BMW has released images of its Concept Gran Coupe, the star of last month's Beijing motor show, at its early design and development stage.

The five-metre, four-door, couple-like saloon is tipped to make production in 2012 as the BMW 8-series, although no new information was released alongside the images.

The Concept Gran Coupe has been designed to fuse the abilities of a GT and a sports car. Its roof is 100mm lower than a current 7-series saloon, and its rear quarters slightly more restricted. As such, it’s expected to sire a direct production rival for the Maserati Quattroporte, Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera.

Underneath it will use the same ‘backbone’ platform that underpins the current 5-series, 7-series and 5 GT. The car will offer the same mix of six- and eight-cylinder petrol and diesel engines as those cars, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

“It’s true that the Gran Coupe points to a specific model, a saloon with the presence and elegance of a 7-series but a more dynamic, sporty character: much more of a driver’s car,” said BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk at the car's launch. “We’re convinced that we should make a car like this.”

As well as testing the water for a BMW-built rival for the Audi A7, the Gran Coupe is intended to distill and concentrate BMW’s design values. As such, it’s likely to have a far-reaching influence throughout the styling of many of BMW’s future model lines.

That means we should expect to see the Gran Coupe’s long wheelbase, vaulted bonnet, shark nose, rearward set glasshouse, low silhouette and short front overhang become part of BMW’s trademark design language, as well as its asymmetrical kidney grille, wide frontal air intake and frameless doors.