BMW will soon crown its SUV line-up with a range-topping X8 – including a flagship hybrid M version that will be the Munich firm’s most powerful series production model to date.
Expected to be revealed late next year as a 2022 model, the X8 serves as a sportier, more daringly styled version of the seven-seat X7. Although the X8 was once thought to take coupé-like rear-end design cues from the smaller X6, these first spy shots reveal that it retains a squared-edged roofline – albeit one that appears to be lower than the X7’s.
This suggests that the X8 will retain three rows of seats, either in seven-seat form or with six captain-style chairs offering greater luxury. Neither is confirmed, though.
Other design cues that mark this car out from the X7 include what appears to be a sharp nose design and broader shoulder line, plus a reduction in the glasshouse.
Details of the X8’s technical make-up have yet to be revealed, but the expectation is that it will share its platform and much of the wider mechanicals with the X7. That means a range of six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines with mild-hybrid tech, an eventual plug-in hybrid and a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with 523bhp in an X8 M50i.
But, unlike the X7, the M50i won’t be the pinnacle of the range because the X8 has also been conceived with a full-fat M version at the forefront of its development. Although Autocar understands it won’t be launched until about a year after the standard X8, the X8 M will feature a plug-in hybrid system, mating the 4.4-litre V8 to an electric motor and battery pack. Insiders suggest anything up to 750bhp would be possible as a result, making this easily the most powerful BMW yet.
Internally dubbed Project Rockstar, the X8 M hybrid will mate an electric motor of around 200bhp to the petrol engine and offer four-wheel drive. However, it is likely to adopt the switchable system of the M5 and M8 models, allowing on-demand rear-wheel drive when required.
The plug-in hybrid element will also allow BMW to dramatically reduce the car’s fleet average emissions. Expect a CO2 rating of well under 100g/km as a result. What’s not yet clear is if BMW is also planning a conventionally fuelled X8 M to sit alongside it, with reduced power and weight.