V8 or V12-engined 2-door 2+2 coupe built from 1989 to 1999.
While it did supplant the original E24 based 6 Series in 1991, a common misconception is that the 8 Series was developed as a successor. However, it was actually an entirely new class aimed at a different market, with a substantially higher price point and better performance than the 6 series. The 8 Series was designed as a direct competitor to the upcoming Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and S-Class coupes (later renamed the CL-Class). While it has less rear passenger volume than the CL which is considered a two-door sedan, the 8 Series could accommodate two passengers in the rear, while the SL roadster is a two-seater.
The BMW 8 Series was BMW's flagship car while in production. A new vehicle cost around US$100,000 and had an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h), although with the limiters removed top speed was estimated at 186 mph (299 km/h). Worldwide production ceased May 12, 1999, with 30,621 built.
BMW is rumored to have plans to revive the 8 Series name for a potential "four-door coupe," much like the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. The existing E63/E64 6-Series two-door coupe currently competes with the CLS-Class in that price point.
Design of the 8 Series began in 1984, with construction starting in 1986. The 8 Series debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in early September 1991. The 8 Series was designed to move beyond the market of the original 6 Series. The 8 and 6 Series cars were distinctly different in design; though both were Supercar cars, the 8 Series had substantially improved performance, as well as a far higher purchase price.
Over 1.5 billion Deutschmark was spent on total development (2005 USD $2.2 billion). BMW used CAD tools, still unusual at the time, to design the car's all-new body. Combined with wind tunnel testing, the resulting car had a drag coefficient of 0.29, a major improvement from the previous BMW M6/635CSi's 0.39.
The 8 Series supercar offered the first V12 engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox on a road car. It was also the first vehicle with an electronic "fly-by-wire" throttle. The 8 Series was one of BMW's first cars, together with the Z1, to use a multi-link rear axle.
While CAD modeling allowed the car's unibody to be 8 lb (3 kg) lighter than that of its predecessor, the car was significantly heavier when completed due to the large engine and added luxury items—a source of criticism from those who wanted BMW to concentrate on the driving experience.
Sales of the 8 Series were affected by the global recession of the early 1990s, the Persian Gulf War, and energy price spikes. BMW pulled the 8 Series out of the North American market in 1997, selling only 7,232 cars over seven years. BMW continued production for Europe until 1999. The ultimate worldwide production total was 30,621.
(text source: Wikipedia)
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