Spend Some Time with the Mythical E31 BMW M8 - story fullscreen Fullscreen

Spend Some Time with the Mythical E31 BMW M8

A 30-years old M8 is better than the current model!

LISTEN 03:11

You may think that the M8 name was first used in 2019 when BMW launched the M version of the current generation 8 Series, but that’s not the case at all. 30 years ago - in the early 1990s, BMW created an M8 prototype based on the E31 8-Series. The model never made it to production, and more than that, it remained a secret for nearly 20 years. In 2010, when it was finally shown to the public, the M8 E31 made waves.

The M8 E31 is the star of one of the coolest episodes of the "Inside BMW Group Classic" series. Hosts Benny and Christoph take a trip to the BMW M studio where they take a closer look to the legendary M8.

The most amazing thing about the M8 E31 is its specially-built 6.0-liter V-12 engine - with only three units in existence - that delivers an incredible 640 horsepower and 477 pound-feet of torque. Just to put things into context, the most powerful 8 Series at that moment - the BMW 850Csi - delivered a total of 380 horsepower. On the other hand, the modern M8 is powered by a 4.4-liter V-8 engine that delivers 591 horsepower in base form and 617 horsepower in the Competition form. So, more than 30 years ago, BMW was planning a more powerful M8 than it sells today! The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission that ensures amazing performance figures. Although the 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint time was never measured, it is believed the M8 can hit that speed in less than 6.0 seconds - an admirable figure back then. Top speed goes well over 300 km/h (186 mph). And then there is the engine sound!

Spend Some Time with the Mythical E31 BMW M8
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The model was powered by a specially-built 6.0-liter V-12 engine that delivers a total of 640 horsepower and 477 pound-feet of torque

As for its design, the most striking feature is the bright red paint scheme, but there are a few other elements that differentiate it from the rest of the 8 Series. It lacks the folding headlights found on all other E31 models. The doors, boot lid, and bonnet are made from lightweight glass reinforced plastic. This move, combined with other weight-saving moves keep the car’s total weight to only 1,450 kilos – 3,196 pounds. Every element of the car has been designed to offer improved aerodynamics, including small elements like the mirrors.

On the inside, everything was designed to offer the best driving experience. Tightly-cut bucket seats, motorsport-style Sabelt seatbelt, a short gear lever for quick gear changes, and generous use of Alcantara were all designed with one purpose in mind: to offer an experience behind the wheel no other M car ever offered before.

Spend Some Time with the Mythical E31 BMW M8
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The sprint from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) is made in 6.0 seconds, while top speed went up to more than 300 km/h (186 mph)

If it succeeded or not it’s a different story, but we have to admit, that just by watching this video we were a lot more impressed than we were when actually driving the current generation M8. What do you think - should the E31 M8 have gone into production and is it better than the current M8?

Alina Moore
Alina Moore
Alina Joined the Topspeed.com team in the early 2000s as one of the outlets very first experts, and she’s been with Topspeed.com ever since. Over the years, she’s served various roles, but today she’s is relied on heavily to verify automotive facts, assist with formatting, and discover new and engaging topics.  Read full bio
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