The SVE Oletha is the full BMW experience, distilled into a single car | Top Gear
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The SVE Oletha is the full BMW experience, distilled into a single car

This isn’t just everything we wanted the BMW Z8 to be; it’s everything we want a BMW to be

Published: 27 Sep 2021
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This is not a BMW.

You could be forgiven for thinking it is, given there’s a pretty striking resemblance to the old Z8. And under the bonnet, you’ll find the fearsome 4.4-litre V8 from the BMW M3 GTS. So, if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... what are we missing here?

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Well, for one, BMW never made a BMW Z8 coupe. More’s the pity, especially now that we’ve seen just what a thing it could have been. And, for... um, two, BMW didn’t build this either – this magnificence comes from Smit Vehicle Engineering, a custom outfit founded by Willem and Kaess Smit. After cutting their teeth with the likes of Singer Vehicle Design and Tesla, they set up shop to build a car that captured the “raw sensory and emotional allure” of the BMWs they were fascinated with growing up.

And as shortcuts to rawness and emotion go, a bona fide racing V8 from M Division is as good a place as any to start – the S65B44’s eight individual throttle bodies, screaming 8,500rpm redline and generous helpings of unbridled fury are everything we’ll miss about petrol power when it’s gone. And to ensure that nothing’s hidden under any sort of bushel, there’s a carbon-fibre intake and stainless steel / Inconel exhaust.

Really, we can’t imagine your internal argument will be over whether you want one or not, but which part of you wants it more – your eyes or your ears. Oh, and it’s all attached to a proper six-speed manual gearbox, which one-ups even the limited-run, DCT-only E92 M3 GTS.

This all seems well and good (and then some), but if the rest of the car follows the path laid down by the original Z8, what then? See, the original Z8 was maligned, perhaps unfairly, for being too much of a cruiser, a Beemer made for boulevards, not B-roads.

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We hardly think that’ll be the case here; unlike the original Z8, the Oletha has a proper mechanical limited-slip differential – handy, when there’s 450bhp and 320lb ft finding its way to the rear axle. Add in custom forged-aluminium control arms, AP Racing brakes, adjustable KW suspension, lightweight forged monoblock wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, and that’s quite a bit of potential to squander by cruising the boulevarde.

Also, if you’re not up on monoblock wheels and why they’re a good thing, allow us to explain. Unlike the bulk of alloy wheels, they’re milled from a single block of metal (hence the name), making them supremely lightweight and strong. Less wheel weight means less unsprung mass, which means your suspension has less work to do to keep traction. Also, less rotating mass means better acceleration and better braking. So, good thing. But, as ever, we digress.

Rather than start with the painfully pricey and exceptionally limited Z8, the Smit brothers plumped for the old Z4 coupe, replacing pretty much every mechanical part – as you may have already gleaned – and ditching the rather Marmite bodywork in favour of their own carbon-fibre creation. The result has us leafing through the Car Writer’s Great Big Book of Motoring Clichés for a phrase to describe it – maybe bite-the-back-of-your-hand gorgeous? That one work? – and the resultant weight is 1,400kg. Not bad, when there’s more than four litres of V8 up the front, a proper grand-touring cabin with full “audiophile-grade sound system” in the middle and a properly beefy diff in the back.

So, like we said, this is not a BMW. But it is exactly the kind of BMW we want.

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