Der Gentleman

The BMW 8 series’ creators try and make sense of the new Ultimate Bavarian.

I have an almost personal connection to the new BMW Achter. Having seen the preliminary concept car at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, I initially considered it a half-hearted Aston Martin pastiche. Then the production version was unveiled, which has no hope of ever being considered an Aston Martin pastiche. Instead, it heralds a new era of BMW style, hilariously named Precision and Poetry.

Since then, this rather blunt Achter has welcomed me whenever I have cause to use a German airport. Which was not appreciated, even though the Bavarians’ decision to lend this confused-yet-vulgar concoction the amusing tagline ‘Der Gentleman’ – presumably referring to a gentleman who is a member at Spearmint Rhino, rather than The Carlton Club.

It was therefore with equal amounts of surprise and joy that I welcomed a brochure in my mailbox the other day, which came courtesy not of stale old BMW, but Bayerische Motorenwerke AG’s newest offspring, Bayerische Motoren Werke (sic). This all-new, yet storied upmarket brand is clearly far more exclusive an entity than the makers of your neighbour’s leased 2 series Active Tourer, yet not quite as upmarket as that marque building and selling motor cars named Wraith, Dawn, Phantom and Cullinan. So far, so precise

This challenging task of marrying Precision with Poetry is, rather intriguingly, exacerbated by the 8 series’ brochure. For not only is the car itself not described as a gentleman, but it’s supposedly aimed at gentlemen – as well as racing drivers.

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In addition, the main graphical theme of the brochure, apart from photography featuring reflections of water but no water itself (which is very Ridley Scott-like), as well as a colour palette reminiscent of the cyber-sci-fi movies from the early noughties (serving as a poetic tribute to the Wachowski siblings?), are pages made of wax paper interspersed for the purpose of adding precise emphasis.

This emphasis is usually of the visual kind and comes in the form of a select few outlines printed onto the wax paper, with the actual photo underneath. The trouble is though that these lines usually don’t reflect those found on the real car. Thus, character lines and a curvy centre console are highlighted that are thus conspicuous by their absence on the Achter racing drivers and gentleman can actually buy. 

The accompanying marketing prose doesn’t help to clear this matter up either: “The BMW 8 series coupé introduces a new era of BMW design language. The sporty exterior is defined by clearly drawn lines, the ripped shoulders and the low silhouette”. 

Regarding the alternative dashboard outlines, the brochure has the following explanations to offer: “Inside the BMW 8 series coupé, digital innovation and luxurious ambience complement one another to perfection. In that context, the interior’s clear design lines know only one direction: straight forwards. In conjunction with a maximum of driver orientation, they unfurl an indescribable dynamic within the cabin”. 

One one occasion, the wax paper copy even does without any accompanying outlines at all. Instead BMW’s CEO himself, Harald Krüger, shares the following words with the reader/prospective customer/gentleman/racing driver: “The letter 8 has always marked the apex of sportiness and exclusivity at BMW. The new BMW 8 series coupé proves that highly dynamic performance and modern luxury form a perfectly harmonious whole.”

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In addition to Mr Krüger’s views, the reader is also presented with a poem as a means of introduction to the Achter in quite some style: 

Every moment is unique.

Which moments do we remember?

Those when we feel free.

When we were inspired to do something new.

When every detail is perfect.


in which we feel with all our senses,

which touch us with their sheer power.


in which time seems to stand still,

because we are encountering something exceptional. 

After such bonafide Poetry posing as introductory exceptionalism, the rest of the 8 series’ brochure inevitably fades into insignificance. That is, apart from the revelation that this BMW’s gear shifter not only features glass applications, but that these are branded CraftedClarity and evoke an unusual allure. Regrettably, this unusual allure is an extra-cost option, unlike the cabin’s general ability to combine maximum performance with the highest perceived value.  

After perusal of the Achter’s brochure, quite a few things become clear, after all. This car is more than a gentleman for gentlemen (and racing drivers). It is precision, poetry, luxury, sportiness, inspiration, perfection, harmony and clarity. All in one.  

I shall never look upon Der Gentleman with the same eyes, the next time I’m at some German airport. Furthermore, I should learn to stop worrying and love precision. And poetry, of course. 

The author of this piece runs his own motoring website, which you are welcome to visit at

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

20 thoughts on “Der Gentleman”

  1. I guess the wax paper signifies the lipstick BMW is trying to put on a pig. No manner of lipstick can hide that this car front and side on is a near 90% copy of a Ford Mustang. Out back the two identical accident damage areas on each corner makes it less of a Mustang clone. If that’s a good or bad thing I don’t know.

  2. What a load of old tosh! (The brochure, not your piece, Christopher!)

    You can’t help thinking that, in the dead of night, senior BMW types wake up in a cold sweat, realising just what an absolute mess they have made of the new 8-Series. This brochure is a blatant attempt to hoodwink the gullible and aesthetically illiterate into believing the hype, rather than trusting their own eyes. A clear case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” then.

    By their nature, large coupés should allow their designers maximum freedom to produce something truly beautiful, uncompromised by concerns about practicality or space-efficiency. The result should embody the very best of the manufacturer’s talents. Instead, this epitomizes all that is wrong with BMW design at the present time. A tragedy.

  3. I’m struggling to decide which is worse, the new 8 or the new Z4. I think it’s the 8, simply because it is bigger and more expensive, and therefore its manifest flaws are even less forgiveable.

    BMW design is so bad at the moment that it is making me reappraise Mercedes and think they are really quite good by comparison.

