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First Look

The BMW Concept Skytop is an 8 Series that pays tribute to the Z8

Built for long-distance driving, this stunning two-seat luxury express wears a lot of history

Published: 24 May 2024

The new BMW Skytop is a concept made for drones. Or birds, if you want to be more romantic about it. This is a car replete with elegant design touches but best enjoyed from directly above. There’s an image in the gallery here that illustrates that: sharky nose, intriguingly surfaced bonnet, leather-clad interior with brogue-style accents, pronounced hips over the rear wheels, and a ‘spline’ that bisects the rear deck.

Based on the 8 Series, it looks kinda nautical and evokes the pleasing possibilities of extended automotive travel versus the deprivations of – allegedly – low-cost airlines. The fact that BMW has chosen to unveil it on the shore of Lake Como ahead of the 2024 Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d’Este speaks volumes about the car’s aspirations.

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It also has some noted historic antecedents. “The BMW Concept Skytop is a truly unique and exotic design,” says Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design. “It offers a combination of driving dynamics and elegance at the highest level, comparable to its historic ancestors, like the BMW Z8 or BMW 503.”

It’s interesting that a 25-year old BMW, one that itself referenced the gorgeous Fifties 507 convertible, is now the subject of a homage, especially for those of us who drove it when it was new. But where the Z8 turned out to be something of a post-modern muscle car, the Skytop is more decorous. Highlights include the winglets integrated into the shoulders that eliminate the regular door handles, LED headlights mounted on milled aluminium carriers, and the illuminated double kidney grille. Also rather lovely are the light alloy wheels with discreet lamellas – it’s a membranous fold – that accentuate the car’s more relaxed and less aggressive attitude.

Best of all, perhaps, is the Skytop’s rear three-quarters, whose sweeping buttresses (BMW calls them ‘side fins’) recall all sorts of glamorous cars, including the Jaguar XJS (don’t snigger, it’s the Jag that came in from the cold) and the Ferrari 575 Superamerica. Unlike that particular Ferrari, though, the BMW Concept Skytop doesn’t have a fancy electrochromic folding roof. Instead, there are two removable panels that fit in a specially designed compartment where the boot normally lives. They’re trimmed in a tactile leather, as is the roll-over bar behind the passenger compartment.

Note also how the Skytop’s roof blends into the car’s exterior paintwork; its reddish-brown tone transitions into a subtle silver complete with a chrome shadow effect. This is all the work of BMW’s master painter at the company’s Dingolfing manufacturing plant.

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We didn’t know there even was such a facility, or that there’s also a traditional saddlery department nearby. But that’s been pressed into action on the Skytop’s interior, where the brogue effect and the biscuit brown leather combine to create a distinctly old-school interpretation of luxury. The 8 Series has yet to receive BMW’s ‘curved glass’ display, but some of the crystal elements found in the new generation cars have been smuggled in here.

BMW, of course, has teased us with a number of evocative Villa d’Este concepts over the years, including last year’s Z4-based Touring, 2015’s fabulous 3.0 CSL Hommage, 2011’s 328 Hommage, 2008’s M1 and 2006’s Mille Miglia – all of which went straight from Villa d’Este’s immaculate lawn to BMW’s museum. We suspect that the Concept Skytop will soon be joining them, but it’s an appealingly nostalgic side-bar from a company that is usually rigorously future-focused.

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