Does the successor have what it takes to reach the level of the original?

The arrival of the 2019 BMW 8 Series was a long time in the making. It’s been almost 20 years since an 8 Series hit the streets, and the arrival of the new model has brought our memories of the original version back on the surface. In times like this, we can’t help but wonder how the 8 Series measures up to the original. Does it look better? Does it have better materials? Which came with better technologies? We pieced through all that to find a clearer picture of how the new 8 Series compares to its iconic OG.

2019 BMW 8 Series vs 1999 BMW 8 Series Exterior Comparison

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The 2019 BMW 8 Series represents a slight evolution of the current BMW design language, but it doesn’t generate the same “holy smokes” reaction as the 1989 8 Series did

You couldn’t have picked two differently styled cars to compare with each other. The 2019 BMW 8 Series represents a slight evolution of the current BMW design language, but it doesn’t generate the same “holy smokes” reaction as the 1989 8 Series did when it made its debut almost 30 years ago. The old 8 Series’ design not only caught a lot of people by surprise, but it’s become timeless in its own right. The rectangular headlights differed drastically from the round headlights that Bimmer used on the rest of its lineup, including the 7 Series. The old 8 Series also had one of the longest hoods you could imagine.

BMW smartly played into that by adding pop up lights that were, admittedly, polarizing when it first came out. It has since evolved into one of the 8 Series’ most enduring features. It’s unfair to judge the current 8 Series against such an iconic model, but there’s just something about the new model’s design that feels like a lot was left on the table. We’ll recognize it as an 8 Series because it looks the part of a flagship, but we’re not going to stop in our tracks when it passes by on the streets. By comparison, that’s the default reaction when it’s the old 8 Series.

2019 BMW 8 Series vs 1999 BMW 8 Series Interior Comparison

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It says a lot about BMW’s staying power as a luxury brand when its use of premium materials legitimately goes all the way back to the old 8 Series

This is where the new 8 Series shines, though it would be unfair to compare the two interiors based on today’s standards. The new 8 Series’ interior reflects top BMW craftsmanship. It successfully balances modern design language with a tried-and-true classic luxury approach that doesn’t seem excessive to the eyes. We’ve debated about the digital instrument cluster here in the office — I like it — but ultimately, it’s a product of modern times and current technological trends that all of us will have to accept. Other than that, the 8 Series’ cabin is clean and evocative at the same time. It just so happens that those same descriptions also fit the interior of the 8 Series when it came out.

It says a lot about BMW’s staying power as a luxury brand when its use of premium materials legitimately goes all the way back to the old 8 Series. We see the quality of craftsmanship in the cabin that no Bimmer model of that era had. Sure, the plastic components are eyesores in hindsight, but again, you can’t fault Bimmer for using what was available to them back then. The carpet-like floor also seemed like a great idea then. Aesthetically, it was. The only problem was that it was more high-maintenance than the car itself.

2019 BMW 8 Series vs 1999 BMW 8 Series - Drivetrain and Performance Comparison

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Almost 20 years later, the new 8 Series gets a handful of engine options, including a 4.0-liter V-8 with 523 horsepower on tap.

When BMW launched the OG 8 Series in 1989, it gave the car a massive 5.0-liter V-12 that produced 300 horsepower, ten horsepower more than the 7 Series that was launched a few years prior. Eventually, the 8 Series evolved in its 10-year life cycle, and so did the engines that were available to it, including a 5.6-liter, V-12 powerhouse that produced 380 horsepower. This was the engine the 8 Series had when it was discontinued in the late 90s. Almost 20 years later, the new 8 Series gets a handful of engine options, including a 4.0-liter V-8 with 523 horsepower on tap. It may not sound much for an 8 Series — I expected something closer to 600 horsepower — but the gap between the 7 Series’ output (445 horsepower) on a similar V-8 is significant enough to create legitimate separation with the 8 Series. That’s something BMW didn’t do with the old version, which ultimately didn’t matter because the OG 8 Series looked like a completely different car. It is exciting to note, too, that with the “base” version getting 523 ponies already, the sky’s the limit on what the M8 is going to get. Could it approach 700 horsepower and become a full-fledged super luxury car that can compete against the Bentley Continental GT? The mere thought of it is already getting me excited.

2019 BMW 8 Series vs 1999 BMW 8 Series - Technology Comparison

2019 BMW 8 Series Interior
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You can’t fight technology, and generally speaking, most of the tech features on the 1989 BMW 8 Series are already obsolete today

You can’t fight technology, and generally speaking, most of the tech features on the 1989 BMW 8 Series are already obsolete today. But let’s not get it twisted. Comparing them using today’s technology is unfair, which is why we’ll do it in a vacuum. When it was released, the 8 Series was lauded as a technological achievement more than anything else. A handful of elements made their debuts on the 8 Series, not the least of which was the wedge-shaped body that became one of its most enduring qualities. More than that, the first-generation 8 Series became the first BMW in history to come with an integral rear axle with a five-link suspension system. Tech features like Automatic Stability Control plus Traction (ACT+T), speed-sensitive power steering, and the Electronic Damper Control (EDC) system were all introduced on the 8 Series. There’s a reason Auto, Motor, und Sport called the flagship a testament of BMW’s ability to develop “high-tech weaponry” on four wheels.

This is where both versions of the 8 Series have the most in common. The 2019 8 Series could be described the same way because it’s dripping in all-new technology, the likes of which we haven’t seen on any BMW model. From something as small as the Digital Key to aesthetic creations like the double-bubble roof and the glass gear lever, there’s no shortage of new technology on the new 8 Series. Two of the most important, though, include the laser light technology and the Live Cockpit Professional, a suite of advanced technologies and services that the German automaker developed to help increase safety, convenience, and all-around refinement across the board.

Final Thoughts

Evolution of an Icon - 1999 BMW 8 Series vs 2019 BMW 8 Series Exterior
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The new BMW 8 Series is a landmark arrival for BMW.

The new BMW 8 Series is a landmark arrival for BMW. It marks the first time in recent memory that the German automaker has a clear flagship model. Bimmer took its time developing the car, and the strategy appears to have paid off because the new 8 Series has the makings of being a legacy car that we’re going to be talking about for a while. That’s a place only a handful of BMWs have reached, and it just so happens that the original 1989 BMW 8 Series is one of those models. The new 8 Series has a long way to go before it can be spoken of in equal terms to the OG 8 Series. But, it’s off to a good start. Let’s hope that it has the same staying power as its predecessor.

References

2019 BMW 8 Series Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 BMW 8 Series.

1989 - 1999 BMW 8-series
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Read our full review on the original 1998-1999 BMW 8 Series.

2019 BMW M8 Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exclusive Renderings Exterior
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Read our full speculative review on the 2019 BMW M8.

2019 BMW 8 Series Exterior High Resolution
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Read our full review on the 2017 BMW 8 Series Concept Coupe.

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Read more BMW news.

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