    1. The Z4 always was nothing but disgustingly ugly and the old ‚Achter‘ wasn’t a particular design masterpiece, either, in its Eighties’ ostentation.

      Yesterday I drove past our Aston importer’s HQ and saw about half a dozen DB11s parked on the forecourt.These are so painfully ugly that BMW’s Aston references aren’t really that far-fetched…

    2. The Z3 and Z4 so far were no beauties, but each had their own distinctive style while clearly sending out “BMW” signals. I saw a side-on photo of the new Z4 a few days ago, and by no means would I have been able to guess its manufacturer if it hadn’t been written below the picture. Thanks, I’d rather have another ugly one!

  4. I have been attempting (without much luck I might add) to decipher BMW marketing pitch with nu-Achter. Is it aimed at gentlemen, racing drivers or gentleman racing drivers? The latter being a breed who (quite literally) became extinct by the late 1950’s.

    Ignoring this for a moment, one must also assume that not only are prospective 8-Series buyers gentlemen and racing drivers, but are gentlemen and/or racing drivers who appreciate a finely crafted verse of poetry to go with their precision-cut chips and Crafted Clarity gear shifters. The subset just keeps getting smaller, no?

    This inspired form of micro-targeting also appears to exclude a significant proportion of BMW’s potential customers who are neither men, gentlemen or gentleman racing drivers, but are in fact, women.

    Bayerische Motorenwerke: Taking customer profiling to new depths.

    1. How many costumers does BMW exclude by making a car an ugly monstrosity like X5GT or X6?
      *btw* women are cared for by Minis with fantastillion number of customisation options – which in turn excludes a significant proportion of male customers…

  5. Nobody told me we have a German poet laureate; prose as strong deserves to be regarded with beauty, mirrored with lucidity and positively brimming with positivity. Perhaps join with this with a likewise motor car.

    1. I can’t imagine Goethe, Schiller, or Rilke will be looking down and fearing for their reputations.

      Isn’t the sentiment expressed the same as the often-quoted words of Soichiro Honda?

      “The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred”

      Bless him for his economy of expression, and the example he set.

  6. One too many “withs” there.
    No matter, regarding gentleman and racing drivers, few exist of that ilk.
    Can you see Stirling Moss in one of these? Or Damon Hill obsessing over colour and trim? As far as I’m concerned the current world champion isn’t a gentleman as the very nature of modern day racing is arrogance, giant egos and plain ole fashioned selfishness. Of course he’s ultra talented but I still don’t envisage him in a BMW dealership anytime soon.
    The only fellow who would fit those expressions is one Hans Joachim Stuck who I had the good fortune to meet at Techno Classica Essen a couple of years ago. But I hope beyond hope that he doesn’t sully his reputation and get one of these…things.

    1. Strietzel Stuck might actually be tempted by an ALPINA take on the Achter. I doubt he cares much for styling in general, but would appreciate the real-world fast driving capabilities the ALPINA will be particularly blessed with.

  7. BMW drivers/owners are rarely the kind that marketing people like to imagine they are. In fact most probably don’t even know what BMW stands for. Bavarian Motor Works innit, mate?

    1. That´s a welcome reminder not every one gives a care about cars. And yet, given the average BMW driver doesn´t care, isn´t astonishing they pay so much for the privilige. There are things I don´t care about and that means I nearly always put price as my first priority unless the cheapest is obviously rubbish (avoid Ikea). If only wanted a good car at a decent price I would just walk to VW for a German car or Peugeot for a French one. And if I wanted a dealer nearby, go to Ford or Opel. Some marketing scientist needs to get to the bottom of this. There was a time when Ford and Opel sold to people who wanted straightforward transport at a fair price. Somehow BMW and Mercedes have managed to capture this audience while Ford, Peugeot, Mazda and Opel serve up some equally thorough cars costing a good deal less.

    2. BMW (and Mercedes, and Audi) drivers are surely nowadays buying what is being marketed, which is the brand. The brand may have been built upon the qualities of past products, but the current products don’t (need to) conform to those qualities now the brand has come of age.

      It’s that brand ‘value’ that I reckon Alfa Romeo has never quite achieved and Maserati has lost (to return to debates of recent days). 500 had it within its grasp (how? why?) but is fading, Fiat has lost it completely.

      Skoda is well on it’s way to achieving and so is Dacia I would suggest. I know people who ‘wear their Dacia badge’ with pride – they want what it represents.

      Poor old Ford had it when they sold some absolute lemons, but lost it during the period they ‘came good’ with products that we, on here, still wax lyrical about. But shouldn’t that be a warning to the German trio? Perception lags behind reality and if they continue to cynically exploit the public by selling tat below a certain standard for too long then their brand will be damaged.

    3. ‘Perception lags behind reality and if they continue to cynically exploit the public by selling tat below a certain standard for too long then their brand will be damaged.’

      Spot on.

  8. The likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi have successfully marketed their cars in such a way for so long that buyers actually now believe the hype and buy (sorry, PCP) into it. Most people who drive these cars actually cannot realistically afford them.

  9. It would appear that our reveservations about the new BMW 8 Series were prescient, according to this piece published on Friday, upon which I stumbled earlier:

    In summary, the high price (including leasing costs) compared to the superseded 6 Series and polarizing looks have seriously hampered sales. Only 4,410 examples have sold in the US in almost a year on sale. Unsold examples are piling up on dealers’ lots, according to the piece.

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